Sat, Mar 9, 2:05am by Kevin Pitstock
Week 29 of the English Premier League features fixtures of the clubs who are not taking part in this week’s FA Cup competition. Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United are involved in the FA Cup, thus their week 29 fixtures have been postponed to a later date. Chelsea are the defending FA Cup holders and they face Manchester United at Old Trafford in this sixth round of the English competition.
Match week 29 of the English Premier League features reverse fixtures from match week 14. In the EPL game week 28, Manchester United continued to make a bold statement proclaiming the championship is theirs. United demolished and demoralized Norwich by a 4-nil margin. Shinji Kagawa recorded a hat trick. Wayne Rooney added a goal of his own and United remained twelve points above Manchester City. City recorded a 1-nil win over Aston Villa via a Carlos Tevez strike.
In other Premier League action from week 28, Tottenham maintained their third place standing, as they dropped Arsenal 2-1. Gareth Bale maintained his spectacular form, as he found the back of the net in the Spurs win over the Gunners. Fourth place Chelsea got the job done against WBA, defeating them 1-nil, whilst sixth place Everton kept pace with a 3-1 win of their own. Seventh place Liverpool benefitted from a three goal effort from Luis Suarez, as they thrashed Wigan 4-nil and Swansea (8th place) dumped Newcastle 1-nil.
Last place QPR stunned Southampton 2-1. Despite their win, QPR remain at the bottom of the table. However, they are three points below 19th place Reading. Villa have 24 points on the table in eighteenth place and are tied with Wigan on 24 points. Southampton are 16th on the table with 27 points, whilst Newcastle and Sunderland are on 30 points each. The race at the bottom is shaping up to be closer and perhaps more exciting than that of the top of the table. Every point counts at the bottom in an effort to remain in the top flight of English football.
Thirteenth place Norwich play host to Sixteenth place Southampton and neither side are yet safe from relegation. In week 14, these two sides played to a 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s Stadium, with Rickey Lambert scoring for the Saints and Ryan Snodgrass equalizing just before halftime for the Canaries.
These two sides last met in the Top Flight at Carrow Road in 2004, with Norwich emerging victorious by a 2-1 margin. In 4 top flight matches at Carrow Road, Norwich have won two, whilst Southampton has defeated Norwich once.
For Norwich, striker Kei Kamara (on loan from Sporting Kansas City of the MLS) is building a fine case for a start alongside Grant Holt. Goalkeeper John Ruddy is still rehabilitating his thigh injury and will not start for the Canaries.
Southampton’s Danny Fox and Adam Lallana are match day decisions, as they took knocks in the QPR match. Luke Shaw should return to the Starting XI.
Norwich have accumulated six points in their current four match home unbeaten run (three draws, followed by a win against Everton), whilst Southampton are winless in their last four road trips (2 losses, 2 draws). The Saints have scored twice in three of their last four away matches, whilst netting one goal against United at Old Trafford. Norwich, by comparison, have scored a mere three goals in their last four home matches. However, their stellar defence has kept them earning at least a point in the same timeframe.
This match is going to favour the home side if the score line remains low, whilst favouring the visitors if it turns into a goal fest. Ironically, Norwich have scored a mere sixteen goals across 14 home matches throughout this season, whilst the Saints have found the net 20 times on the road in 14 away matches. However, their defence has been horrible in their travels, as they have conceded a league high 23 goals away from home. Despite their seeming lack of interest in scoring in front of their home fans, Norwich have the edge in this match due to their defensive discipline and Southampton’s lack thereof.
QPR are riding the high of a shock win on the road against Southampton, whilst Sunderland are winless in their last five matches. Sunderland earned a 2-2 draw against Fulham, as they fought back from a 2-nil deficit via a Craig Gardner penalty strike and a 70th minute equalizer from Stephane Sessegnon.
Danny Rose and Matthew Kilgallon are ready to return to fitness for this match, though it is unlikely that either will play the full 90 minutes. In their earlier meeting at the Stadium of Light, these two sides battled to a nil-nil bore draw. A season earlier, Sunderland emerged victorious at Loftus Road by a 3-2 margin. In three top-flight meetings, Sunderland has not dropped a match to QPR.
QPR have played far more disciplined football under Harry Rednapp. However, Sunderland will benefit by the return to health of their regulars. To say QPR’s offense suffers from performance anxiety at home would be an understatement, as the Rangers have managed a league low eight goals in front of their home supporters this season. QPR may well have problems in this match. Look for the visitors to walk away with at least a point.
Both sides desperately need a win in order to save their top-flight status. In their initial meeting of the season at Villa Park, Christain Benteke bagged the winner late in the game, as Villa emerged victorious by a 1-nil margin. Villa have one win and three draws in their last six road games, whilst Reading have lost only one of their last six home matches (three wins, two draws, one loss). Their recent loss came against Wigan, losing by a 3-nil deficit. Overall, Reading have dropped three straight matches, whilst Villa are losers of their last two.
Of the two struggling sides, Reading have the edge in form, as they are playing at home. Additionally, Villa have a propensity to concede away from home, as they have allowed seventeen goals in their last five away games in the top flight. Look for Reading to capitalize on their home field advantage.
For the home side, Romelu Lukaku and Chris Brunt are expected to return to the starting XI and Goran Popov should be fit for the match after serving a three-match ban. Shane Long, however, is nursing an ankle injury and may not be fit to play.
For Swansea, they are without Chico Flores, who is nursing an ankle injury. In their only meeting in the top flight at the Hawthorns, Swansea emerged the 2-1 victors. In fact, in the three meetings of these two sides in the top flight, Swansea have won all three (including a 3-1 home win by Swansea earlier in the season).
Simply put, Swansea will have to score to win if they are to continue their unbeaten run against West Brom. The Swans have been shut out in six of their last seven away matches. For West Brom, they will have to keep the Swans quiet, especially in the closing 15 minutes, as more than 32% of the goals they have conceded this season have occurred in the closing 15.
In match week 14, these two sides battled and it was Stoke emerging victorious by a 2-1 margin. The match was played in the context of Stoke being a tough team at home and Newcastle amidst a severe slip in form. Fast forward to present and it is the Stoke side that is in the middle of a slip in form. They have lost six out of their last eight matches in the Premier League. Stoke have also struggled on the road as of late, as they have failed to score in five of their last road trips. Newcastle are winners in each of their last two played at home.
For Newcastle, manager Alan Pardew believes Papiss Cissé will bounce back from a mid-week illness. However, he will be without net-minder Tim Krul and Captain Fabricio Coloccini.
These two sides are playing spectacular football and this match looks to be the most exciting of the week. Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez are both on a scoring frenzy, as Suarez netted a hat trick last week in Liverpool’s 4-nil win and Bale has scored in five straight Premier League matches. Suarez leads the league with 21 goals on the season. Bale is on 16 goals for the season (third highest in the league) and in their last meeting, Bale was on both sides of the score sheet, as he scored one and was credited with an own goal in Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Liverpool have combined total of 24-nil in their last six league wins and six of their last eight matches at home have been with clean sheets.
Look for Suarez to score for the home side. Tottenham are without Aaron Lennon, who injured his hamstring during their mid-week clash with Inter Milan in the Europa League. Emmanuel Adebayor has overcome his knee injury and should be available. However, Clint Dempsey, Tom Huddlestone, Younes Kaboul, and Sandro are all “out” for Tottenham.
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