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The Vital Run-In: April Begins...

The Premier League returns this weekend, and as per usual, here's our guide to what may happen up and down the country over the next few days.

In case you've forgotten, here's the state of play at the foot of the table:

9. Sunderland - 38
10. Stoke - 37
11. Newcastle - 36
12. Fulham - 35
13. Blackburn - 33
14. Villa - 33
15. Blackpool - 33
16. WBA - 33
17. West Ham - 32
---
18. Wolves - 32
19. Birmingham - 31
20. Wigan - 30

Blackpool don't play until Sunday lunchtime, away at Fulham, so let's take a look at Saturday's games first and see what position the Seasiders might be in when they kick off at Craven Cottage.

West Ham v Man Utd: West Ham and Man Utd will get the weekend's action underway tomorrow lunchtime in a match that has obvious implications at both ends of the table.

Talismanic West Ham captain Scott Parker is set to be fit for the game, whilst Man Utd's injury crisis in defence is abated somewhat with the news that Nemanja Vidic is expected to play.

The league leaders lost 4-0 at Upton Park in the Carling Cup earlier in the season and have wobbled of late, whilst the Hammers have been on a four match unbeaten run and have lost just one of their last seven. However, Sir Alex Ferguson's side have won their last five encounters against the Hammers without conceding a goal, although their away form has been patchy this term.

Verdict: Man Utd to win, but West Ham to score. West Ham 1-2 Man Utd.

Birmingham: Alex McLeish's Carling Cup winners find themselves 19th, although they do have a game in hand on the teams around them.

Bolton are currently on 40 points, beating their total of 39 from last season. Incidentally, Bolton came 14th last season!

The Trotters are also unbeaten in four league outings against the Blues, and haven't lost against a side in the bottom half of the table this season. Worryingly though, they have lost seven out of their last eight on the road in the league.

Verdict: A close fought draw. Birmingham 1-1 Bolton.

Everton v Villa: Although it looks like the Toffees are safe from the drop, they have been ravaged by injury for the visit of Aston Villa.

Saha, Arteta and Fellaini are all out, while Rodwell, Cahill and Coleman are doubts.

What doesn't bode well either for the Seasiders is that Villa are unbeaten in nine against the Toffees, although they have only won one of their last twelve on the road in the league.

Neither side has the best defence either, so expect goals.

Verdict: Gerard Houllier to relieve some pressure with three valuable points. Everton 1-2 Villa.

Newcastle v Wolves: Wolves have been hit by the news that Kevin Doyle is expected to miss the rest of the season through injury, but will still fancy their chances against a Newcastle side that are not yet safe from the drop.

Indeed, the Toon have struggled without Andy Carroll's goals and defeat tomorrow would have them looking over their shoulders nervously.

Funnily enough, the last time Wolves won a top-flight match at Newcastle was 7 February 1959, the same day Wanderers boss Mick McCarthy was born.

Wolves have lost just one of their last six, but by contrast Newcastle have won just one of their last nine.

All three of the previous Premier League games between the sides have ended in 1-1 draws, and Newcastle have drawn five out of their last nine. Expect the same tomorrow.

Verdict: Newcastle 1-1 Wolves.

Stoke v Chelsea: FA Cup semi-finalists Stoke still need to pick up a few more points to guarentee survival, but don't back them to do so this weekend - Chelsea have a 100% record against the Potters in the Premier League, winning seven on the spin.

Stoke have also failed to score in five of their last eight league games.

Verdict: A comfortable Chelsea win. Stoke 0-2 Chelsea.

West Brom v Liverpool: A big day for Roy Hodgson. An ultimately flop at Anfield, he has been tasked with keeping the Baggies in the Premier League.

Since Woy took over, the Baggies are unbeaten in four, but Liverpool have taken 20 points from a possible 30 under King Kenny.

West Brom have also lost all nine Premier League games against Liverpool, failing to score a single goal in the process. Expect a repeat tomorrow.

Verdict: WBA 0-2 Liverpool

Wigan v Spurs: Spurs' injury crisis at the back gives Wigan hope of moving off the bottom of the table.

And with Spurs playing Real Madrid on Tuesday night, their attention may well be elsewhere.

Their bid to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League for the second season in a row has stalled in recent weeks as they have failed to win any of their last three matches - all against teams who have been in the bottom six.

Meanwhile, Wigan won last time out against Birmingham courtesy of a dramatic last minute winner. Expect more drama tomorrow.

Verdict: Spurs to slip up yet again. Wigan 2-1 Spurs.

Arsenal v Blackburn: Saturday evening's match sees Blackburn travel to Arsenal.

Rovers got out of jail two weeks ago against the Seasiders courtesy of two howlers from Richard Kingson, but don't expect them to be so lucky at the Emirates - especially with the news that Robin van Persie is fit.

Arsenal have seven in a row at home against Rovers and are unbeaten in twelve in the league. By contrast, Rovers haven't won in six.

Verdict: The pressure to mount further on Steve Kean as Arsenal stroll to victory. Arsenal 3-0 Blackburn.

Such results would leave the table looking like this on Saturday night:

9. Sunderland - 38
10. Newcastle - 37
11. Stoke - 37
12. Villa - 36
13. Fulham - 35
14. Blackburn - 33
15. Wolves - 33
16. Blackpool - 33
17. WBA - 33
---
18. Wigan - 33
19. West Ham - 32
20. Birmingham - 32

On Sunday we fancy the Seasiders to get a point at Craven Cottage and for Man City to beat Sunderland.

Although Fulham have been strong at home and have a good record against the Seasiders, the Seasiders are due a performance in the capital and will be desperate to make amends for the second half against Blackburn.

Verdicts: Fulham 1-1 Blackpool, Man City 3-1 Sunderland.

Table:

9. Sunderland - 38
10. Newcastle - 37
11. Stoke - 37
12. Fulham - 36
13. Villa - 36
14. Blackpool - 34
15. Blackburn - 33
16. Wolves - 33
17. WBA - 33
---
18. Wigan - 33
19. West Ham - 32
20. Birmingham - 32

As always, you can voice your thoughts on our predictions on our forums.

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The journalist

Writer: Eamonn Moore  Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday April 1 2011

Time: 4:18PM

Your Comments

Nice of you to put us down for a win against Spurs, love to claim that, feeling a bit nervous at the moment, I'd take all your forecasts if that were possible
worbo
 

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