Oh boy, wow-wee! Premier League games do not come any bigger than this! League leader Manchester United host second placed Chelsea this Sunday night. There are only three weeks to go and United lead the Blues by just three points, with the pair locked on goal difference. That means Chelsea can go top with a victory over their title rivals this weekend. All to play for then. At the bottom of the table, West Ham entertain Blackburn in a pivotal match for both sides but more so for the Hammers, they simply have to win. With seventeenth placed Blackpool travelling to Tottenham, the bottom three will fancy their chances of leapfrogging the Seasiders and climbing free of the drop zone.
Aston Villa v Wigan (0000 AEST)
Wigan had their chances last week against an out of sorts Everton, but couldn’t do enough to grab the points. Charles N’Zogbia is the one Wigan player who can provide that bit of magic in and around the penalty box although he is battling injury concerns and is not a certain starter for this one. Villa provide a much greater attacking threat and they are likely to get more goals. Keeping things simple, more goals wins you the game.
Andy’s Bet: Aston Villa to win @ 1.89 (Betfair)
Bolton v Sunderland (0000 AEST)
Bolton are flying high in eighth spot in the league table. Their home form is even better and is the cause of the lofty position. Ten wins from seventeen home fixtures, with only two losses for the Trotters. Not many teams leave the Reebok with maximum points. Sunderland beat Wigan two weeks ago, however they were awful against Fulham last Saturday. The Black Cats’ makeshift attack misfired and their leaky defence shipped three goals. Bolton should have them covered here at the Reebok.
Andy’s Bet: Bolton to win to nil @ 3.10 (Sportsbet)
Everton v Manchester City (0000 AEST)
Everton are the league’s draw specialists, finishing deadlocked in almost half of their league games this season. They have had a run of injuries to their better players, which has meant they haven’t been able to grab that crucial goal as often as they’d like. City are just about safe for fourth spot now, so Roberto Mancini will be focusing on the FA Cup final in two weeks. A draw would probably suit both sides.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.40 (Betfair)
Andy’s Bet: Under 2.5 goals @ 1.81 (Betfair)
Newcastle v Birmingham (0000 AEST)
I reckon both these teams are just about safe from the dreaded relegation, but a good result might finally calm the nerves of their supporters. Newcastle would need an extraordinary turn of events to go down, but stranger things have happened. Birmingham are in slightly more danger, although even a draw would see them reach the magical 40 point mark, the amount of points most pundits believe is enough for safety. Mike Williamson broke his arm during the week at training, so Steven Taylor will return to partner Fabricio Coloccini in central defence. Newcastle look to have the better midfield, with the settled quartet of Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote, Kevin Nolan and Jonas Gutierrez all better than decent Premier League players. I think a roaring St James’ Park will help Newcastle to a slender victory.
Andy’s Bet: Newcastle to win @ 1.98 (Betfair)
West Ham v Blackburn (0000 AEST)
With the exception of the titans on Sunday night, this is the game with the most riding on it. If West Ham don’t win this game, they are almost certain to be relegated, while a Blackburn victory would all but assure Premier League status for 2011/12. Blackburn got a win last week, but it wasn’t convincing. There will be a cracking atmosphere at Upton Park and the Hammers can pull this off.
Andy’s Bet: West Ham to win @ 2.00 (Betfair)
Tottenham v Blackpool (0230 AEST)
Trivia time. Who was the last team to defeat Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the Premier League? If you know the answer you’re doing really well because it was quite a long time ago, way back in August 2010. It was their second home game of the season and they were humbled by relegation candidate Wigan. 8 months on and it is the second last home game of Tottenham’s season. Could their next loss be against Blackpool, another relegation candidate? Probably not, but we have to come to know these two teams as this season’s entertainers. A Blackpool win? Probably not. Plenty of goals? Probably, and hopefully, yes!
Andy’s Bet: Over 4.5 goals @ 3.55 (Betfair)
Wolverhampton v West Brom (2100 AEST)
This is Wolves’ big chance to get out of the drop zone, with a home game against an opponent not much better than them. West Brom are in mid-table safety, so might not be prepared to roll their socks up and deal with Wolves’ aggression. I give the men in orange an advantage in the physicality stakes, however West Brom are better on the ball and a more capable passing team. I don’t see Wolves getting beaten here, they will be too tenacious, but I doubt they will have the cutting edge in front of goal either.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 3.50 (Betfair)
Stoke v Arsenal (2305 AEST)
Arsenal played their big game last week. They proved their point with a thoroughly deserved victory over bitter rival Manchester United. Aaron Ramsey scored the winner last week and was a very good contributor getting a start in the absence of Cesc Fabregas. Stoke still have an eye on the FA Cup, so won’t take full advantage of an Arsenal team who might still be savouring the success of last weekend.
Andy’s Bet: Draw @ 4.04 (Pinnacle Sports)
Manchester United v Chelsea (0110 AEST)
This game is the sequel to the Arsenal v United game last week and effectively decides the title. Anything other than a Chelsea win and it is game over, with the trophy going north to Old Trafford. The Red Devils knocked over the Blues in the Champions League last month and will be confident they can do it again. Another thing in their favour is Old Trafford, the place has been a fortress with the home team winning all but one of their home fixtures this campaign. This game will likely be decided on the flanks. United love to spread the play and use the width to attack, this work especially well against Chelsea who are strongest in the middle and leave plenty of space in behind their attacking full backs. Much conjecture abounds in relation to Chelsea’s striking selection. Will Drogba start? Will Torres start? Or will both they be employed in tandem? Chelsea boss would be mad to put Torres anywhere near the pitch in the first half. He should be only used if things are getting desperate in the second period. United have the more in form strikers to choose from. It used to be common place to rely on Wayne Rooney to score in these big games, but the striker has been down on his usual output this season. He won’t stay down for too long and I’m backing him to have the final say on the season.
Andy’s Bet: Manchester United to win @ 2.40 (Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Wayne Rooney to score anytime @ 2.60 (Sportsbet)
Fulham v Liverpool (0500 AEST)
You could make a good case that this is, on form, the game of the round. Over the past two weekends these two teams have won their matches by a combined margin of 14-0. Outrageous! I have given Fulham the sneaky edge due to the home comforts at Craven Cottage.
Andy’s Bet: Fulham to win @ 3.15 (Betfair)
SNEAKY EUROPEAN MULTI
Andy’s Bet: Aston Villa, Celtic, Palermo, Bayern Munich, Valencia and Lorient all to win @ 10.95 (Sportsbet)