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Premier League Preview: Big games for Manchester United, Stoke, Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa

Premier League preview: Derby day on Tyneside, United look to bounce back and a big game for Villa

While most eyes will be on Wembley this weekend for the FA Cup semi-finals, there are still some massive games in the Premiership with a number of teams looking for the precious three points.

Newcastle v Sunderland

A massive derby game on Sunday at St James’ Park, with a huge three points on offer in this relegation battle. After their last-gasp victory against Fulham last Sunday, Newcastle know that three points here would all but secure their place in the Premier League for next season and possibly condemn their nearest rivals to a place in the relegation zone.

Paolo Di Canio

After an encouraging performance at Stamford Bridge, Paolo Di Canio will have his team fired up and want them showing the same passion that he will undoubtedly be putting across on the touchline. Sunderland may well see this as a big opportunity with Newcastle playing on Thursday night against Benfica and they may well find it tough to get themselves up for another big physical effort just over two days later. This fixture generally produces goals, cards and talking points so a high scoring draw may well be on the cards, and with a lot of combative midfielders on the pitch a red card or two would not be a surprise.

Stoke v Manchester United

A big game at both ends of the table as Manchester United travel to the Britannia to take on a Stoke City side who have been dragged into a relegation battle. Only Reading are in worst form in the last six games than the hosts, who haven’t won in their last six league games and have only won one of their last six at home. Manchester United meanwhile are at the top of the form table and have not lost an away league game since defeat at Norwich in November.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Stoke now sit just three points above the drop zone after the damaging home defeat to Villa last week and as the lowest scorers in the division and their usually tight defence beginning to leak goals, they are in real danger of falling back into the Championship. The last thing Stoke need now is a visit from the champions elect. Manchester United will be stung by their derby defeat on Monday and they know that defeat here will give Manchester City a chance to get back into the title race. The first goal here will be crucial as the Stoke fans will try and create their famous intimidating atmosphere straight from kick off, an early goal for United and it may well be another easy away day for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. If Stoke could manage to get in front though a positive result will surely act as a springboard for them to retain Premier League status.

Aston Villa v Fulham

Another massive game down the bottom as Paul Lambert’s young side have an opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and Wigan, who are in FA Cup action this weekend. After their impressive win at Stoke last weekend, which dragged them into trouble, Villa could take a massive stride toward safety by making it back-to-back wins.

Christian Benteke

One problem for this Villa side is playing in front of their home fans as they have lost four out of their last six home games. The young players seem to freeze in front of their own fans and play with much more freedom in their away games. Fulham meanwhile have picked up slightly with their away form, losing just two of their last six games but they are generally poor on their travels and now that they are safe for another season Villa’s extra need for the win may sway this fixture in their favour.

By Chris Newman

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Race for Premier League survival: Who will stay and who will go?

A scramble for survival at the bottom of the Premier League table is keeping five clubs on their toes and pushing them to the peak of their ability: Who will stay and who will go?

Wolves – 20th – 22 Points

Probably the only certainty for relegation at this stage; Terry Connor’s side have lost eight of their last ten Premier League games, and with a six-point gap separating them and Blackburn, survival seems a million miles away. Along with their position at the bottom of the table, Wolverhampton Wanderers have a particularly difficult run-in, with Sunderland, Manchester City, and an in-form Everton still to face. Given that the Molineux outfit are in terrible form, it looks like Wolves have no chance.

Blackburn – 19th – 28 points

A hard year for Steve Kean has been reflected in Blackburn’s shaky season, but hope can be found in the Rovers’ star men, Yakubu and Junior Hoilett. Although sitting in precarious 19th place, Blackburn will be facing much easier opposition in the next few weeks compared to other relegation candidates. The Lancashire club will come up against a vulnerable Swansea and Tottenham, and will also hope to grab some points against Norwich and Wigan at home. Despite this, Blackburn need to pick up some momentum and get the best out of their danger-man upfront if they are to stave the drop.

Bolton – 18th – 29 points

Although being awarded March’s Premier League Manager of the month award, Owen Coyle has not brought his side out of the drop zone yet; however with a game in-hand Bolton are on the path to survival. Bolton’s starting XI is not the strongest of the bottom five and with a weak attacking force and no prolific goal machine, they need to grit their teeth and play to the best of their ability. With upcoming matches against teams such as Swansea and Aston Villa, the Reebok Stadium side must be optimistic and maybe, just maybe, they could survive another season of top-flight football.

Wigan – 17th – 31 points

A recent run of fantastic form saw Wigan to a 1-0 victory over Premier League champions Manchester United in their last outing, giving the Latics hope. Despite only losing two of their last ten Premier League games, Wigan have one of the hardest run-ins of the bottom five and still have to face opposition such as in-form Arsenal, Fulham, and Newcastle. DW Stadium boss Roberto Martinez will hope his side can keep this run of good form up and will take hope from their “historic” victory over Manchester United. If Wigan can now end their goal drought and keep pushing and striving, they might just avoid demotion.

QPR – 16th – 31 points

A 3-0 win over Swansea City has moved the newly-promoted west London club to 16th. An upturn home form has given Mark Hughes’ side hope after beating Arsenal and Liverpool in consecutive fixtures at Loftus Road. Although having a hard run-in away from home, facing teams such as West Brom, Chelsea and Man City, QPR will hope to claim a scalp or two, and pick up as many points as possible from their home games against Tottenham and Stoke. If they carry on their good-form and keep playing the way they have, QPR could be well on their way to becoming a stable Premier League club.

By Jacob Tucker

Tottenham: Review of the last five Premier League games

Tottenham will have been praying for the end of March after a difficult run of fixtures saw them collect only two points from their last five Premier League fixtures. Spurs were comfortably in third place at the start of the month and touted as potential title contenders, but find themselves in fourth place and in a battle for Champions League qualification at the end of it; here’s a recap of the last five games.

Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2

The lowest point of a season full of highs, Tottenham’s capitulation against Arsenal in the North London derby was a throwback to the mediocre Spurs days of the recent past. A two-goal lead against a team that was low in confidence was spurned, due to defending too deep and resting on their laurels. The team and supporters will want to forget this fixture and hope it doesn’t impact the standings come the end of the season.

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 3

A positive first-half display against the English champions would have been rounded off by a goal, but with a lack of clinical finishing, Harry Redknapp’s men were put to the sword by the experience of United. Jermain Defoe came on to score a consolation, but the positives from this game lie with an aggresive start. Redknapp started to adopt three central midfielders instead of two after the Arsenal debacle the week before, which proved successful later in the month.

Everton 1 Tottenham 0

A game of two contrasting halves; Spurs were poor in the first 45 minutes before dominating the second half. Tottenham were lucky to only be one goal down at the interval, but looked much more assured in the second period. Could—and should—have scored to get something from the game; Goodison Park is starting to become a bit of a hoodoo for the north London club.

Tottenham 1 Stoke City 1

A game that the White Hart Lane faithful wanted to win but that Tottenham were very lucky not to lose. Stoke continue to prove themselves as a difficult opponent, at the Britannia or away from home, and Spurs struggled to deal with their physicality and direct approach. A last minute Rafael van der Vaart equaliser salvaged what could be a very important point.

Chelsea 0 Tottenham 0

By far the most positive performance and result of late. Tottenham have not won at Stamford Bridge in 22 years, and after a run of poor results and Chelsea’s rejuvenation under Roberto Di Matteo, entered the fixture as firm underdogs. However, an assured display saw the points shared and the five-point gap between the clubs maintained. Sandro and Scott Parker battled well, whilst William Gallas showcased his experience at the back. With good chances for Emmanuel Adebayor, Van der Vaart and Kyle Walker, Spurs were disappointed not to win the game, but would have taken a draw before-hand.

With a tough run of games concluded in March, Tottenham have played all of the Premier League’s top seven twice, and now have an easier run of games on paper. With Chelsea’s priorities split due to their likely progression to the Champions League semi-finals, and Arsenal still with a couple of tricky games, Redknapp’s men will look to push towards a third-placed finish with a strong run of form in April.

Published – Bleacher Report

Wednesday’s Premier League fixtures to have a big impact on race for top four

With the race for third and fourth place in the Premier League set to go down to the wire, the eventual winners and losers can make great strides this Wednesday, as they are all in action. Third-placed Tottenham host Stoke at White Hart Lane, fourth placed Arsenal travel to take on Everton at Goodison Park, whilst Chelsea take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Tottenham vs Stoke

Spurs looked to be home and dry three matches ago, but consecutive defeats at the hands of Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton has seen their ten-point lead over the chasing pack reduced to a solitary point. Whether it is talk of Harry Redknapp taking the England job or just a difficult run of fixtures is irrelevant; Tottenham need to stop the rot against Stoke on Wednesday.

The north London side will want revenge against Tony Pulis’ men, as the Britannia outfit sneaked home 2-1 in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign under dubious circumstances. If Spurs beat the Potters they could reopen a bit of breathing room due to difficult games for their two London rivals, and with a trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday the White Hart Lane team need three points. If they do not get victory, pressure and the record of experience of their two bigger rivals could start to weigh heavy on the attacking, but at times naïve side.

Everton vs Arsenal

Arsenal have been on a good run of form of late and have won their last four games in all competitions, which ironically started with their 5-2 north London derby demolition of Tottenham. Arsene Wenger’s men now sit only a point behind Tottenham, and will be eager to stay in touch with their bitter rivals.

However Everton will not pose an easy opponent; David Moyes’ men have beaten Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea at Goodison Park in the last six weeks and are starting to look more combative, confident and clinical in attack. The January introductions of Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jerlavic have given the Merseysiders added bite going forward, and the Gunners will know that a tricky fixture awaits. A win could mean they jump up to third, anything else and they may drop to fifth.

Manchester City vs Chelsea

Chelsea’s poor season to date saw the end of Andre Villas Boas as coach, but the dismissal has seemingly instilled a breath of fresh air into the underfire club. With former midfielder Roberto Di Matteo now at the helm, the senior players have started to stand up and regained their pride with four consecutive victories under the Italian coach.

The Stamford Bridge outfit will feel that Manchester City are there for the taking after their recent wobble at home and on the continent, but Roberto Mancini’s men have an imperious home record this term and know that they have to close the four-point gap on Manchester United at the top. Arguably the most mouth-watering of three good games, this match could go either way and will be a real test to Chelsea’s newfound confidence. The Blues are currently three points behind Arsenal and four behind Spurs, so victory here and at home against Redknapp’s men could put them back in contention. However defeat could mean an uphill struggle for a team in transition.

Europa League Preview: Tottenham, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham in a confusing European adventure

The draw for the group stages of this season’s Europa League has thrown up a number of difficult and interesting challenges for England’s representatives, with qualification through to the knock-out stages far from assured. This term it will be up to Tottenham, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham to do the nation proud, and test their wits against some cultured European opposition.

Tottenham were drawn in Group A, and have been given one opponent on their doorstep, and two on the other side of the continent. Shamrock Rovers, Rubin Kazan and PAOK FC will look to further frustrate Spurs fans after their slow start to the campaign, and will have taken comfort in Harry Redknapp’s men being outplayed and beaten by both Manchester clubs in the space of six days.

The Russians will provide the most difficult opponent, and were unlucky not to make the Champions League; Kurban Berdyev’s side lost out narrowly to Lyon in the qualifiers. The Tsentrainyi Stadion is a hostile environment to enter, and a host of Russian internationals and familiar face Obafemi Martins will make the away tie in particular increasingly difficult. PAOK are not the force of past decades, but, like the Russians will make the away leg uncomfortable. The Irish champions will be sure to put up a fight in the emerald isle, but may find similar treatment to that distributed to Hearts in the qualifying round forthcoming at White Hart Lane.

Stoke have arguably got the most difficult task in front of them, with travels to the far-fetched lands of Israel, Turkey and Ukraine; Maccabi Tel Aviv, Besiktas and Dinamo Kiev lie in wait. Tony Pulis will be happy he has Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch at his disposal, in what should be a tricky campaign. The Turks have European calibre and experience, and will look to capitalise on the English outfit’s lack of past action in the continent. Stoke’s direct style of play will be countered by a technically gifted midfield trio of ex-Real Madrid playmaker Guti and Portugal international duo Ricardo Quaresma and Simao Sabrosa.

Kiev are top of the Ukranian Premier League currently have attacking options that could be the downfall of the side from the Britannia, with Andriy Shevchenko and international team-mate Andriy Yarmolenko sure to cause Ryan Shawcross and company problems. Tel Aviv meanwhile will be the least threatening member of the trio, but the distance to the away leg will ensure a win is not guaranteed.

Fulham have a mixed group comprising Twente, OB Odense and Wisla Krakow. The Dutch side crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers at the hands of Benfica, but have a strong team; despite this a deadline day move saw Bryan Ruiz swap De Grolsch Veste for Craven Cottage, which could be the difference between the sides. OB were unlucky not to make the group stage of the top tournament, as they were eliminated by Spaniards Villarreal, despite winning the first leg. Krakow offer up an unpredictable element, but should not be underestimated as they are Poland’s current champions.

Birmingham may find the going tough especially with a squad depleted after relegation and will most likely focus on their domestic fixtures in an attempt to make it back to the English top flight, rather than a European adventure. Club Brugge and last year’s defeated finalists Braga should be too strong for The Championship side, who will target the fixtures against Slovenian outfit Maribor as winnable games.

The English sides will travel to the four corners of the continent in this year’s group stage, have drawn difficult opponents, and will have to be at the top of their game if they are to progress.

Published – http://soccerlens.com/europa-league-preview-tottenham-fulham-stoke-and-birmingham-in-a-confusing-european-adventure/78376/

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