EPL Survival Sunday: Game-by-Game Team News

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIMay 12, 2012

EPL Survival Sunday: Game-by-Game Team News

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    Sunday is the type of day that true football aficionados dream about: all 20 English Premier League teams fighting for survival, the Champions League and even the title at the exact same time.

    Many eyes will be fixed on Manchester City's and Manchester United's results to see who finishes first, but the efforts of QPR and Bolton to avoid the drop will be almost as equally riveting.

    The race for the Champions League is as hot as can be, with Arsenal and Tottenham fighting for third place, which could be massive if Chelsea are to win the Champions League next weekend.

    With everything on the line, here is what you need to know about each fixture tomorrow.

Everton vs. Newcastle

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    An Everton victory here would guarantee the Toffees a finish above fierce rivals Liverpool, while the right set of circumstances would potentially thrust Newcastle into the Champions League next season.

    If the Magpies win, Arsenal lose and Tottenham draw, they will unbelievably finish third and potentially snatch the last CL spot from the big boys.

    Leighton Baines should return for Everton after a month out, while David Moyes will be hoping that Phil Neville and Darron Gibson pass late fitness tests and return in some capacity.

    Newcastle have slightly less to worry about, with Danny Simpson a long-term absentee and Leon Best unable to travel due to a thigh strain.

Wigan vs. Wolves

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    Fans who want to see an exciting fixture with everything on the line will be disappointed by this one—both Wigan and Wolves have nothing left to play for this season.

    Wolves have already been mathematically relegated and assured of last place, while Wigan confirmed their Premier League survival last week with an exciting win over Blackburn, which coincidentally saw Rovers relegated.

    The Latics do not have any official injury concerns for this victory lap in front of their home fans, while snake-bit Wolves will have to do without Wayne Hennessey, Jamie O'Hara and Jody Craddock.

    Michael Kightly, Christophe Berra, Kevin Foley, Matt Jarvis and Sebastien Bassong are all major doubts as well.

Chelsea vs. Blackburn Rovers

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    This is another match where little is at stake for either side except pride.

    Chelsea are locked into their lowly sixth-place spot and will surely rest almost all of their first-team players to prepare for the Champions League final next weekend, minus the prospect of even Europa League football to fall back on.

    Blackburn is, well, Blackburn. Thoroughly awful all season, Rovers were run out of their own stadium last week with their official relegation coming at the hands of Wigan and at the wings of a chicken.

    Chelsea supporters will be eager to cheer their boys on ahead of the game that everyone wants to see next weekend, but they surely will not be able to see David Luiz, Gary Cahill or John Obi Mikel due to injury concerns.

    Blackburn, meanwhile, will be without Paul Robinson, David Dunn and Bradley Orr.

Swansea vs. Liverpool

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    Swansea have little to play for here except the adoration of their fans after exceeding expectations and finishing mid-table, but Liverpool will desperately want to pip Everton for seventh place on the final day.

    The Swans are the type of team that can trouble Liverpool's somewhat leaky defence with their sometimes stunning, flowing play and movement.

    However, the Reds will be determined to hold firm for the sake of their own pride.

    Brendan Rogers has only old injury concerns to worry about. Angel Rangel and Leon Britton have recently returned, but Kemy Agustien and Ferrie Bodde are still out with long-term concerns.

    Kenny Dalglish may not want to risk captain Steven Gerrard in a game that is not critical to anything, and Jose Enrique will face a late fitness test.

Norwich vs. Aston Villa

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    Buoyed by their spectacular draw against Arsenal last weekend, Norwich will look to finish with a bang in front of their loving fans at Carrow Road.

    Aston Villa, on the other hand, will be relieved that they do not have to appear in front of their Villa Park fans due to the dismal home performances they have turned in for Alex McLeish this season.

    Both will be keen to end the season on a high note, but the Canaries certainly look more likely to do so.

    Veteran defender Adam Drury is doubtful for Norwich, while Daniel Ayala and Marc Tierney remain injured. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey both face a fight to be fit for Villa, while Marc Albrighton, Darren Bent, Alan Hutton and Andreas Weimann are all out.

Stoke vs. Bolton

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    Stoke do not ostensibly have anything to play for tomorrow, but Bolton will be fighting for their Premier League lives at the Britannia.

    Only a win will do for Owen Coyle's side, who need a victory and a QPR loss against Manchester City to keep themselves in the Prem for another season.

    Unfortunately for Bolton, they will have to grind out their victory against one of the hardest sides to break down in England, while sealing their leaky defence.

    Nigel Reo-Coker and Mark Davies are question marks, as is Darren Pratley. Surprisingly, Lee Chung-Yong made a return from the substitutes bench last weekend and could play a part again, but Gretar Steinsson and David Wheater are both out.

    For Stoke, Marc Wilson will have to pass a late fitness test, and Andy Wilkinson and Jermaine Pennant should both return.

Tottenham vs. Fulham

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    For Tottenham, it is do or die if they want to both guarantee themselves a Champions League position next season and finish above hated rivals Arsenal.

    Only a win would give Spurs any realistic chance of doing so, although a draw could potentially push them into third place if Arsenal lose by more than one goal at the Hawthorns.

    Fulham are in great form to close the season, however, and Martin Jol will be motivated to bury his former side at White Hart Lane. In so doing, Fulham will set a club record for the most points in a single season.

    Tottenham received a major boost with the news that 23-goal striker Clint Dempsey will be absent for the Cottagers as well as the dynamic Bryan Ruiz, but Spurs will likely be missing their own midfield maestro, Scott Parker, due to an Achilles injury.

    Danny Rose is suspended, Benoit Assou-Ekotto has a shoulder problem and Ledley King might not make the team due to his recurring knee problem.

Arsenal vs. West Brom

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    Just win, baby.

    That is all that Arsenal have to do in order to complete their remarkable turnaround this season and guarantee Arsene Wenger a 15th consecutive season in the Champions League.

    On paper, the Gunners should be able to beat West Brom, but The Hawthorns is never a nice place for visitors, and Roy Hodgson will want to bow out in style before taking the helm of England this summer.

    Due to visible fatigue, Arsenal have been quite mediocre recently, drawing three consecutive matches and winning only once in their last five games.

    Contrary to numerous reports, Wojciech Szczesny is fit and ready to go, while Theo Walcott will face a late fitness test. Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta are both out.

    For the Baggies, Peter Odemwingie is fit again, which will not please Arsenal in the slightest, but Jerome Thomas is doubtful.

Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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    You have to admit that it would not be that surprising if Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off another remarkable comeback and somehow walked away with the Premier League title on the final day.

    The Red Devils will need some major luck, though, with only a Manchester City draw or loss against lowly QPR able to open the door for a minor miracle.

    Unfortunately for United, they will have to do without Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck, so Phil Jones will have to start alongside Rio Ferdinand.

    For Sunderland, Titus Bramble should receive his first start back from injury after making the bench against Fulham last week, but Kieran Richardson, Sebastian Larsson and Wes Brown will all miss out.

Manchester City vs. QPR

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    The stage is set. The trophy is polished. The ribbons are just waiting to be attached.

    But can Manchester City finally seal the deal at home and win their first league title since 1968?

    To the Citizens' relief, they hold their destiny in their own hands. Beat QPR, who are languishing in 17th place, and Vincent Kompany will be able to hoist the Premier League trophy over his head in one of the most incredible late-season comebacks in recent memory.

    We should not forget, though, that the threat of relegation can do funny things to teams, and it would only take a draw for QPR to clinch their survival that City are so desperate to win. If Mark Hughes' side can snatch an early goal, "parking the bus" will not even come close to describing how ferociously the Hoops will defend.

    It's almost unfair, given the depth that Roberto Mancini has at his disposal, that City have no injury problems—but champions are lucky that way. QPR will have to be without Samba Diakite, captain Shaun Derry and Akos Buzsaky.

    It's squeaky bum time, Roberto, but can you push your side over the Fergie-sized mountain?