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Premier League Preview ~ 28th ~ 30th April 2012

last updated Saturday 28th April 2012, 10:52 AM

The Premier League title race is set for a decider on Monday night, but before then there are other matters of huge importance up and down the table.

Fulham head up to Merseyside for the first leg of a double against Everton on Saturday and Liverpool on Tuesday.

Chelsea, fresh from their staggering victory over Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League in midweek, host West London rivals Queens Park Rangers looking to push for a top-four finish and keep the Hoops stuck in the relegation mire.

Third placed Arsenal visit Stoke City looking for a win to cement their Champions League qualification and finish above Spurs of course.

Tottenham desperate for a win to resurrect their attempt to finish in the top four are pitted against Blackburn Rovers.

Newcastle, also hoping to finish in the top four this season, travel to fourth-bottom Wigan who are one point above the regation zone.

Struggling Aston Villa face a crunch Midlands derby against West Bromwich Albion who will be on a high after their win at Anfield.

Relegation theatened Bolton go to Sunderland while doomed Wolves travel to Swansea.

Saturday 28th April 2012

15:00 - Everton (7) v Fulham (9)

Everton and Fulham have finished the season well and are only separated by two points ahead of their meeting at Goodison Park.

The Toffees bounced back from their FA Cup disappointment after twice coming from behind to earn an impressive draw at Manchester United last Sunday and dent the champions' title hopes.

Fulham came from a goal down to beat Wigan 2-1 and have impressed in Martin Jol's first campaign in charge.

This could be an entertaining encounter with both sides free of pressure.

Everton will again be without defender Leighton Baines and midfielder Jack Rodwell.

Baines is still sidelined with the hamstring injury which forced him to miss missed last weekend's 4-4 draw at Manchester United while Rodwell has not played for six weeks because of a similar problem.

Centre-back Sylvain Distin is expected to deputise on the left of defence once more but on-loan Royston Drenthe is not likely to return to the squad having been disciplined before the FA Cup semi-final.

Fulham defender Stephen Kelly returned to training this week and is in contention.

Pavel Pogrebnyak made a goalscoring return to action against Wigan last weekend after recovering from an ankle problem while Fulham also have striker Andrew Johnson fit and available.

Winger Bryan Ruiz (foot) will be out for 10 weeks while Steve Sidwell (hernia) and Zdenek Grygera (knee) are also long-term absentees.

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

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

Top scorers: Nikica Jelavic (Everton) 25; Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 22

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

15:00 - Stoke (14) v Arsenal (3)

Arsenal have enjoyed a rollercoaster campaign of ups and downs, but look set to finish the season in the top four.

Another year has gone by without a trophy but securing a Champions League place is no mean feat in the current climate.

A win for the Gunners at Stoke would consolidate their position in third but it remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger's charges can stand up to the physical approach of the Potters.

Stoke were well beaten by Newcastle but are a different proposition at the Britannia Stadium.

Stoke defender Andy Wilkinson (groin) will miss tomorrow's clash.

The 27-year-old, substituted after 33 minutes at Newcastle last week, is also doubtful for Tuesday's meeting with Everton but could be back for the final two games of the campaign.

Winger Jermaine Pennant is back in contention after a virus but is unlikely to start.

Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby will be assessed ahead of the game after suffering from a virus.

Czech international Tomas Rosicky has shrugged off a similar illness, while on-loan Chelsea midfielder Yossi Benayoun comes back in after being ineligible to play against his parent club last weekend.

Winger Theo Walcott (hamstring) may feature before the end of the season but Mikel Arteta (ankle) is out along with Jack Wilshere (ankle) and German centre-back Per Mertesacker (ankle).

Last season: Stoke 3 Arsenal 1, Arsenal 1 Stoke 0

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

Top scorers: Peter Crouch (Stoke) 13; Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 34

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

15:00 - Sunderland (11) v Bolton (18)

The other side fighting to avoid relegation to the Championship are Bolton Wanderers, who play Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Bolton's comeback success at Aston Villa in midweek breathed life into the survival bid, and they will be looking to build on that crucial victory on Wearside.

Owen Coyle's men may still be in the bottom three but they have one game in hand over the teams around them, which may prove crucial to the final standings.

Sunderland have one eye on the summer break and have not scored in their last four matches.

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill will be without a trio of key players.

Midfielder Craig Gardner is suspended following his sending-off at Aston Villa last weekend, while full-back Kieran Richardson and winger Sebastian Larsson will both miss the rest of the season after undergoing hernia surgery this week.

Skipper Lee Cattermole could return to the midfield as he battles a persistent knee problem, but the manager will make a late decision on his fitness.

Bolton boss Owen Coyle will again run the rule over his walking wounded.

Coyle claimed another six players picked up knocks in Tuesday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa, including midfielders Chris Eagles, Ryo Miyaichi and Mark Davies, with none training yesterday.

Darren Pratley has missed the last two matches through illness, whilst Bolton are still awaiting FIFA clearance to play winger Gregg Wylde following his move from Rangers.

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

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

Top scorers: Sebastian Larsson & Stephane Sessegnon (Sunderland) 8; Marvin Sordell (Bolton) 10

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

15:00 - Swansea (12) v Wolves (20)  

Already-relegated Wolves will be playing for pride when they make the trip to Wales to play Swansea City.

Terry Connor's future is uncertain but he must start preparing the Molineux outfit for life in the Championship after their defeat by Manchester City last weekend.

Swansea will have a say in the title race when they play Manchester United in their next game and can move into the top half on Saturday with victory at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea winger Nathan Dyer is fully fit for Saturday's match after recovering from illness.

Dyer was forced off early in last weekend's draw with Bolton but is available for the visit of the midlands club, while Steven Caulker, who played 90 minutes at the Reebok Stadium, has also shaken off an illness.

Kemy Agustien (ankle), Ferrie Bodde (knee) and Alan Tate (calf) remain absent for the Swans.

Relegated Wolves will be without on-loan Tottenham defender Sebastien Bassong after he suffered a hamstring injury during Sunday's 2-0 home reversal by Manchester City and will be sidelined for up to a fortnight.

Christophe Berra is poised to come in.

Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey (knee), midfielder Jamie O'Hara (groin) and defender Jody Craddock (hip) are out.

Last season: No Corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Danny Graham &, Rory Donnelly (Swansea) 12; Steven Fletcher (Wolves) 10

Referee: Jon Moss

15:00 - West Brom (10) v Aston Villa (15)

Alex McLeish faces the very real possibility of taking both Birmingham clubs down from the top-flight in successive seasons.

The Scot's tenure at Aston Villa reached a nadir following Tuesday night's home defeat by Bolton, when the supporters united in anger to protest against McLeish's management.

He has three games to preserve Villa's Premier League status but with just three points separating them and the relegation zone, a trip to Midlands rivals West Brom could not come at a worse time.

Albion overcame Liverpool last weekend and would like nothing more than to pile the misery on Villa. West Brom striker Marc-Antoine Fortune is fit to return after missing last weekend's shock 1-0 away success over Liverpool with a hamstring injury.

Midfielder Paul Scharner is likely to be available despite cracking a bone in his wrist at Anfield.

Midfielders Zoltan Gera and James Morrison (both knee) and right-back Steven Reid (foot) remain on the injury list.

Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne is available after two and a half months out of action with a broken collarbone.

Fellow defender James Collins is still battling to overcome his recent groin problem and there will be checks on the fitness of midfielder Stephen Ireland (hamstring) and striker Emile Heskey (Achilles).

Last season: West Brom 2 Aston Villa 1, Aston Villa 2 West Brom 1

Last five league matches: West Brom L W L W W; Aston Villa D D L D L

Top scorers: Keith Andrews & Peter Odemwingie (West Brom) 11; Darren Bent (Aston Villa) 10

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

15:00 - Wigan (17) v Newcastle (4)

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has insisted he will not be too disappointed if his side finish fourth this season but fail to qualify for next year's Champions League, should Chelsea win the competition.

The Magpies are currently three points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham going into their game at Wigan, who still have plenty of work to do if they are to avoid the drop.

Roberto Martinez's Latics have been resurgent in recent weeks but despite victories over Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, they squandered a lead at Fulham last time out.

Wigan striker Franco di Santo is doubtful for the relegation battlers with a calf injury.

Fellow forward Hugo Rodallega (knee) is hoping to prove his fitness after returning to training following a seven-week lay-off.

Defender Ronnie Stam (hamstring) is unlikely to feature but midfielder Albert Crusat (calf) is back in contention.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has no fresh injury concerns, while Gabriel Obertan (ankle) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) are both back in training, but neither will travel.

Only Steven Taylor (Achilles) and Sammy Ameobi (knee) remain on the Champions League-chasing side's long-term casualty list.

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

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

Top scorers: Jordi Gomez & Franco Di Santo (Wigan) 5; Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) 20

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

17:30 - Norwich (13) v Liverpool (8) ~ ESPN

Liverpool may have had success in the domestic cups this year but their league form has been well below par.

The Reds risk finishing in the bottom half following their home defeat by Roy Hodgson's West Brom, although in fairness they were desperately unlucky not to win that game.

This weekend Norwich are the opponents at Carrow Road, and the Canaries can go level on points with Liverpool with a victory, who could have one eye on next weekend's FA Cup final.

Norwich striker James Vaughan is pressing for another start after his recovery from a frustrating injury spell.

Former Reds centre-back Zak Whitbread (hamstring) remains sidelined and will not be playing against his old club.

Fellow defenders Marc Tierney (groin) and Daniel Ayala (knee), another former Liverpool man, are ruled out of the season.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard returned to training during the week after being rested for the home defeat against West Brom.

However, with an FA Cup final in just over a week and two league matches to play before then manager Kenny Dalglish may look to protect some of his players, starting tomorrow.

Midfielder Charlie Adam's knee injury has ruled out a return before the end of the season.

Last season: No Corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Grant Holt (Norwich) 15; Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 14

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Sunday 29th April 2012

13:30 - Chelsea (6) v QPR (16) ~ Sky1  

There will certainly be no love lost when Chelsea and QPR renew rivalries on Sunday, but the two teams will be spared the pre-match handshake after the Premier League moved to cancel the usual formalities following the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand clash when these sides last met in the league.

Terry is accused of allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand during that match, something he strongly denies, but with the QPR defender taking legal advice on whether a snub would possibly prejudice the Chelsea captain's upcoming trial, the Premier League has acted.

This is a huge game not just in the context of the bad feeling that has been accentuated between the two clubs this season, but also because of their respective position in the standings.

Rangers sit 16th but remain on the precipice of the relegation zone with three matches remaining, while Chelsea, who produced a heroic display at the Camp Nou on Tuesday, will want to make sure of a place in next year's Champions League by finishing in the top four.

QPR manager Mark Hughes could be missing three key players.

Adel Taarabt is suspended following his dismissal in the 1-0 victory over Tottenham last weekend, with former Chelsea player Shaun Wright-Phillips a strong candidate to replace the Morocco international.

Samba Diakite has not trained all week due to an illness, while Djibril Cisse, who was an unused substitute against Spurs after returning from a four-game ban, is struggling with a knee problem.

Last season: No Corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 16; Bobby Zamora & Heidar Helguson (QPR) 9

Referee: Howard Webb

16:00 - Tottenham (5) v Blackburn (19) ~ Sky1   

Two teams with plenty to play for at opposite ends of the table are Tottenham and Blackburn Rovers, and they meet on Sunday .

It has been a stuttering back end to the campaign for Spurs and from title challengers they have fallen back to fifth, fighting to battle their way back into the top four.

If they do not pick up three points at White Hart Lane this weekend then their Champions League hopes will hang by a knife-edge, having failed to win in their last three league matches.

Blackburn, meanwhile, secured a vital victory over Norwich to keep alive their top-flight ambitions.

Younes Kaboul and Emmanuel Adebayor have recovered from their respective knee and hamstring injuries and will be available for Tottenham.

Ledley King is a doubt with his own chronic knee injury, but Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been ruled out for the season after dislocating his shoulder against QPR.

Niko Kranjcar (knee), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Michael Dawson (ankle) are out.

Blackburn manager Steve Kean has virtually a full squad.

Montenegro midfielder Simon Vukcevic has recovered from a virus.

Jason Lowe has recovered from a knee problem so only Grant Hanley, who has an ankle ligament injury, is missing.

Last season: Blackburn 0 Tottenham 1, Tottenham 4 Blackburn 2

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

Top scorers: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 16; Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 17

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Monday 30th April 2012

20:00 - Man City (2) v Man Utd (1) ~ Sky1

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is available again for the crunch derby clash.

The Italian has served a three-match ban for his sending-off at Arsenal earlier this month but it remains to be seen whether he will be recalled given the form of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.

Defender Micah Richards (hamstring) is fit again after missing last week's win at Wolves.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson must decide whether to make changes.

Full-back Rafael would appear to be at the most risk of losing his place from the team that threw away a two-goal lead in the final seven minutes of last Sunday's encounter with Everton.

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could both step in, whilst Ferguson may also opt to reinforce his midfield with either Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley or Park Ji-sung at the expense of a wide player or Danny Welbeck.

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

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

Top scorers: Sergio Aguero (Man City) 29; Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 34

Referee: Andre Marriner

Source Sporting Life/SkySports
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