Prediction Panel 2007/8: Premier League 29 March - previews and predictions

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Antony Melvin


Antony Melvin is the squarefootball.net editor and spends his spare time sifting through needlessly abusive emails....
[full biography]
29/03/2008 11:30:00.
read: 523 times.

The title race is threatening to become a procession and if Manchester United can beat a fading Aston Villa side they could be eight points clear tonight; but not if Arsenal win at Bolton with both sides looking to reverse their current form. With Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton playing tomorrow Portsmouth can close the gap on the top five to four points if they beat Wigan at Fratton Park; as can Blackburn who are a point behind Pompey and travel to Reading and Manchester City who visit Birmingham.

West Ham are marooned in mid table and travel to Sunderland; but the match of the day could well be the basement battle. Derby face Fulham with the confirmation of relegation possible today; whilst Fulham could better utilize a rare away win that should close the gap on the sides that are merely worried about relegation.

Saturday, 29 March 2008; Barclays Premier League

Birmingham City (17) vs Manchester City (9), KO 15:00


Birmingham seem to be locked in a battle with Bolton to avoid the final relegation place, but the battle is so fluid that any kind of win utterly changes the perception of who is where. Fulham win a game and suddenly they are staying up, they lose the next and they're going down. But Birmingham have picked up good points from fixtures like this one, the Spurs win springs to mind. City have little to play for and are probably too far behind Everton to snatch fifth place. Birmingham have a lot of motivation and are in a decent run of form, whereas City look like they are on the beach already.

Articles
Birmingham have the edge over a fading Man City side

Predictions
Paul Grech: Home
Colin Illingworth: Home
Antony Melvin: Home
Stephen Orford: Home

Bolton Wanderers (18) vs Arsenal (3), KO 15:00


Bolton have a great record in this fixture down the years, it seems like the team built by Sam Allardyce loved the idea of knocking Arsenal; and regardless of how pretty it was it was pretty effective. And how Bolton would love to emulate the feats of years past playing an Arsenal side that hasn't won a league game for a month and has now slipped to the fringes of a title race it was dominating in February. Arsenal must recover their form at some point, it is simply a matter of when - and Bolton must hope the when isn't today or they could be cut adrift.

Articles
Premier League Preview; Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal
Bolton cling to old glories and hope that Arsenal remain subdued

Predictions
Paul Grech: Away
Colin Illingworth: Away
Antony Melvin: Draw
Stephen Orford: Home

Derby County (20) vs Fulham (19), KO 15:00


Car crash football. Derby will be relegated if they lose and Birmingham don't (as long as we assume that Derby can't make up a thirty-odd goal difference in winning their last six games). For Fulham this represents the best chance of an away win they will get this season and with Bolton playing Arsenal, a real chance to catch the third bottom side and, if Birmingham slip up, maybe even move to within one point of safety. Derby are planning for the Championship, Fulham still have the games to stay in this division. But if Fulham are to stay up this is a must-must-must-win - Fulham have the motivation if only they can find the travel sickness pills.

Articles
Fulham must relegate Derby if they aren't to join them

Predictions
Paul Grech: Draw
Colin Illingworth: Away
Antony Melvin: Away
Stephen Orford: Draw

Manchester United (1) vs Aston Villa (7), KO 17:15


United have such a dominance in this fixture - winning the last 10 - that it is hard to see past a routine home win. Admittedly United are likely to rest some stars ahead of the resumption of the Champions' League next week - but surely that will be enough to see off a Villa side that is badly in need of reinforcements and looks short of energy at this late stage of the season. Ferguson may utilize his strong squad, but O'Neill has no such luxury. If Villa get a result it will be an equal shock to that that his Leicester side got here over a decade ago.

Articles
United's midfield could provide the goals against Villa

Predictions
Paul Grech: Home banker
Colin Illingworth: Home
Antony Melvin: Home
Stephen Orford: Home

Portsmouth (6) vs Wigan Athletic (14), KO 15:00


Portsmouth are looking for their highest league finish since they were twice champions in the 1950s and with ninth place just a point below them it could be a photo finish if they want to remain sixth. Everton look a little too far away but Portsmouth are in fine fettle if the Merseyside team collapses - even if the Cup will soon dominate thoughts. Wigan are almost safe and would consider a point here to be an achievement. Pompey are favourites but don't rule out a 0-0.

Articles
None yet

Predictions
Paul Grech: Draw
Colin Illingworth: Home
Antony Melvin: Home
Stephen Orford: Home

Reading (15) vs Blackburn Rovers (8), KO 15:00


There are so many managers in the Premier League with Manchester United connections that if you laid them end to end they would probably reach the half-way to the moon, or at least the bus stop. Steve Coppell was forced to retire just before Mark Hughes burst onto the scene at Old Trafford; and their styles are remarkably similar. Neither rants or raves, but you always get the feeling that behind closed doors it is a different story. Reading's recent surge has pushed them five points above the drop zone and a win here would all but confirm their status in the top flight and that may give them more motivation than a Blackburn side that is forlornly chasing a UEFA Cup place.

Articles
None yet

Predictions
Paul Grech: Home
Colin Illingworth: Draw
Antony Melvin: Home
Stephen Orford: Away

Sunderland (16) vs West Ham United (10), KO 15:00


Sunderland's win last week has given them a little breathing space but with Fulham and Bolton both playing very winnable games this could be a pivotal fixture. West Ham are getting the odd result but are generally in poor form and will end the season in mid-table. Sunderland are a good home side, and with players back from injury will have plenty of motivation to secure a win. Whether Roy Keane will complain about the referee in any event must be doubtful!

Articles
Sunderland have the greater desire to beat West Ham

Predictions
Paul Grech: Home
Colin Illingworth: Away
Antony Melvin: Home
Stephen Orford: Home


(league position before the weekend in brackets)


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