Last week, our experts predicted EIGHT (80%) results correctly with ONE perfect score.
After a win at Wigan in midweek, Aston Villa remain the only unbeaten premiership side in 2010 and strong contenders for fourth spot. Agbonlahor faces a late fitness test due to a groin injury, while Reo-Coker is still out with a foot injury.
Wolves achieved a vital win at Burnley last week to boost their survival chances, but all is not good at the club after striker Stefan Maierhofer’s outburst in the week. On the injury front, Wolves are still missing Kightly and Edwards – both recovering from ankle injuries.
‘The form book is thrown out of the window in a derby’ but there is only one winner when the best defence in the league faces an attack with the lowest number of goals scored this season.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Aston Villa 3-0 Wolves
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: James Milner (Aston Villa)
Everton are on a six-game winning streak at Goodison Park, but will be disappointed to concede a two-goal lead at B’Ham last week.
David Moyes is missing Leon Osman and Fellaini in midfield, while Louis Saha and Philippe Senderos are out as well. Donovan has finished his successful loan spell at the club.
Owen Coyle’s side, on the other hand, destroyed a poor Wigan at home last week and are now a healthy eight points above the relegation zone.
Sam Ricketts is back from suspension for Bolton, but Chris Basham, Mark Davies and Stuart Holden are still unavailable. Gary Cahill is a key player who could return in this game.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Everton 3-1 Bolton
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Mikael Arteta (Everton)
Down down, going down! Portsmouth are all but relegated after a nine-point deduction and Avram Grant will field weakened line-ups in the league to focus on the FA Cup.
David James is unlikely to be risked after recovering from a calf-injury while Hassan Yebda, Kevin-Prince Boateng and John Utaka are all doubtful. Vanden Borre is still unavailable for the club.
New Hull manager Iain Dowie couldn’t have asked for an easier game as his first match but the job still needs to be done. After a spirited effort against Arsenal, Hull will look for three points, and nothing less, at Fratton Park.
Club captain Anthony Gardner is still out with a knee injury while Ian Ashbee is a long-term absentee. Gutsy midfielder George Boateng is suspended after his sending off last week.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Portsmouth 0-2 Hull City
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Jimmy Bullard (Hull City)
Sunderland were denied a win late-on at home last week. Their record may show one win in sixteen league games but they are up and running again.
Lee Cattermole and Andy Reid are unlikely to play due to hamstring injuries, while Boudewijn Zenden is also doubtful. Kenwyne Jones, however, could feature after his hip injury was not found to be serious.
Birmingham are a well-oiled unit and Alex Mcleish’s side play with a German-esque efficiency – sticking to a plan.
On-loan Teemu Tainio is ineligible to play against his parent club, while Lee Carsley and Gary O’Connor are out due to an ankle injury and a hip injury, respectively.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Birmingham
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Darren Bent (Sunderland)
WIGAN v BURNLEY (Saturday 8:30 pm IST)
Show me a man who can predict Wigan’s form and i’ll kiss his feet! After beating Liverpool, Wigan were thrashed at The Reebok and defeated at the DW Stadium by Villa.
Wigan are sweating on the fitness of their influential left-winger Charles N’Zogbia, while captain Mario Melchiot is still not fit to return.
The Clarets, on the other hand, haven’t gotten over their break-up with Owen Coyle. They will be boosted by the return of their leading goalscorer Steven Fletcher.
Steven Caldwell is doubtful with a groin injury, while Danny Fox is unlikely to play.
This is a must win for Burnley and a defeat could be curtains for the newly-promoted club.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Wigan 2-0 Burnley
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Hugo Rodallega (Wigan)
It’s been twenty-five years since the London Club last won at Stoke City, and the omens aren’t good either.
Tottenham and Harry Redknapp have been handed a major blow as Jermaine Defoe is set to be out for a few weeks with hamstring injury. Jermaine Jenas is also unlikely to feature in the game.
Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross has served his three-match ban but he is doubtful for the game due to an ankle injury.
Tottenham are looking to improve on their hat-trick of wins but the Potters are hard to beat – beaten only once in ten in 2010 and THT predicts this to be that regular occasional off day for the men from London.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Stoke City 2-1 Tottenham
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Ricardo Fuller (Stoke City)
ARSENAL v WEST HAM UNITED (Saturday 10:55 pm IST – LIVE! on ESPN)
Arsenal are really gunning for the title this season, and Wenger’s side are expected to win all of their home games. Zola’s side should not be much trouble for Wenger’s men because, in simple and ironic terms, they play too much football to do so.
Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is set to return after recovering from an hamstring injury and midfielder Tomas Rosicky is available again. Alex Song is available after serving a suspension. William Gallas is still nursing a calf injury and won’t be available, while Robin Van Persie, Aaron Ramsey and John Djourou are the long-term absentees.
West Ham’s midfield maestro Scott Parker is out with a leg injury, but Mark Noble could return to replace him. Carlton Cole is likely to start again for West Ham. Zola is also missing Kieron Dyer, Julian Faubert and Danny Gabbidon due to injuries and Manuel Da Costa due to suspension.
No upsets here, as a team on three-game losing streak visits a club with five wins on the bounce.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Arsenal 4-0 West Ham United
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
Undoubtedly, the game of the weekend and the most awaited game of the season at Old Trafford. Fergie’s men look to take revenge for their humiliation last season against a Liverpool team which is back to full strength and back in good form.
Ryan Giggs is available again for the Red Devils after missing out due to a broken arm. Johnny Evans and Rafael are also available for this crucial fixture. Wes Brown and Anderson are both out due to a metatarsal and knee injury, while Michael Owen and John O’Shea will miss the rest of the season.
Rafael Benitez’s injury concerns have eased up somewhat with Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio being the only absentees due to injury, for their trip to Old Trafford. However, this seems like a week of outbursts and Albert Riera’s remarks have meant his deletion from the squad.
With three defeats in a row to their bitter rivals, United will be looking to break the jinx and Vidic will be hopeful of completing ninety minutes without being sent-off. TheHardTackle, however, feels this will be a closely contested game which will hinder United’s title charge.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Javier Mascherano (Liverpool)
(For a detailed preview of this huge clash – watch this space)
Blackburn are on a four-match home winning streak and will prove to be more than a handful for a Chelsea team smarting from their Champions League exit at the hands of Jose Mourinho.
Captain Ryan Nelsen is still unavailable, and Franco Di Santo is ineligible to play against the side he is loaned-in from. Blackburn will also be without number one choice goalkeeper Paul Robinson as he tore a calf muscle last week at White Hart Lane.
Chelsea’s visit to Blackburn might see a much-needed return in goal for Petr Cech. Ashley Cole is still out due to a calf injury, whereas Jose Bosingwa and Michael Essien are long-term absentees due to knee injuries.
TheHardTackle predicts a tough game for Chelsea, but a narrow win for a side who is heavily under pressure in the title race.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Blackburn 0-1 Chelsea
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
Fulham are on an all-time high. After securing an incredible and famous win against Italian giants Juventus, Craven Cottage will be buzzing with excitement.
Danny Murphy and Jonathan Greening are expected to start after being suspended for Fulham’s thursday night clash. John Pantsil and Andrew Johnson are unavailable due to knee injuries, while Dickson Etuhu and David helm are doubtful.
Manchester City battered Sunderland, but could only sneak a late draw at The Stadium of Light due to the brilliance of Adam Johnson.
Wayne Bridge is out of the game. Michael Johnson and Martin Petrov are also unavailable due to knee injuries.
Roy Hodgson’s side might be a nursing a hangover after their mid-week heroics and Manchester City have enough quality to take advantage.
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Fulham 1-2 Manchester City
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch: Adam Johnson (Man City)