Everton 1 Man Utd 1
Roberto Martinez’s reign as Everton manager is one of several firsts. At the Stadium of Light last weekend, he became the first manager to win seven Premier League games on the bounce as the Toffees reached their highest ever points tally. United have the league’s best away record and will pose a more serious challenge. The Red Devils come into this fixture after a ten-day hiatus and they tend to do well when they are well rested.
West Ham 1 Crystal Palace 0
Tony Pulis has been the third best value for money manager this season behind Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers. Under his tutelage, the Londoners are extremely difficult to break down, with only Chelsea conceding less goals since the former Stoke City manager took charge. Pulis is particularly good against bottom half opposition.
Cardiff 1 Stoke City 1
It is not possible to read too much into Cardiff City’s smash and grab victory over Southampton. For it was done with just 32 per cent of possession and with the losers having thrice the number of shots on goal. On a different day, Cardiff could have lost badly. All the same, the victory improved morale for today’s crunch tie against Stoke.
Tottenham 3 Fulham 2
Felix Magath calm demeanour is reassuring in these most trying of times. The German’s belief could yet propel the Cottagers to safety. His insistence on an intensive, no-holds-barred pressing game has yielded three victories in their last five games. Actually, Fulham are the second most in-form team in the bottom half of the table after Crystal Palace.
Newcastle 0 Swansea 0
Newcastle have forgotten how to score goals. They have also forgotten how to win football matches. What’s more, the Magpies have won only four of their last 16 Premier League games. Alan Pardew’s suspension has robbed the Magpies of touchline leadership, Yohan Cabaye’s work is the creative engine room is being missed while injuries to French stars Loic Remy and Moussa Sissoko has left the team bereft of oomph.
Aston Villa 1 Saints 1
Aston Villa have lost four games in row – a scary drop in form at a most inopportune time. But so have Southampton, who have lost three of their last five, with Mauricio Pochettino’s Saints missing England 14-goal front man Jay Rodriguez. Continued speculation over the future of the manager is also undermining the south coast club. Meanwhile, Christian Benteke’s injury has left Villa blunt upfront. Five losses in a row are unfathomable, so I envisage shared spoils.
Hull 1 Arsenal 2
This is Arsene Wenger time. For the last 16 seasons, he has guided the Gunners to Champions League qualification by staving off challenges like the formidable one coming from Merseyside. I expect this preamble to the FA Cup final to be full of thrills and spills as both teams try to establish an early psychological blow.
Norwich 1 Liverpool 2