Arsenal v Chelsea, 12:45
Arsenal have a real chance of beating Chelsea at the Emirates, but to do so their midfield will have to cope with a barrage from Michael Essien and co, and the news today that Mikel Arteta won’t play hasn’t helped the cause. The Blues are looking to secure a place in the top four whilst also keeping the first eleven fit for next Tuesday’s trip to Spain, and risk stretching themselves a bit thin.
Arsenal will be without Mikel Arteta, who will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. Yossi Benayoun is ineligible, but Laurent Koscielny, Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin return. Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is out with a knee injury and Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Fernando Torres could come in as di Matteo rotates with Barcelona in mind. RvP is 4/1 with BoyleSports to score first, and I’ll bet he’s buzzing for this match.
Aston Villa v Sunderland, 15:00
Most of the rumours surrounding these two teams seem to be about Martin O’Neill wanting to take Villa players to Sunderland, which would seem a bit odd given the relative fortunes of the two sides. Having said that, it is a former Sunderland man, Darren Bent, who’s absence has been most keening felt this season at Villa Park as his side have struggled to find the net.
Villa have doubts over Stephen Warnock, Fabian Delph, Ciaran Clark and Chris Herd. Sunderland are likely to be without skipper Lee Cattermole, but John O’Shea may return to the team for the first time in a month, with Matt Kilgallon possibly making way for the former Manchester United man. Bet365 have 8/1 that Sunderland take it 1-0, giving Villa fans a worrisome time over coming weeks.
Blackburn Rovers v Norwich, 15:00
With three wins in their last five game Blackburn are still trying to get themselves out of trouble, but as every round of fixtures passes they seem to just fail to do what they need to. Norwich will arrive at Ewood Park possibly missing a bit of motivation, with the season a success now they are safe from relegation, but that will be balanced out by the hunger to not be let go in the summer as the playing staff is tweaked.
Blackburn’s Grant Hanley is out with an ankle ligament injury and there are doubts over Bradley Orr and Martin Olsson. Norwich will welcome back striker James Vaughan following his recovery from a hamstring injury, although they may still be without defender Zak Whitbread. SkyBet have 3’s on Rovers winning by a 1-goal margin, but I think we could see a few fly in.
Bolton v Swansea, 15:00
With a solitary point to show for the last five outings Bolton are playing like a team condemned to the drop, even as their midfielder Fabrice Muamba appears to have made a truly astonishing recovery from his heart attack. The team need to take some inspiration from his story, and put Swansea under as much pressure as possible early on. For the neutral this could well be the best game of the day, as both sides play greats stuff, but I’ll bet the home fans will be on the edge of their seats.
Bolton boss Owen Coyle is still awaiting clearance from Fifa for former Rangers winger Gregg Wylde. Brendan Rodgers has indicated he wants to involve his squad players in the final four games. Wayne Routledge and Leroy Lita are among those hoping to benefit, but defender Alan Tate will miss out with a calf injury. WilliamHill have 13/2 on a 1-1 draw, although I can see Swansea winning if Bolton aren’t alert.
Fulham v Wigan, 15:00
At this stage in the season Wigan are on better form that sides ten places above them, and the annual escape from relegation they perform is a wonder to behold, even if it doesn’t seem to be the most sustainable model for running a club. On 34 points at present, two more wins from their last four games would just about do it, and Fulham are by no means out of reach.
Wigan will give fitness tests to Shaun Maloney and Hugo Rodallega, who missed the win over Arsenal on Monday, but Albert Crusat is definitely out. Fulham welcome back Andy Johnson and Pavel Pogrebnyak, but Stephen Kelly and midfielder Steve Sidwell remain on the sidelines. I like the 13/2 Ladbrokes have on Wigan by a single-goal margin, mainly because I think Fulham are struggling for motivation.
Newcastle v Stoke, 15:00
The Magpies have got the magnets well and truly on Tottenham above them, and Stoke will arrive in Newcastle with very little to play for being safe from relegation by miles from Europe. This season has been a good lesson in the rigours of continental travel and football for Tony Pulis and his men, who have done well to survive with such a small amount of damage sustained.
Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote is expected to start for the first time in a few weeks, and Danny Guthrie, Gabriel Obertan, James Perch could also be involved. Stoke winger Jermaine Pennant has been suffering with a virus and will face a fitness test, leaving only Salif Diao and forward Mamady Sidibe definitely on the sidelines. StanJames offer 4/1 on Cisse scoring first, and he or Ba are sure to give the Stoke defence trouble with their pace and skill.
QPR v Tottenham, 17:30
Tottenham are trying to end a rather unspectacular run of form to say the least, but as QPR are the last team above the drop zone Spurs may find their hosts as pumped and ready for this as they are, and significantly more scared of failure. If QPR win and Newcastle beat Stoke the Spurs are out of the top four for the first time in a long time, and at exactly the wrong time, and you wonder if this is playing on the minds of the underperforming men in Harry’s team.
QPR’s Djibril Cisse is available for selection again after a four-match ban. Tottenham will again be without the injured pair of Younes Kaboul and Niko Kranjcar, and manager Harry Redknapp has a number of other injury concerns. You can get 15/2 on a 2-1 away win with BlueSquare, and Spurs are just steadying the ship enough to be backable.