Premier League weekend preview


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The Independent Football

We look ahead to all the weekend's top-flight action with our fantasy picks, Tweets of the week and much more...

NEWCASTLE v CHELSEA, Saturday 12:45pm

The first kick-off this weekend is arguably the most intriguing as two sides with hugely contrasting recent fortunes go head-to-head. The teams meet at fascinating points in their respective seasons, Newcastle are still defying all pre-season expectations, having lost only once this season and are keen to prove they can carry on in the same vein. Chelsea on the other hand have been disappointing and with only two wins in their last seven games, they could really do with a win as they try to get their season back on track. Whether or not their misfiring strikeforce can breach Newcastle’s miserly defence remains to be seen.     

Recent results: Chelsea 2-2 Newcastle (15/05/2011, PL), Newcastle 1-1 Chelsea (28/11/2010, PL), Chelsea 3-4 Newcastle (22/09/2010, CC)

One to watch: In a summer where they signed Juan Mata and Raul Meireles, Chelsea’s acquisition of Oriol Romeu from Barcelona did not attract nearly the same amount of attention. However the young Spanish midfielder impressed last week against Wolves and with John Obi Mikel out of favour and Michael Essien still injured he has an excellent opportunity to cement his place in the team. However Newcastle’s midfield will provide him with his first real test.

Did you know?: No club has scored more first-half goals in the Premier League this season than Chelsea (15).

Fantasy pick: Demba Ba, 78 (Newcastle), Frank Lampard, 73 (Chelsea)*

Tweet of the week: "I NEED to see the aurora lights...unbelievable #frozenplanet", @Sammy_Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi



Steve Kean allegedly ‘forfeited’ Blackburn’s progress in the Carling Cup to focus on the Premier League, so nothing less than a victory against league new boys Swansea will surely be tolerated by Rovers fans. While Wigan’s victory last week may have saved Kean from being the first manager fired this season, it also leaves his team bottom of the table. Swansea have lost only one of their last four games – against Man Utd – and the Welsh club will see this game as a good opportunity to pick up more crucial points as they look to extend their stay in the Premier League.

Recent results: Blackburn 4-1 Swansea (07/03/1984, DIV2), Swansea 0-1 Blackburn (29/10/1983, DIV2)

One to watch: The brilliantly named Jazz Richards is expected to make his first Premier League start as a replacement for the equally well named Angel Rangel who is likely to face a month out with injury. With Blackburn desperately looking to get the goals they need to turn their season around, the pressure will certainly be on the 20-year-old this weekend. 

Did you know?: Swansea's two points from a possible 18 represents the worst away record in the Premier League.

Fantasy pick: Junior Hoilett, 50 (Blackburn), Michel Vorm, 64 (Swansea)*

Tweet of the week: "AMBROSE what a goal pal #goalofseason", @dawgraham10, Danny Graham


MAN CITY v NORWICH, Saturday 3pm

Man City demonstrated their enormous strength in depth this week, knocking Arsenal out of the Carling Cup, just 48 hours after their 1-1 draw against Liverpool. Roberto Mancini’s men are five points clear at the top of the league and nothing less than a resounding victory is expected from them given the form they are in and the talent that they have at their disposal. Norwich are currently occupying a comfortable mid-table position and their mission must be to try and maintain it, although this is not a game they will expect to get much out of. However the Canaries fought hard in defeat against Man Utd and came away from Anfield with a point so they cannot be totally written off.

Recent results: Man City 1-0Norwich (25/09/2007, CC), Norwich 2-3 Man City (28/02/2005, PL), Man City 1-1 Norwich (01/11/2004, PL)

One to watch: While Man City’s attack has taken all the plaudits so far this season, it was a last minute save against Liverpool by Joe Hart that maintained the club’s unbeaten league record this season. Hart has been a reliable presence at the back, which, as long as he maintains this form, is also comforting for England fans ahead of Euro 2012. 

Did you know?: A league-high 47% of Norwich's goals have come from crosses.

Fantasy pick: Sergio Aguero, 86 (Man City), Anthony Pilkington, 54 (Norwich)*

Tweet of the week: "Did you have me figured as a baker? The holidays are coming and we @MCFC made cakes for the fans! Mine has Argentina's flag!", @aguerosergiokun, Sergio Aguero


QPR v WEST BROM, Saturday 3pm

A single point separates these two sides, who have both been equally inconsistent this season. QPR have won only once at home this season although history is on their side this weekend. They have never lost a Premier League game at Loftus Road against West Midlands opposition and Roy Hodgson has not won an away game in London since 1998. West Brom have been short of goals this season and with star striker Shane Long doubtful this will remain a concern for them. However things may be easier for them this weekend, as injury has forced QPR to field their third choice goalkeeper.

Recent results: QPR 3-1 West Brom (06/03/2010, CHP), West Brom 2-2 QPR (14/12/2009, CHP)

One to watch: Icelandic striker Heidar Helguson has scored in each of the club's last three Premier League home matches and if he scores against West Brom he can equal Les Ferdinand's club record of netting in four home matches in a row from October to December 1994. He is easily his club’s top scorer this season and QPR fans would love him to add to his tally.

Did you know?: Only Bolton (31) and Blackburn (30) have conceded more goals than QPR (24).

Fantasy pick: Luke Young, 48 (QPR), Chris Brunt, 47 (West Brom)*

Tweet of the week: "Once again the level of incompetence in todays journalism shines through", @Joey7Barton, Joey Barton


TOTTENHAM v BOLTON, Saturday 3pm

Tottenham are third in the league and have won all but three of their last 13 league games, Bolton on the other hand are third from bottom and have lost all but three of their last 13. This match on paper should be a formality for Harry Redknapp’s men as they look to put their midweek Europa League disappointment behind the m and keep their excellent league run going. If Spurs remain unbeaten then they will equal their best-ever run in the Premier League of 11 games which they achieved in 1995. Owen Coyle would love even a point as he tries to turn his side’s season around, although even this looks unlikely as the Trotters have gone 23 league games without a draw.

Recent results: Tottenham 2-1 Bolton (05/02/2011, PL), Bolton 4-2 Tottenham (06/11/2010, PL)

One to watch: Emmanuel Adebayor has scored four goals in Spurs last two league games and he now has seven goals in his first ten league games for the club. Only Jurgen Klinsmann and Freddie Kanoute scored as many in their first ten. Adebayor will surely be confident of scoring again this weekend, particularly against a Bolton defence that has conceded more than any other in the league.

Did you know?: Bolton have hit the target with 57 per cent of their shots, the best shooting accuracy in the top flight.

Fantasy pick: Emmanuel Adebayor, 75 (Tottenham), Chris Eagles, 57 (Bolton)*

Tweet of the week: "@Lord_Sugar well I just hope we win again at the weekend and keep up our good run in the league", @IAmJermainDefoe, Jermain Defoe


WIGAN v ARSENAL, Saturday 3pm

Wigan finally won last weekend having gone nine league games without a victory and Roberto Martinez’s men have moved off the bottom of the table. Arsenal were held to a draw by Fulham last weekend as Robin Van Persie finally failed to find the net, but they will be fairly confident of a positive result this weekend, despite only one win in their last three trips to Wigan. Wigan are in a tricky position already this season and with a tough run of fixtures coming up face a difficult few weeks as they try to maintain their Premier League survival.   

Recent results: Arsenal 3-0 Wigan (22/01/2011, PL), Wigan 2-2 Arsenal (29/12/2010, PL), Arsenal 2-0 Wigan (30/11/2010, CC)

One to watch: Thomas Vermaelen scored at both ends last weekend, his header rescuing a point after his own goal had put Fulham ahead. However it is his defensive rather than offensive skills that make him so important to Arsenal and the club need him to stay injury free almost as much as Robin Van Persie. He should look forward to a reasonably quiet game against a Wigan attack that has struggled for goals this season. 

Did you know?: Robin van Persie has scored 13 league goals this season - more than the entire Wigan team.

Fantasy pick: Ali Al-Habsi, 50 (Wigan), Robin Van Persie, 99 (Arsenal)*

Tweet of the week: "Congratulations to #PAOK great win....maybe spurs should stick to Thursday nights they are not very good on wednesdays.....#MaybeNextTime", @JackWilshere, Jack Wilshere


ASTON VILLA v MAN UTD, Saturday 5:30pm

It is fair to say that Aston Villa’s recent record against Man Utd is not good. The last time they beat the visitors at Villa Park was in 1995 and the Red Devils have lost only one of their last 31 meetings. Alex McLeish played under Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen although Ferguson also has an excellent record against former players of his who have become managers. He has lost only five of 68 previous Premier League encounters and is unbeaten in the last 28. If history is not on Villa’s side, they can take some solace in the fact that Man Utd are not in the greatest form and are without a win in their last three games.

Recent results: Man Utd 3-1 Aston Villa (01/02/2011, PL), Aston Villa 2-2 Man Utd (13/11/2010, PL)

One to watch: Emile Heskey will make his 500th Premier League appearance if he plays a part in Saturday’s late kick-off, becoming only the sixth player to reach this milestone. While the former England striker has divided opinion throughout his career there can be no denying the impressive number of Premier League appearances he has managed to accrue.

Did you know?: Aston Villa have dropped an unsurpassed nine points from winning positions this season, having surrendered a league-high 26 points in 2010/11.

Fantasy pick: Gabriel Agbonlahor, 71 (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney, 80 (Man Utd)*

Tweet of the week: "Gutted we got knocked out of the cup last night. I was eying up a starting place in the final like 2 years ago!", @themichaelowen, Michael Owen


EVERTON v STOKE, Sunday 3pm

Sunday’s first game sees the meeting of another two sides who have been somewhat inconsistent this season. Everton could have key players Sylvain Distin and Jack Rodwell back from injury and will be hoping to capitalise on any Europa League hangover Stoke may have after their midweek game. While the Potters have been poor in the league this season immediately after European fixtures, their morale can only have been boosted by qualifying for the knockout rounds of the tournament. This can only assist them on their trip to Goodison Park and they should not be written off. 

Recent results: Stoke 2-0 Everton (01/01/2011, PL), Everton 1-0 Stoke (30/10/2010, PL)

One to watch: Apostolos Vellios may have started only one game for Everton so far this season but he  is their top scorer. This says more about Everton’s struggles this season, particularly with Tim Cahill entering the 12th month of his goal drought. However the young Greek striker clearly has an eye for a goal and Stoke’s defence which has been porous at times this season will have to be on their guard.

Did you know?: Stoke have conceded 15 goals in their last five league matches.

Fantasy pick: Leighton Baines, 47 (Everton), Jon Walters, 63 (Stoke)*

Tweet of the week: "Dogs have no sense of time & cant eat chocolate.No need 2reward ur dog 4being patient with some KitKat.U'll kill him 4nothing", @louissaha08, Louis Saha



Defeat for Sunderland in their last game cost Steve Bruce his job and while expectations are not quite the same for Mick McCarthy, a victory this weekend is vital as he tries to ensure his club’s Premier League survival once again. Wolves have lost eight of their last ten games and were poor against Chelsea last weekend but Sunderland have taken only six points out of their last 24. While not the weekend’s most glamorous match both sides have all to play for so this match could be a good one.  

Recent results: Sunderland 1-3 Wolves (14/05/2011, PL), Wolves 3-2 Sunderland (27/11/2010, PL)

One to watch: Seb Larsson has been practically the only Sunderland player who has so far emerged with any credit this season. The Swede is the club’s top scorer and has shown himself to be deadly from a set-piece. Wolves hopes of keeping Sunderland at bay may rely on them subduing Larsson.

Did you know?: Wolves have never drawn a Premier League match in the month of December

Fantasy pick: Wayne Hennessey, 45 (Wolves), Seb Larsson, 62 (Sunderland)*

Tweet of the week: "Back from German market with my boys, now for a bit of painting.", @MrJodyCraddock, Jody Craddock



Both sides played well to earn a draw last weekend, against Arsenal and Man City respectively. Liverpool knocked Chelsea out of the Carling Cup at Stamford Bridge, but suffered the blow of losing midfielder Lucas for the rest of the season and Fulham had a night to forget in the Europa League as they lost to a late goal and saw Andy Johnson sent off. Maxi Rodriguez bagged a hat trick the last time these sides met at Craven Cottage and Liverpool will be hoping for a repeat of that result. Fulham will need to show the defensive resilience they displayed last week against Arsenal if they want to prevent it.

Recent results: Fulham 2-5 Liverpool (09/05/2011, PL), Liverpool 1-0 Fulham (26/01/2011, PL)

One to watch: Danny Murphy made 170 appearances in the red of Liverpool and the Fulham captain would surely love to put in a good performance against his old club. Murphy was excellent in last week’s draw against Arsenal and his fans and teammates alike will hope he can reproduce that sort of performance.

Did you know?: A Fulham player has not scored in more than six hours of football, their last two goals were own goals courtesy of Thomas Vermaelen and Younes Kaboul.

Fantasy pick: Clint Dempsey, 58 (Fulham), Charlie Adam, 56 (Liverpool)*

Tweet of the week: "I am sure I'll NEVER WALK ALONE", @LucasLeiva87, Lucas Leiva


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