Last week, our experts predicted SEVEN (70%) results correctly with NO perfect scores.
It’s quite unfortunate for this historic rivalry to have become about a fairly ugly Argentine, no? But the agenda is still the same for City – wreck United’s title hopes, justify the ‘noisy neighbours’ tag and listen to Fergie complain about anything but his team after the match.
The Blue half of Manchester is sitting one point above Spurs in a fascinating battle for fourth place. Form is on City’s side in this match – three wins in a row, 14 goals scored.
Wayne Bridge could return to the starting line-up after missing five games. Ireland is also available, while Zabaleta has served his suspension. Vieira and Sylvinho are still major doubts but Michael Johnson, Martin Petrov and Jolean Lescott are out with injuries.
The title is slipping away from United after being held to a goalless draw last weekend, following a defeat by Chelsea. Rooney has been grabbing the headlines all season and again, his fitness will be touch and go.
United expect him back but Ferdinand and Giggs are major doubts for the game with groin and hamstring problems, respectively. Anderson and Brown are out injured, while Owen misses the season run-in.
Will the Tevez factor haunt United? Or will Fergie’s men derail City’s hopes while putting their own title hopes back on track? Watch out for some ‘Fergie time’ come Saturday!
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Man City 2-2 Man United
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Carlos Tevez (Man City)
There is nobody brave enough to bet against Birmingham at St. Andrews. Their home form has been pretty solid – only two defeats throughout the season. All is not well, though. Birmingham’s owners are having problems and the team itself hasn’t won in six.
Injury-wise, Birmingham are probably one of the most blessed clubs around! Only O’Connor is injured and will miss the game. Jerome will play through his back trouble.
Hull City have lost seven in eight, were battered by Burnley at home and are the only club to have not won away from home this season. Not good signs, Mr. Dowie?
They were dealt a major blow to their survival hopes when they found out that Stephen Hunt will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury and Dawson is also sidelined with an injury. Zaki, Zayette, Ashbee and captain Gardner are still out.
THT predicts Hull’s desperation to neutralise Birmingham’s home form.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: B’Ham City 1-1 Hull City
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Lee Bowyer (B’Ham)
Chew Sam chew! Because Rovers are going good and have become a force to reckon with at home. They are unbeaten in eight home matches, including a title-wrecking draw against United last weekend.
Blackburn’s Chris Samba may not feature after he limped off against United. Olsson and Emerton could both return, but Basturk is still a major doubt.
David Moyes’s Everton suddenly have a new motivation – to climb above city-rivals Liverpool. They are on a decent run, being denied a deserved win at Villa Park in injury time three days ago.
While Anichebe and Arteta are doubtful for the game, Fellaini and Gosling are out for the season. Gosling is likely to miss the start of next season as well.
TheHardTackle expects a rough game at Ewood Park, but Everton aren’t one to pull out either.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Blackburn 1-1 Everton
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Tim Cahill (Everton)
Fulham’s 12th position in the league doesn’t really justify how well they have played this season. Being a relatively small club, they have been concentrating on Europe and will again be focusing on Hamburg’s Europa League visit, possibly resting half the team.
Fulham are boosted by the return of John Pantsil – his first appearance since December. Clint Dempsey is out with a thigh problem, while Elm and Andrew Johnson are still out.
Wolves have floated away from the relegation zone, much to Manager Mic McCarthy’s delight. A couple of wins, or their favourite goalless draws, will guarantee them a safe passage to next season’s Premier League line-up.
Captain Carl Henry is still serving a suspension, while Kightly is still out injured due to a knee problem.
This is certainly a low key affair for Fulham, which means Wolves will sneak a point at least.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Fulham 1-1 Wolves
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Kevin Doyle (Wolves)
Off to the ‘Land of the Giants’ where the Potters have laughed off the second-season syndrome fears! They have lost only 2 out of 14 league matches this year and the table is looking good for Tony Pulis.
Etherington is touch and go for this game, while Fuller could return from an ankle injury. The much loved Ryan Shawcross is still out, joined by Sidibe on the sidelines. James Beattie could be back in action after two months out.
Bolton are struggling. Hence, it’s shocking to see them still five points above the relegation zone. If only Davies could score as well as he fouls, eh? The Bolton marksman seems a candidate for picking up yellow cards every game, but you wouldn’t bet on him to score a goal.
Ricardo Gardner is back and could be involved. Basham, Davies and Holden are still unavailable for the Wanderers, though Basham and Holden are nearing a return.
THT predicts another Stoke win in the battle of the throw-ins.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Stoke 3-1 Bolton
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Ricardo Fuller (Stoke City)
Sunderland eye revenge for their defeat at Turf Moor earlier this season and one wouldn’t back them against it, either. Steve Bruce may have had a poor season overall but things have started to gel at home. They battered Tottenham last time around and could do the same to Burnley.
Cattermole is a major doubt for the game, while Cana faces a late fitness test. Mensah could return from injury, but McCartney and Reid are still out.
Burnley fans could barely believe their side’s achievement at the KC stadium – a come-from-behind 4-1 thrashing of fellow strugglers came out of the blue, but was it just an exception? Laws’s side could be in for a tough afternoon at the Stadium of Light.
Stephen Jordan is doubtful due to a knee injury, but McCann missed out because of the same injury.
THT predicts a cracking game, but no rewards for Burnley this time around.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Sunderland 4-2 Burnley
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Darren Bent (Sunderland)
While Tottenham ‘Rose’ to the occasion versus Arsenal, Chelsea will be a whole new challenge – a much more intelligent challenge. Even though Spurs came away with three points a couple of nights ago, they were battered by Arsenal throughout the game; only for Arsenal’s naivety to show it’s ugly face again.
Spurs are unbeaten in nine at home, winning the last four. They have also conceded fewest number of goals at home, along with Man United. They are one point behind Manchester City in the battle for fourth and with all to do.
Tottenham’s Nico Kranjcar has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, while Palacios is serving a two-game suspension. Cudicini, Jenas, Lennon & Woodgate are still absentees for Spurs.
Chelsea have one hand on the title and after this weekend, it could be virtually both or back to none, again. That’s how important this game is for Ancelotti’s side. The blues were beaten here thanks to some spectacular saves from their in-form goalkeeper Gomes last time around. But Chelsea usually score and are on a four-match winning streak.
Ashley Cole will make the bench for this fixture but Bosingwa, Essien and Carvalho are all out with injuries.
THT predicts Tottenham to ‘not get away with it’ against this London rival.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Tottenham 0-2 Chelsea
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
How do you convert a relegation-affected, administration-affected season into a romantic one? Pompey style of course! If you weren’t a fan of the Pompey spirit before, you should be by now. Avram Grant’s side has shown great heart and haven’t surrendered in the league. They have, however, failed to score in their last four matches so spirit clearly doesn’t translate into goals.
Jamie O’Hara is added to the injury list. Belhadj, Ben Haim, Dindane, Hreidarsson and Webber are all out with injuries. KP Boateng, James, Rocha and Mokoena are all doubtful but Yebda could be available.
Aston Villa have virtually blown their fourth-place hopes with a string of mediocre results and performances. They just about sneaked a draw at home in mid-week and have only won one in their last five league matches.
Warnock might make the game after injuring himself against Everton, while Nigel Reo-Coker could return to the bench for this game after a lengthy lay-off.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Portsmouth 0-2 Aston Villa
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Ashley Young (Villa)
It’s that time again, when Arsenal’s title hopes have been dashed, but could still be back if results go their way this weekend. Wigan have won 2 of their last 14 games, one of them being against Liverpool – though that is not necessarily an achievement this season.
Stephen Caldwell completes his three-match ban in this game, while Thomas is doubtful because of a thigh injury. Kingson is out with a groin strain.
Arsenal’s first defeat in nine games came at a poor time for the club. With Robin Van Persie returning for the run-in, a win at White Hart Lane would have made them strong contenders. Instead, Wenger’s come out and said ‘they can forget the title now’.
Denilson is doubtful with a groin strain. Arshavin, Gallas & Vermaelen are all out due to calf injuries, while Djourou & Song are troubled by knee problems. Fabregas and Ramsey are out for the season.
Against a side which has failed to score more than one goal in their last fourteen matches, the pitch at the DW followed by Gunners themselves could be the only hurdles Arsene’s side need to overcome.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Wigan 0-4 Arsenal
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Robin Van Persie (Arsenal)
What happens when your ‘guarantee’ runs out? You come out telling the club that you will be here till 2014. Interesting turn of events, no? Liverpool need a miracle if they wish to feature in the Champions League. The club has been officially put for sale and new investors may be on their way. Turning to on-the-pitch matters, Liverpool are unbeaten in nine at Anfield.
Left-backs Aurelio and Insua are both missing, while Kelly is also out. Skrtel is inching closer to a return. Fernando Torres will not feature in this game – if common sense prevails.
West Ham scraped a vital win at home to Sunderland. The songs were out and Zola’s position at the helm was eased at Upton Park.
Scott Parker is a key absentee, as he is serving a suspension. Boa Morte and Hines are missing due to knee injuries, while Dyer and Tomkins are out because of ankle injuries.
THT predicts Anfield to get a Torres-less Liverpool across the line.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 West Ham
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Alberto Aquilani (Liverpool)