Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2014

Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide

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    FA Cup quarter-finals disrupted this weekend's Premier League card, with Arsenal, Everton, Hull City, Manchester City and Sunderland among those targeting Wembley.

    That leaves Arsenal vs. Swansea, Liverpool vs. Sunderland, Manchester City vs. Aston Villa, Newcastle vs. Everton and West Ham vs. Hull City all postponed until a later date.

    Just five games remain, allowing teams to build up pressure on rivals by putting all-important points on the board.

    Here's a look ahead to the Premier League games still in tact.

     

    All statistics via WhoScored?

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United

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    Where: The Hawthorns

    When: Saturday, 8 March, 12:45 p.m. GMT

    West Brom kick off proceedings looking for a first double over Manchester United since the 1978/79 season.

    The Baggies recorded a memorable 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in September and are in dire need of the points. Sitting a place and a point above the relegation zone, Pepe Mel has yet to taste victory since taking over in January.

    United will return to the top six with a win and must look for a reaction after their dismal defeat at Olympiakos.

     

    Form

    Unsurprisingly, given their position, West Brom are on an awful run of form. Only two clubs have fared worse over the past six games, and they have just one win in their past 18 games.

    In league terms, Manchester United sit middle of the form table, taking a pair of wins, draws and defeats over their past six fixtures.

    The visitors will be encouraged by their record of 11 wins from 15 Premier League meetings with West Brom.

     

    Key Battles

    United must find far greater urgency in midfield than was shown in Greece, especially with West Brom likely to sit back and stay narrow.

    Youssouf Mulumbu will look to disrupt the pace and rhythm of Michael Carrick, who must keep his side moving at pace. Their individual battle will shape United's attacking production.

    The Baggies will also field enough attacking pace to threaten United on the break and the away side must find more consistency at the back.

     

    Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Manchester United

    The Manchester United of old would have roared back after such a demoralising setback in Greece.

    However, David Moyes is in charge of a different model and one that is still a long way from the finished product.

    The Baggies pose enough threat to keep themselves above the drop zone and prevent an instant Champions League remedy.

Norwich vs. Stoke City

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    Where: Carrow Road

    When: Saturday, 8 March, 3 p.m. GMT

    Norwich entertain Stoke City in a key game for the Canaries coming off a poor defeat against Aston Villa.

    Chris Hughton's side face a gruelling final stretch of the season and must take advantage of one of their less daunting ties.

    The Canaries sit four points above the relegation zone, two points and two places below Stoke, who can enter the top 10 with a win.

     

    Form

    Norwich took three points from their last home game against Tottenham to secure just a second win in 15 matches.

    Stoke have maintained average form in recent weeks, taking eight points from their past six games, including last weekend's impressive win over Arsenal.

    This season's reverse fixture was decided by a Jonny Howson strike.

     

    Key Battles

    Stoke are rarely adventurous enough to trouble sides on their travels.

    They will drop deep and welcome Norwich forward, leaving the pace and trickery of Robert Snodgrass, Nathan Redmond and Wes Hoolahan as pivotal for the hosts.

    Both sides tend to overload their right flank; therefore, clashes between Snodgrass and Erik Pieters, as well as Jonathan Walters and Martin Olsson, will be important.

     

    Prediction: Norwich 1-0 Stoke

    Norwich are a tough side to break down at home, currently on a run of four clean sheets at Carrow Road.

    The Potters will struggle to score and are the Premier League's poorest travellers, losing 10 of their 14 fixtures on the road this season. This should lead to another pressure-relieving home win for Hughton.

Crystal Palace vs. Southampton

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    Where: Selhurst Park

    When: Saturday, 8 March, 3 p.m. GMT

    Sixteenth-placed Crystal Palace entertain ninth-placed Southampton at Selhurst Park.

    Despite the Eagles' renaissance under Tony Pulis, the home side remain just three points and two places above the relegation zone.

    They will be targeting a win to take them to 30 points, while Southampton will look to maintain some consistent away form.

     

    Form

    Mauricio Pochettino's side have lost their last two fixtures, conceding six goals in the process. Overall, Saints have eight points from their past six but have won two of their last three games on the road.

    Palace are on a better run of form, taking 10 points from their past six games, including three home wins.

    Southampton won September's meeting 2-0 and have won four consecutive league ties with the Londoners.

     

    Key Battles

    This will be an interesting clash of styles as Palace's direct approach faces Southampton's energetic, high-tempo pressing.

    Two of the Premier League's more unfashionable yet effective midfielders square off, in Mile Jedinak and Morgan Schneiderlin.

    Their input will be pivotal, yet the potential clash of Tom Ince vs. either Luke Shaw or Calum Chambers will be most absorbing, as England's future lock horns.

     

    Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton

    Southampton have enough attacking quality to trouble the hosts and may benefit from Palace's greater inclination to attack, being at home.

    Their commitment on the break will expose Pulis' side enough to carve out the chances to win.

Cardiff vs. Fulham

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    Where: Cardiff City Stadium

    When: Saturday, 8 March, 3 p.m. GMT

    One of the most pivotal relegation scraps of the season is set for Cardiff, as bottom-placed Fulham travel to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's 19th-placed Bluebirds.

    The loser of what promises to be a tense, nervy contest faces the prospect of being cast adrift at the foot of the table, while the winner will drag several others back into trouble.

    Cardiff managed their sole away win of the season against Fulham in September, taking three points thanks to Jordon Mutch's late strike.

     

    Form

    The form guide reflects these sides' current positions as the Premier League's poorest squads.

    Fulham have just two points from six, the worst return in the division, and have only one win in 12 games.

    Cardiff fare marginally better, taking four points from six but have just a draw and three defeats from their past four games.

     

    Key Battles

    Craig Bellamy is becoming increasingly central to Cardiff's survival hopes. The hometown hero is integral to his side and will fancy his chances of exploiting John Arne Riise's declining powers at left-back.

    This game pits the Premier League's two weakest defences head-to-head, and each attack will want to take advantage of any hesitancy at the back.

    Elsewhere, Maarten Stekelenburg has been alarmingly error-prone for Fulham and must be tested as often as possible.

     

    Prediction: Cardiff 1-2 Fulham

    This will be a tense, cagey affair with so much at stake.

    These games are so often drawn and it's hard to see the sides separated over 90 minutes.

    However, the greater quality of Fulham's squad coupled with the extra anxiety of the home fans may just lead to an unexpected away win.

Chelsea vs. Tottenham

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    Where: Stamford Bridge

    When: Saturday, 8 March, 17:30 p.m. GMT

    The weekend's marquee fixture sees title-chasing Chelsea tackle a Tottenham side desperate to keep pace with the top four.

    Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City are all without a fixture, leaving both sides a chance to pile on the pressure.

    Spurs can close to within two points of a Champions League spot, while Chelsea can stretch their league lead to seven points.

     

    Form

    Both sides sit in the top six of the form guide.

    Chelsea have the second-best record over the past six games, unbeaten and winning four, while Spurs have ten points from the same period.

    September's reverse fixture was drawn 1-1 at White Hart Lane, as John Terry cancelled out Gylfi Sigurdsson's opener.

     

    Key Battles

    Chelsea have their main strength in attacking midfield, which will face arguably Spurs' weakest area on the pitch, in defensive midfield.

    The combination play of Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard will prove tough for Sandro and Paulinho to contain, given Spurs' often attacking mentality.

    Tim Sherwood may need to curb these instincts to better protect his back four. In Kyle Walker's likely absence, Kyle Naughton will have a tough afternoon one-on-one with Hazard.

     

    Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham

    Chelsea match up well against Spurs and will put more distance between themselves and the chasing pack with an important win.

    The Blues' exceptional quality in the attacking third will prove the difference.