This weekend sees the focus return to the Premier League after the FA Cup antics last week, as the league's top sides look to put European heartache or celebrations behind them as we approach the business end of the season.
Manchester City, having been eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday by Dynamo Kiev, travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday to lock horns with Chelsea in what is the game of the weekend.
Avram Grant's resurgent West Ham look to put their FA Cup defeat by Stoke City behind them as they face familiar faces in Harry Redknapp's Tottenham, while Arsenal travel to West Brom in an attempt to avenge the 3-2 at the Emirates from back in September.
So with 10 matches on offer, here are the predictions of the Goal.com UK team...
| West Ham
Oliver Yew says...
After the battle over who would be the next tenants of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, there will be no love lost between Tottenham and West Ham when they meet at White Hart Lane.
Spurs will be on a high after their progress into the Champions League quarter-finals and West Ham will be hoping there will be some sort of European hangover amongst Harry Redknapp’s men.
Tottenham will have to be fully focussed though, because despite the Hammers FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Stoke they have looked rejuvenated in recent weeks. They have scored 15 goals in their past five games so it will be interesting to see how Spurs, who have injury doubts over William Gallas, cope with West Ham’s improved forward line.
While West Ham were the victors in the Olympic Stadium battle, this contest will be much closer and with both sides better suited to attacking football I predict a entertaining scoring draw.
| Aston Villa
Ian Murphy says...
It has been a fortnight that Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier will be glad to see the back of. Whether being used to describe the flare-up at the club’s team-bonding session last week or to illustrate the lack of defensive options available to the Frenchman, crisis has certainly been the key word at Villa Park in recent weeks.
Whereas Villa have the attacking flair to trouble their Midlands rivals Wolves, at the back they have problems. Carlos Cuellar, Kyle Walker and Nathan Baker are the only three fully fit defenders available to Houllier – who will be praying that Luke Young recovers in time.
A brief mention for Michael Kightly – who is expected to be named on the Wolves’ bench this Saturday. The former non-league winger has not featured for the first team since November 2009 and after two outings in the reserves the 25-year-old has declared himself ready to make an impact this weekend. Kightly is a fans' favourite at Molineux and will be hoping that his electrifying wing-play can aid Wolves in their battle for survival.
Mark Fordham says...
A certain degree of ring rustiness will be expected as neither team has played for over a week, a far cry from three games a week during the hectic Christmas period. Neither team can boast a record to be proud of since the turn of year and both have been dragged into the relegation shake up after looking like reaching mid-table security just a few weeks ago.
A win for Rovers seems imperative for Steve Kean with the impatient Venkys breathing down his neck. They are without a win since January 8, a run which stretches to eight games, and the vultures are circling over Ewood Park.
A win for either team would give welcome breathing space in a league which is becoming increasingly tight as the weeks go by. Once again Charlie Adam holds the key for Blackpool’s hopes as the supporters' second favourite aim to keep their Premier League status intact for another season.
| Manchester United
Greg Stobart says...
Sir Alex Ferguson will get to taste the view from higher up in the stands than he is used to at Old Trafford but he will be far more relaxed than he was a week ago, despite having to serve a five-match touchline ban.
Victories over Arsenal and Marseille have got Manchester United back on track following a blip that saw them lose twice in a row and prompted questions over their ability to challenge this season.
But United remain in the hunt for a memorable treble and Wayne Rooney finally seems to be close to his best in tandem with goal machine Javier Hernandez.
There was once a time that Bolton used to come to Old Trafford and take all three points. They have a chance, with the Red Devils missing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, but Fergie's side have too much to play for and a job to do.
| Stoke City
| Newcastle United
Nick Price says...
The home side's blistering and controversial 2-1 FA Cup victory over West Ham last weekend was arguably their best display of the calendar year. Full of intent and purpose, the Potters were a different team to the side that has squandered points in the league over the last month.
Their opponents on Saturday have enjoyed a two-week break since their home defeat to Everton, but despite their relatively lighter load they will come up against a Stoke side that are determined to make the most of home advantage and get points on the board to stave off the very real threat of relegation.
Alan Pardew has, however, kept the unity that his predecessor Chris Hughton fostered within the Newcastle camp and they will be no pushovers, and they should have enough to travel back north with a point.
| West Brom
Matt Monaghan says...
After dropping out of three competitions Arsenal are wobbling, but will West Bromwich Albion manager Roy Hodgson have the nerve to push them over the edge?
Hodgson has earned a reputation at his two most recent posts - Fulham and Liverpool - as being a cautious manager. With his remit to keep the Baggies in the Premier League, he could be forgiven for playing tight & hope to prey on Arsenal's brittle confidence on Saturday.
Hodgson took the fight to Birmingham City last time out, however, & took advantage of their League Cup hangover. A similar sense of adventure could help leave the Gunners' final hope of silverware in ruins.
| Wigan Atheltic
| Birmingham City
Alex Fisher says...
The term six-pointer is one often used in the footballing world, sometimes needlessly. However this weekend I am going to be at a definite six-pointer as Wigan take on Birmingham at the DW Stadium.
Two teams who are struggling to find form, two teams who cannot stop goals going in and two teams at the wrong end of the table… surely if the term six-pointer was in the dictionary the definition wouldn’t be far from this.
I’m particularly looking forward to seeing some of the talented youngsters both teams have, names like James McCarthy, Victor Moses and Jordan Mutch (to name a few) spring to mind.
It’s hard to predict this game, anything could happen, many may go for a 0-0 but I’m going to stick my neck on the line and predict a much-needed home win for bottom of the table Wigan.
Jon Birchall says...
Predicting the result of a game between two teams plagued by inconsistency this season is never going to be easy. David Moyes’ side have swung from the sublime to the ridiculous with alarming regularity this term and much will depend on which Everton team shows up on the day.
In contrast, the visitors haven’t lost a league game since January and Mark Hughes looks to have finally built an outfit with the solidity required to stave off relegation for this season.
Fulham have an appalling record at Goodison Park and with Phil Neville returning from injury to give some much-needed drive to the Toffees, I can see them scraping a win.
Owen Watson says...
Sunday’s early kick off sees Liverpool travel to the Stadium of Light to face a Sunderland side who haven’t won at home in 11 weeks and have only collected one point from their last five games.
One thing Sunderland have in their favour is freshness as this will be only their second game in March and I’m looking forward to seeing some big attacking performances from the strikers on show. With the likes of Gyan, Welbeck, Suarez and Carroll all expected to start in front of a sell-out crowd this could well be a cracker.
That said, Sunderland have only managed to score 18 goals in 14 home games so far this season and Liverpool’s away record is pretty dire – so we can probably mark this prediction down in the optimistic category – but I fancy Sunderland to just shade a thrilling contest. Famous last words.
Wayne Veysey says...
He has been at Chelsea for just shy of seven weeks but his status as a bona fide hero of the Bridge has already been secured. No, I'm not talking about Fernando Torres - his time will come - but the outrageously gifted David Luiz, who is perhaps the most eye-catching centre-half in Europe since Ronald Koeman.
It's not just the Sideshow Bob hair, though that helps make him stand out from the crowd. Luiz has shown such a thirst for adventure from his defensive station in his four Premier League games (sadly, he is ineligible in Europe) that his presence on the pitch makes even hardened hacks sit up in their seats.
To endear him to the Shed End even more, it was Luiz's unpunished recklessness against Manchester United that was indirectly responsible for Sir Alex Ferguson's five-match ban. Manchester City will surely park the bus on Sunday. Luiz could be the man to put his foot on the accelerator and smash ever-so-elegantly straight through it.
||2 CORRECT 0 PERFECT 2 WRONG
Last week was FA Cup quarter-final weekend, and our experts managed a 50% ratio of correct results. Greg Stobart and Matt Monaghan respectively predicted Manchester United and Manchester City would make the semi-finals, though neither could have guessed that it would set up a derby day at Wembley next month.