Prediction Panel 2007/8: Premier League 12 March - preview and predictions


Antony Melvin

Antony Melvin is the editor and spends his spare time sifting through needlessly abusive emails....
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12/03/2008 17:00:00.
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Three matches tonight and as the season gets less fractured by cup games the teams can start to focus on their league targets. Chelsea play Derby with very different ambitions; Arsenal and Manchester United have dropped points in recent weeks offering Chelsea some hope in the league - and they will expect to move five points behind Arsenal with a game in hand tonight. Aston Villa will be worried that sixth may no longer be enough for a UEFA Cup space; and so need to beat a Middlesbrough side that is almost safe despite being just four points above the relegation zone. Finally can Pompey stop celebrating long enough to see off Birmingham; who seem attracted to distracted opponents - Arsenal before Milan, Spurs after Chelsea and now Pompey after Man United - Birmingham are somewhat desperate for something given Reading's recent wins.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008; Barclays Premier League

Aston Villa (6) vs Middlesbrough (12), KO 19:45

Martin O'Neill is very bullish about the prospects of catching Everton or Liverpool and given his record in turning Villa around he has every reason to be. Middlesbrough are erratic at the moment and may be feeling a bit sorry for themselves after their tame exit from the FA Cup - this is an ideal time for Villa to make up ground.

Colin Illingworth; Home
Hugh Larkin; Home
Antony Melvin: Home

Chelsea (3) vs Derby County (20), KO 20:00

Chelsea are another team smarting from FA Cup exit - and Avram Grant will be hoping to fall back on Chelsea's excellent league record under him. If Grant had been in place at the start of the season Chelsea would be top of the table with his record of league wins, but he was playing catch-up from his first afternoon at Old Trafford. Derby are improving but will be relegated, if Chelsea can't win this then Grant's fate is probably sealed unless he can win the Champions' League because the league title will have slipped away. A win will put Chelsea three points behind title favourites Manchester United with the same games played - and a win Chelsea will get.

Colin Illingworth; Home banker
Hugh Larkin; Home banker
Antony Melvin: Home

Portsmouth (9) vs Birmingham City (17), KO 19:45

Pompey will be celebrating hard and as the only surviving Premier League side in the FA Cup will have good reason to believe that silverware and UEFA Cup football is on its way to the south coast. It is entirely possible that the league performances will suffer as a result of this anticipation; and that must be in the minds of Birmingham players. How many Pompey players will pull out of challenges to avoid bookings or injuries ahead of the semi-final? If Birmingham are rbust they may upset Pompey here.

Colin Illingworth; Draw
Hugh Larkin; Draw
Antony Melvin: Home

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