Premier League Sunday preview: A not-so-super Sunday?

In the TV revenue-generated world that is the English Premier League, Sundays are usually reserved for the self-proclaimed ‘big games’. With international football on the agenda next week, though, and European football in midweek, this week’s fixtures are – at first sight at least – nothing to get all that excited about.

This week’s not-so-super Sunday sees a struggling London team face the most impressive London so far this season, two of the worst teams in the league come head-to-head and two of the lowest scoring teams this season attempt to, in all probability, out-clean sheet each other.
But, of course, this is the highest level of English football. There are always stories set to unfold, always something of interest even to the most neutral of viewers.
Tottenham are one of the most in-form teams in the league. The addition of Scott Parker to the side has been key: with him in the team, Harry Redknapp’s team haven’t lost a game. Redknapp will not be on the touchline this weekend due to a minor heart operation but a former-Spurs boss will be hoping to get one over his old employers.
Martin Jol left Tottenham in 2007 and has made an impressive start at Fulham. The Cottagers’ task will be difficult, though, as Fulham have won just two of their last 22 London derbies, one of which was the 6-0 drubbing of QPR a couple of weeks ago.
The match also sees two of the most in-form players in the league face-off, albeit not directly. Rafael Van der Vaart has scored six goals in five league games while Fulham’s Andy Johnson has struck eight in eight, including a stunning volley against Wisła Kraków in midweek.
The European adventures of the two teams could play an important role in the outcome of this game: while Fulham fielded a strong side, Tottenham effectively played their second string against Rubin Kazan. One would think, though, that even without the added fitness, Tottenham would have enough to overcome a side who have won just two of their last six league games.
In the day’s lunchtime kick-off, table-propping Wigan travel to Wolves looking to end the run of seven league losses. Similarly, Wolves have not won in eight games and have conceded at least two in each of their last seven games.
Wigan are struggling to score goals, with just three players off the mark in the league this season and having only scored one goal away from home in five games combined. Last season’s joint top goalscorer Hugo Rodallega is yet to score this term.
With Gary Caldwell suspended it is expected that Maynor Figueroa will come into central defence with Patrick van Aanholt at left-back. James McCarthy may return to the Latics’ midfield with Mohamed Diame a doubt. For Wolves, Matt Jarvis should return after being dropped against Manchester City.
Bolton are also in dire form and manager Owen Coyle has come under severe pressure in recent weeks. Their squad is depleted somewhat, with no fewer than seven first-eleven contenders out injured. Bolton will be hoping to pick up their first away point of the season and stop the rot that has seen them concede 27 league goals already in 2011/12.
Stoke’s away form, though, is something of a worry as they travel to the Reebok having lost their last three away league games. They’ve conceded nine and scored just one in those games. Their case isn’t helped by the fact that Tony Pulis’ side travelled to Israel in midweek for the Europa League after Monday’s league game against Newcastle and they have generally struggled on weekends after European games: losing all three post-Europa League games so far. They should, though, be strong enough to force their way past a disappointing Bolton side.

Premier League round-up: Matchday 33

Picture from Who Ate All The Pies 
The Premier League title race might be all but over but the relegation battle certainly is not. An error-strewn Blackpoolperformance has left Ian Holloway’s side in the relegation zone, with Wigan leaping above The Tangerines after a comprehensive 3-1 victory. Roberto Martinez described the win as a “huge victory” and praised his side for controlling the game and continuing to heap pressure on the sides around them. The Latics pressured Blackpool early on and, within three minutes, Hugo Rodallega gave them the lead, capitalising on a lazy Craig Cathcart pass in the middle of the pitch.

The early goal seemed to unsettle the hosts and, just before half-time, Wigan extended their lead, Charles N’Zogbia finishing off an unchallenged run to slot home. The game was finished as a contest by the 66th minute, Diame’s shot going in off Neal Eardley, although DJ Campbell did get a goal back for Blackpool late on.
Wigan are now just above the relegation zone on thirty-four points, with Blackpool below them on thirty-three. Just eight points separates bottom-placed Wolves and Aston Villa, who sit in ninth after a late Gabriel Agbonlahor header gave them victory over struggling West Ham. The Hammers had got off to the perfect start as Robbie Keane gave them the lead after two minutes, but Darren Bent equalised for Gerard Houiller’s side before half-time with a simple header, before Agbonlahor scored from three yards out to ease fears of relegation.
Villa’s local rivals, Birmingham, also recorded a victory, beating out-of-form Sunderland2-0 at St Andrews. Sebastien Larsson gave The Blues the lead and Craig Gardner scored a fine volley midway through the second half, but Sunderland did have their chances; Asamoah Gyan and Lee Cattermole both forced saves from Ben Foster, while Jordan Henderson and Sessegnonalso went close. Sunderland have struggled since Darren Bent left for Villa in January but they have also suffered from injuries, which has clearly knocked the confidence of the Black Cats.
In contrast to Sunderland’s poor run of form, Everton, who had a shocking start to the season, continued their rise up the table with a 2-0 win against a hapless Blackburn. In-form Leon Osman put the Merseysiders in front just after half-time and Leighton Baines smashed home a penalty with fifteen minutes left after Rovers defender Paul Jones brought down Seamus Coleman in the area.
Blackburn rarely threatened, although Pedersen should have scored late on for Steve Kean’s side, who are now just two points above the relegation zone, from six yards out. Everton are now 7th, six points off a Europa League spot.
West Brom have been revitalised under manager Roy Hodgson but The Baggies suffered their first defeat under the former-Liverpool and Blackburn man as Chelsea kept their slip title hopes alive. Peter Odemwingie gave West Brom the dream start with a tidy finish after seventeen minutes, but poor goalkeeping from Scott Carson allowed The Blues back into the game. First, Didier Drogba profited, smashing home from close range and, just four minutes later, Kalou neatly finished to give Carlo Ancelotti’s side the lead.
Foster did redeem himself somewhat with a great save from a Frank Lampard freekick but the midfielder was not to be denied his tenth goal of the season, finishing off well after a splendid solo run from Florent Malouda. Chelsea did hit the bar late on and Fernando Torres had a goal ruled out for offside but the points were in the bag; they are now eight points behind leaders Manchester United. West Brom are 11th, six points above the drop zone and surely safe.
On Sunday, Arsenal and Liverpool both left it late to register a goal each. Robin Van Persie fired home a penalty after Jay Spearing had fouled Cesc Fabregas in the box in the eighth minute of injury-time, surely securing the win for The Gunners. Three points would have kept Arsenal’s slim title hopes alive but, after Emmanuel Eboue clumsily fouled Lucas in Arsenal’s penalty area, Dirk Kuyt smashed in the penalty to equalise in the twelfth minute of added-on time.
Matchday 33 results: Birmingham 2-0 Sunderland; Blackpool 1-3 Wigan; Everton 2-0 Blackburn; West Brom 1-3 Chelsea; West Ham 1-2 Aston Villa; Arsenal-Liverpool
(Manchester United face Newcastle on Tuesday night, with ChelseaBirmingham and TottenhamArsenal the following night. Manchester City defeated local rivals United 1-0 on Saturday in the FA Cup, with Stoke thrashing Bolton 5-0 in the other semi-final.)
Matchday 34 fixtures: Manchester United-Everton; Aston Villa-Stoke; Blackpool-Newcastle; Liverpool-Birmingham; Sunderland-Wigan; Tottenham-West Brom; Wolves-Fulham; Chelsea-West Ham; Bolton-Arsenal; Blackburn-Manchester City.
This article originally appeared on Sports Haze.