The national side encountered mixed fortunes during the latest batch of World Cup qualifying games with a disappointing draw against Montenegro following their drubbing of the European minnows San Marino. The Premier League returns this weekend and there are some fantastic and intriguing matchups due to play out on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Read on for our preview of what the Premier League has to offer this weekend:
Sunderland vs Man Utd
Sunderland still sit perilously close to the drop zone and they will be nervous about the visit of Man Utd on Saturday lunchtime. United are well clear but will still be looking to do a professional job. Sunderland will most likely sit 11 men behind the ball and play on the counter, and consequently the game is likely to be quite a cagey affair, with Man Utd attacking and Sunderland desperately hoping not to concede.
Arsenal vs Reading
Reading have just appointed ex-Southampton boss Nigel Adkins and they will be desperately hoping that he can bring a new lease of life to a struggling side. Reading are joint-bottom and realistically need 3 points, but they’re up against an Arsenal side hell-bent on displacing Tottenham in the Top 4.
Man City vs Newcastle
Whilst the league may have gone for the Citizens, the last thing they’ll want is to finish any lower than second. They welcome mid-table Newcastle to the Etihad, and given Newcastle’s penchant for attacking football, this should be quite an open game.
Southampton vs Chelsea
Southampton’s position looks relatively healthy but they’re still too close to the relegation zone to be totally comfortable. Chelsea have usurped Tottenham and moved into third and they’ll be looking to return from the South with the 3 points to keep the pressure on their North London rivals.
Swansea vs Tottenham
This should be a great game for the neutral with both the Swans and the Spurs capable of playing some scintillating stuff. Swansea’s form appears to have dropped off following their qualification for Europe via the League Cup, but Spurs will need to be more motivated than ever with Champions League spots at stake. Spurs have been on the slide for the last couple of weeks and will be hoping they can halt their run of poor form to avoid their season being derailed in a similar fashion to last season.
West Ham vs West Brom
Big Sam’s West Ham are fairly close to safety but they still need to be careful to avoid being dragged down into the relegation mire. West Ham will be happy with a point against an attacking West Brom side, so I suggest it will be a tight, defensive and primarily aerial approach from the Hammers on Saturday afternoon.
Wigan vs Norwich
Roberto Martinez has got to be one of the nicest guys in football and he has endeared himself to many with his frank opinions and courteous manner. However, Wigan have got themselves into a state and Martinez really needs to deliver in these last 9 games to save his side from the drop. Norwich are tough to break down, but Wigan realistically need 3 points from this fixture.
Everton vs Stoke
Everton have a habit of finishing the season strongly and their position looks healthy with 9 games to go. They’ll certainly be looking to put some pressure on Arsenal and Tottenham and 3 points from this game would certainly do that. Stoke have a way of playing away from home that is not easy on the eye and they’ll look to slow the game down and frustrate the Toffees. This one could well be a draw.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool
Villa are out of the relegation zone but not by much and it will be interesting to see how they approach this game against Liverpool. They could do with 3 points, especially if Reading and QPR win too, but Liverpool appear to be coming of age and will certainly look to attack the Midlands side. Villa must walk the tightrope between going for the win whilst remaining thoroughly responsible at the back.
Fulham vs QPR
Time is running out for Harry Redknapp to save QPR and their fixtures don’t get any easier. Fulham dispatched Tottenham in their last fixture and Martin Jol is a canny manager with the ability to really motivate teams. Harry must get this one right tactically, as another loss would see QPR’s hopes of survival evaporate.