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Premier League Preview ~ 13th May 2012

last updated Sunday 13th May 2012, 12:01 AM

The final weekend of the Premier League is upon us and Manchester City are within touching distance of the title.

City are level on points with Manchester United at the top of the table but their superior goal difference means a win over QPR at Eastlands will be enough to claim the trophy this season. However, QPR will give everything they have to avoid relegation to the Championship. One place in the bottom three is yet to be decided and it will be either Mark Hughes' side or Bolton Wanderers who occupy it come Sunday evening.

For United, a trip to Sunderland would have been daunting a few weeks ago. But now the 'new manager effect' so superbly triggered by the arrival of Martin O'Neill has now been replaced by the sandstorm of players dreaming of Ayia Napa, Ibiza and Mallorca. The Black Cats have not won a match since March 24, when they beat QPR at home, and have won just twice since early February.

It has been a campaign of ups and downs in the Premier League, with Manchester dominating proceedings at the summit. Tottenham briefly flirted with the idea of mounting a title challenge, but there have only ever been two serious contenders for the throne - City and United. Roberto Mancini saw his side produce a landmark 6-1 victory at Old Trafford but the champions then clawed back a sizeable deficit before taking an eight-point lead, which has since been squandered.

Injury-hit Arsenal have a trip to West Brom which is not straightforward even though the Baggies have lost nine times at the Hawthorns this term - only the bottom three have lost more. The match provides home fans the opportunity to wave off boss Roy Hodgson as he leaves to take charge of England, and the players may raise their game accordingly. The Gunners have lost once at West Brom in the Premier League, and drawn once, in five visits.

Spurs are best placed to take advantage of any slip up, with former boss Martin Jol taking his Fulham side to White Hart Lane. The Cottagers could still finish as high as seventh - a club record - if they beat Spurs. Only Man City have collected more points than Fulham in the last six matches and Tottenham, without a recognised left-back, have one clean sheet in their last five home games. Home banker? Far from it.

Newcastle go to Everton whose main concern is keeping their noses ahead of Liverpool. After being beaten 4-0 in their last away game at Wigan, the Magpies cannot afford to start so sluggishly against an Everton side with striker Nikica Jelavic in such hot form. But the Toffees must hold the same fears over Papiss Cisse. Only Man City have conceded fewer at home than Everton, though the Toffees have still lost six times at Goodison Park.

The last relegation place is a head-to-head between Bolton and QPR.

Bolton's task is simple: they have to win at Stoke or face life in the Championship for the first time since 2002. That year was the first time all three promoted clubs stayed up (Fulham and Blackburn being the other two); if Bolton do go down, then QPR and the other two former Championship clubs will perform that feat for the second time.

Sunday 13th May 2012

15:00 - Chelsea (6) v Blackburn (19)

Blackburn are in absolute disarray and the operations of Venky's are coming under increased scrutiny.

Deputy chief executive Paul Hunt has left the club although the owners insist it is nothing to do with a letter calling for the departure of Steve Kean, who remains as manager despite Rovers' relegation.

Blackburn bow out of the Premier League against Chelsea in the capital, with Roberto Di Matteo concentrating on next weekend's Champions League final.

Chelsea rested players against Liverpool in midweek and were duly punished - will they do the same again?

David Luiz and Gary Cahill have failed to recover from hamstring injuries in time.

The centre-backs remain in a race against time to be fit for next Saturday's Champions League final.

Midfielder John Obi Mikel is unlikely to be risked as he recovers from a knee injury, with Roberto Di Matteo confirming he would blood some of the Blues' youngsters against Rovers.

Defender Bradley Orr will miss out for already-relegated Blackburn after having surgery on his Achilles tendon, while goalkeeper Paul Robinson is doubtful due to an ankle injury.

Midfielder David Dunn is a doubt after limping off in the first half of Monday's clash with Wigan, a 1-0 defeat which condemned Rovers to the drop.

Defender Gael Givet is clear to play despite suffering an unconfirmed problem in the game against Wigan.

Last season: Chelsea 2 Blackburn 0, Blackburn 1 Chelsea 2

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

Top scorers: Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 16; Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 17

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

15:00 - Everton (7) v Newcastle (5)

Alan Pardew has done a fine job at Newcastle following his surprise appointment, and even if the Magpies do not finish in the top four they can be justly proud of a fantastic season.

All is still to play for, though, going into their clash with Everton at Goodison Park.

Whether Pardew can keep hold of his key players in the summer remains to be seen, but the likes of Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote have taken the Premier League by storm.

Only a win will do against the Toffees, who have once again enjoyed an impressive year under David Moyes, despite their trademark slow start.

Everton will hope to finish above Liverpool and claim the local bragging rights on Merseyside.

Everton could welcome back Leighton Baines, Phil Neville and Darron Gibson.

Left-back Baines has been out for a month with a groin injury while utility man Neville and midfielder Gibson missed last week's draw at Wolves with unspecified knocks.

Midfielder Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and forward Victor Anichebe (groin) are both missing.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will be without full-back Danny Simpson because of an ankle problem, while striker Leon Best will also not travel because of a thigh strain.

Midfielder Sammy Ameobi (knee) is stepping up his training and only central defender Steven Taylor (Achilles) is still on the long-term injury list.

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

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

Top scorers: Nikica Jelavic (Everton) 27; Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) 22

Referee: Andre Marriner.

15:00 - Man City (1) v QPR (17)

Manchester City know a win against QPR will secure the title, following their victory against Newcastle.

But Mark Hughes, on his return to the Etihad Stadium, and Rangers will have other ideas.

A draw would see them stay up but defeat and a Bolton win at Stoke would spell the end of a one-year stint in the top flight.

Manchester City have no injury concerns and manager Roberto Mancini has suggested retaining the same system that finished last week's vital win over Newcastle, when midfielder Nigel de Jong came on to allow Yaya Toure to advance.

Controversial striker Mario Balotelli, who has not played since his sending off at Arsenal last month, is in contention after being overlooked at Newcastle.

Samba Diakite will miss QPR's vital clash and could be joined by several of his midfield team-mates.

The January signing from Nancy is struggling with a virus and could be joined on the sidelines by Shaun Derry (dead leg) and Akos Buzsaky (hamstring).

Fellow central midfielder Alejandro Faurlin is also out due to a long-term anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Man City W W W W W; QPR W L W L W

Top scorers: Sergio Aguero (Man City) 29; Djibril Cisse, Heidar Helguson & Bobby Zamora (QPR) 9

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

15:00 - Norwich (13) v Aston Villa (16)

Norwich and Aston Villa meet at Carrow Road.

Only six points separate these two sides but the feeling around both clubs could hardly be more contrasting.

Villa have narrowly avoided relegation under Alex McLeish, who looks drained after a difficult year, facing fierce opposition from the majority of supporters.

Paul Lambert, meanwhile, has defied the odds with the Canaries, who have returned to the Premier League in real style.

Norwich left-back Adam Drury (groin) remains a doubt.

Striker James Vaughan is pressing for a recall having been left out of last weekend's 3-3 draw at Arsenal.

Defenders Zak Whitbread (hamstring), Marc Tierney (groin) and Daniel Ayala (knee) are all ruled out.

Aston Villa will be without striker Andreas Weimann and defender Alan Hutton.

Weimann suffered a medial ligament strain in the home draw against Tottenham while Hutton ruptured ankle ligaments in the same game, an injury which saw Danny Rose sent off for his challenge on the full-back.

Villa are without Darren Bent (ankle) and will check on the fitness of Emile Heskey (ankle) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (ribs).

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Grant Holt (Norwich) 16; Darren Bent (Aston Villa) 10

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

15:00 - Stoke (14) v Bolton (18)

Bolton Wanderers need a big performance at Stoke City to save them from relegation.

Only a win will do for Owen Coyle and three points should be enough - should Manchester City get their job done against QPR.

But the Britannia Stadium is not a welcoming place to go knowing that anything less than victory will mean dropping out of the Premier League.

One thing that may work in Bolton's favour is that Stoke could have one eye on the beach, Tony Pulis' side sitting comfortably in the bottom half.

They can finish no lower than 14th but if results go their way this weekend an 11th-placed finish is a possibility.

The onus will be on Bolton, though.

Can they deal with the pressure?

Stoke are waiting on the fitness of left-back Marc Wilson after the player had a scan on his back.

Wilson was forced off with the problem at half-time during last weekend's loss to QPR, and boss Tony Pulis will give him until the day of the game to prove his fitness.

Defender Andy Wilkinson (groin) and winger Jermaine Pennant (hamstring) are expected to be fit while Dane Thomas Sorensen will keep his place in goal as he builds up to next month's Euro 2012 tournament.

Bolton boss Owen Coyle will assess the condition of a number of players.

Nigel Reo-Coker (leg) and Mark Davies (virus) could be available and Darren Pratley (virus) could be in line for his comeback.

Lee Chung-yong returned following a broken leg against West Brom but Gretar Steinsson remains sidelined with a thigh problem.

David Wheater is out with cruciate ligament damage to his right knee.

Last season: Stoke 2 Bolton 0, Bolton 2 Stoke 1

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

Top scorers: Peter Crouch (Stoke) 14; Marvin Sordell (Bolton) 10

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

15:00 - Sunderland (11) v Man Utd (2)

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted Manchester United are relying on a 'stupid' result at Eastlands for a 20th league title to be possible.

It looks like being an unusual trophy-less season for United.

On Sunday Ferguson takes his team to Sunderland, hoping they can find motivation and forget what the blue half of Manchester are doing.

That may be impossible though, with away fans at the Stadium of Light sure to be tuned in to radio transmitters and online updates for the latest from the Etihad.

Sunderland could finish in the top half with a surprise win, which considering their terrible start would be an impressive turnaround.

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has no fresh major injury concerns.

Former Manchester United defender Wes Brown has returned to training following a lengthy lay-off with a knee problem, although the game is likely to come too soon.

Centre-half Titus Bramble (Achilles) is likely to be included in the squad after making the bench at Fulham last week, but full-back Kieran Richardson and midfielder Sebastian Larsson (both hernia surgery) will miss out.

Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck will both miss out.

Smalling (groin) is set for a summer operation that will rule him out of Euro 2012, whilst Welbeck (ankle) has not recovered from the injury that he sustained during last month's Manchester derby.

It means Phil Jones should start alongside Rio Ferdinand in central defence.

Last season: Man Utd 2 Sunderland 0, Sunderland 0 Man Utd 0

Last five league matches: Sunderland L D D D L; Man Utd L W D L W

Top scorers: Nicklas Bendtner, Sebastian Larsson & Stephane Sessegnon (Sunderland) 8; Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 34

Referee: Howard Webb.

15:00 - Swansea (12) v Liverpool (8)

For Liverpool it has been a year of transition.

They may have a Carling Cup in the trophy cabinet but their league form has been extremely disappointing.

They finish the campaign at Swansea, who have enjoyed a fantastic first year in the Premier League.

Brendan Rodgers' side have sparkled with some remarkable displays, drawing 0-0 at Anfield back in November.

Rodgers, along with Pardew, deserves a nomination for manager of the year after guiding the Swans to safety while playing some excellent football.

They will hope to avoid second-season syndrome next term.

Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers has no fresh injury concerns.

Full-back Angel Rangel returned from a hamstring problem at Manchester United, while midfielder Leon Britton recovered from a knee niggle to feature as a second-half substitute at Old Trafford.

Kemy Agustien (ankle) and Ferrie Bodde (knee) remain sidelined with their long-term injuries.

Manager Kenny Dalglish may decide to freshen up his team.

Captain Steven Gerrard missed Tuesday's win over Chelsea with a minor back problem and may not be risked again while left-back Jose Enrique also sat out that game.

Teenager Raheem Sterling is likely to get another run-out from the bench having made back-to-back league appearances as a substitute.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Danny Graham (Swansea) 13; Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 17

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

15:00 - Tottenham (4) v Fulham (9)  

Tottenham will be hoping their North London rivals slip up in the Black Country while they host Fulham at White Hart Lane.

It has been an eventful season for Spurs and especially for their manager Harry Redknapp, who will be desperate to at least finish in the top four.

Newcastle only trail them by one point, however, and anything less than a win on Sunday could result in huge disappointment.

Spurs have picked things up in recent weeks and are finishing strongly, although will have to be wary of a dangerous Fulham side.

Martin Jol could steer his side to a seventh-placed finish in his first year at Craven Cottage, and Clint Dempsey, who is injured, has undoubtedly been one of the players of the season.

Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker is a doubt due to an Achilles injury.

Danny Rose is suspended after his red card against Aston Villa and Benoit Assou-Ekotto is out with a shoulder injury, meaning William Gallas could have to play at left-back.

Ledley King could miss out with his knee problem.

Long-term absentees Niko Kranjcar (knee), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Michael Dawson (ankle) are unavailable.

Fulham will be without Clint Dempsey as he is struggling with a groin injury while Fulham manager Martin Jol is also without Bryan Ruiz (foot), Dickson Etuhu (knee) and Steve Sidwell (hernia) on his first return to White Hart Lane.

Alex Kacaniklic is also a doubt after dropping out of training with a hamstring problem.

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

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

Top scorers: Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham) 17; Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 23

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

15:00 - West Brom (10) v Arsenal (3)  

A draw for Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion would secure their place in the top four this season, but Arsene Wenger will be focused on a top-three finish to guarantee their spot in next year's UEFA Champions League.

That would ensure that they would not have to go through the qualifying rounds to enter the tournament, and also mean they would not have to cheer on Bayern Munich in the final of this season's competition next Saturday.

Wenger insists his players will get the job done at The Hawthorns but Roy Hodgson will want a big send-off in his last game in charge of Albion before taking the England reins full-time ahead of Euro 2012.

Chris Hughton is reportedly a leading candidate to replace Hodgson, who has steered West Brom to a respectable 10th.

They will want to finish the season in the top half.

West Brom skipper Chris Brunt is unavailable for new England manager Roy Hodgson's final match in charge after having his tonsils removed.

Fellow midfielder Paul Scharner is poised to make his final Albion appearance, with his contract running out this summer.

Striker Peter Odemwingie (leg) and winger Jerome Thomas (illness) are doubtful to face the Gunners.

Arsenal could have winger Theo Walcott back from a hamstring injury.

Full-back Bacary Sagna has undergone an operation on his broken leg and will miss France's European Championship campaign.

German centre-back Per Mertesacker is making good progress with his ankle injury.

Midfielders Abou Diaby (calf), Mikel Arteta (ankle) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) are also out.

Last season: West Brom 2 Arsenal 2, Arsenal 2 West Brom 3

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

Top scorers: Keith Andrews & Peter Odemwingie (West Brom) 11; Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 37

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire).

15:00 - Wigan (15) v Wolverhampton (20)

Wolves are preparing for life in the Championship but they have already moved to appoint a new manager, with Norwegian Stale Solbakken to take the reins at Molineux from 1 July.

Their fans will wave farewell to the top flight at Wigan and it may be a difficult afternoon for the Wanderers faithful, given that the Latics could be gloating after their survival.

Roberto Martinez has worked wonders yet again and Dave Whelan will hope to hold on to the Spaniard for another year.

Let's wait and see.

David Jones is Wigan's only fitness concern with a couple of niggling injuries and is unlikely to feature.

Robert Martinez otherwise has a full squad to select from for the visit of rock-bottom and already-relegated Wolves.

Wolves interim boss Terry Connor will assess the fitness of centre-back Christophe Berra and winger Michael Kightly after they were substituted with calf and groin strains respectively during the second half of the goalless draw with Everton.

Connor is also monitoring defender Sebastien Bassong (hamstring), right-back Kevin Foley (hamstring), winger Matt Jarvis (groin) and midfielder David Davis (head).

Last season: Wolverhampton 1 Wigan 2, Wigan 2 Wolverhampton 0

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

Top scorers: Victor Moses & Franco Di Santo (Wigan) 6; Steven Fletcher (Wolverhampton) 11

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

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