Football News: Weekend Premier League Preview

 

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Saturday 8th April


Tottenham Hotspur v Watford Premier League 12:30pm

Lloris (late fitness test - illness)
Vorm (late fitness test - knee injury)
Wanyama (late fitness test - back injury)
Winks (out - ankle injury)
Kane (slight doubt - ankle injury)
Rose (out - MCL injury)
Lamela (out - hip injury)

Spurs are still unbeaten at home this season, after fifteen games there, and, after the crazy end to the game at Swansea, they are on a run of five wins in a row. With the title still tantalisingly dangling ahead of the North London side, this is going to be a daunting match for Watford. Even the loss of talismanic captain and top scorer Harry 'one of their own' Kane has not dented their push. Seven points to catch and eight games left, is this the year Spurs finally stop going all 'Spursy' or will Totteringham Day arrive once more? All they can really do is apply as much pressure as possible by continuing to win all their matches, starting with the early kick off against Watford. It was as far back as October that a team last stopped them winning at White Hart Lane, the signs are looking good ahead of this match. With just eight goals conceded so far this season at home, this is a chance for Spurs to show they are not the bottlers they are often accused of being.
Most important player: Ben Davies. Davies has struggled badly at times since Danny Rose was ruled out through injury. The game against his former club Swansea was a particular low point for him. With Spurs missing Rose's attacking thrust down the left, they really need Davies to pick up his game and start providing some impetus.

Prodl (out - rib injury)
Gomes (late fitness test - knock)
Capoue (late fitness test - knock)
Deeney (late fitness test - fatigue)
Cleverley (late fitness test - fatigue)
Doucoure (late fitness test - fatigue)
Kaboul (out - hamstring injury)
Behrami (late fitness test - hamstring injury)
Kabasele (late fitness test - hip injury)
Zarate (out - ACL injury)
Watson (doubt - groin strain)
Pereyra (out - knee injury)
Britos (out - suspended)

The Hornets have started to show a revival in form, with two wins in a row moving them back up to 10th in the table, but Spurs are a totally different proposition to Sunderland and West Brom. Especially as the two wins were both at home and their away record is nothing like as good as their one at home. Eight losses away from home in fourteen matches, with just twelve goals scored, tells its own story. Walter Mazzari's men struggle badly to score goals away from the comforts of home. That will be even more difficult for them up against the Spurs backline.
Most important player: Jose Holebas. The left back is going to have his hands full all day with Kyle Walker's pace and forward running, as well as with the Spurs front four drifting over to his side throughout the game. Unless he has a good game, Watford will struggle badly.

Defining Battle: the Spurs left, Watford right, will have a huge bearing on this game. If Spurs can control that flank, then there is little hope of Watford creating anything and every chance of them being pushed back and taken apart.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 2-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed033 - 1-0


Manchester City v Hull City Premier League 3pm

Sagna (out - groin strain)
Jesus (out - metatarsal fracture)
Gundogan (out - ACL injury)

It has been four matches since Man City picked up a league win. That run has seen them fall away from Chelsea and a title challenge, not just that, but they have fallen behind Spurs and Liverpool in the table. With the Manchester derby still to come, and United just four points behind, the unthinkable could still happen to the Citizens. To be pipped to the Champions League spot by their local rivals! There is also Arsenal close behind as well. This was not how it was supposed to go when they appointed Pep Guardiola. The media had appointed Pep as the messiah who would sweep all before him, when it was clear he had taken over a team in major need of surgery. However, the least that is expected of him is a Champions League spot for next season. Anything less would be complete failure.
Most important player: Vincent Kompany. The club captain and only player in the squad who actually knows how to defend. With him fit and on form, Citeh are a completely different prospect than they are without him. It is not just that he can actually defend, he also knows how to organise his team mates so that they can defend better too.

Maguire (doubt - knee injury)
Hernandez (slight doubt - dead leg)
Elabdellaoui (doubt - back injury)
Mbokani (doubt - hamstring injury)
Mason (doubt - fractured skull)
Keane (out - ACL injury)
Odubajo (out - patella fracture)
Huddlestone (out - suspended)

If this match was at home, Hull would fancy their chances as, not only have they won three in a row at the K.COM Stadium, they have gone seven unbeaten at home in the league. Though their last home defeat was against City! Away from the comforts of home, despite the dissatisfaction with the pitch and facilities, the Tigers are struggling. Just one win, in their first away league match of the season, with three defeats on the bounce going into this game. Marco Silva needs to find a way to bring their excellent home form to away games. Maybe he just needs to be a bit braver with his tactics and team selections for the away games, to go for the win in the same way as he does for the home games.
Most important player: Andrew Robertson. Hull need him driving down the left flank and providing delivery for the attackers. With Man City's strength in wide areas, it will be difficult for him to get forward as much as usual, so it is vital that he makes it count when he does get the chance.

Defining Battle: everything will hinge on how well Hull can cope with Man City's wide forwards. There is pace and skill, whichever of the players end up being chosen to start. Hull need to ensure their fullbacks keep them from getting free runs at the centre backs, neither of which have particularly good pace. If any of Sane, Sterling or Navas get to run at the centre of the Hull defence, with space in behind it, there are going to be real problems.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 3-0
Ed003 - 4-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 3-0
Ed033 - 1-0


Middlesbrough v Burnley Premier League 3pm

Fabio (out - concussion)
Ramirez (late fitness test - ankle injury)
Friend (doubt - calf strain)
Chambers (doubt - foot injury)

Fourteen games since Boro last picked up a league win, with eight of those games ending in defeat. That terrible run has seen them slide down the table and come to rest in 19th, just three points ahead of a Sunderland side that has looked certain to get relegated from the moment the season kicked off. It is now looking equally desperate for the Teesiders, despite the sacking of Aitor Karanka and caretaker manager Steve Agnew's much more attacking policy. With just eight games left, and Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool to come in those eight games, it is vital that Boro start picking up points quickly. Burnley have struggled away and Boro have to take advantage of that, this is pretty much the last chance.
Most important player: Alvaro Negredo. It is time Boro got more goals, their reliance on Negredo is a problem, but they do not have the quality in the squad to score goals. The pressure is on his shoulders and he needs to bear it and provide goals or it is all over.

Defour (late fitness test - muscle injury)
Gudmundsson (doubt - MCL injury)
Marney (out - ACL injury)
Long (out - knee surgery)

The Clarets have finally broken a run of seven matches without a win, following Tuesday night's victory over Stoke. However that win was at home, where they are a completely different prospect to face. At home they are one of the best teams in the league, away from home they are one of, if not the, worst. Fifteen games at home without a victory and just nine goals scored, Burnley are utterly woeful on their travels. It is testimony to how well they have played at Turf Moor that they are not in the relegation places. This is a genuine chance to finally win away from home, with Boro struggling badly. If they can do it, that win would almost certainly ensure their Premier League survival.
Most important player: Matthew Lowton. Lowton's delivery is generally excellent and he can provide genuine quality crosses for the forward pairing. They will need him to be on top of his game, as there is generally very little room centrally against Boro.

Defining Battle: with Boro trying to be more expansive and attacking, it will be up to their centre backs to cope with the Burnley front two. The encounter is sure to be bruising and the defenders have to cope with a big target man paired with a pacy forward, which is unusual these days. It does present a genuinely different challenge from the one they usually face. It would be a major worry if Andre Gray and Bernardo Espinosa both start and Gray can get the Colombian isolated. Bernardo's pace is that of a tortoise wearing concrete boots and treading in treacle, while Gray is fast and extremely strong. A ball over the top into Bernardo's defensive area for Gray to chase could cause major problems.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-2
Ed003 - 0-1
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-2


Stoke City v Liverpool Premier League 3pm

Muniesa (late fitness test - knee injury)
Diouf (late fitness test - knee injury)
Walters (doubt - concussion)
Shaqiri (doubt - calf injury)
Butland (doubt - ankle injury)
Ireland (doubt - broken leg)

It seems that Stoke's form has deserted them just as they need just a few more points to guarantee safety. Three defeats on the trot has caused them to slip into the bottom half, though they have a cushion to the drop zone. However, that cushion can vanish quickly if you are losing repeatedly, Mark Hughes will certainly not be complacent about the chances of relegation, even if it is just a remote possibility. First thing Hughes must do, to stop the rot for the Potters, is to figure out how to get them scoring goals. His team is currently missing far too many good chances and that is costing them badly.
Most important player: Saido Berahino. The controversial forward is back in the news again for the wrong reasons, following reports that his foundation has not paid money raised for Water Aid to the charity. With Stoke's desperation for goals, they need him to be focused on football, not his off field problems. They took a huge chance on signing him, it is about time he started to repay the faith that Hughes has shown in him.

Coutinho (late fitness test - illness)
Mane (out - knee injury)
Lallana (out - thigh injury)
Henderson (doubt - bruised foot)
Ejaria (doubt - ankle injury)
Ings (out - ACL injury)

Once again Liverpool showed their tendency to shoot themselves in the foot as sloppy errors saw them concede two to Bournemouth in midweek and cost them two points. While the Reds are on a run of five unbeaten, they often find a wway to throw away points against lower half sides and Stoke have just slipped into the bottom half. Away from home, Liverpool are a much weaker prospect than they are at home, particularly on the attack, which is remarkably less potent away from Anfield. With a place in the Champions League at stake, Jurgen Klopp's side can ill afford any more slip ups.
Most important player: Philippe Coutinho. With Sadio Mane out for the season, Liverpool have lost a major attacking threat and the space he creates for other players. It is time for Coutinho to showcase the magical Brazilian talents he has become known for. Liverpool need him at his best for the run in.

Defining Battle with no Mane to peg them back, will the Stoke fullbacks be able to push on and help in the attacking third? That will be crucial to Stoke's hopes, as they need numbers in the attacking areas to finally get some goals.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 3-2
Ed003 - 1-3
Ed004 - 2-3
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-1


West Bromwich Albion v Southampton Premier League 3pm

No fitness issues.

With just one win in the five games since the magic 40 points was reached, it is clear that the Baggies' players have taken their foot off the pedal after achieving that milestone. Having already surpassed their total from last season, they now have the chance to go on and get a much higher finish in the league than the 14th they managed last time around. First though, Tony Pulis needs his players to get back to their best. They have a chance to create a gap to Southampton, who are the team just below them in the table, though Soton do have two games in hand. A loss could put them in danger of losing a top ten place.
Most important player: Matt Phillips. His return from injury has been a big boost, just when it was needed. His pace, power and skill on the wing provides something no one else in their squad can do.

Davis (late fitness test - ankle injury)
Boufal (late fitness test - muscle injury)
Bertrand (late fitness test - hamstring injury)
Gabbiadini (late fitness test - groin strain)
van Dijk (out - ankle injury)
Austin (doubt - dislocated shoulder)
McCarthy (doubt - hamstring injury)
Targett (out - hamstring injury)
Romeu (out - suspended)

Saints have climbed up into ninth place despite holding two games in hand thanks to their form, which has seen them win three games in five. With Arsenal and Man Utd their two games in hand, they need to put points on the board, rather than rely on those spare games. They do have an extremely tough run in, with this match, on paper at least, looking like one of the easier games. It is going to be really difficult for Soton to equal last season's league finish, let alone maintain their previous upward curve.
Most important player: Jack Stephens. The young centre back has held down a place, even with the arrival of experience Uruguayan international defender Martin Caceres. The Saints need the youngster to maintain his level in the run in.

Defining Battle: Saints are extremely strong in the central midfield area and the Baggies will want to control that to give them the best chance of winning. This is one of those games that is likely to be bruising.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed033 - 2-1


West Ham United v Swansea City Premier League 3pm

Antonio (doubt - illness)
Carroll (doubt - groin injury)
Cresswell (out - hamstring strain)
Reid (doubt - groin strain)
Obiang (out - high ankle sprain)
Ogbonna (out - knee surgery)
Tore (out - knee injury)
Arbeloa (doubt - calf injury)
Henry (out - ACL injury)

Things are going from bad to worse for Slaven Bilic as the Hammers have gone seven games without a win, the last five defeats. It is not just that the team are losing, it is the manner of the defeats. They capitulated with little more than a whimper against Arsenal and looked mentally beaten. Their slide down the table has left them perilously close to the relegation places, but even a defeat against the Swans would leave them with a two point buffer. However the team need to turn around their poor form quickly, as confidence right now is shot and the team do not seem to be playing for their manager. With the vote of confidence from the owners having been given recently, Bilic needs a win as his job is on the line.
Most important player: Darren Randolph. The keeper has been poor in recent weeks, but particularly poor against Arsenal. Unless he sorts out his play, the Hammers are done for.

Naughton (late fitness test - hamstring injury)
Britton (doubt - hamstring injury)
Llorente (doubt - ankle injury)
Rangel (out - metatarsal fracture)
Dyer (out - achilles injury)

The initial revival under Paul Clement has ended and Swansea have slipped back into the drop zone after four games without a win and four defeats in their last six matches. While the defence has been tightened up to a degree, the attack has faltered, badly. They look like a team devoid of ideas. Two points off safety now, after rising as high as fifteenth in February, this match with the Hammers is a big chance for them to close up on those above them. The last chance they will get this season to drag someone else into the mix.
Most important player: Alfie Mawson. As the season has headed to a conclusion, Mawson has been just about the only bright sport for the Swans. The young centre back has grown into a player fully deserving his chance in the Premier League. As the season winds down, his contribution will be vital.

Defining Battle: the main job for West Ham is to try to avoid giving away free kicks in their own half, as Swansea's main threat comes from the delivery of Gylfi Sigurdsson. With Randolph struggling and confidence low, they need to avoid putting him under any kind of pressure if possible.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-2
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 1-0
Ed033 - 1-1


Bournemouth v Chelsea Premier League 5:30

Stanislas (late fitness test - groin strain)
Surman (out - knee injury)
Gosling (late fitness test - knee injury)
Wilson (out - ACL injury)
Federici (out - knee injury)
Mings (out - suspended)

Despite being unbeaten in the last five games, Bournemouth are still not entirely out of relegation trouble and the next two games are unlikely to help them achieve safety. Once this match against the league leaders Chelsea is done, they then get to face second placed Spurs next week. The home form is decent, aided by them winning the last two home games in a row. They have also become more difficult to beat as Eddie Howe has slightly put aside his principles to tighten up the defence. Whether or not they will be tight enough at the back to avoid another 3-0 defeat at Chelsea's hands is a different matter.
Most important player: Steve Cook. When you face a team like Chelsea, then you really need your defenders in top form if you are to get anything from the game.

Moses (doubt - toe injury)

The blip of the defeat to Palace has swiftly seen normal service resumed with a midweek victory over the stuttering blue half of Manchester. Antonio Conte is probably the only person left who does not feel the title is certain to return to Chelsea at the end of the season. It is Conte's drive and determination that makes everyone so confident that the league is won, as he is one man who will only relax when the trophy is being presented to his team.
Most important player: Eden Hazard. With Diego Costa out of form lately, there has been a lot of weight heaped on Hazard's shoulders to create and score. So far he has not let anyone down, as he continues with his excellent season.

Defining Battle: can Bournemouth's forwards get enough of the ball to trouble the Chelsea backline? If they can get at the backline or in behind it, then they might be able to put enough pressure on them for cracks to appear. With Chelsea under pressure chasing the title, even though it is all but won, it is possible for the pressure to get to them. Unlikely, but possible.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-3
Ed003 - 0-3
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 0-2
Ed033 - 0-1


Sunday 9th April


Sunderland v Manchester United Premier League 1:30pm

Kirchhoff (out - ACL injury)
Pienaar (doubt - calf strain)
Watmore (out - ACL injury)
McNair (out - ACL injury)
Defoe (doubt - knee injury)

With each week that passes by Sunderland look more and more like a team that is dead and buried. Not even the storm over David Moyes and the slap could stir up the Mackems board. The club as a whole has accepted relegation, made job cuts to staff and are preparing for the summer firesale. Now it is just about playing for pride, though it seems the playing staff have little of that by the way they are performing. To suggest they are going out of the league with a whimper is giving them more credit than they really deserve. Nothing but a miracle could save them now.
Most important player: Jordan Pickford. Pretty much all the players have to aim for now is a good move at the end of the season. Pickford is highly rated now, a good end to the season will raise his value and help Sunderland avoid further financial problems over the next season or two.

Young (doubt - knock)
Rooney (out - ankle injury)
Mata (out - groin/pelvis injury)
Smalling (out - knee injury)
Jones (out - toe injury)
Wilson (out - ACL injury)
Williams (doubt - knee injury)
Pereira (out - knee injury)

Twenty games unbeaten have seen Man Utd still sat in sixth place due to far too many draws, particularly at home. As well as having the Europa League to contest, United's run in is extremely difficult, as they have to face the Manchester derby, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs. At least some of the pressure will be off, with them playing away from home, as they have struggled to convert draws to wins at Old Trafford. Playing against the bottom side in the league, even at their ground, should provide them with a chance to fix their goalscoring woes.
Most important player: Paul Pogba. The team needs goals and it is time for their hideously expensive world record signing to showcase his undoubted ability. His drive and attacking verve have so far been rarely seen, but he has the ability to score a goal from nowhere. That is what they need right now to spark them into action.

Defining Battle: it looks likely that this will be a battle between Man Utd's players and Pickford, the crossbar and the post, judging by the way United's season is going. There are times that the Red Devils would struggle to hit a cow's backside with a banjo. Maybe the Black Cats will finally get some of the luck they were looking for when they chose their nickname amd the woodwork will keep out United.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 0-3
Ed003 - 0-3
Ed004 - 0-2
Ed007 - 0-1
Ed033 - 0-1


Everton v Leicester City Premier League 4pm

Mori (out - knee meniscus injury)
Coleman (out - broken leg)
Lennon (doubt - knock)
Schneiderlin (late fitness test - calf strain)
McCarthy (out - hamstring injury)
Bolasie (out - ACL injury)
Besic (doubt - ACL injury)
Williams (out - suspended)

Following the disaster of the derby last weekend, Everton players showed more of what they can really do when they faced Man Utd midweek and were unlucky to be held to a draw, as United scored in the dying embers of the game. That result kept them just about in the hunt for European places, but now they need to build on it and put together another run of good results. Their hopes of Europe are now hanging by a thread. It is not gone altogether, but they need to pick up wins to have any chance. With the confidence boost of a good performance behind them, they can move forward and look to get the results they need.
Most important player: Idrissa Gueye. With injury problems and Ashley Williams suspension, the industrious Gueye will be essential against Leicester. Gueye already has made the most tackles in the Premier League this season, it is likely they will need him to add to that tally this weekend.

Morgan (doubt - back spasm)
Mendy (doubt - ankle injury)
Wague (out - dislocated shoulder)

Five wins in a row for Leicester, and their caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare, has moved the Foxes has moved them within touching distance of the top half of the Premier League. From seventeenth to eleventh in just five matches, the question is, how much longer can they remain on this winning streak? It does show that the title win was not pure fluke and that there really is a talented team there, when the players can be bothered to put their best in.
Most important player: Danny Drinkwater. His trademark balls over the top to Jamie Vardy have been back in evidence in the last five games. If he can get a few more chances to play those in this game, it could well be six in a row.

Defining Battle: Everton's backline trying to deny Vardy space to run into, while also ensuring they do not drop too deep and leave space in front of them for Riyad Mahrez to use. It is a difficult juggling act to get right and the Toffees' defenders will need to be careful to ensure they do not get pushed too far back, so the full backs can push onto the Leicester wide players.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-2
Ed003 - 2-0
Ed004 - 2-3
Ed007 - 2-2
Ed033 - 0-0


Monday 10th April


Crystal Palace v Arsenal Premier League 8pm

Cabaye (doubt - calf strain)
Remy (doubt - calf strain)
Dann (out - knee injury)
Tomkins (doubt - calf injury)
Campbell (doubt - hamstring injury)
McArthur (late fitness test - back spasm)
van Aanholt (doubt - ankle injury)
Wickham (out - ACL injury)
J Benteke (doubt - knee surgery)
Souare (out - broken leg)

The winning run has come to an end, with a defeat following four wins on the bounce, but Palace are still not out of the woods yet. They are still in the thick of the relegation battle ahead of the visit of Arsenal. With an extremely tough run in, the Eagles will have to scrap for every point if they are to ensure their safety. Sam Allardyce has often managed to get under the skin of Arsene Wenger to ensure his side pick up points against the Gooners in the past, could he possibly do so once more?
Most important player: Andros Townsend. The England winger has always played in fits and starts, nothing has changed in that regard as he has got older. He has shown plenty of ability at times, but never been able to achieve any consistency of performance. It is time he finally started to perform on a regular basis.

Koscielny (out - achilles injury)
Ospina (doubt - back injury)
Cech (doubt - calf strain)
Perez (out - thigh strain)
Cazorla (out - plantaris injury)
Sanogo (doubt - calf injury)
Debuchy (doubt - hamstring strain)

The Gunners side have been going through a difficult recent patch, which they have high hopes has ended following a win against West Ham. Three defeats in the last six games is not the form of a team challenging for Europe, and it has seen them slip outside the top four. Arsene Wenger's stock is the lowest it has ever been with the Arsenal fans and it feels at times that the ill feeling is affecting performances on the pitch. Would even a top four finish and FA Cup triumph be enough to appease them this time?
Most important player: Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has a habit of scoring important goals for Arsenal late in games, usually after coming on as a sub. There might well be a need for him to do it once more.

Defining Battle: there will be lots of interesting match ups all over the pitch in this one, as Allardyce has used a very similar formation to Arsenal, but in a more direct style. The central midfield will be the key, as most of the wide players for both teams look to drift inside at every opportunity. It could well become congested in there and the team that can get hold of the ball in there and play it into space outside of the central midfield should be the team that picks up all three points.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-2
Ed003 - 2-4
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed033 - 0-1

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