Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide: All Eyes on Anfield

Richard MorganContributor IApril 10, 2014

Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide: All Eyes on Anfield

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    With just a handful of games left to play in this ever-intriguing and always-unpredictable Premier League season, things are really starting to hot up and any mistakes could prove costly.

    And so, as we enter week 34 of the campaign, there are some truly monumental fixtures taking place at both ends of the table, with none more significant than the clash between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.

Crystal Palace vs. Aston Villa

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    Where: Selhurst Park

    When: Saturday 12 April, 15:07 p.m. GMT

    This is a meeting between two sides locked together on 34 points, so the winner of this contest will all but secure their Premier League survival this weekend.

     

    Form

    The home side have never lost to Villa at Selhurst Park since the Premier League began, with the visitors winning just one of their eight matches against the Eagles in that same time.

     

    Key battles

    This looks like being a game of few chances in which either a mistake or a moment of individual brilliance will be the difference between two evenly matched teams.

    It will be interesting to see how Villa’s fast-paced front men fare against a Palace back four that have been notoriously hard to breach at Selhurst Park since Tony Pulis took charge earlier in the campaign.

     

    Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Aston Villa

    Spoils shared in the capital in a result that will suit both parties in their bid to avoid the drop.

Fulham vs. Norwich City

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    Where: Craven Cottage

    When: Saturday 12 April, 15:07 p.m. GMT

    This relegation six-pointer by the Thames carries huge significance for both sides, and it will almost certainly spell the end of the top-flight road for the loser.

     

    Form

    The Cottagers will be hugely confident of making it back-to-back league wins against a team that they have never tasted defeat against in the history of the Premier League. Norwich have lost on all three of their previous Premier League visits to Craven Cottage, conceding 13 goals in the process.

     

    Key battles

    New Norwich boss Neil Adams will surely set his men up to play on the counter-attack at Craven Cottage in what is his first match in charge of the club, as the visitors go in search of the three points that will all but guarantee their Premier League survival for another season.

    However, for Felix Magath and his team, it is a case of win or bust this weekend. Expect the West Londoners to play a fast-paced pressing game right from the off, as they look to get the win that would move them to within just two points of their opponents.

     

    Prediction: Fulham 2-0 Norwich City

    The Cottagers keep their slim hopes of avoiding the drop alive by overpowering their listless visitors with a display of impressive attacking football in the capital.

Southampton vs. Cardiff City

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    Where: St Mary’s

    When: Saturday 12 April, 15:07 p.m. GMT                   

    It really is a case of now or never for the Bluebirds if they are to avoid being relegated straight back to the Championship.

     

    Form

    The Saints have not lost at home to Cardiff since 1962—a run comprising 13 matches—and will be confident of repeating the convincing win they recorded over their opponents at the Cardiff City Stadium on Boxing Day, when the home side failed to register a single shot on goal.

     

    Key battles

    The visitors have been leaking goals for fun of late, especially on the road, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team are going to need yet another man-of-the-match display from goalkeeper David Marshall, huge doses of luck and some quality up front on the rare occasions they are able to attack their opponents in order to cause an upset at St Mary’s.

     

    Prediction: Southampton 3-0 Cardiff City

    Mauricio Pochettino’s men may have lost 4-1 at Manchester City last time out, but they have been desperately hard to get the better of at home this season and will surely have too much quality up front for the struggling Bluebirds on Saturday afternoon.

Stoke City vs. Newcastle United

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    Where: The Britannia Stadium

    When: Saturday 12 April, 15:07 p.m. GMT

    The Potters can close to within just three points of their out-of-form opponents in ninth with a win on Saturday, so there is still much to play for in this mid-table clash.

     

    Form

    The Magpies have won four of their last five contests against Stoke, although they will need to keep a close eye on the home team’s in-form striker Peter Odemwingie, who has netted four goals in his last five appearances against Alan Pardew’s men.

     

    Key battles

    As always when you travel to the Potteries, the visitors’ back line will need to withstand the physical threat that Stoke possess when going forward, although it would be entirely wrong to classify Mark Hughes’ team as simple long-ball merchants.

    Under the Welshman, Stoke have developed the attacking side of their game and, against opposition who have been shipping goals for fun recently, will be expecting to dominate this contest.

     

    Prediction: Stoke City 2-1 Newcastle

    Stoke maintain their impressive form at the Britannia this campaign with a hard-fought and well-deserved win against a Newcastle team that already have one foot on the beach for their summer holidays.

Sunderland vs. Everton

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    Where: The Stadium of Light

    When: Saturday 12 April, 15:07 p.m. GMT

    Two teams in vastly contrasting form chasing hugely different prizes come the end of the season go head-to-head on Wearside this weekend.

     

    Form

    The Black Cats have won their previous two encounters against the Toffees, but after Monday night’s 5-1 mauling at Tottenham Hotspur, a repeat of their 1-0 Boxing Day victory at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon would be even more surprising against the visitors, who have won their last six Premier League games.

     

    Key battles

    Roberto Martinez seems to have so many different attacking options at his disposal at present, with a team that is also set up perfectly to play away from home on the counter-attack.

    The hosts will be forced to push players forward in the search for goals, which is likely to play straight into the hands of the Merseysiders.

     

    Prediction: Sunderland 0-2 Everton

    Powerful Belgium international Romelu Lukaku continues to grow his already reputation by single-handedly destroying the home side’s back four at the Stadium of Light.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Where: The Hawthorns

    When: Saturday 12 April, 15:07 p.m. GMT

    With each side in desperate need of the points at different ends of the table, this has the makings of an attractive contest between two teams who both like to play a passing game.

     

    Form

    The Baggies are yet to win at home under new coach Pepe Mel and have drawn five of his six home games in charge 1-1. This weekend, they face a team have never beaten in the Premier League who are going into the game off the back of an impressive 5-1 victory over Sunderland.

     

    Key battles

    The struggling West Midlanders need to avoid chasing the game, as they have been forced to do in almost every fixture since the former Real Betis manager took charge of the club.

    However, if West Brom can somehow get their noses in front against the North Londoners, then perhaps that elusive first win at the Hawthorns under Mel will be theirs, although they must also be mindful of the visitors’ potency on the break.

     

    Prediction: West Brom 1-2 Tottenham

    In the shape of Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen, Spurs have just too much quality for their opponents in the attacking areas.

Liverpool vs. Manchester City

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    Where: Anfield

    When: Sunday 13 April, 13:37 p.m. GMT

    First plays host to third on Merseyside this weekend, in what is being billed by many as a title decider.

     

    Form

    The Reds are the most in-form team in the Premier League, having won their last nine top-flight encounters and have yet to be beaten in the league during 2014.

    And with the home side having also won all four previous games against fellow top-four opponents at Anfield so far this season, they will be confident of getting the better of a City team that have only ever won once at Liverpool in 16 previous Premier League meetings.

     

    Key battles

    The Reds are well known for the fast starts they like to make at home, although Brendan Rodgers will be conscious of not wanting to overcommit in the early exchanges against visitors who have the attacking players capable of exploiting any gaps the opposition may leave in front of their back four.

    In the end, the match may very well come down to just how well the City defence are able to cope with the threat of Liverpool strikers Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

     

    Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City

    All square as City manage to leave Anfield after a smash-and-grab job that now leaves the destiny of the title in their hands.

Swansea City vs. Chelsea

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    Where: The Liberty Stadium

    When: Sunday 13 April, 16:07 p.m. GMT

    The struggling Swans are desperate for points in order to secure their Premier League survival, while the Blues are themselves in equally urgent need of a win to keep their dreams of the title alive.

     

    Form

    The South Wales side have been in good form at the Liberty Stadium of late, winning three of their last five home encounters without conceding, and losing just once.

    However, the hosts are facing a Chelsea side that are unbeaten in their previous five league meetings with Swansea, three of which they have won.

     

    Key battles

    The West London club have been exposed defensively on the road by the likes of Newcastle United, Stoke City, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace so far this campaign, while they have also found scoring a problem too in those shock reverses.

    If Swansea can somehow manage to restrict their visitors’ attacking forays to a minimum and create the type of openings for in-form striker Wilfried Bony that they have been doing at the Liberty in recent weeks, there could be yet more away-day blues on the cards for Jose Mourinho's men.

     

    Prediction: Swansea 2-2 Chelsea

    The Swans take advantage of catching the Blues in a post-Champions League hangover to grab a point in this four-goal thriller, edging ever closer to safety, while at the same time damaging their opponents’ already fading Premier League title hopes.