Author Archives: Timothy Masters

Premier League previews, 26/4/15

Everton v Man Utd, 13:30

The first meeting between these two in the league saw United win a tight game 2-1 at Old Trafford, but since then their fortunes have rather diverged and today the Goodison Park crowd only get to watch one team from the top half of the Barclays Premier League table as a result. If Everton manage a win they could go tenth, but to the embarrassment of their manager they have only recently put the question of relegation to bed with a run of four wins and a draw. United lost to Chelsea in their last match, but prior to that won six on the bounce and will be looking to resume business as usual and clinch that spot in the Champions League.

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is rated “50-50″ and neither Mikel Arteta nor Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are match-fit. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will make a late decision on whether to risk Diego Costa, and with Loic Remy out with a calf injury teenager Dominic Solanke could come onto the bench.

Arsenal v Chelsea, 16:00

There are a lot of intriguing stats that can be puzzled over when looking for clues as to who might win today, but even with the Gunners having won their last eight on the spin there is one that overshadows the lot, that of Arsene Wenger’s record against Mourinho teams, and the lack of wins therein. If there was ever a time for that to change then this is probably it as we approach the end of term, but the Blues hold a ten point advantage over the home side and even Wenger’s redemption might not be enough to wrest the Barclays Premier League trophy out of Chelsea hands, where it has looked like ending up for some time in fairness.

Everton’s Steven Pienaar is a major doubt for Sunday’s game but Leon Osman and James McCarthy should be fit. Man Utd forward Robin van Persie could feature, but Michael Carrick is doubtful again with a calf injury.

Premier League previews, 25/4/15

Southampton v Spurs, 12:45

Spurs are something of an anomaly at the top of the Barclays Premier League, with their single-digit goal difference and extremely leaky defence that is largely the cause of said integer, but today is actually a bigger chance for them than many would think as they travel to Southampton in search of an away win. While the home team may only be a place below Tottenham in the table, their style has not been markedly altered by the new manager this season and it is possible that Mauricio Pochettino could use his inside knowledge to gain a sixth win in their last eleven matches.

Southampton defender Toby Alderweireld could be fit but Victor Wanyama is banned, and Filip Djuricic, Fraser Forster and Jay Rodriguez remain out. For Spurs, Hugo Lloris’ knee injury will be assessed, but Kyle Walker could miss the rest of the season with a foot problem

Burnley v Leicester, 15:00

If you get bored of hearing phrases like ‘this is a real relegation six-pointer’ thrown around then you are not alone, and may want to avoid this match too as it is sure to be littered with that sort of cliché. In this case it is also true, with these two making up 66% of the bottom three and now looking very likely to be there until the end of their thirty-eighth game, but Leicester have shown a little more sprit in recent weeks with three consecutive wins and if either is going to turn things around it will probably be the Foxes.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche will be forced into a rare change as Ashley Barnes is suspended, and Dean Marney and Kevin Long remain on the long-term injury list. Leicester striker David Nugent is a doubt, but Marcin Wasilewski is expected to be available.

Crystal Palace v Hull, 15:00

If Leicester are going to achieve safety this season it will have to be at the expense of some other poor unfortunate team, and at the times of writing it looks as though that team is going to be Hull City, Tigers or whatever. No win in their last six, equal on points with the Foxes and travelling to face a Crystal Palace side with recent wins over City and Stoke is not a good look, and by the end of the day Steve Bruce may be looking at the business end of a relegation battle he has tried to avoid all season, but cannot.

Crystal Palace have Jordon Mutch and Chung-yong Lee back in contention after injury, but will be without Fraizer Campbell and Marouane Chamakh. Hull City’s Curtis Davies, Nikica Jelavic and Andrew Robertson remain out, while Mohamed Diame is not expected to feature and David Meyler is still suspended.

Newcastle v Swansea, 15:00

It’s tough to know how the fans at Newcastle are going to react week-to-week, but if we’re any judge at all the news out of Sunderland about Adam Johnson’s youthful proclivities is going to produce more positive volume from the stands at St James than anything they’ve done on the pitch of late. Six consecutive losses and just one win in their last eight means the Magpies need a few more points to avoid the potential for relegation becoming a reality, and Swansea losing to Leicester last time out will make them believe today is at least a chance for three points.

Siem de Jong will be in the Newcastle squad for the first time since August and Jonas Gutierrez returns having been dropped. Swansea are still without Kyle Naughton and Bafetimbi Gomis, as well as Neil Taylor who serves the second game of a two-match suspension.

QPR v West Ham, 15:00

One club that would dearly love to hire Sam Allardyce meets another than in all probability is going to sack, or at least release the very same big man at the end of the season in a game. Rangers are the 33% of the bottom three not appearing in Leicester this weekend and have won one of their last eight games in this division, but a win here with results elsewhere going to plan could see them climb out of the bottom three at least for a short time, provided West Ham continue to play as badly as they have done in the last few weeks.

QPR will assess midfielder Leroy Fer, and full-back Yun Suk-Young. West Ham are without defender Guy Demel, as well as James Tomkins, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho.

Stoke v Sunderland, 15:00

We aren’t going to go into it in great detail, but it is fair to say Sunderland have not had the best preparation for this game by any stretch of the imagination even if there hasn’t been any action on the pitch. The timing really could not have been worse for Dick Advocaat’s side, who’ve just started to find a tiny bit of form in the last few games, and an away game to Stoke that should have used all of their resources will now become the backdrop for any number of creatively tasteless chants from the home fans.

Stoke midfielder Stephen Ireland is available but The Potters could again be without Marc Muniesa and Peter Odemwingie. Sunderland say Adam Johnson remains available for selection, but Sebastian Larsson completes a ban and Wes Brown is still injured.

West Brom v Liverpool, 15:00

With a seven-point gap between them and City, qualification for the Champions League is out of Liverpool’s control even with the game in hand they hold over the soon-to-be-deposed champions, so all they can do is win their remaining games and hope for more calamity out of City. Two recent losses, to Arsenal and United, have put Brendan Rodgers on the back foot a bit with the media, but the new contract for Jordan Henderson will lift the team and the Baggies (who are admittedly stronger at home) have lost three of their last four matches in this division.

West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu completes a three-game ban and Andre Wisdom is ineligible to face his parent club. Liverpool trio Daniel Sturridge, Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva remain unavailable and Adam Lallana and Jon Flanagan are doubts after recently returning to training.

Man City v Aston Villa, 17:30

Last weekend was an absolute dream for a Villa side that hasn’t had much to cheer about in the last few months if truth be told. Qualifying for the FA Cup final at Wembley means they’ll be in the Europa League next term, and now their only job is to ensure they aren’t competing on that front whilst also a part of the SkyBet Championship. City aren’t in great form, having lost four of their last seven Premier League matches, but a win over West Ham will help them perk up and they should take three points off Villa this evening.

Villa have a couple of potential returnees today, including Gabby Agbonlahor and Aly Cissokho, but must still cope without Nathan Baker, Ciaran Clark, Alan Hutton and Chris Herd among others. Injury has taken a similar toll on the City squad, shorn as it is of Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy Vincent Kompany and Stevan Jovetic, but they could have David Silva, James Milner and Wilfried Bony back for this game.

Premier League/FA Cup previews, 19/4/15

Man City v West Ham, 13:30

Things are changing fast as we approach the end of the Premier League, and as a result of that City need to get a win, not to put pressure on Chelsea above them but more to discourage Liverpool below from trying to steal fourth spot away from the reigning Champions. Whether it is entirely down to the manager the way the club has slipped off the pace we’ll probably never know, and reports of certain players creating unrest in the dressing room wouldn’t be that surprising either, but with West Ham having won one of their last ten at least today should be a happy one for the home support.

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany could miss the rest of the season , and although Dedryck Boyata is fit City are without Wilfried Bony, Gael Clichy, James Milner and Stevan Jovetic too. West Ham striker Carlton Cole could replace Diafra Sakho, and Enner Valencia is fit.

Newcastle v Spurs, 16:00

Spurs are only three points off Liverpool in fifth place, but with the gap from the Reds to Man City in fourth still a significant four points there is realistically almost no hope of Tottenham making it into the Champions League next season, meaning their year is all but over. Ambitions at the start were always going to be hard to achieve with yet more change in a group that rarely goes a couple of years without a new manager, but in Newcastle at least they know they face a team even more apathetic than Spurs can be when it comes to the last few matches of the season.

Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini is available but Moussa Sissoko and Papiss Cisse are banned. Tottenham will assess Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen prior to the game.

FA Cup
Aston Villa v Liverpool, 15:00

These two used to be massive clubs, and of course in the old days they would also both be at the front of the line to host FA Cup semi-finals before we had the ‘blessing’ of the new Wembley stadium. As a result, Villa Park is almost more famous than Villa themselves with this competition in mind, but today Tim Sherwood and his ragged band of relegation-battlers get to put down their buckets, stop bailing for an hour or two and dream of a trophy. With a win over Spurs for their preparation, that is something they’ll also believe is possible, and this should be by far the better of the two semi-finals this weekend.

Aston Villa forward Gabriel Agbonlahor is rated “touch and go” for this one, but Ciaran Clark and Carlos Sanchez are definitely out. Liverpool’s Jordon Ibe is cup-tied, while Daniel Sturridge is a major doubt and Mamadou Sakho is out.

Premier League/FA Cup previews, 18/4/15

Premier League
Crystal Palace v West Brom, 15:00

After a good start for Tony Pulis as West Brom manager he’s just begun to falter over the last five or so games, losing four of them in the process and seeing his side slip back toward the relegation battle as a result, something that cannot be said for Palace. After the disastrous way his time at Newcastle ended even the not-often spoiled fans at Selhurst Park must have been a little be trepidatious about his appointment, but since taking over at the club their form has been so good that he’s now in the conversation for manager of the year.

Crystal Palace pair James McArthur and Pape Souare have overcome minor injuries, but Marouane Chamakh, Fraizer Campbell, Jordon Mutch and Lee Chung-yong are all still out injured. West Brom striker Brown Ideye will be assessed, but Youssouf Mulumbu is suspended and Ben Foster remains out.

Everton v Burnley, 15:00

For a while it really looked like Everton might end up fighting the likes of Burnley and Leicester at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League table, but in the end quality and talent told and the Toffees managed to pull themselves up a bit. Having said that, twelfth in the table is hardly impressive when you think this is a team that broke their transfer record on the summer and was supposedly ready to make a serious run at the Champions League spots, and a win over Burnley today is needed if the fans are to continue to believe in the management.

Everton are set to welcome back Romelu Lukaku, but know Leon Osman is a doubt and Bryan Oviedo and Aiden McGeady are unlikely to be considered. Burnley are at full strength, apart from long-term absentees Dean Marney and Kevin Long.

Leicester v Swansea, 15:00

Although younger fans might struggle to believe it, of these two clubs it is Leicester who have the more history, tradition and so on, but to look at the Premier League tables is to read a very different story indeed. The last five to ten years have seen Swansea manage their finances and affairs incredibly well both on and off the pitch, and today they go into this game against bottom-club Leicester sitting eighth in the division, and basically heading the peloton of non-European teams at the time of writing.

Leicester City have no new injury worries ahead of the visit of Swansea, with only Zoumana Bagayoko and Conrad Logan sidelined. Swansea will be without Neil Taylor and Bafetimbi Gomis, who picked up a hamstring injury last weekend.

Stoke v Southampton, 15:00

The accepted wisdom in the Premier League is that if you want to make it in this world, you probably need to go abroad when looking for a manager, and Southampton have definitely benefited from that kind of thinking recently. Ronald Koeman has done so well that he’s already talking about wanting to manage Barcelona one day, but while the continentals have rolled through St Marys Stoke have stayed on the British standard and done well for it, with Tony Pulis being succeeded by Mark Hughes and both Welshmen strengthening the club in vital ways.

Stoke will be without Victor Moses and Marc Wilson is doubtful and Peter Odemwingie returned to training this week after nearly eight months out. Victor Wanyama is suspended for Southampton and Filip Djuricic is still not fit.

Chelsea v Man Utd, 17:30

Arsene Wenger is extremely annoyed that this match is being played at the same time as one of the two FA Cup semi-finals scheduled for this weekend, and when you think that the FA has made such a song and dance about the old pot in recent years it does seem odd to put the main event from moneyball against it. United are third in the table and have won six consecutive matches, while Chelsea are top and undefeated in ten, making this a potentially thrilling game, and if they away side can manage an unlikely win it will really put the cat among the title pigeons.

Chelsea are hopeful striker Loic Remy will be fit as Diego Costa is still absent. Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is without the injured quartet of Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, and Jonny Evans is still suspended for deliberately spitting at Papiss Cisse.

FA Cup
Reading v Arsenal, 17:20

Second in the Premier League, nine wins in their last ten games and an FA Cup semi-final must have Arsenal fans wondering what would have been if they had missed out on Champions League football altogether this season, but then that’s not really a question you can hope to answer. The likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez would not be at the Emirates if they finished outside the top four, and while today is a chance to put themselves ninety minutes from a trophy the honest truth is that these domestic dalliances are mainly a distraction for Arsene Wenger, who knows the league and Europe are where he is judged.

Reading, on the other hand, have won one of their last ten in the Championship and don’t look that great, so we’ll need a super-sized dollop of cup magic if there is to be even a whiff of a shock today. Pavel Pogrebnyak will be involved for Reading after overcoming a calf complaint but Nathan Ake and Kwesi Appiah are unavailable. Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere could make his first appearance after recovering from an ankle problem but Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are still not fit, and Mathieu Debuchy will be assessed.

Chelsea v Man Utd Preview

Once upon a time this match was a contest between the most divisive and successful manager in the Premier League era and a club that most people couldn’t really bring themselves to like, respect or even watch that often, but times have changed somewhat. Now both teams have ‘Marmite’ managers, capable of great success but also of embarrassing outbursts and childish, playground vendettas, and it is Chelsea who come into this game as the dominant force in English football, at least this season, while United are trying to touch their coat-tails.

Neither team has lost any of their last half-dozen games, and for United that period has produced wall-to-wall wins and steady progress up the Premier League table too as sides around them have stuttered a touch. Chelsea are in good shape as well, being undefeated over their last ten matches and enjoying a seven point gap over Arsenal whilst also holding a game in hand, but draws with Southampton and Burnley have just thrown a tiny bit of doubt into the minds of their fans and today will be a real test for the champions elect.

The preparation for both teams has been good and neither comes in with any excuses if they should lose, mainly due to Chelsea dropping out of the Champions League and United, well, let’s just say United taking an unplanned hiatus from European football this term, and injury is not a massive factor pre-match either although there are a couple of significant absentees on both sides. United’s midfield brain Michael Carrick is missing, along with Robin Van Persie and Luke Shaw who remain out, while Chelsea will have to do without Loic Remy and Diego Costa up front. Many would say that makes their loss the greater, but you should never underestimate the role Carrick plays in any team he is a part of, and RVP would be a welcome addition to either squad.

Our Predictions

Soccer: [Chelsea v Man Utd] Draw @ 12/5
Soccer: [Chelsea v Man Utd] BTTS Yes @ 5/6
Soccer: [Chelsea v Man Utd] Own Goal Yes @ 8/1
Soccer: [Chelsea v Man Utd] Goal after 71:59 @ 5/6
Soccer: [Chelsea v Man Utd] John Terry Anytime @ 13/2

Premier League previews, 12-13/4/15

QPR v Chelsea, 13:30

This isn’t quite the haves versus the have-nots, as Queens Park Rangers have quite a lot financially considering their position, but have sadly wasted it all on crocked or useless players (her name is Rio…), and today’s match looks about as mismatched as David Haye vs, well, any heavyweight worth naming and watching. Jose Mourinho’s team are trying to have a little choke at the moment with three draws in their last eight games including failures against Southampton and Burnley, but City are refusing to let the London club throw anything away and this London derby is a match that Chelsea can have no excuses for failing to maximise their return.

QPR defender Richard Dunne is fit but lacks match, Darnell Furlong could return but Michael Doughty and Senior Ferdinand are both ruled out. Chelsea striker Diego Costa is out but Cesc Fabregas will play wearing a protective mask, having broken his nose against Stoke last weekend.

Man Utd v Man City, 16:00

It’s been a good few weeks for United while City have rather struggled somewhat, as the waiting media were almost obscenely keen to point out, and today is the first meaningful Manchester derby in some time as far as the league table goes. City have gone from second looking at first to fourth looking at third, while Arsenal and Man Utd are on the rise right now having spent on City-levels over the summer. The Red Devils have won five consecutive matches in the division and are just a single point being Arsenal now, with Chelsea on their own level right now, and a win in this game would only enhance the goodwill around Old Trafford as we approach the end of the season.

Manchester United know that Robin van Persie, Luke Shaw and Jonny Evans will miss out, with the first two injured and Evens still suspended for spitting at Papiss Cisse, while Chris Smalling is doubtful because of illness. Manchester City will assess Vincent Kompany, but Wilfried Bony, Dedryck Boyata and Stevan Jovetic will miss out.

Liverpool v Newcastle, 20:00

After some tricky fixtures Liverpool are supposed to breathe a sigh of relief today that they get to play Newcastle, a team with an almost negative amount of motivation judging by their recent performances, but if you watched the game versus Arsenal you’ll know only some of the problems at Anfield are being caused by the opposition. Brendan Rodgers is a divisive figure who inspires much bitterness amongst the fans of other teams, but his plan at Arsenal didn’t work out and he’ll need to think hard before this one if he wants the easy three points that are supposed to be on offer.

There is a slight possibility that Jordon Ibe could return for Liverpool today, but Mario Balotelli, Mama Sakho and Adam Lallana are still a few days from fitness. Newcastle have a frankly ridiculus litany of injury to deal with, as Jack Alnwick, Rolando Aarons, Mo Haidara, Paul Dummett, Siem De Jong, Cheik Tiote and Steven Taylor are all unavailable.

Premier League previews, 11/4/15

Swansea v Everton, 12:45

One of these teams is in the top half of the table, and one of these teams sold their best striker in January while the other invested in a record-breaker over the summer just gone. That confusing sentence is meant to suggest that the team sans striker is doing worse, but in fact Swansea are in the eighth spot Everton were supposed to occupy, or at least get near to, while Everton themselves sit twelfth in the table and have only recently separated themselves from the relegation battle in earnest. That separation came on the back of three consecutive wins in the league, form that will give the Toffees confidence, but underestimating Swansea is UKIP-clever, and nobody should do it.

Swansea full-back Kyle Naughton will miss the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage but Jefferson Montero could be named as a substitute. Everton striker Romelu Lukaku is doubtful, Darron Gibson is out for the season, Bryan Oviedo and Tony Hibbert are also ruled out and Aiden McGeady is a major doubt.

Southampton v Hull, 15:00

There is a very good case to be made for Ronald Koeman being awarded the manager of the season award when we’re all done with this season and the Barclays x-facto…I mean Premier League, mainly due to the fact that he came into a new club last summer missing a fair few of the best players, who’d just been sold, and has managed to improve on the work of his predecessor, which is mighty impressive. At any other point in the year he’d be favourite to enjoy a satisfying win over Hull this afternoon, but with the Tigers needin points to stay clear of the relegation zone it might be a tougher game than is usual.

Southampton will be missing Filip Djuricic but both Steven Davis and Florin Gardos return to the squad. Hull know David Meyler is suspended, Andy Robertson and Curtis Davies are both injury doubts, and Gaston Ramirez is ineligible to face his parent club.

Sunderland v Crystal Palace, 15:00

Two of the bottom four were supposed to meet up today in this game, but sadly for the sides near the foot of the table it turns out Crystal Palace think they are too good to hang around with the likes of Sunderland and Leicester, and have the results to back it up too. After managing Newcastle to some awful football and results Alan Pardew looks a new man in his berth at Selhurst Park and has got the points his old club need to stay in this division, losing three games in his last ten and guiding the Eagles to eleventh in the table.

Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson begins a ban and Wes Brown, Ricky Alvarez and Emanuele Giaccherini are all still sidelined. Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak is available following a four-game ban, Joe Ledley is a doubt and Marouane Chamakh, Fraizer Campbell and Jordon Mutch are all out.

Tottenham v Aston Villa, 15:00

After some promising initial improvement Aston Villa seem to have remembered a lot of what Paul Lambert taught them during his time in charge at the club and gone back to playing like some make-a-wish kids that found themselves in a genuinely competitive match. A loss to Man Utd is nothing to be ashamed of and the QPR results might not be considered the worst given how the game itself panned out, but there are only three points between Tim Sherwood’s side and the bottom three and right now it looks like the former Spurs boss is going to finish the weekend with the same number of points he began with, as Tottenham are not going to do him any favours.

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris remains out and Kyle Walker is unavailable because of a foot problem, while Jan Vertonghen is doubtful. Villa are again without the injured quartet of Alan Hutton, Scott Sinclair, Ashley Westwood and Carles Gil.

West Brom v Leicester, 15:00

There are now six massive points between Leicester City and Hull City in seventeenth, and the reason we say ‘massive’ is that so far the Foxes have taken thirty games to accumulate their twenty-two points, and have eight remaining. At this rate they’d need more than fifty matches to make it to forty points and therefore there must be some credit given to a board for their recognition and acceptance of the facts, namely that they aren’t good enough for this division. For that reason the manager has been left in place to battle for promotion again next year, and Leicester are three easy points most weeks for opposition used to playing better teams.

West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu begins a three-match with Craig Dawson likely to be recalled in defence after serving a suspension. Leicester defender Matt Upson and midfielder Dean Hammond have recovered from injury, and could feature.

West Ham v Stoke, 15:00

Two of the most evenly matches sides in the English football pyramid come together this afternoon to provide us with what will certainly be a festival of physical football rather than a Barcelona training session, the likes of which Liverpool and Arsenal might provide. Over their last ten games Stoke have played way better than West Ham, rising up the table and winning five times to the Hammers’ three and with uncertainty swirling around the manager at Upton Park the away side will fancy this game, and their chances of leapfrogging their hosts into the top half of the table.

West Ham striker Enner Valencia is available to face Stoke butJames Collins is expected to miss the rest of the season. Stoke are set to recall Victor Moses and Marc Wilson, who has a broken hand and will have to wear a protective cast.

Burnley v Arsenal, 17:30

Second versus nineteenth is like the runners-up game when looking for stupid mismatches in the Premier League, and while we are lucky enough to have a better competitive scene here than in Spain or Germany this is still likely to be one of the most lop-sided and uncompetitive games of the year. Arsenal have won nine of their last ten matches and have picked up recent wins over Liverpool and Everton, while Burnley have five wins all season and just one in the last ten matches they’ve played in this brutal division.

Burnley midfielder Matt Taylor could make his first appearance since August alongside Ross Wallace and Steven Reid who could both return. Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny are doubtful but Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby are all back in contention.

Match previews, 7-8/4/15

Premier League
Aston Villa v QPR, 19:45

It isn’t long ago that these two managers worked at White Hart Lane in various roles, but we all know how volatile a boss Daniel Levy can be and both Tim Sherwood and Chris Ramsey have been moved on, with varying degrees of publicity. Now they come head to head in a relegation clash that Levy might even say proves he was right to get rid with hindsight, seeing where the pair have ended up, and judging by the form both teams find themselves in this could be a massive match not just for these two teams, but also all of those around the same sort of area as the relegation battle begins to distil toward a final result.
Aston Villa’s Aly Cissokho and Kieran Richardson could be fit to play today but Scott Sinclair and Ashley Westwood are likely to miss out again and Alan Hutton is a major doubt because of an ankle injury. QPR’s Eduardo Vargas will miss the rest of the season and Yun Suk-Young will also be absent, having suffered concussion

FA Cup
Blackburn v Liverpool, 19:45

The commentators and their state-provided carers working for BT Sport this weekend seemed to think that Liverpool fans could console themselves over the loss to Arsenal by looking ahead to this FA Cup 6th round replay with some optimism, but unsurprisingly they were wrong. Fans at Anfield dream of league titles more even than Champions League wins, and while domestic cup wins are nice they haven’t been that rare for Liverpool in the last twenty years, nor converted into anything more. Blackburn, on the other hand, will want this game more than a modern feminist wants to be insulted by a man, and for that reason could be a very tricky opponent for Liverpool.
Blackburn have a long list of absentees, including Chris Taylor, Rudy Gestede, Chirs Brown, Craig Conway, Grant Hanley, Josh King, David Dunn, Shane Duffy, Jason Lowe, David Raya, Paul Taylor and John O’Sullivan, and picking a strong team for this game is a risk as a result. Only Jordon Ibe and Mario Balotelli are out for the Reds, with the Italian suffering an unspecified knee injury and having no return date.

Premier League previews, 5-6/4/15

Burnley v Spurs, 13:30

With Liverpool stuttering in the league there is technically a chance for Tottenham to get a spot closer to the top of the table, but sadly for Mauricio Pochettino it hasn’t been possible to match the productivity of the Reds or Arsenal, and his team are still nine points behind Manchester United in the table. As for the home side, there is still a degree of hope that they can make it out of the bottom three before their thirty-eight games are up and they need to head home from the ball, but trying to beat Tottenham is not easy and Sean Dyche will not be banking on taking anything from this.

Burnley defender Stephen Ward could be involved and Matt Taylor is back in training following Achilles surgery. Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will miss out, Danny Rose is crocked and Roberto Soldado is also a doubt with a knee injury.

Sunderland v Newcastle, 16:00

Big derbies have slightly taken a back seat in recent times to what are probably considered ‘prestige games’ like Chelsea v City, but for the thousands of fans at the ground today and their extended families, friends and so on this is about as big a game as you can imagine and definitely the match of the day as far as fans go. With Sunderland also very keen to stay in a division they haven’t always looked good enough for this is doubly important, and if the Black Cats could get all three points then they might even create a small gap between themselves and Burnley in eighteenth, although that’s counting as-yet unhatched chickens.
Sunderland defender Billy Jones could return after seven weeks out, but Wes Brown, Will Buckley and Emanuele Giaccherini are all out. Mehdi Abeid will bolster Newcastle’s ranks but Massadio Haidara will not play again this season and joins Steven Taylor, Paul Dummett, Cheick Tiote and Siem de Jong in being injured, with Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Cisse still suspended.

Crystal Palace v Man City, 20:00

If it weren’t for Manchester City and their fragile and tenuous grip on the possibility of a title challenge this match would be a dead rubber, and that is something Palace can be very proud of indeed. They were supposed to be relegation fodder this year even before Alan Pardew came in and it’s fair to say the appointment of the former Newcastle boss didn’t meet with great approval from the press either, but with eight games to go the London side probably only need five points to be completely safe and guaranteed a spot in the league next year.

Palace have a number of injury issues to deal with, and their list of unavailable players extends to Joe Ledley, Lee Chung-Young, Jordan Mutch, Frazier Campbell, Marouane Chamakh and Jerome Thomas. For City the problem is not nearly as serious, but they might still have to deal with James Milner’s absence.

Premier League previews, 4/4/15

Arsenal v Liverpool, 12:45

These two teams might not be as rich or successful as the blue boys with the massive purses, but there is a fair amount of history between Arsenal and Liverpool and today they face off with a lot on the line in the immediate future too. The two sides with arguably the best form over their last ten Premier League games will both have ambitions of winning, but after Liverpool lost to Manchester United and Arsenal won their last four on the spin it looks like this will be a fairly comfortable win for the Gunners by most measures, as they continue their relentless pursuit of a top four spot.

For the Gunners, Danny Welbeck will be assessed and Mikel Arteta, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby are still not ready to feature, but Jack Wilshere might play some part. Liverpool have Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel banned, but Lucas is back and both Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling have recovered from knocks, good news with Adam Lallana is a doubt.

Everton v Southampton, 15:00

Of these two it’s fair to say most people didn’t expect it to be Southampton chasing a spot in the top four with eight or so games to go, but at the time of writing Everton are still six points away from the theoretical safe zone of forty points while Southampton are a point behind Liverpool who sit fifth in the table. Everton probably aren’t going to actually get involved in the relegation battle for real, but we’ve been saying that for a while now and until they can be sure of a spot in the league next year nothing can be taken for granted at Goodison Park.

Everton will assess Romelu Lukaku’s hamstring injury, and Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Darron Gibson will be assessed. Southampton midfielder Steven Davis could miss and Fraser Forster is sidelined with a serious knee injury.

Leicester v West Ham, 15:00

There are nine games to go in the Premier League for Leicester, and although they’re only seven away from safety with a twenty-seven point potential haul left Leicester City are really looking now like a side with little to no hope of pulling themselves out of trouble and spending another year in the division. West Ham will have no sympathy for their crisp-powered hosts, and in some ways a lot of the blame for Leicester’s demise has to go to the board, who saw their manager failing and flailing months ago and have left him in charge rather than performing the humane cull that Nigel Pearson is crying out for.

Leicester will be without injured pair Matthew Upson and Dean Hammond, but Liam Moore has returned from a loan spell at Brentford. West Ham have Winston Reid but Enner Valencia is unlikely to be rushed back, while Andy Carroll, James Tomkins and Doneil Henry are all still sidelined.

Man Utd v Aston Villa, 15:00

People said at the start of the year than Manchester United could well be title contenders this season, largely down to the significant investment in a squad that only really had one competition to worry about, but it’s not worked out that way for Louis Van Gaal and now he needs to do the bare minimum and secure a top four spot for next year. Aston Villa shouldn’t really stand in their way even with Tim Sherwood getting a fair amount more out of his squad than Paul Lambert managed to, and with United having won their last four and Aston Villa having a pair of wins as their sole reward for their last ten games this looks like it can only go one way.

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie has again been ruled out, but Chris Smalling has overcome a bug. Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar is fit, as are Jores Okore and Joe Cole, but the game could come too soon for Aly Cissokho and Nathan Baker and United loanee Tom Cleverley is ineligible.

Swansea v Hull, 15:00

Although the Swans only have two more wins that Hull in their last ten games there was enough for them at the start of the season to now be safe from any threat, and that is why only one of these teams comes in with the dreaded ‘R’ word still hanging over them. Hull are just three points above Burnley, who currently sit seventeenth and occupy the last relegation spot, and haven’t won any of their last four matches either which is not going to inspire the fans or players to think they can dominate what is going to be a tricky and frustrating match against a good passing team.

Swansea midfielder Tom Carroll has been ruled out for up to six weeks and Jefferson Montero is a doubt having injured his thigh. Hull are boosted by the return from injury of Mo Diame, but Nikica Jelavic and Robert Snodgrass are still sidelined and Tom Huddlestone remains suspended.

West Brom v QPR, 15:00

Although West Brom are still technically in the fight to not get relegated most interested observers would say the five point gap they have over Hull in fifteenth is enough for them to feel pretty secure about their chances with eight games left to play in the division, but the same is not true for today’s away team. Rangers have made mistake after mistake this term, and when even Harry Redknapp walks away from a paycheck you know nothing is going to improve in the short term, as Chris Ramsey has found out to his chagrin.

West Brom welcome back Chris Brunt and Claudio Yacob from suspension but defender Craig Dawson serves a one-match ban and both Ben Foster and Callum McManaman are injured. QPR forward Mauro Zarate has returned to parent club West Ham, while Richard Dunne, Leroy Fer and Alejandro Faurlin are all long-term absentees.

Chelsea v Stoke, 17:30

The last game of the day is between two physical, fast and unpopular teams, one of whom has elevated route one football to a new plateau and the other of which has mixed it with more modern stuff to create a formidable, if well-funded team capable of challenging for big titles on the domestic front. Stoke are as safe as you’d expect a side to be with the level of investment they’ve had, and today they know they are not really under any pressure to win this match or pick up any more league positions which could play into their hands against a Chelsea with everything to lose.

Diego Costa is likely to face Stoke despite being ruled out of international duty for Spain with a hamstring injury, leaving John Obi Mikel as their only injured playeer. Stoke forward Jonathan Walters is expected to be fit, but loanee Victor Moses is unavailable against his parent club.