Premier League weekend preview


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The Independent Football

Ahead of this weekend's Premier League action, we guide you through all the top-flight fixtures, looking at past results, the ones to watch and the latest from Twitter...

STOKE v BLACKBURN, Saturday 12:45pm

Blackburn's struggles this season have been well documented, however Stoke are also a club that is underperforming. The Potters have lost their last four league games and have made their worst start ever to a Premier League season, currently sitting only three points above the relegation zone. Blackburn were perhaps a little fortunate to salvage a draw in their crucial game against Wigan last week but their players showed enormous determination to do so and seem committed to turning their season around. With Stoke desperate not to lose their third home game in a row and Blackburn needing every win they can get, this game set up to be an interesting one.

Recent results: Blackburn 0-2 Stoke (26/12/2010, PL), Stoke 1-0 Blackburn (02/10/2010, PL)

One to watch: Yakubu coolly slotted Blackburn's last minute equalising penalty in their 3-3 thriller against Wigan last weekend and the Nigerian striker has four goals in the clubs last four games. The ‘Yak Attack' is the club's top scorer this season and with Blackburn needing a regular source of goals if they are to turn their season around everyone at the club will be hoping that he can add to his tally this weekend.  

Did you know?: Stoke made just 118 successful passes against QPR, the lowest by any side in the division this season.

Fantasy pick: Jon Walters, 58 (Stoke), Junior Hoilett, 48 (Blackburn)*

Tweet of the week: 'Yes everyone I will be in Hanley town centre to turn on the xmas lights, make sure you are all there. Should be fun!', @asmir1,  Asmir Begovic


BOLTON v EVERTON, Saturday 3pm

Bolton have won only one home game so far this season and while they have had some difficult early fixtures, pressure is starting to build on Owen Coyle's men. Everton arrested their losing streak with a late win against Wolves last weekend however they have not been particularly impressive so far this season and will want to get a good run going and re-establish their comfortable mid-table position. With both sides struggling for form and goals, this game doesn't promise huge excitement.        

Recent results: Bolton 2-0 Everton (13/02/2011, PL), Everton 1-1 Bolton (10/11/2010, PL)

One to watch: Tim Cahill looks set to play his 250th game for Everton this weekend and the Australian comes into it in the middle of a goal drought that has extended to 23 games and more than 11 months. Everton have scored few goals this season and would desperately love Cahill to rediscover his scoring touch and there would be no better time than in such a landmark game for him.

Did you know?: The Trotters are the only club in the division not to have drawn this season. They have gone 22 matches since their last draw - a Premier League record.

Fantasy pick: Chris Eagles, 55 (Bolton), Phil Jagielka, 40 (Everton)*

Tweet of the week: ‘Training done home now to rest and recover-@MrsNev18 made my favourite pea soup for tea it better be good or she's going on eBay!' @fizzer18, Phil Neville


CHELSEA v WOLVES, Saturday 3pm

It would perhaps only be a slight exaggeration to say that Chelsea are in the midst of a crisis. They have won only once in their last seven games and pressure is starting to build on Andre Villas-Boas. It is however very early in the season and it would be foolish to write off the young Portuguese manager just yet although with Roman Abramovich as chairman and time to turn his situation around not necessarily guaranteed, victory against Wolves is vital. The visitors have won only once away this season and sit one place above the relegation zone. 

Recent results: Wolves 1-0 Chelsea (05/01/2011, PL), Chelsea 2-0 Wolves (23/10/2010, PL)

One to watch: Daniel Sturridge has scored more league goals this season than Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka combined and Chelsea desperately need the young England striker to keep his good form going as they have lacked a threat at times up front this season, which has somewhat undermined Andre Villas-Boas' attacking philosophy.

Did you know?: Chelsea have conceded the joint-most goals (six), along with Wigan and Blackburn, in the last 10 minutes of league matches this season.

Fantasy pick: Frank Lampard, 72 (Chelsea), Stephen Ward, 42 (Wolves)*

Tweet of the week: ‘Gutted missing the game tomorrow always enjoy stamford bridge, big game for us', @mrjamieohara, Jamie O'Hara


MAN UTD v NEWCASTLE, Saturday 3pm

Newcastle's impressive unbeaten record this season came to an end against league leaders Man City last weekend and this week they play second place Man Utd. The Magpies boast statistically the best defence in the league this season however they have conceded ten goals in their last three trips to Old Trafford. Man Utd are now five points behind their bitter rivals City so every win is vital for them as they look to defend their title. With Newcastle hoping to show they can trouble the top teams and Man Utd out to prove they are still the best team in the league, this game is set up to be a thriller.   

Recent results: Newcastle 0-0 Man Utd (19/04/2011, PL), Man Utd 3-0 Newcastle (16/08/2010, PL)

One to watch: With questions still remaining about the hip injury that kept Wayne Rooney out of Man Utd's midweek draw with Benfica, Dimitar Berbatov has never had a better time to try and re-establish himself as a first team regular. Despite being the club's top scorer last season, the hugely talented Bulgarian has found himself on the fringes this season and will be desperate to force his way back in.

Did you know?: Man Utd have scored 10 league goals from set-pieces this season, more than any other team.

Fantasy pick: Wayne Rooney, 75 (Man Utd), Demba Ba, 70 (Newcastle)*

Tweet of the week: ‘@piersmorgan Bore off Lardy.', @themichaelowen, Michael Owen


NORWICH v QPR, Saturday 3pm

The last time these two teams met in the Premier League was March 1994 and QPR emerged 4-3 winners in a thrilling encounter at Carrow Road. Norwich have not been afraid to attack teams this season and QPR have recently found their scoring boots so goals could be on the cards again. Despite both teams defying the expectation that newly-promoted teams should be favourites for relegation and currently occupying mid-table positions, this game is still vital for both clubs as there is a long way to go in the season and their survival is by no means guaranteed.   

Recent results: Norwich 1-0 QPR (01/01/2011, CHP), QPR 0-0 Norwich (16/10/2010, CHP)

One to watch: Steve Morrison has scored in all of Norwich's last three games and is currently keeping club captain Grant Holt out of the side. If he scores this Saturday he will become the first Canaries player to score in four successive Premier League matches surpassing the record he currently holds with Chris Sutton and Dean Ashton.

Did you know?: Norwich are the only team to have led in two Premier League matches this season but ultimately gone on to lose.

Fantasy pick: Anthony Pilkington, 52 (Norwich), Heidar Helguson, 44 (QPR)*

Tweet of the week: ‘Just seen the advert for "Desperate Scousewives" please tell me this is a sick joke and that someones winding me up. Not more dumbed down TV', @Joey7Barton, Joey Barton


SUNDERLAND v WIGAN, Saturday 3pm

Wigan were a bad refereeing decision away from finally recording a victory last weekend and will be hoping for much improved luck as they desperately try to move off the bottom of the table and turn their season around. They have scored just two goals away from home this season and have only three wins in their last 17 games so this game is crucial particularly with fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd coming up. Sunderland have won only one of their last eight home games since a 4-2 victory over Wigan in April so will hope that success again against the Latics can end that run. 

Recent results: Sunderland 4-2 Wigan (23/04/2011, PL), Wigan 1-1 Sunderland (11/09/2010, PL)

One to watch: Sunderland's attack last season boasted, Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan, Danny Welbeck and Frazier Campbell. While Campbell is close to making a return from injury the rest have departed and a lot now relies on Nicklas Bendtner who Sunderland fans will hope can bring some of his international goal scoring form to the Stadium of Light.

Did you know?: Wigan have conceded 22 goals in the last nine matches.

Fantasy pick: Seb Larsson, 53 (Sunderland), Ali Al-Habsi, 46 (Wigan)*

Tweet of the week: ‘Is it me or does every1 name their car? I call mine thomas because he's a tank!', @FraizerCampbell, Fraizer Campbell



West Brom have not lost at home to Tottenham since 2003 however the Baggies will have to play well this time around against a Spurs side that in their last nine games have won eight and drawn the other. The match also sees two of the Premier League's select group of English managers come up against each other, although Roy Hodgson faces a difficult task with fitness concerns over this season's star man Shane Long as well as Peter Odemwingie, Paul Scharner and Graham Dorrans. Spurs on the other hand can count on great strength in depth and must be confident of extending their best start to a top-flight season since 1967.  

Recent results: Tottenham 2-2 West Brom (23/04/2011, PL), West Brom 1-1 Tottenham (11/09/2010, PL)

One to watch: Emmanuel Adebayor rediscovered his goal scoring touch from earlier in the season with a brace against Aston Villa on Monday night. With Spurs boasting an in-form midfield and the imposing striker likely to receive excellent service he could make life very difficult for West Brom's defenders and add to his growing goal tally.

Did you know?: Only Manchester City and Arsenal have played fewer long balls per game this season than West Brom.

Fantasy pick: Chris Brunt, 46 (West Brom), Rafael van der Vaart, 68 (Tottenham)*

Tweet of the week:  ‘Great performance tonight. I'm sorry I couldn't get my first hat trick in a Tottenham shirt. Don't worry will never give up!', @Sheyiadebayor, Emmanuel Adebayor


ARSENAL v FULHAM, Saturday 5:30pm

Arsenal have turned their season around dramatically after their difficult start largely thanks to the inspirational form of captain Robin van Persie and they must be confident of keeping their good run going against a Fulham side who have won only twice so far this season. Questions still remain about Arsenal's defence however and Per Mertesacker had a game to forget against Norwich last weekend. If Fulham can make the most of the array of attacking talent that they possess then they could make things difficult for their fellow Londoners. Although that is something they have managed all too infrequently for their supporters so far this season.

Recent results: Fulham 2-2 Arsenal (22/05/2011, PL), Arsenal 2-1 Fulham (04/12/2010, PL)

One to watch: Once again it is simply impossible to look past Robin van Persie and after yet more goals in the Gunners' midweek Champions League game, he will surely prove the biggest threat to Fulham's defence. Van Persie has 44 goals in 50 games for club and country – a better strike rate than Lionel Messi – and is only five goals behind Alan Shearer's 1995 record for Premier League goals in a calendar year (36).

Did you know?: Fulham have won just 12 of their last 101 away matches in the Premier League.

Fantasy pick: Robin van Persie, 97 (Arsenal), Clint Dempsey, 56 (Fulham)*

Tweet of the week: ‘Always great to see thierry! Best Gunner ever! #legend!', @Persie_Official, Robin van Persie


SWANSEA v ASTON VILLA, Sunday 1:30pm

Swansea may have lost their unbeaten home record last weekend however they have been hugely impressive at the Liberty Stadium this season and will pose a stern test for an Aston Villa side who have lost three out of their last five games. Alex McLeish's recruitment from rivals Birmingham this summer was met with protests from some Villa fans and it is fair to say the fans are still all not fully behind him. With difficult games against Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal coming up, he will be looking for a win to relieve the slight pressure that is building on him.

Recent results: Swansea 2-1 Aston Villa (02/05/1983, DIV1), Aston Villa 2-0 Swansea (25/09/1982, DIV1)

One to watch: Aston Villa are yet to win away this season and have netted only six goals on their travels so they will be looking to Darren Bent to help change that record. The club spent a massive £24million on the striker last season thanks to his impressive goal scoring record in the league and while he has not disappointed so far, Villa fans will be hoping the goals keep coming.

Did you know?: Aston Villa were still champions of Europe when these clubs last met, in May 1983. Swansea won 2-1 at home - their last victory in the top flight before this season.

Fantasy pick: Michel Vorm, 58 (Swansea), Gabriel Agbonlahor, 69 (Aston Villa)*

Tweet of the week: ‘#thinking what would #SunTzu do...', @WayneRoutledge, Wayne Routledge



The last game of the weekend is arguably the best as league leaders Man City visit Anfield hoping to avenge their Champions League defeat against Napoli this week. Their nemesis in Naples was Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani and they will have to cope with fellow countryman Luis Suarez this Sunday if they want to keep their unbeaten league run going. Liverpool grabbed a late winner against Chelsea last weekend and are unbeaten in their last eight league games however they will have to play well to keep out a rampant City.  

Recent results: Liverpool 3-0 Man City (11/04/2011, PL), Man City 3-0 Liverpool (23/08/2010, PL)

One to watch: Mario Balotelli has scored nine goals in Man City's last ten games and while the Italian is by no means guaranteed a starting berth amongst his side's attacking riches he has been in terrific form. With mentions of letting off fireworks indoors almost behind him, the young striker will want to carry on making headlines on the pitch and keep his goal scoring run going. 

Did you know?: Man City have scored two or more goals in each of their last 14 Premier League games.

Fantasy pick: Charlie Adam, 51 (Liverpool), Sergio Aguero, 84 (Man City)*

Tweet of the week:  ‘Wow just arrived in naples! Hostile isn't the word! Geeezeeee', @OfficialMR2, Micah Richards

* Based on Fantasy Premier League, the official Premier League fantasy game