Last week, our experts predicted FOUR (40%) results correctly with ONE perfect score.
The weekend starts with a battle within the battle of survival. Hull manager Ian Dowie maybe ugly, but that can scare his players into action at the KC stadium.
George Boateng is likely to miss the match after his horrible knock in the 2-0 loss to Stoke City last weekend. Stephen Hunt remains on the sidelines with a foot injury, while Kamil Zayatte is yet to recover from a knee injury. The only positive for the men in orange is the possible return of Andy Dawson and Jerzy Altidore.
Problems galore at Burnley – winless away from home, a humiliation at home last weekend and players preferring to watch their team from a pub. Surely Laws is treading on a thin rope?
Stephen Jordan is out with a knee injury for the Clarets but fit again Steven Caldwell is back into the team.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Hull City 2-0 Burnley
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Jimmy Bullard (Hull City)
Can Zola’s side hammer open the door to their survival at Upton Park? or will it be final nail in Zola’s footballing coffin? They hover above the relegation zone by a solitary point, and a win is a necessity to avoid moving down the table.
West Ham has lost most of their key players; they will miss the services of Valon Behrami, James Tomkins, Jack Collison, Guillerimo Franco and Herita Ilunga, which leaves a much exposed back line for the Hammers. The hammers will also miss the charisma of Alessandro Diamanti who is major doubt with a groin strain. Scott Parker is suspended for the game, after receiving his tenth yellow card of the season last weekend.
Last weekend, Sunderland completely outplayed Spurs at home and the confidence must be sky high. But can they repeat it away from home?
For the Black Cats, Lorik Cana, George McCartney and Andy Reid are doubtful. The team will be banking on the striking duo of Darren Bent and Kenwyn Jones to cause trouble to the depleted Hammer defense.
THT predicts a desperate West Ham to sneak a win at Upton Park.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Sunderland
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Darren Bent (Sunderland)
Wolves are on the up! McCarthy’s men have been on a decent run, securing eight points in four games prior to their last match.
The manager has no major injury concerns, and will put forth a strong line up against the Potters. Stoke City, on the other hand, may travel to the Molineaux without their in-form striker Ricardo Fuller, who suffered an ankle injury. James Beattie and Salif Daio are also expected to miss the game.
Stoke City secured back to back wins against West Ham and Hull City, and will be looking to increase their points tally in this fixture. Tony Pulis demands a strong finish to the season.
The home team will be banking on Kevin Doyle’s experience and Hahnemann’s form to secure a vital win in this derby, but Stoke have a well organized defense and will be a tough nut to crack.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Wolverhampton 1-1 Stoke City
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Ricardo Fuller (Stoke City)
After ‘typical Germans’, Fergie can expect ‘typical Blackburn’ at the weekend. Sam Allardyce’s men will not play pretty, but with their success of late, they won’t care either. The Rovers have a good home record, having lost only twice at Ewood Park.
Blackburn have a fully fit starting line up, with Vince Grella and Keith Andrews likely to feature. Captain Ryan Nelsen is also available for selection.
People are calling for the famous United ‘backlash’ to put their season back on track. The last time Utd lost two matches in a row in the league was over forty matches ago.
Wayne Rooney aggravated his ankle injury in the second leg against Bayern, and is likely to be rested for this fixture. Anderson and Michael Owen are long term absentees, while John O’Shea is close to a first team return.
Blackburn affected the title race when they drew Chelsea, and THT believes they will do it again.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Blackburn 1-1 Manchester United
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Nani (Manchester United)
Dress rehearsal for the Europa league final? Liverpool have to win, or look forward to more Europa league action next season. Manager Rafael Benitez’s substitution caused a stir last weekend. Has he given up on his guaranteed fourth place?
Liverpool are still missing Fabio Aurelio and Martin Skrtel. Aquilani is expected to get a start in this game, as he came on as a substitute midweek.
Fulham have managed to hang onto their league form. They are expected to take the league lightly considering their Europa league exploits, but they don’t.
Fulham were dealt a major blow ahead of their Europa game against Wolfsburg, as US star Clint Dempsey was sidelined with a thigh injury.
It’s the underachievers versus the overachievers, and it’s Torres versus Zamora. THT expects the Merseyside club to secure all three points and press for the fourth spot.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Fulham
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
Manchester City’s frightening demolition of Burnley at Turf Moor was a real statement of intent for their fourth-place rivals. They are in pole position to enter the Champions League next season.
Sylvinho may miss the match due to a calf injury, and Micah Richards is also struggling with a knee injury. Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge are sidelined with a hamstring and groin injury respectively, while Stephen Ireland could make it to the bench after recovering from an ankle injury.
Premiership’s Germany continued their impressive home record with back to back draws against Arsenal and Liverpool. However, Joe Hart cannot feature against his parent club, and the Blues will have to work much harder to stop the rampant front line of Adebayor, Tevez and Bellamy.
Lee Carsley will miss out for Birmingham. Their dismal away record doesn’t bode well for them though, and they would be fortunate to lose by a small margin.
THT predicts Mancini’s side to strengthen their hold on the fourth spot.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Birmingham
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
The title is Chelsea’s to lose, and the Blues will want to reclaim the top position in the league table, should Manchester United win their weekend match against Blackburn. Bolton have their task cut out, and a draw would seem like a victory for Owen Coyle’s side.
Chelsea have five key players on the sidelines – Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Essien, Ivanovic and Bosingwa. However, Zhirkov and Alex have been able deputies at left back and center back respectively, while Paulo Ferriera has been decent at right back. However, with Malouda and Joe Cole in tremendous form, and Didier Drogba still among the goals, Bolton have enough reasons to be concerned.
Bolton have suffered three losses on the trot, and must consider themselves unfortunate to face the title challengers at this juncture. There are no major injury concerns, but Coyle will be hoping to avoid a wipe out like the one Aston Villa suffered against Chelsea.
It’s not a question of who, but a question of how many?
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Chelsea 4-0 Bolton
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
Aston Villa have gone on a poor run of results, which has basically ended their fourth-place hopes. They need to win all their matches. A win would put them in contention for the fourth spot, but Everton are in ominous form and also have the advantage of a ten-day break between matches.
Villa have often suffered from their small squad size and the lack of quality on the bench. There are no fresh injury concerns, but fatigue could play a big role in this match. Marouane Fellaini and Dan Gosling are long term absentees for Everton, but Mikel Arteta is likely to feature despite suffering a groin strain.
However, we predict that Villa would offer some resistance to Moyes’ men and come out with a point from this game.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Everton
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Steven Pienaar (Everton)
Will they turn up, will they not? The Latics have typical blown hot and cold this season. They can beat Liverpool one day, and lose to a Newcastle reserves another. Portsmouth are down but not out, and their players will be looking to play for pride. They have to focus on the FA cup clash with Spurs prior to this fixture, and a win would earn them a lot of confidence.
Wigan have no major injury concerns.
Portsmouth, on the other hand, will be relieved to have Kevin Prince Boateng, Papa Bouba Diop and Nadir Belhadj back in training, especially for the FA cup. New faces are more likely to feature in this match.
Considering Wigan’s unpredictability, it would be safe to go for a stalemate for both sides.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Wigan 1-1 Portsmouth
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Hugo Rodallega (Wigan)
Too much football at the Cottage? Fulham will be playing their third game in a week, and their performance in the game will depend on how they fare against Liverpool this Sunday. Stoke City will look to consolidate their mid-table position, after their fixture against Wolves in this weekend.
Fatigue is likely to catch up with the London club, and Stoke will capitalize on this aspect. A draw seems the most likely outcome, considering the match being hosted at Craven Cottage.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Fulham 2-1 Stoke City
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Zoltan Gera (Fulham)
The match Spurs dread! Tottenham have a poor record against Arsenal, recently. When it comes to the North London Derby though, forms and statistics are thrown out of the window. The match is not about the League, but about pride and the gloating rights for the victorious team.
Andrey Arshavin is unlikely to feature in the game, but Alex Song should be back in contention. The Spurs FA cup commitments have given Arsenal a welcome break of eleven days, and they will be refreshed before the match. William Gallas and Cesc Fabregas are out for the season, while Van Persie is inching closer to a return.
Harry Redknapp has an eye on the FA cup clash against Portsmouth and the quest for the fourth spot, and will look to play a strong side in both the fixtures. However, Jermaine Jenas, Ledley King and Tom Huddlestone have been ruled out for the next week; Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson could make it for the FA cup match.
THT predicts a high scoring encounter, with the Gunners emerging winners and putting pressure on Manchester United and Chelsea for the top spot.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Tottenham 2-3 Arsenal
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Eidur Gudjohnsen (Tottenham)