Welcome to the latest edition of the ?Friday Feature’. The intensity of the action nears boiling point, but this is one of the more relaxed weekends as there are no European engagements. Both the top and the bottom teams will fight it out for their own gains, and as always we should get to see some exhilarating football!
Aston Villa vs West Ham United: Saturday 18th April, 3 PM
Prediction: Both teams come from a disappointing weekend, and will look to secure their position in the league. After last week’s hard fought 3-3 home draw to Everton, Aston Villa are just one point ahead of the Merseyside team, falling further off the pace of the top four. West Ham also suffered a surprise defeat at struggling Tottenham. This should be an evenly balanced match. Aston Villa will have the home advantage.
John Carew (Aston Villa): Aston Villa face a severe attacking crisis with all top strikers apart from this man injured. He’s been on an impressive run of form, and should play a key role.
Mark Noble (West Ham): With striker Carlton Cole injured, the English youngster will have an important role to play.
Middlesbrough vs Fulham: Saturday 18th April, 3 PM
Prediction: Both teams come off impressive 3-1 victories, Middlesbrough trying to avoid relegation and Fulham trying to secure a top 8 finish. With both teams eager to secure favourable results, this should be another keenly contested match.
Marlon King (Middlesbrough): If Middlesbrough are to win this match, the veteran striker will need to fire for them. He has been somewhat inconsistent this season, but gave a strong performance in the last match.
Danny Murphy (Fulham): One of Fulham’s most consistent performers this season, he can be banked upon to give a strong show, and hopefully come away with a goal.
Portsmouth vs Bolton Wanderers: Saturday 18th April, 3 PM
Prediction: The two teams are nearly even on points in the EPL points table, and both come off spirited performances. A special mention of Bolton’s spirited comeback at Stamford Bridge, nearly equalling Chelsea’s tally of 4 goals. And amazingly, a third evenly matched contest! J
Niko Kranjcar (Portsmouth): The Croatian midfielder has been another strong performer this season, specially at home. With a goal in the last match, his current form is also pretty good. His duel with the Bolton defence will be one to watch!
Kevin Davies (Bolton): The experienced Bolton captain lead from the front last weekend, with two assists in the inspirational performance against Chelsea. He’s one of the most dependable men in the team, almost guaranteed to do well.
Stoke City vs Blackburn Rovers: Saturday 18th April, 3 PM
Prediction: Another pair of evenly matched teams square off in this clash. Recent form and the home advantage will probably see Stoke safely through, especially considering the 4-0 drubbing Blackburn were subject to by Liverpool last week.
Ricardo Fuller (Stoke City): The Jamaican front man has been Stoke City’s top striker this season, often the beneficiary of the famous Delap long throws. Even though his goals have been intermittent, in the long run he’s a safe bet!
Benni McCarthy (Blackburn): The veteran striker will have an important role to play with the other regular strikers Roberts and Santa Cruz out injured. If Blackburn score, he’s very likely to be their man.
Sunderland vs Hull City: Saturday 18th April, 3 PM
Prediction: Both teams, uncomfortably close to the relegation zone, will be keen for a victory to secure their position and survival in the league. Sunderland come off a spirited performance against Manchester United, nearly taking the defending champs to the wire. They should manage the home victory here.
Steed Malbranque (Sunderland): The experienced midfielder who moved in from Tottenham last season hasn’t really been getting the goals at Sunderland, but still is one of their most valued midfielders with 9 assists this season. Watch out for him!
Geovanni (Hull City): With Bullard out injured and Ashbee suspended, much of the midfield responsibility falls on the dependable shoulders of Geovanni. Expect a good performance from him..
Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United: Sunday 19th April, 1.30 PM
Prediction: Tottenham are one of the top scorers in the league in their last five matches. Newcastle are one of the bottom. That really says it all, and the writing seems clear on the wall for relegation threatened Newcastle. Alan Shearer, the heart and soul of the Newcastle of his time, has returned to manage the team…let’s see if he can conjure up something special. But still, Tottenham should walk away with this one.
Roman Pavlyuchenko (Tottenham): The young Russian striker has made an impact whenever he has appeared. With Jermaine Defoe out injured, it’s likely that he’ll get a start, and also likely that he’ll score!
Damien Duff (Newcastle): The Irishman needs to come up with something inspirational for Newcastle to plough through the relegation crisis. And he’s likely to deliver!
Manchester City vs West Bromwich Albion: Sunday 19th April, 3 PM
Prediction: Both teams have been exceptionally poor over their last six games, with West Brom not even recording a single victory. Manchester City, though poor on the road, boast of a very strong home record. They should be clear victors in this tie, further sealing the fate of WBA, currently bottom of the points table.
Stephen Ireland (Manchester City): With Wright-Phillips doubtful due to an injury, the responsibility yet again falls on the young Irishman, who’s already scored 8 goals in the season (including one in the last match).
Robert Koren (West Brom): The Slovenian midfielder is one of the only performers for West Brom this season. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll even manage to score in Manchester, but if they do, he may have something to do with it.
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Tuesday 21st April, 8 PM
Prediction: It’s always a special occasion when any of the big four square off. This particular match holds a further charm, with the outcome of the premiership title race depending heavily on it. Liverpool come right from Champions League heartbreak, while Arsenal sit pretty with a semi final berth. The strength of Liverpool’s resolve, and their desire to hold the Premiership trophy will be tested in this clash of the titans.
Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool): The Dutchman has found the back of the net 8 times so far this season. In the gruelling battle against the young Arsenal midfield, he could have an important role to play.
Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal): Back from injury, Adebayor is looking good and going strong after seeing some Champions League action. The Togolese hit man could very well find the net this Tuesday.
Chelsea vs Everton: Wednesday 22nd April, 8 PM
Prediction: Even though Everton are a strong team, and on a decent run of form, no prizes for guessing the winner of this one. The home advantage, if not anything else, should see this one through for the former champions.
Nicholas Anelka (Chelsea): The Frenchman has finally done justice to his potential, being Chelsea’s top striker this season. Expect big things from him!
Joleon Lescott (Everton): Currently one of the top defenders in the league, he also has a knack of chipping in with the occasional strike. That’s the kind of mix Everton need in this difficult tie.
Manchester United vs Portsmouth: Wednesday 22nd April, 8 PM
Prediction: United have been wobbly of late, barely securing two victories after two shock losses. But they seem back in the groove, becoming the first ever English team to beat Porto in their own backyard, securing a Champions League semi final berth in the process. Also, with Rio Ferdinand back in the squad, the defensive worries seem to be a thing of the past. Portsmouth have a poor away record anyway, so this one should be a United victory. But ensuring it is important to keep the defending champions in the driver’s seat!!
Wayne Rooney (Man Utd): Wonder boy Rooney might not have found the net as often as he would’ve liked, but his strike potential is unquestionable. He’s as likely to score as anybody else on the squad!
Glen Johnson (Portsmouth): In this match, they’ll need to defend…and for that, Johnson’s their man!
This game week the big four play in midweek matches, primetime (8 PM) Tuesday and Wednesday. Plan accordingly!
Please note that Portsmouth play twice this game week, with Wigan not playing at all. If there are some Portsmouth players you trust will perform well, make sure they’re on your team!!
Your valued comments and suggestions for improvement are always welcome. Happy Fantasy!