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Premier League Preview ~ 10th-12th March 2012

last updated Saturday 10th March 2012, 10:22 AM

Premiership Games
Saturday 10th March 2012
12:45 Bolton v QPR Sky2
15:00 Aston Villa v Fulham
15:00 Chelsea v Stoke
15:00 Sunderland v Liverpool  
15:00 Wolves v Blackburn  
17:30 Everton v Tottenham ESPN
Sunday 11th March 2012
14:00 Man Utd v West Brom  
14:00 Swansea v Man City  
16:00 Norwich v Wigan Sky1
Monday 12th March 2012
20:00 Arsenal v Newcastle Sky1
Tuesday 13th March 2012
20:00 Liverpool v Everton Sky1
With 11 games remaining in the Premier League this season, the races for the title and to avoid relegation are entering the final furlong.

The table topping Manchester clubs play on Sunday with the red half hoping that despite a home defeat in Europe during the week they can turn home advantage into a win.

The Blue side face a more difficult day away at Fortress Swansea and will be all-too aware that they need to perform better on their travels, having won just two of their last seven away games in the league, losing three.

Caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo takes charge of Chelsea for the first time in the league for what will be a battling clash with Stoke but should be helped with focus moving away from Villas-Boas.

Premiership table - 06:03:12
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man City 27 14 0 0 42 6 7 3 3 27 13 50 66
2 Man Utd 27 10 1 2 37 15 10 3 1 29 12 39 64
3 Tottenham 27 10 2 2 30 13 6 3 4 22 20 19 53
4 Arsenal 27 9 2 2 29 11 6 2 6 26 27 17 49
5 Chelsea 27 8 2 3 30 19 5 5 4 17 13 15 46
6 Newcastle 27 7 5 2 21 15 5 3 5 18 24 0 44
7 Liverpool 26 4 8 1 15 10 6 1 6 15 15 5 39
8 Fulham 27 7 4 3 29 19 2 5 6 8 17 1 36
9 Stoke 27 6 4 4 18 14 4 2 7 9 24 -11 36
10 West Brom 27 4 2 8 14 16 6 3 4 20 19 -1 35
11 Norwich 27 5 4 4 20 17 4 4 6 18 27 -6 35
12 Sunderland 27 5 4 4 20 13 4 3 7 15 18 4 34
13 Everton 26 5 3 5 14 13 4 4 5 13 15 -1 34
14 Swansea 27 5 6 2 18 10 3 3 8 12 24 -4 33
15 Aston Villa 27 3 4 6 14 17 3 8 3 16 18 -5 30
16 QPR 27 2 5 7 14 22 3 2 8 14 24 -18 22
17 Blackburn 27 4 1 9 20 27 1 6 6 18 33 -22 22
18 Wolves 27 3 2 8 17 28 2 5 7 13 28 -26 22
19 Bolton 27 2 2 9 15 27 4 0 10 14 29 -27 20
20 Wigan 27 1 6 7 11 24 3 2 8 12 28 -29 20
Tottenham face a difficult away game at an improving Everton with defensive woes against Arsenal and Manchester United particularly worrying though.

Liverpool will fancy their chances, even if they have won just two of their last ten in the league. Last week's defeat to Arsenal was particularly damaging and although it has to be pointed out that they were the better side, lack of a reliable striker makes them risky.

It will be a tight game at Villa Park where Fulham are the visitors. The Londoners are yet to win at Villa in the League but in recent games they are posing more of a goal threat than Villa.

This weekend could be a defining one in the battle to avoid the drop. All five of the Premier League bottom teams are in action, with four of the sides facing each other on Saturday.

The key matches take place at the Reebok Stadium, as second-bottom Bolton host 16th-placed QPR.

Bolton have endured the worst recent form of any of the bottom teams, losing five of their last seven matches while QPR face a tough run-in, with six games against sides currently in the top seven before they meet Manchester City on the final day.

And Molineux where Blackburn, who sit one place above the drop-zone, travel to the team immediately below them, Wolves.

After a 4-0 humbling against West Brom and this week's difficulties with club captain Roger Johnson, Wolves have not had the best preparation in the last few days.

Conversely, Blackburn have displayed the best recent form of the bottom five, with two wins and two draws in their last seven matches.

As it stands, three of the bottom five are separated only by goal difference.

So another fun filled weekend of Premiership football

Saturday  10th March 2012

12:45 - Bolton (19) v QPR (16) ~ Sky2

Bolton Wanderers have not won a league match since 21st January and have not scored a goal in four of their last five league games.

Owen Coyle has a huge task on his hands to see his side move clear of the bottom three, but a home victory against Queens Park Rangers could see them rise to 16th.

Rangers are in a similarly precarious position and have also not taken three points from a game since 21st January.

Mark Hughes was appointed by the club to steer them clear of the relegation zone, but he has been unable to improve their fortunes thus far.

A point at home to Everton last week will have been encouraging but wins are what both these teams need.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle will wait to discover whether Marcos Alonso will be available before finalising his line-up.

Alonso returned to Spain following the death of his grandfather and is due to contact Coyle to let him know if he is in the right frame of mind to be involved.

Kevin Davies (knee) is fit again after a three-match absence and could be on the bench.

Djibril Cisse, Samba Diakite and Luke Young all return for QPR.

Striker Cisse and midfielder Diakite come back into the fold after suspension, while right-back Young is back in the squad after overcoming a hamstring injury.

Adel Taarabt is a doubt with a hamstring complaint of his own, while on-loan Federico Macheda is unavailable due to an ankle problem.

Boss Mark Hughes does not believe defender Fitz Hall will be ready for the game.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

Last five league matches: Bolton D L L L L, QPR D L L L D.

Top scorers (all competitions): Marvin Sordell (Bolton) 10; Heidar Helguson & Bobby Zamora (QPR) 9.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

15:00 - Aston Villa (15) v Fulham (8)

Struggling Aston Villa lock horns with in-form Fulham.

The dissenters continue to vent their frustrations towards Alex McLeish and with Villa 15th in the table, three points off 14th, the pressure is beginning to build on the Scot.

Financial losses off the field will not make things any easier for the Midlands side, and Fulham will be licking their lips ahead of this game at Villa Park.

Martin Jol's Cottagers have won three on the bounce and are full of confidence after their demolition of Wolves.

Villa boss Alex McLeish has no fresh injury concerns and is considering naming an unchanged side.

Striker Darren Bent (ankle), defender Richard Dunne (collarbone) and midfielder Fabian Delph (ankle) are all long term casualties while utility player Ciaran Clark continues to make good progress in his recovery from a knee setback.

Fulham defender Aaron Hughes (calf) may miss out while fellow defenders Stephen Kelly (quad) and Zdenek Grygera (knee) are definitely unavailable.

Steve Sidwell (hernia) is two weeks away from a return, although Bryan Ruiz is available after a virus.

Last season: Aston Villa 2 Fulham 2, Fulham 1 Aston Villa 1

Last five league matches: Aston Villa D L L D D; Fulham D L W W W

Top scorers (all competitions): Darren Bent (Aston Villa) 10; Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 18

Referee: Jon Moss

15:00 - Chelsea (5) v Stoke (9)

Last week's defeat at West Brom saw Andre Villas-Boas depart Chelsea after little more than eight months at the helm, and Di Matteo now takes charge until the end of the season.

His first league game at the helm sees Stoke City travel to Stamford Bridge and the Italian will be hoping to build on the FA Cup victory over Birmingham in midweek.

The battle for fourth spot will be the focus until the end of the campaign, with Chelsea currently trailing Arsenal by three points.

Stoke, meanwhile, come into the game on the back of successive wins and sit ninth in the table.

Jermaine Pennant has been frozen out of the team of late, and Sky Sports sources understand the club have sanctioned the winger twice in recent months and that is the reason he has not featured.

John Terry is set for his first action since the match against Swansea on January 31 after undergoing surgery on his injured knee.

The Chelsea captain was on the bench for the midweek FA Cup win at Birmingham but has trained well this week.

Ashley Cole has recovered from a heel injury and interim coach Roberto di Matteo reported a full squad available.

Stoke defender Andy Wilkinson is an injury doubt with a hamstring problem.

Jermaine Pennant's involvement will be of interest after the winger this week denied reports he had recently been fined by the Potters for two breaches of discipline.

Rory Delap (hamstring) faces a fitness test.

Last season: Stoke 1 Chelsea 1, Chelsea 2 Stoke 0.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 12; Peter Crouch (Stoke) 10

Referee: Andre Marriner

15:00 - Sunderland (12) v Liverpool (7)  

Kenny Dalglish shrugged off talk of Luis Suarez departing Liverpool for Paris St Germain in the summer, but he will be hoping the Uruguayan can rediscover his early season form when the Reds play Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Liverpool's hopes of a top-four finish were all but ended last week after a home defeat by Arsenal, but with a Carling Cup under their belt and improvements on the pitch, it has certainly been a campaign of consolidation.

Similarly, it has been a season of transition for Sunderland but despite their rejuvenation under Martin O'Neill, there were some ugly scenes during the recent draw at Newcastle.

O'Neill will be unable to call on Stephane Sessegnon and Lee Cattermole who are both suspended.

Sunderland are without suspended duo Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon, while full-back Kieran Richardson is a major doubt with a calf problem, so loan signing Wayne Bridge is standing by.

John O'Shea is expected to play with a protective cast over a broken bone in his hand and fellow central defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos (heel) could return to contention, but Keiren Westwood (wrist) is still out.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and defender Glen Johnson are set to return to the squad.

Gerrard sustained a minor hamstring problem on England duty, while Johnson pulled out before the friendly against Holland.

Daniel Agger is still out with a cracked rib so Jamie Carragher will continue in central defence.

Last season: Sunderland 0 Liverpool 2, Liverpool 2 Sunderland 2

Last five league matches: Sunderland W W L L D, Liverpool L W D L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Stephane Sessegnon (Sunderland) 7; Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 10

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

15:00 - Wolves (18) v Blackburn (17)

What a terrible performance from Wolves last weekend.

Terry Connor's men were humbled 5-0 at Fulham as their confidence and goal difference took a severe hit.

Connor must pick up spirits because this Saturday Blackburn Rovers are in town for a crucial encounter.

Both sides are level on 22 points after difficult campaigns but despite their troubles, the chance to remain in the top-flight is still on the cards.

Wolves' defence has been their problem in recent games - 12 goals have been shipped in their last three matches.

That is something Steve Kean and Rovers will be hoping to exploit after snatching a point against Aston Villa thanks to David Dunn's late header.

A draw will not really help either team this weekend, so expect a full-blooded tie in the Black Country.

Wolves skipper and defender Roger Johnson is in the squad after being disciplined for being in an unfit condition to train on Monday.

Johnson, dropped for the past two games, and on-loan Tottenham defender Sebastien Bassong - who has recovered from a hamstring injury - are in contention.

Midfielder David Davis is a possible replacement for Karl Henry (hamstring), while Steven Fletcher has recovered from illness.

Defenders Gael Givet and Jason Lowe are available after suspension but it is unlikely the duo will break into Blackburn's starting line-up, though, with both short of match practice.

Midfielder David Dunn may start, having come off the bench against Aston Villa last week to score the equaliser.

Last season: Wolves 2 Blackburn 3, Blackburn 3 Wolves 0

Last five league matches: Wolverhampton L W L D L; Blackburn L L W L D

Top scorers (all competitions): Steven Fletcher (Wolves) 10; Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 14

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

17:30 - Everton (13) v Tottenham (3) ~ ESPN

Tottenham go into their match with Everton having been comprehensively beaten in their last two league matches.

Perhaps it is speculation linking Harry Redknapp with the England job, or perhaps a squad that has performed so admirably this term is finally beginning to tire.

Spurs still hold a four-point gap over Arsenal and are in a strong position to secure qualification for next year's UEFA Champions League.

However, they will want to reproduce the form that saw them labelled title contenders when they go to Merseyside on Saturday evening.

Everton are unbeaten in eight games in all competitions and a win could see them move up to eighth.

However, their last defeat came against Tottenham.

Everton manager David Moyes has virtually a fully-fit squad - but several players are lacking match sharpness.

Defender Phil Jagielka, forward Victor Anichebe and midfielder Leon Osman all played for the reserves in midweek but are among those in need of pitch time.

Midfielder Darron Gibson (knee) is a few weeks from fitness while on-loan Steven Pienaar is ineligible against his parent club.

Winger Aaron Lennon (hamstring) is unavailable for Spurs and Michael Dawson's season is over after he ruptured ankle ligaments.

Louis Saha has recovered from a knee injury, and William Gallas is available after calf trouble but Ledley King (knee) will have a late test and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) is out.

Last season: Everton 2 Tottenham 1, Tottenham 1 Everton 1

Last five league matches: Everton D W D W D, Tottenham W D W L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Nikica Jelavic (Everton) 17; Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 15

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Sunday 11th March 2012

14:00 - Man Utd (2) v West Brom (10)

Manchester United are not letting up in their quest to catch City and deny them their first Premier League crown.

Next up following their defeat by Athletic Bilbao in Europe is a home game against West Brom, who will be full of confidence after their victory over Chelsea.

United are unbeaten in the league since a defeat at Newcastle in early January and are starting to click into gear ahead of what is traditionally their best period of the season.

Tired legs may be a factor although their European fixture in midweek was at home - a tough trip to San Mames saved for next week.

Roy Hodgson's Baggies are on a great run - three wins on the bounce have seen them net 10 goals and they are currently well-placed in 10th.

Chris Smalling is United's major fitness doubt after reopening a head wound originally sustained on England duty during Thursday night's Europa League defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

Midfielder Tom Cleverley is set to be involved after recovering from an ankle injury, whilst it is also anticipated Paul Scholes will play some part after being rested for the Bilbao defeat.

West Brom captain Chris Brunt is in contention for his first start in two months, after recovering from a broken foot.

He would be a ready-made replacement for fellow midfielder Jerome Thomas, who is struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.

Right-back Steven Reid is out with an ankle problem, so head coach Roy Hodgson hopes Billy Jones overcomes a leg injury to replace him.

If he is still ruled out, Gabriel Tamas may step in.

Last season: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2, Man Utd 2 West Brom 2

Last five league matches: Man Utd W D W W W; West Brom D L W W W

Top scorers (all competitions): Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 23; Keith Andrews (West Brom) 11

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

14:00 - Swansea (14) v Man City (1)

The Premier League title is now a two-horse race with the Manchester clubs well ahead of the chasing pack.

Both sides are in action on Sunday after their Europa League exploits on Thursday night, with leaders Manchester City making the trip to Wales to face Swansea.

Roberto Mancini's side have been in imperious league form and have not conceded a goal since January, enjoying a fine run that has yielded four successive victories.

Their last two home wins have been comfortable to say the least, but they must warn against complacency ahead of a tricky tie at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea had been suffering a dip in form but recovered to secure a 2-0 success at Wigan last weekend.

This should be an entertaining contest with both teams offering a wealth of attacking talent.

Swansea will be without suspended winger Nathan Dyer, so Wayne Routledge will be handed the starting role on the right flank, while defender Ashley Williams should be fit despite a stomach bug.

Andrea Orlandi is closing in on a return from a hamstring tear but is not available to face City, while Kemy Agustien is likely to miss the rest of the season after ankle surgery, City will be without captain Vincent Kompany.

He suffered a calf injury in last night's Europa League loss at Sporting Lisbon and the club are yet to learn the full extent of the damage.

Fellow defenders Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott should be fit but another, right-back Pablo Zabaleta (hamstring), remains sidelined and striker Carlos Tevez is still short of match-fitness.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Rory Donnelly & Danny Graham (Swansea) 12; Sergio Aguero (Man City) 21

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

16:00 - Norwich (11) v Wigan (20) ~ Sky1

Another side embroiled in the survival battle are Wigan Athletic, and the rock-bottom outfit travel to Norwich City for the final game of the weekend on Sunday afternoon.

The Latics produced a disappointing display as they fell 2-0 at home to Swansea last time out, with Roberto Martinez's old team putting a dent in his hopes to climb up the table.

Wigan have the worst goal difference in the division but a win could see them move out of the bottom three - that would be a major psychological boost for a team that has spent the majority of the last year stuck in the relegation places.

Norwich have had a great season but are not in the best form, Paul Lambert's charges having lost their last three games in all competitions.

Norwich will again be without defenders Daniel Ayala (hamstring) and Marc Tierney (groin).

Centre-back Ryan Bennett is in contention after being an unused substitute during the defeat at Stoke, where fit-again midfielder Jonny Howson made his first appearance since signing from Leeds.

Striker James Vaughan (hamstring) is still not available.

Wigan midfielder David Jones will be out of action for two weeks with a knee injury.

Mike Pollitt is out for four weeks with a shoulder problem but Victor Moses, Mohamed Diame and Hugo Rodallega are all expected to return to the line-up.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Grant Holt (Norwich) 12; Franco Di Santo, Jordi Gomez & Ben Watson (Wigan) 4

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Monday 12 March 2012

20:00 - Arsenal (4) v Newcastle (6) ~ Sky1

Brazil full-back Andre Santos could return to the Arsenal squad after recovering from a broken ankle.

Midfielder Mikel Arteta is available having been rested for the midweek Champions League win over AC Milan because of a blow to the head at Liverpool, while Wales captain Aaron Ramsey (ankle) should also be involved.

Yossi Benayoun has been out with a virus, while there were no other fresh injuries from midweek.

Abou Diaby (hamstring), defender Francis Coquelin (hamstring), centre-back Per Mertesacker (ankle) and midfielder Jack Wilshere (ankle) remain sidelined.

Newcastle will be without striker Peter Lovenkrands, who could miss the rest of the season after he suffered a suspected ruptured thigh muscle.

Shola Ameobi has recovered from the bout of illness which limited him to the substitutes' bench last weekend.

Long-term absentees Leon Best and Sammy Ameobi (both knee), Steven Taylor (Achilles) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) are still sidelined.

Last season: Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4, Arsenal 0 Newcastle 1

Last five league matches: Arsenal D W W W W; Newcastle W W L D D

Top scorers (all competitions): Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 32; Demba Ba (Newcastle) 16

Referee: Howard Webb

Source Sporting Life/SkySports
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