Friday, November 14, 2008

EPL Week 13 Preview: A Definitive Guide to the Weekend's Fixtures

Bolton v. Liverpool

Bolton will have a full squad to choose with Kevin Nolan returning from suspension. And this should see Megson revert to his favourite 4-5-1 formation, with the irrepressible Kevin Davies at the pinnacle...

After beating Man City last time out at home, Bolton will be looking to complete their first back-to-back wins at the Reebok since last season.

After the midweek pasting away to Spurs that saw Liverpool concede four goals for the first time in over two years, Rafa will welcome back his big guns to take on Bolton.

Fernando Torres is still short of match fitness and should feature on the bench, as an unchanged team from the one that dismissed West Brom last week looks likely to start.

Bolton will be a tough ask for Liverpool, they're big, strong, tough in all the right departments and will start with a defensive set-up, as they look to their set pieces to gain the upper hand.

If Liverpool come through this test they'll be greeted as genuine contenders and their title odds should rise.


Bolton 5/1 Draw 13/5 Liverpool 8/13

Arsenal v. Aston Villa

With van Persie still suspended and Eboue carrying a long term injury, Arsenal look likely to start with the team that beat Manchester United last time out. Adebayor is back but whether Wenger puts him in ahead of Bendtner is another thing.

And after Arsenal's young guns hammered Wigan on Tuesday, it will be up to the first team to keep the momentum going.

Aston Villa are currently on their worst run of the season, losing their last two matches and scraping a result in the UEFA Cup after being outplayed for the match.

Petrov and Luke Young are near to full fitness and they could be parachuted into the starting line-up as Martin O'Neill tries to get some impetus back into the team.

Carew looks likely to miss out again with a niggling hip injury so either Milner or Young will partner Agbonlahor up front.

A tough match on paper for Arsenal as a victory for Villa would tie both teams on equal points, but Villa are disjointed without the focal point of Carew in the team and Arsenal couldn't have picked a better time to face O'Neill's side at the Emirates.


Arsenal 8/15 Draw 11/4 Aston Villa 6/1

Blackburn v. Sunderland

Benny McCarthy will definitely miss out after a family bereavement, and Andre Ooijer and Keith Andrews are both rated as 50/50 so Paul Ince will have to re-jig his team around should all three fail to make the starting 11.

Currently on a run of four defeats including being beaten by Blackburn in the League Cup last Wednesday, Sunderland are at their lowest ebb for some time. After a great start to the season their form has suffered and they now find themselves closer to the bottom than the top.

Kenwyne Jones is almost at full fitness and it looks like Keane will thrust him into action at Ewood tomorrow. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon and new signing George McCartney are both out so the defensive organisation will fall to the inexperienced Anton Ferdinand as Sunderland try to halt this bad run.

Yesterday in Ireland, rumours abounded that Keane was unhappy at Sunderland and was close to resignation. Sunderland have since renounced this story as fictitious, But as people in Ireland can tell you, there's no smoke without fire, especially where Keane is concerned.


Blackburn 11/10 Draw 23/10 Sunderland 5/2

Fulham v. Spurs

Both sides go into this match with full strength squads to choose from. Harry Redknapp will have to make a call on Heurelho Gomes sooner or later and he might just survive to play at Craven Cottage.

Fulham are looking to complete three successive home wins for the first time in three seasons, and have only lost once in Craven Cottage this year.

Spurs are currently the form team in the league with 10 pts from the last 12. A victory would see them enter the top half of the table for the first time this season. And with Darren Bent leading the scoring charts with 11 goals, Spurs know a victory is a real possibility.


Fulham 12/5 Draw 12/5 Tottenham 11/10

Newcastle v. Wigan

Newcastle will have to make do without Steven Taylor as he has not yet recovered from his groin injury. Viduka and Owen have returned to training recently but are still well short of match fitness, Owen should make the bench though.

After Wednesday's humiliating defeat to Arsenal, Wigan will be eager to bounce back. Heskey is rated as 50/50, but he will feature. Kirkland is also trying to shake off a back injury and will undergo a fitness test just before the match.

It's a must win match for the Magpies as a defeat mixed with good results for rivals could see a gap develop at the bottom.

Steve Bruce looked awestruck and furious in equal measure after the crushing defeat to Arsenal and he will have much to do if he is to pick up his team for this visit to St. James'.


Newcastle 11/10 Draw 23/10 Wigan 5/2

West Ham v. Portsmouth

A beleaguered Gianfranco Zola will lead West Ham into action against Tony Adams' Portsmouth at Upton Park. On a run of six games without a win, a loss would consign the Hammers to the lower reaches and place unwanted pressure on the Italian's shoulders.

Zola will be buoyed by the return of three key players (Behrami, Tomkins, and Cole) as he strives to end this losing streak. West Ham notoriously switch off in the last 15 minutes of games and have conceded eight late goals so far this term while Portsmouth won their first match under Tony Adams in injury time last week.

Portsmouth will have to shuffle their defence as Sol Campbell is out with a suspected broken toe, Younes Kaboul should deputise.

As mentioned above, Portsmouth won last time out, thanks to a Jermain Defoe penalty in injury time. Adams is searching for his first back-to-back win after gaining his first win as a manager.


West Ham 6/4 Draw 23/10 Portsmouth 9/5

Manchester United v. Stoke

Alex Ferguson celebrates his 50th year in the professional game this week, a week after his 22nd anniversary in charge of United, a week after a demoralising defeat to Arsenal.

United are odds on to beat Stoke today, after resting half the first team against an unlucky Q.P.R. on Wednesday, Ferguson will have his team fired up for this match, less than full points is not an option.

Rooney will have a late medical check with the club doctor to see if he has recovered sufficiently from a chest infection. With Rooney in contention, Utd have a full squad to choose from, and the only real question will be if Ferguson decides to give Tevez a start.

Stoke have caused more problems for the leading lights of the Premier League than they have for teams in the lower reaches. Their physical approach has caused problems for Liverpool and Arsenal recently and Ferguson will be wary of the dangers Stoke provide.

Stoke travel to the cauldron of Old Trafford in search of their first ever away win in the Premier League. While United have not lost back to back games in over three years.

And with bookmakers giving Stoke a staggering odds of 22 to 1 to win at Old Trafford, they will have to pull out all the stops to get a result.


Man Utd 1/7 Draw 6/1 Stoke 22/1

West Brom v. Chelsea

Barring Neil Clement, West Brom have a full squad to choose from as they welcome the league leaders to the Hawthorns.

Ashley Cole and Michael Ballack made a welcome return to training during the week and should feature on the bench as Chelsea look to get back on track after a surprise defeat to Burnley midweek.

Chelsea are the most clinical disposers of lower opposition in the league after accumulating six wins from six against them so far this season. And with West Brom propping the table at the moment a result looks a tough prospect.


West Brom 9/1 Draw 15/4 Chelsea 1/3

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