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Timothy Masters

Chelsea v Athletico, 19:45

Chelsea’s preparation for this game has been less than ideal, and one does wonder if Jose Mourinho is even now boning up on the names of UEFA officials and referees so he has someone to blame if his side should lose, but from a neutral perspective there is no doubt the Blues are favourites to qualify. Compared to Athletico, or any side really, Chelsea have a massive budget and huge spending power as well as security and the best-paid manager in world football, and as a result Mourinho knows he won’t be able to laugh off a heavy defeat should that be the final outcome.

As if to demonstrate that point, it is Athletico and Victor Chandler’s 13/8 anytime scorer Diego Costa who will probably lead the Chelsea line next year, as the Spaniards are force to sell a star once more to cover tax repayments. Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah will both miss this game for Chelsea as they are cup-tied, and neither Eden Hazard nor Petr Cech is yet confirmed as fit yet. Athletico have one major injury worry in the form of a knock to Arda Turan, and a decision to make over whether to play on-loan keeper Thibaut Cortois.

Sunday, 20th April 2014
Norwich v Liverpool, 12:00

The whole of England knows exactly what Liverpool want to do to Norwich this Sunday lunch time, and if the Canaries end up roasted by the brilliance of Luis Suarez there is a good chance they’ll leave the pitch with some kind of footballing PTSD too. The Uruguayan has torn the Norwich defence to shreds over and over since arriving in English football, and with Liverpool four wins from a first Premier League title there has never been a better reason for him to do so than there is today. Paddy Power have 5/2 on Suarez scoring 2 or more goals, and if he does it will one giant leap for Liverpool toward glory.
Norwich captain Sebastien Bassong could return as Neil Adams decides whether to shuffle his pack again. Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is a major doubt and Jordan Henderson begins a three-match suspension.

Hull v Arsenal, 14:05
This preview of the FA Cup final may be taking place up north rather than at Wembley, where Arsenal’s fanbase will dominate the aural landscape, but other than that it will act as a great fact-finding mission for the two managers involved ahead of what is the biggest game for either club in some time. Whether or not Hull are absolutely safe from relegation now depends on the teams below them in the table, but they only need three points from five matches to be safe, and today might yield some reward. At 19/20 that both teams score with 888sport we should be in for a tight battle, with tonnes of pressure on both teams.

Hull pair Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic could return to face Arsenal, as will Alex Bruce if his old man opts to play a three-man central defence. Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil is in line to feature, Mathieu Flamini returns after a suspension and Nacho Monreal should have recovered from a dead leg.

Everton v Man Utd, 16:10
Everton come into this game nine points ahead of their guests having played one more game than the Red Devils, and so much of the build-up has focussed on the two managers as a result of that gap and the fact David Moyes used to be a Toffee. The Scot looks to have rather less stickabilty at Old Trafford than he built over the years at Goodison Park, and while the debate about exactly why he is struggling rages most people have agreed that Roberto Martinez has demonstrated that Moyes may have been a touch over-rated. I think this will be close, but at 10/3 with SkyBet to win by a one goal margin Everton are my pick.

Everton captain Phil Jagielka has an outside chance of being involved, but there is good news with the return of James McCarthy from a muscle problem. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is available, but Rafael has been ruled out and Jonny Evans is doubtful.

Monday 21st April 2014
Man City v West Brom, 20:00
City are considered by most pundits to have played their way out of the title race these last couple of weeks, but when you think Manuel Pellegrini has only been in England a matter of months, and is trying to build a new team with a new style of playing they shouldn’t be in for too much criticism. There is still a chance for the 2012 Champions to take their second Premier League title if Chelsea or Liverpool should slip up, but they can’t afford to fail to win their own games at this point and West Brom are first in line. Sergio Aguero is 7/10 in the score/win with BWin, and needs to play well to help out his side.

David Silva could be fit in time for this match, but Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas and Matija Nastasic are all ruled out for now. For the away team there is a chance Jonas Olsson and James Morrison could be fit to play, but Zoltan Gera still has no return date.

Spurs v Fulham, 12:45
London derbies probably do come bigger than this if you’re an executive at Sky TV, but for the two managers and many players on show today there are few, if any bigger matches in their overall season. Spurs are on the brink of relinquishing all hope of a spot in the Champions League next year while Fulham have four games to save their status as a Premiership side, and are still two points behind Norwich in the first position of survival. If Coral’s 5/4 is right and both teams don’t score it should go in Tottenham’s favour, but I think this will be closer than some anticipate.

Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele could play, but Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Jan Vertonghen, Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson and Erik Lamela remainout. Fulham’s in-form loanee Lewis Holtby is ineligible and Kostas Mitroglou is the only other confirmed absentee.

Aston Villa v Southampton, 15:00
Watching the last four matches Villa have played would certainly not do much to convince the average viewer they are fighting for their very survival in the Barclays Premier League, and at the moment Paul Lambert is seemingly struggling to motivate his players for the final push toward knowing they’ll be here next year. Their form is more what you’d expect from a team like Southampton, who are safe but unable to make the European spots, and with Villa already having lost ten games at home this season the fans are in for a nervous day, but even a home win by 1-goal at 9/2 with Victor Chandler would help them enormously, and is possible.

Leandro Bacuna is available for Aston Villa, who have no fresh injury concerns. Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc has overcome a back injury, but Maya Yoshida and Gaston Ramirez remain sidelined.

Cardiff v Stoke, 15:00
This is another game where the home side are in a lot of trouble, and really should be looking at their guests as three points just waiting to be harvested due to the fact Stoke have nothing left to play for but league position. With safety assured you’d expect the Potters to drop off a little bit at this stage, but in fact Mark Hughes has guided his side to a run of five wins and just two losses in their last ten league games compared to Cardiff’s two wins in the same period. SpreadEx have 14/5 on Peter Odemwingie in the anytime scorer market, with the striker looking dangerous at times.

Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no new injury worries for the visit of Stoke, which is nice. Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam should be fit, and Oussama Assaidi will travel with the squad but may not play.

Newcastle v Swansea, 15:00
Neither of these teams are on any kind of impressive form at the moment, but with Newcastle already having amassed more than forty points they are less bothered about their play at the end of yet another season where they sold their best player. Swansea, on the other hand, are just a point ahead of Norwich and have won one of their last eight, and if the sides below them in the table can pick up points the South Wales club could still find themselves relegated come the end of the year. Betfred have 5/1 on Wilfried Bony in the score/win double, and if he plays well Swansea have a great chance today.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is hopeful that Loic Remy and Mathieu Debuchy will be available, but Moussa Sissoko is likely to miss out again and Hatem Ben Arfa is doubtful. Swansea will give a fitness test to Michu, and footballing joke Chico Flores begins a two-match suspension.

West Ham v Palace, 15:00
A clash between two of the more pragmatic managers in the Premier League might not accrue a massive TV audience, but today we’ll certainly see commitment from these two sets of players, both of whom are probably safe from the spectre of relegation now. Tony Pulis has done the kind of job at Palace, on a shoestring budget too, that Sam Allardyce has spent handsomely to achieve at West Ham, and in truth the Welshman is the real deal of the two judging by this season. Victor Chandler have 31/40 on less than 2.5 goals going in here, something I think a lot of fans will expect.

West Ham captain Kevin Nolan returns to the team today, with James Collins and Joey O’Brien also fit. Crystal Palace have a number of injury concerns, with Marouane Chamakh, Joel Ward and Yannick Bolasie all doubtful .

Chelsea v Sunderland, 17:30
Most casual an expert observation of Chelsea at the moment is in agreement that their triumvirate of games against Athletico Madrid and Liverpool next week will define their season, but Sunderland have managed to throw a few wrenches in the spokes of the bigger sides even in a season that has largely been a failure, and will hope to do so again here today. If the Blues don’t win it provides a massive opportunity for Liverpool tomorrow to stretch the gap at the top of the table, a rare pressure even the special boy will feel, and at 23/20 with Betfair as an anytime scorer Fernando Torres would help his boss by stepping up this afternoon.

Jose Mourinho will be without leading goalscorer Eden Hazard, with the Belgian a doubt for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final. Sunderland could name an unchanged side from midweek with Phil Bardsley still suspended and Ki Sung-Yeung suffering from tendonitis.

Everton v Crystal Palace, 19:45
It is fair to say there are two managers on show here this evening who will be strong candidates for the annual award if Liverpool cannot convert their position into a first league title in a couple of decades. Having said that (fairly) it must also be noted that both Palace and Everton have been helped out massively by the form of the sides around them in the table, and if Arsenal in particular hadn’t slumped so dramatically there would be no hope for the Toffees of making the top four. Victor Chandler have 16/5 on Everton winning by a 2-goal margin, a result they need to keep up their charge for the Champions League places.

Everton’s Phil Jagielka has not quite recovered so John Stones will play at centre back, and Steven Pienaar is out as well. Crystal Palace will give fitness tests to Kagisho Dikgacoi and Yannick Bolasie, with Tom Ince possibly replacing Bolasie.

Man City v Sunderland, 19:45
It’d be nice to write about how Manchester City are unlucky to be seven points back on the leaders and agree with their more delusional players that they are victims of poor refereeing, but the result against Liverpool at Anfield was more than fair over the ninety minutes, and they had their own luck at the Etihad. Now they face perhaps the ‘unluckiest’ team in the land, with Sunderland propping up the table and a full seven points from Premier League safety at this point, and if City don’t win they can realistically say goodbye to their title challenge. At 7/10 in the score/win double with BWin Sergio Aguero must be a decent bet to make an impact, and needs to contribute at this stage.

Manchester City’s Yaya Toure will be out for about two weeks, but Sergio Aguero is fit. Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley begins a two-match ban, Liam Bridcutt will also be absent for personal reasons and Steven Fletcher and Keiren Westwood remain sidelined.

Arsenal v West Ham, 19:45

After squeaking past Wigan on the weekend it is clear that Arsenal are still some way from finding the form that saw them labelled potential champions earlier in the season, and that presents the away sides with a definite opportunity this evening. West Ham will most likely survive for another season of Premier League football, currently sitting on 37 points as they are, but adding to that total today would not only cement their safety further, but would also prove a feather in the cap of their unfashionable manager Sam Allardyce.

At 15/2 the away side aren’t fancied for the draw, but Wigan would have taken a point home from Wembley if that had been a league match and West Ham could do the same here today. 19/2 on a 1-1 draw with Victor Chandler isn’t a bad price, although the Gunners are 4/9 for a reason and should win if they play to potential. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal and Lukas Podolski are doubtful for the home side, while West Ham captain Kevin Nolan faces a late fitness test and both George McCartney and Marco Borriello are out for the visitors.

Liverpool v Man City, 13:37

There are going to be many words written about this match over the next couple of days, and in a lot of ways it is as much a clash of cultures as it is a game to decide who gets momentum in the title race. City have a team built of great players, but anyone who came through the system is stuck on the bench while Liverpool are having to adapt the players they have week-to-week without spending such huge amounts on wages and fees, and today there is also an intriguing tactical battle to observe. At 40/85 with Betfair the odds on both teams scoring aren’t great, but beyond that it’s tough to be sure how this game will turn out.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has Daniel Agger fit again, but Jose Enrique remains out. Manchester City top scorer Sergio Aguero is set to feature and Yaya Toure has overcome a minor niggle, but Matija Nastasic is not fit yet.

Swansea v Chelsea, 16:07

By the time this game kicks off Chelsea could be five points behind the league leaders or sat in third place in the league table, depending on what happens at Anfield, and for a club that has just qualified for the Champions League semi-finals the pressure on their manager to rotate the squad intelligently is intense. Swansea away is a game that could be very difficult, with the Welsh team desperate for points, but in reality shouldn’t throw up that many challenges as they home side have won just once in their last eight matches. SkyBet have 11/4 on Chelsea winning by a 1-goal margin today, a result they need to stay in the title race proper.

Swansea boss Garry Monk is set to make changes with Nathan Dyer, Pablo Hernadez and Jose Canas are amongst those pushing for starts, and Kyle Bartley his only absentee. Chelsea duo John Terry and Eden Hazard are major doubts with Mohamad Salah set to be recalled, while Ramires is back after a three-match ban.

Crystal Palace v Aston Villa, 15:07

On the weekend when eyes will mainly be trained on Liverpool we once again have a number of fixtures that are crucial to the relegation battle in the Barclays Premier League to look over. Villa and their hosts for the day are currently both on 34 points and so close to safety they can already hear the Match of the Day theme for next year, but with the visitors having lost their last three matches on the spin the job is not quite done yet, and today could be good or bad. Recent form suggests a narrow home win, with 14/5 at Ladbrokes that Palace take it by a one-goal margin.

Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis hopes to have a fully fit squad, although it looks like Dwight Gayle is not ready to start. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi are all fit to return for Aston Villa.

Fulham v Norwich, 15:07

The five point gap between Fulham inside the relegation zone and Norwich just above them was not enough to save the previous manager from the sack, and that controversial decision is set to be sorely tested now. If the new man in charge sees his side beaten in their opener under his gaze, and given the fixture list they have ahead of them then the Norwich fans may well voice some very early dissent about the changes that are being made. Bet365 have 8/1 that Fulham win 1-0, a result that would spice up the relegation fight no end.

Fulham are bolstered by the return from injury of Scott Parker, Dan Burn and Giorgos Karagounis but Kostas Mitroglou remains sidelined with a knee injury. New Norwich manager Neil Adams must decide whether to risk Leroy Fer, Joseph Yobo and Ryan Bennett, who are all being monitored.

Southampton v Cardiff, 15:07

With a considerable gap between Southampton and Cardiff in the table this isn’t the game you’d think the Welsh club would want at this stage, but the Saints are in the slightly strange position of being totally safe from relegation but having absolutely nothing to play for at this point either. An away win would give Cardiff fans hope they had probably not expected to have by this point, and also put even more pressure on Fulham but that means winning, and if 9/5 score/win candidate with BWin Rickie Lambert plays well that won’t be possible for the Welsh teams.

Southampton will assess the fitness of Gaston Ramirez and Artur Boruc, but Jay Rodriguez faces a six-month lay-off and Maya Yoshida remains out. Cardiff winger Craig Noone has been ruled out for the rest of the season, and Kenwyne Jones, Declan John, Craig Bellamy and Ben Turner are doubts.

Stoke v Newcastle, 15:07

Well, without meaning to influence your thinking about what you might watch this weekend this is not a game with anything riding on it, and with neither side having England hopefuls on display either it might well be a bit of a bust overall for the BBC boys as well. The home side come in on some pretty decent form, with four wins from their last six matches, but now they’ve made it to 40 points it won’t be as easy for Mark Hughes to motivate them. The odds on Papiss Cisse as an anytime scorer are now out at 37/10 with 888sport, pretty good value for the main striker.

Stoke midfielder Stephen Ireland could return for the visit of Newcastle and Charlie Adam is expected to be available for selection. Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul could return from a two-match absence, but Loic Remy will not be risked and both while Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko are out.

Sunderland v Everton, 15:07

Everton might only be the second-best side in their city right now, but with six consecutive wins and a game in hand over Arsenal this could be the weekend they join their neighbours in the Champions League places. No team is more in need of points than Sunderland at this stage, but for the Black Cats necessity just hasn’t translated into results and there has been no win in their last seven league games. I think Everton will get the win today by a couple at 5/1 with Victor Chandler, and that might be the final nail in the Sunderland coffin.

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet remains without Steven Fletcher and Keiren Westwood but has no other injury problems. Leon Osman is Everton’s only doubt, and although Phil Jagielka is out he could return next weekend’s game with Manchester United.

West Brom v Spurs, 15:07

Although these two sides are by no means the worst in the league it is fair to say neither is quite at the level they’d want to be right now, although while Tottenham will feel time is running out the home side will want it to speed up. The Baggies have a five-point cushion over the teams behind, but have only won twice in their last ten matches and won’t have a lot of confidence considering how well Tottenham have played on the road this season. BWin have 7/2 on Adebayor in the score/win, which would at least keep Spurs in view of the sides above.

West Brom midfielder James Morrison is a doubt for Saturday’s clash with Tottenham but Chris Brunt and Claudio Yacob are available. Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood still has the likes of Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela and Etienne Capoue on the sidelines through injury.

Bayern v Man Utd, 19:45 (agg. 1-1)
There are not many people willing to stick out their neck and back the away side to qualify here, but there are a few factors that might work in United’s favour. Firstly, their away form has been superb so far this term regardless of overall prospects, second is the fact they were supposed to get battered at home and didn’t, adding doubt to Bayern minds and third we can take the historical view that the Germans are thought of as ‘chokers’ in big matches.

In home favour there are a lot of points, not least those areas of the pitch where Bayern are clearly hugely superior to their guests, but since winning the league it seems as though the manager is struggling to motivate his men a bit. Bayern are 1/8 to qualify, while United come in rated 6/1 at best, and if Paddy Power’s 13/8 score/win candidate Arjen Robben is on form this will be a horrible evening for the away back four in particular, even if the results is not a forgone conclusion.

Bayern Munich midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez are suspended for the tie, while Xherdan Shaqiri, Thiago Alcantara, Diego Contento, Tom Starke, Lukas Raeder and Holger Badstuber are all injured. Wayne Rooney is set to feature for United but Rafael and Marouane Fellaini were absent from United’s final training session, Robin van Persie is injured and Juan Mata is cup-tied.

Chelsea v Paris Saint Germain, 19:45 (agg. 1-3)

After talking about the advantage Liverpool have by not playing in Europe for the last few months Jose Mourinho has ninety minutes this evening to save both his dream of a Champions League title with Chelsea and his best excuse if the league title ends up at Anfield. It is of course true to say that Chelsea play more games, but PSG are a prime example of how much being a Champions League contender improves your recruitment prospects and the same has been proven true for the London Blues too.

Tonight they have a home match, which is always a good start under Mourinho, but a deficit that looks close to insurmountable and becomes more so if the away side manage to score even a single goal. As it has been all season, the lack of a quality goalscorer could well hold the home team back as they chase the score line that would see them through, and with PSG bringing the likes of Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi to compliment Edinson Cavani up front the Blues will need to be aware of the counter-attacking threat.

PSG are 2/7 to qualify for the next round with Chelsea 3/1 at this point, and if Coral’s 11/4 anytime scorer Cavani finds the net it might be all over for Mourinho this year. Samuel Eto’o could be available for Chelsea, having trained on Monday, albeit not with his team-mates and Andre Schurrle should be fit, but Ramires is suspended and Nemanja Matic cup-tied. PSG will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who came off with a thigh injury in the reverse fixture at the Parc de Princes.

Tottenham v Sunderland, 20:00

It is unfortunate for both these sides that right now the teams around them in the league are generally picking up point, while in reality both Spurs and Sunderland need their contemporaries to fail in order that they can achieve their own ambitions this term. With Arsenal eight points clear of the home side and both Everton and United playing well it is vital that Tottenham get the win here, but that could condemn Sunderland, who have games in hand but haven’t won any of their last six matches, to relegation and a year at the least away from the bright lights of the Premier League. Spurs aren’t fantastic at home, but should win even if it’s only by 1 goal at 27/10 with Ladbrokes.

Emmanuel Adebayor should return from a three-match absence, and Vlad Chiriches and Paulinho are back in contention but Roberto Soldado and Jan Vertonghen miss out with. Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the return to his former club, with Steven Fletcher and Keiren Westwood still sidelined.