FRIDAY 6th APRIL 2012
16:30 – Swansea City v Newcastle United
This should be an intriguing clash. Two of the surprise packages of the season go head-to-head with two of the leading contenders for manager of the season facing off in Brendan Rodgers and Alan Pardew. The Magpies sit in 6th but victory in Wales will take them to within two points of a Champions League spot.
The Swans will be aiming to end a run of back-to-back defeats but face a tough task as Pardew’s men have come away victorious in each of the last three matches thanks in no small part to the sparkling form of Papiss Cisse who now has five goals in three games.
SATURDAY 7th APRIL 2012
12:45 – Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur
This is a big test of Tottenham’s character with Martin O’Neill’s in-form Sunderland hosting the Champions League hopefuls in the early Saturday kick off. A home victory over Swansea last Sunday helped Redknapp’s Spurs to their first three league points for six matches as they saw bitter rivals Arsenal overtake them in the table.
The Black Cats blew a huge hole in Manchester City’s title bid last week with a shock draw at the Etihad Stadium. Inspired displays from Sebastian Larsson, Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon helped to give Sunderland fans a trip to remember and continue the fine revival under their new boss. This match really could go either way but Tottenham fans will be hoping Gareth Bale’s return to form can help them to another win to leapfrog their North London rivals again for a day at least.
15:00 – Bolton Wanderers v Fulham
Without doubt a bigger game for the Trotters than the visitors tomorrow. Three wins on the spin against sides around them have seen Bolton move out of the drop zone but only by a point with a game in hand. Owen Coyle has just been named manager of the month for March after managing to pull off these wins despite the extremely difficult situation presented to him by Fabrice Muamba’s serious health scare.
Meanwhile Fulham are safely in mid table. In truth I don’t think too many of their fans will be disappointed with that given that it is the first season for boss Martin Jol. The Cottagers have a core of good players to build on next season and with new signings Bryan Ruiz and Pavel Pogrebnyak settling in well the future looks good for the West Londoners. Fulham have won just twice on the road in fifteen attempts in the league this season.
15:00 – Chelsea v Wigan Athletic
A midweek scare against Benfica ensured that Chelsea had to battle till the end and had to give their all to reach the Champions League semi finals. Roberto Di Matteo’s men will now embark on a hectic schedule with matches against Arsenal, Tottenham and Barcelona (twice) all to come in a space of ten days later this month, but the Blues must do a professional job tomorrow to keep the heat on the sides challenging for a top four finish.
Roberto Martinez may well be about to mastermind another great escape for Wigan Athletic. If the league was based on budget and number of fans, the Latics would’ve been relegated years ago but the battling spirit and never say die attitude have seen the perennial survivors keep their spot with the country’s elite. Wigan looked doomed just a few weeks ago but back-to-back wins (including that famous victory at Anfield) leave the Latics just one point from safety.
15:00 – Liverpool v Aston Villa
In normal circumstances this match would be a mouth watering prospect. However, the situation at both of these clubs has changed seeing them perform well below where we have come to expect them to be in recent seasons. Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool are 19th in the form table with five defeats in the last six whilst Villa aren’t in much better form, picking up just five points from their last six matches. Only an FA Cup success to add to the Carling Cup already won will be enough now to mask the poor form the Reds have been showing in the league.
If they are not careful then Aston Villa could be dragged back into the relegation battle. With Bolton, Wigan, QPR and Blackburn all finding form at the right time, McLeish’s men could slip to just a couple of points from the drop zone if results go against them this weekend. Alex McLeish will take heart from the performance his players put in against Chelsea last weekend as he bids to avoid a second relegation in as many seasons after taking Birmingham down last year.
Check back to Footy Blog tomorrow morning for Part Two of the Premier League preview including Man Utd v QPR and Arsenal v Man City!