The Premier League is not the big ticket item this week, with the FA Cup Semi Finals taking top billing. There are still six fixtures scheduled in the league across the weekend and needless to say, they will be action packed. Most matches involve relegation contenders, while diehard Arsenal fans will maintain their match with Liverpool is still pivotal to the title race.
Birmingham v Sunderland (0000 AEST)
16th hosts 13th in the first kick off of the weekend. Birmingham are a single win above relegation and Sunderland have six points breathing space, so both teams are safe for now, but more slips and they will find themselves back in the ruck. Sunderland were flying at the midpoint of the season and the Black Cats were even pushing for a European slot. Those lofty heights are now a distant memory as the wearsiders are dropping, and fast. Sunderland have not won since January, and in their eight matches since, have managed only a single point. Staggering. An extensive injury list and the sale of striker Darren Bent are the key reasons for the clubs downfall. The injury crisis is dramatic and Sunderland boss Steve Bruce admitted to fielding unfit players in their 5-0 defeat at Manchester City last Sunday. Birmingham are clearly in the better form and are playing at home, so expect them grab the points.
Andy’s Bet: Birmingham to win @ 2.30 (Betfair)
Blackpool v Wigan (0000 AEST)
This will be a real nerve jangler for both fans. Blackpool sit one place above the drop zone, but only two points clear of their bottom placed visitors. There are going to be lots of goal chances as both teams lack the ability to defend. Blackpool have been picking up points by playing an attacking brand of football and if they stick true to the intentions of manager Ian Holloway, the seasiders should collect the most vital victory any of the season at Bloomfield Road.
Andy’s Bet: Blackpool to win @ 2.40 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.59 (Centrebet)
Everton v Blackburn (0000 AEST)
For Blackburn, read Sunderland. Rovers are the other team in the division to be on a winless run of 8 games. Former captain and defensive pillar Ryan Nelson is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. At least in Blackburn’s favour is a renewed steel that has seen them draw their last three, two of which were points gained after falling behind and the other from a clean sheet against Arsenal. Everton have plenty to play for as they try and hunt down fierce rivals Liverpool in the battle for sixth spot. Rovers should beat the drop, but they won’t beat Everton.
Andy’s bet: Everton to win by 2 or more goals @ 2.90 (Centrebet)
West Brom v Chelsea (0000 AEST)
Chelsea will be much happier to take on a fixture against West Brom after being beaten over both legs of their Champions League quarter final against Manchester United. Fernando Torres failed to score again, and suffered the ignominy of being substituted at half team in his team’s biggest game of the season. Inevitably, his replacement, Didier Drogba, found the net within 20 minutes of coming on. West Brom are a team transformed under Roy Hodgson. After being on the brink of relegation when Hodgson joined, the Baggies have gone seven games unbeaten and are stunningly occupying a place in the top half of the table. Their bubble is expanding and Chelsea might just be in an angry enough mood to pop it.
Andy’s Bet: Chelsea to win @ 1.73 (Betfair)
West Ham v Aston Villa (0000 AEST)
After a nervy victory last Sunday over Newcastle, I reckon Aston Villa are just one more good win away from safety. I doubt they will get it here though, because West Ham will fight for everything at Upton Park. If results elsewhere go their way, three points for the Hammers could see them shoot out of the relegation zone. Aston Villa didn’t create an awful lot against Newcastle and West Ham were smacked last week at Bolton. This will most likely be a stalemate.
Andy’s Bet: West Ham to win @ 2.38 (Betfair)
Arsenal v Liverpool (0100 AEST)
Arsenal need a miracle. The Gunners simply must win all of their remaining seven games to have any hope of overhauling Manchester United. Even then, they would need United to drop points in two of their last six fixtures. Liverpool are very much a week to week proposition at the moment. A defeat to West Brom a fortnight ago was followed up by a rousing 3-0 home success against Manchester City. Arsenal probably have the better team, but I fancy Liverpool’s front pairing of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll to do their fair share of damage.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.95 (Betfair)
SNEAKY EUROPEAN MULTI
Andy’s Bet: Chelsea, Rangers, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Valencia and Lille all to win @ 10.35 (Sportsbet)