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Premier League matchday 32 - Preview

last updated Saturday 29th March 2014, 11:35 AM

Premier League matchday 32 sees the battle for the Premier League title intensify as Arsenal endeavour to get their faltering title bid back on track in a home date with Manchester City and in-form Liverpool look to stretch their impressive winning run when Tottenham Hotspur travel to Anfield. Table-topping Chelsea will continue in their attempt to stay one step ahead of the chasing pack when they take in a capital derby with Crystal Palace.

Manchester United manager David Moyes will be feeling the heat when his side take on Aston Villa at Old Trafford. The Red Devils were left reeling following a chastising 3-0 defeat to neighbours Manchester City on Tuesday night. Villa, who are nine points above the drop zone, have won just one of their last seven away matches and head to Old Trafford on the back of a 4-1 thumping at the hands of Stoke City last weekend.

Leaders Chelsea head to Selhurst Park to take on relegation-threatened Crystal Palace knowing that a win would send them four points clear, albeit potentially just for a couple of hours. The Eagles have lacked consistency and remain only three points from safety and sit precariously in 17th place in the table. They have scored just once in their last five league games, accruing just one point in the process.

Both Southampton and Newcastle will be seeking to overcome their recent inconsistent form when they meet on Saturday. The Tyneside outfit are one point and a place ahead of their hosts from the south coast. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will be allowed into the stadium for Saturday's match, but he remains banned from the touchline as punishment for his clash with Hull's David Meyler. The Magpies fly south on the back of another galling home defeat, their 3-0 loss to Everton on Tuesday was their sixth at St James' Park this term.

Hull City bid to put further distance between themselves and the Premier League drop zone when they travel to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City on Saturday. Mark Hughes lines up against former Manchester United team-mate Steve Bruce on the touchline as Stoke bid for a third successive victory.

Norwich City will aim to record back-to-back victories for the first time this season when they travel to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City on Saturday. Garry Monk's men appeared to be slipping dangerously close to the relegation zone before Tuesday, but a 2-2 stalemate at the Emirates Stadium has brought renewed hope.

West Brom and Cardiff will be desperate to come away from Saturday's meeting at the Hawthorns with three points as they battle for their Premier League futures. West Brom have won just three times at home all season, while Cardiff's away form is also poor - the Bluebirds' win at Fulham in September was the only time they have earned three points on the road.

Arsenal's Premier League title chances head into the last-chance saloon as they host Manchester City Saturday evening. Arsene Wenger's men have taken just eight points from their last seven Premier League matches to fade from league leaders to rank outsiders to claim the top-flight crown. City, meanwhile, are odds-on favourites for their second title in three years with a run of four successive victories cutting the gap to leaders Chelsea to just three points with two games in hand.

Rock bottom Fulham host Champions League hunting Everton on Sunday in a game which could have repercussions at both ends of the Premier League table. Fulham go in search of only a second win over the Toffees in five years as their struggle to retain top-flight status rumbles on, while victory for Everton will see them keep pressure on fourth-placed Arsenal as they continue to vie for a spot in Europe's elite competition. Fulham will have to rely heavily on home form if they are to beat the drop and will be hoping to make it back-to-back wins at Craven Cottage.

Liverpool's growing belief that they can be crowned Premier League champions will be tested once again when Tottenham travel to Anfield on Sunday. Seven successive victories for Brendan Rodgers' side have propelled them to within a point of leaders Chelsea, although Manchester City lurk ominously on their shoulders with the benefit of two games in hand. Tottenham have targets of their own, although fourth place looks out of reach with north London rivals Arsenal seven points ahead with seven games to go. Sixth place should be enough to secure Europa League football for Tim Sherwood's side due to Manchester City's Capital One Cup triumph and expected top-four finish

Manager Gustavo Poyet believes Sunderland can take heart from their performance at Anfield but he has challenged his players to play like they are facing Barcelona at the Stadium of Light next Monday when they face West Ham. Sunderland's run without a win in the Premier League extended to five games after a 2-1 defeat against Liverpool. West Ham's 2-1 victory over 10-man Hull City on Wednesday did not spare The Hammers the jeers of a large number of home supporters. The win took West Ham up to 11th in the table with nine points now separating them from 18th-placed Sunderland, who they face at the Stadium of Light on Monday.

Premier League ~ 12:45 Manchester United v Aston Villa ~ BTSports 1  

Manchester United and Aston Villa kick off the weekend at Old Trafford. The Red Devils desperately need to get back on track in front of their own supporters, with a sixth home defeat of the season suffered in midweek at the hands of arch-rivals Manchester City.

Beleaguered boss David Moyes has now endured 10 setbacks in the league this season, the first time United have hit double figures in the Premier League era. Villa will want to keep piling on the misery for the reigning champions, with a disappointing display in a heavy defeat to Stoke last weekend denting their bid to push on into the top half of the standings.

Captain Nemanja Vidic returns from suspension for Manchester United, but striker Robin van Persie remains out with a knee injury. Centre-backs Chris Smalling (hamstring) and Jonny Evans (calf) are doubts.

Aston Villa midfielder Karim El Ahmadi is a doubt due to a thigh problem. The injury forced El Ahmadi to come off in the first half of the 4-1 home loss to Stoke last Sunday and Villa boss Paul Lambert has said the Morocco international is "struggling". Forward Andreas Weimann had to depart the field around the same time in the Stoke match because of a dead leg but is expected to be available.

Last season: Man Utd 3 Aston Villa 0, Aston Villa 2 Man Utd 3

Last five league matches: Man Utd W W L W L; Aston Villa D L W W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 17; Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 11

Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)

Verdict: Manchester United 2

Premier League ~ 15:00 Crystal Palace v Chelsea

The side everyone is chasing at present are Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho keeping his men in pole position. They offered the perfect response to a shock defeat at Aston Villa with a 6-0 mauling of Arsenal last time out and will be hoping for more derby joy when they go to Crystal Palace.

The Blues know what is required to come out on top and will be aware that they cannot afford any more slip-ups heading down the final stretch. Palace are scrapping for their top-flight lives, though, and will be in no mood to roll over on home soil. No wins in their last five has dropped the Eagles back into trouble, three points above the relegation zone.

Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis will once again be relying on Glenn Murray or Cameron Jerome to lead the line with Maraoune Chamakh (hamstring) and Dwight Gayle (ankle) both still missing. Midfielder Barry Bannan will be pushing for a start having returned to the bench in last weekend's defeat at Newcastle following a spell on the sidelines through illness.

Striker Samuel Eto'o is out for Chelsea with a hamstring injury. Willian is available after serving a one-match suspension, but Ramires is banned for two more games following his dismissal in the controversial loss at Aston Villa. Left-back Ashley Cole (knee) is still out and midfielder Marco van Ginkel (knee) is continuing his rehabilitation by playing for the under-21s.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Crystal Palace L D L D L; Chelsea W W W L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Marouane Chamakh (Crystal Palace) 6; Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 16

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

Verdict: Crystal Palace 1  Chelsea 2

Premier League ~ 15:00 Southampton v Newcastle

Also in the Jekyll and Hyde category - a position they have occupied for some years now - are Newcastle United. Having surged up the rankings to put themselves in European contention, inconsistency has returned to the St James' Park ranks.

Two defeats in three have threatened to undo their good work, but Alan Pardew will be back in attendance for a home meeting with Southampton on Saturday after serving his stadium ban. He will not be on the touchline, though, and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that the crossed wires on the communication front continue as his Saints look to move back above Newcastle and into eighth place.

Saints have a lengthy injury list with Jay Rodriguez (knee), Morgan Schneiderlin (hip muscles), Victor Wanyama (leg) and Steven Davis (groin) all doubts for Saturday's match. Nathaniel Clyne (groin), Kelvin Davis (hip) and Maya Yoshida (knee) are definitely absent, with the latter facing six weeks out.

Keeper Tim Krul is out for Newcastle after suffering a knee injury in Tuesday night's 3-0 home defeat by Everton and will sit out up to three games with Rob Elliot taking his place. Full-back Davide Santon could return after recovering from tonsillitis, but full-back Mathieu Debuchy (groin), midfielder Sammy Ameobi (ankle) and striker Loic Remy (calf), remain on the sidelines, although leading scorer Remy is due to resume full training on Monday.

Last season: Newcastle 4 Southampton 2, Southampton 2 Newcastle 0

Last five league matches: Southampton L L W W L; Newcastle W W L W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) 15; Loic Remy (Newcastle) 13

Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)

Verdict: Southampton 2  Newcastle 2

Premier League ~ 15:00 Stoke v Hull

Success for Stoke City at Villa Park last Sunday has them perched in the top 10, with 10 points collected from their previous four top-flight outings. Keeping that run going will be the name of the game when Hull City travel to the Britannia Stadium. Unlike their weekend opponents, the Tigers are struggling for consistency.

One step forward is all too often followed by one in the opposite direction, and that is keeping them looking over their shoulder. An eight-point cushion on the bottom three means they have breathing space, but Steve Bruce will want to get to the 40-point mark as quickly as possible and ease any lingering relegation fears.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes says winger Oussama Assaidi is unlikely to return against Hull following a knee injury. Defender Erik Pieters is likely to play however having recovered from a knock. Jon Walters is suspended but Stephen Ireland is available again.

Steve Harper is set to deputise for injured goalkeeper Allan McGregor with the Hull number one expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season. The former Newcastle veteran will fill in for McGregor, who was sent off in the midweek defeat by West Ham and also suffered kidney damage which is likely to end his campaign. Eldin Jakupovic has been recalled from his loan spell at Leyton Orient to provide cover for Harper, but Tigers boss Steve Bruce does not expect any other new injury concerns.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Stoke L W D W W; Hull W L L W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Peter Crouch (Stoke) 9; Robbie Brady, Curtis Davies, Matty Fryatt, Nikica Jelavic (Hull) 4

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

Verdict: Stoke 2 Hull 1

Premier League ~ 15:00 Swansea v Norwich

Swansea City have spent much of the campaign punching below their weight. An energy-sapping Europa League adventure and a change in the dugout have done their cause few favours, but focus now is very much on ending the season with a flourish.

Plenty of positives will be taken from a 2-2 draw away at Arsenal in midweek, but there is no getting away from the fact that Garry Monk's men have gone six without a win in the league, and nine in all competitions. Norwich City, sat just one place and two points better off than the Swans, will believe that they are heading to the Liberty Stadium at a good time, but they are another side who remain infuriatingly difficult to call - with form fluctuating wildly.

Swansea head coach Garry Monk has no fresh injury concerns following the midweek draw against Arsenal. Monk looks set to field fit-again Michu and Wilfried Bony up front as Swansea look to take a considerable stride away from trouble.

Norwich will have centre-half Michael Turner back in contention for the first time since New Year's Day following a hamstring injury. On-loan Newcastle midfielder Jonas Gutierrez (calf) is also fit again and pressing for a starting place. Winger Elliott Bennett continues his rehabilitation from a long-term knee injury, while midfielder Leroy Fer (hamstring) is also still recovering.

Last season: Norwich 2 Swansea 2, Swansea 3 Norwich 4

Last five league matches: Swansea L D L L D; Norwich W L D L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Wilfried Bony (Swansea) 20; Gary Hooper (Norwich) 7

Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire)

Verdict: Swansea 2 Norwich 1

Premier League ~ 15:00 West Brom v Cardiff

A relegation six-pointer in the Midlands as West Bromwich Albion tackle Cardiff City. Heading into the contest, it is the Bluebirds who find themselves languishing inside the bottom three - three points from safety. Positive results remain hard to come by for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, with four defeats suffered in five, but success this weekend would take them level with the Baggies.

Pepe Mel will be all too aware of that fact, with West Brom toasting just one success during his unproductive reign so far. The chances of them ending the weekend inside the relegation zone are slim - taking their goal difference into account - but there is every chance that they could be seriously sweating on their top-flight status come the full-time whistle against Cardiff.

Striker Victor Anichebe faces a fitness test on a hamstring problem. Gareth McAuley (ankle) should be fit, Morgan Amalfitano and Diego Lugano (both knee) are back in training and could feature, but Claudio Yacob and Billy Jones (both hamstring) are out. Jonas Olsson completes his two-match ban, while captain Chris Brunt (knee) remains out.

Cardiff hope winger Craig Noone could be available after he failed a fitness test ahead of last weekend's 6-3 home defeat against Liverpool. City boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could decide to retain the team that started the Liverpool game, especially after an outstanding first-half display when they twice led the title-chasers through goals from Jordon Mutch (two) and Fraizer Campbell.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: West Brom D D L W L; Cardiff L L W L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Saido Berahino (West Brom) 8; Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff) 9

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

Verdict: West Brom 1 Cardiff 0

Premier League ~ 17:30 Arsenal v Manchester City ~ SkySports 1   

A run of one win in four has rocked Arsenal's challenge for the Premier League crown, with the Gunners now six points off the pace and suddenly looking over their shoulder at those pushing for UEFA Champions League qualification.

They will, however, get the opportunity to fire themselves right back into the mix on Saturday evening when they welcome Manchester City to Emirates Stadium. City, though, will arrive in north London moving ominously through the gears, with four straight wins delivering 11 goals, four clean sheets and local bragging rights. Manuel Pellegrini's men are now second in the table, three points off the summit with two games in hand.

Arsenal will again be without centre-half Laurent Koscielny due to a calf injury while midfielder Aaron Ramsey (thigh) is still a couple of weeks away from full fitness. Full-back Nacho Monreal is set to return to training following a foot injury. Germany international Mesut Ozil (hamstring) remains out, alongside Jack Wilshere (foot), Theo

Manchester City have playmaker David Silva available but will once again be without striker Sergio Aguero. Blues boss Manuel Pellegrini has said Silva will be in the matchday squad for the contest, despite reports having suggested the Spain international was a doubt due to a problem he picked up in Tuesday's 3-0 win at Manchester United. Aguero is not yet ready to return to action after the hamstring injury he sustained against Barcelona on March 12, with Pellegrini indicating the Argentina frontman could make his comeback when City host Southampton on April 5.

Last season: Arsenal 0 Man City 2, Man City 1 Arsenal 1

Last five league matches: Arsenal W L W L D; Man City D W W W W

Top scorers (all competitions): Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) 19; Sergio Aguero (Man City) 26

Verdict: Arsenal 0 Manchester City 2

Premier League ~ Sunday 30 March 2014

Premier League ~ 13:30 Fulham v Everton ~ SkySports 1    

Everton have edged above Spurs in the standings and will now be thinking that a late push for a top-four finish could be on the cards. They are only six points off the pace at present, with a game in hand on fourth-placed Arsenal and a visit from the Gunners to look forward to early next month.

They must maintain the standards which have delivered four wins on the bounce, though, and cannot afford to take their eye off the ball when they go to Fulham - in the first instalment of a Super Sunday double-header. The Cottagers remain rooted to the foot of the table, four points from safety and with only two Premier League wins celebrated in 2014.

Fulham striker Kostas Mitroglou will miss out with a knee injury, as will midfielder Scott Parker. Winger Ashkan Dejagah returns after recovering from a muscle issue, while Damien Duff is out for the rest of the season because of a knee problem.

Everton captain Phil Jagielka will travel with the squad after missing the last five matches with a hamstring injury. Although he was fit earlier in the week, manager Roberto Martinez chose to leave him out for the 3-0 victory at Newcastle. Midfielder Steven Pienaar continues to be absent with a knee cartilage problem.

Last season: Everton 1 Fulham 0, Fulham 2 Everton 2

Last five league matches: Fulham D L L W L; Everton L W W W W

Top scorers (all competitions): Steven Sidwell (Fulham) 7; Romelu Lukaku (Everton) 13

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

Verdict: Fulham 0 Everton 1

Premier League ~ 16:00 Liverpool v Tottenham  ~ SkySports 1  

Liverpool will be hoping that their title bandwagon can roll over another visitor to Merseyside. Tottenham Hotspur are the side journeying north, and they have lofty ambitions of their own this season.

It is, however, Brendan Rodgers' side who are the talk of the division at present, with a free-scoring outfit securing seven successive victories in the league to suggest that a 24-year wait for top-flight glory could be coming to an end. Spurs, though, will want to play party-poopers this weekend, with Tim Sherwood's side having slipped to sixth - seven points adrift of neighbours Arsenal and the final Champions League spot.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers could stick with an unchanged side from the team which beat Sunderland in midweek, with only defender Jose Enrique (knee) unavailable.

Emmanuel Adebayor is a doubt for Tottenham. The Togolese striker will have a gash on his heel assessed before the trip to Anfield, although head coach Tim Sherwood is hopeful he will be fit to be part of the squad. Kyle Walker continues to miss out with a groin complaint, while Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches remain absent, although the latter is set to play for the under-21s against Arsenal on Friday.

Last season: Liverpool 3 Tottenham 2, Tottenham 2 Liverpool 1

Last five league matches: Liverpool W W W W W; Tottenham L W L L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 28; Emmanuel Adebayor & Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) 11

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Verdict: Liverpool 1 Tottenham 2

Premier League ~ Monday 31 March 2014

Premier League ~ 20:00 Sunderland v West Ham ~ SkySports 1  

Sunderland striker Fabio Borini will return to the squad having been ineligible to play against parent club Liverpool on Wednesday night. Fellow frontman Steven Fletcher will be missing as he continues his wait to discover the extent of his ankle injury, while goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) is still out.

Defender James Collins was forced off early in West Ham's 2-1 win over Hull on Wednesday with a calf injury and both Winston Reid and Roger Johnson will be on standby to replace him at the Stadium of Light. Matt Jarvis (thigh) is unlikely to be fit in time to return, with Joey O'Brien (shoulder) and Marco Borriello (calf) also sidelined.

Last season: Sunderland 3 West Ham 0, West Ham 1 Sunderland 1

Last five league matches: Sunderland L L D L L; West Ham W L L L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Adam Johnson (Sunderland) 9; Kevin Nolan (West Ham) 7

Referee: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire) Sunderland v

Verdict: Sunderland 0 West Ham 0

Source Sky/ Sporting Life
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