Every weekend of the Premier League can't be great.
Matchday 28 doesn't feature a vast array of mouth-watering fixtures. Most of the matches feature mid-table clubs battling to see who will stay closer to the middle of the table.
That's not to say that the week is bereft of any intriguing matchups.
Here's a list of this weekend's fixtures.
|Time (ET)||Time (GMT)||Home||Away|
|Saturday, March 1|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Everton||West Ham|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Fulham||Chelsea|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Hull City||Newcastle|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Stoke City||Arsenal|
|12:30 p.m.||5:30 p.m.||Southampton||Liverpool|
|Sunday, March 2|
|11:30 a.m.||4:30 p.m.||Swansea||Crystal Palace|
|11:30 a.m.||4:30 p.m.||Tottenham Hotspur||Cardiff City|
|11:30 a.m.||4:30 p.m.||Aston Villa||Norwich|
These four matches could prove pivotal for one or both of the clubs involved in terms of where they finish at the end of the season.
Matches to Watch
Fulham vs. Chelsea
This is a great test for Felix Magath. The 60-year-old German left no friends in the Bundesliga on account of his rather unusual training methods. There's also the issue of bringing in a new manager with no Premier League experience to a club mired in a relegation battle.
Jose Mourinho, likely trying to stroke Magath's ego, called him one of the best managers in the league, per Chelsea's Twitter account:
Jose: 'I don't know Magath's training methods, I just know his CV, and that's one of the best of the managers in the Premier League.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) February 28, 2014
Beating Chelsea wouldn't mean that Fulham will avoid the drop, nor would it prove that Magath is the man to take the club forward. Taking at least a point would be an encouraging sign, though, for a group of supporters who need a lifeline.
A loss would keep the Cottagers anchored to the bottom of the table.
Chelsea need these three points. Any time they fail to win, they open the door for either Arsenal or Manchester City to take the top spot in the table. The Blues obviously won't win every match from here on out, but playing the last-placed team in the league should be a win and any points dropped here would have to be made up somewhere else.
Southampton vs. Liverpool
Tottenham's loss to Norwich last week was huge for Liverpool, as it opened up a six-point gap in the race for fourth. For a while, it seemed merely a formality that the Reds would qualify for the Champions League, yet Spurs were only three points back. Liverpool can't turn around and give that cushion right back after only a week.
There's also the title race. While the Reds only have an outside shot to jump ahead of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, that's still a chance.
Brendan Rodgers knows how important it is to win these kinds of matches, telling LiverpoolFC.com, "We have to keep working and working well. We have another game to go in our small block of targets and we aim to get a good result."
This won't be an easy match for Liverpool. Southampton went into Anfield earlier in the season and won 1-0. The Reds have 19 out of a possible 39 points away from home, good for only sixth in the league. Their margin for error in the title race is razor-thin, so failing to win this match could have major implications.
Stoke City vs. Arsenal
Arsenal are winless in their last three trips to the Britannia Stadium, drawing two and losing one. Although Stoke City are 15th in the table, they present a tough test for the Gunners.
Mark Hughes told the Potters' official website that there isn't any sort of fear factor heading into this match:
This game doesn’t hold any fears for us, because we have come up against other so called stronger teams in the league and performed really well, especially at home.
We are really looking forward to the game to be perfectly honest, and there is absolutely no apprehension in terms of our attitude to the game.
It’s all about going out there, doing the right things and then hopefully being rewarded with all three points – that is the aim.
Arsene Wenger-coached teams play one style of football very well. The problem is when opposing teams make that style ineffective, Wenger has no Plan B. If Stoke sit deep and plug up the midfield, they could easily keep this to a draw.
You expect the bottom to fall out for Arsenal. So many times before around this time in a season, one bad result turns into two bad results, which turns into three bad results and then it's another trophyless season at the Emirates.
Advancement in the Champions League looks to be out the window after a 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the first leg of the round of 16. This match could have the same effect on the Gunners' title challenge if they end up dropping points.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Cardiff City
Speaking of the bottom falling out, whatever honeymoon period Tim Sherwood experienced at White Hart Lane is already over. His tactical naivety was an issue from day one, but Harry Redknapp demonstrated that one doesn't need to understand Jonathan Wilson's seminal Inverting the Pyramid to run a football club.
However, Sherwood seems to be of two minds, as ESPN FC's Dan Fitch writes:
Sherwood seems out of his depth. He started the job bullishly with an attacking 4-4-2, featuring Christian Eriksen's talents in midfield, but seems to have completely abandoned this philosophy. It's been one up front for weeks now, which is fine as long as the right players are picked to support the striker. Against Norwich, the team Sherwood picked was just as defensive a lineup as any side that AVB picked.
Sherwood's philosophy also seems to have changed in regards to the use of holding midfielders. He was outspoken in his belief that it was not necessary to play with one, yet he has started Etienne Capoue in the last three games, in what has looked suspiciously like a holding midfielder role.
Even though they were only three points behind Liverpool, many dismissed Spurs' top-four chances. Now that they've opened up the gap to six points by virtue of that loss to Norwich, the end seems nigh for Tottenham.
However, Liverpool face a stern test against Southampton, so there's a good chance that they end up taking only a point at best there. Getting back to within three or four points of the Reds would be a nice boost for Sherwood.