Saturday Select #32

We are down to the final couple of games of the season in most leagues and the mounting pressure over recent weeks is coming to a climax for many clubs across the country. Which teams will blink first in their race for promotion from the Championship? How will the playoff zone shape up in League’s One and Two? And who will regain their status into the Football League from the hard slog that is the Conference Premier? Check out our selection of matches in this weekend’s football preview…

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Manchester City v Aston Villa

Manchester City have won their last four Premier League home games, scoring a total of 12 goals without reply. The Citizens will be keen to finish above Man United and Arsenal having slipped to 4th in the league standings.

City’s record against Aston Villa is impeccable especially at the Etihad. They have won seven successive Premier League home games against the Villains, scoring 23 goals and conceding only two in the process.

Villa are in good spirits and Tim Sherwood certainly seems to be motivating the side. However it may well prove hard for Villa to raise themselves again to the performance level that they played at against Liverpool at Wembley in their FA Cup semi-final victory.

Villa striker Christian Benteke has scored 9 goals in his last 7 league and cup games and will be up for facing a City defence that does not feature Vincent Kompany.

Brighton v Watford

Top of the League Watford have the perfect opportunity to heap the pressure on the Championship chasers in this early 12:15PM kick off at the AMEX Stadium. They are just 1 point clear at the top of the table with 2 games remaining.

Recent history bodes well for them going into this encounter. Watford are unbeaten in the last four meetings at Brighton having won two of them. They are also in great form at the moment. They have won 4 of their last 5 matches are unbeaten in that period. Even more impressive has been their away from as they are unbeaten in their last eight away games and have won 6 of those 8.

Ighalo and Deeney have been pivotal to the promotion bid and are extremely dangerous. They didn’t register on the scoresheet last time out and could be due a goal. The pair have bagged 40 goals between them so far this season. Add in Mathia Vydra’s double figure contribution and you can see why they have the second best attacking record in the league.

Opponents Brighton currently reside down in 20th place in the table but have nothing to play for as they have secured their safety for this season. The Seagulls have lost four of their last five games and there is nothing in the form book to suggest that they will put a thorn in Watford’s side.

Rochdale v MK Dons

MK Dons are striving for automatic promotion this season. They currently sit in 3rd position in the table just 1 point off Preston who occupy 2nd place. Karl Robinson’s side are in great form they have won 7 of their last 8 matches and are unbeaten in their last 9.

Rochdale’s hopes of achieving a playoff place are very slim although it is still mathematically possible for them. They would need an in form Chesterfield to lose both of their matches and win their two remaining games.

Rochdale are an attacking team that have scored plenty of goals this season but their style could play into the hands of MK dons who will be well suited to exploit them with their abundance of pace on the counter attack.

Bury v Wimbledon

The Shakers lost a crucial clash in midweek to Southend and should be raring to bounce back to winning ways. Bury are still just two points off the automatic promotion places and have it all to play for.

Opponents AFC Wimbledon are wombling along in a safe mid-table position and have nothing to play for. They are winless in their last 6 matches as they travel up to Gigg Lane. Ardley’s men have progressed this term and he may just be enjoying being free from the threat of relegation.

Cheltenham v Shrewsbury

Cheltenham should be fighting tooth and nail for points. They are 23rd, and a point ahead of bottom club Tranmere Rovers, but a point behind Hartlepool United. They need points to survive but Gary Johnson’s appointment has not had any noticeable effect on results. The Robins have lost 6 of their last 7 games.

They face 2nd in the league Shrewsbury Town who could clinch automatic promotion should they win and Micky Mellon’s side are also going for the League Two championship. They trail league leaders Burton Albion by just 2 points with two games to go. They have close to a fully fit squad with all their key players available. They have won 7 of their last 8 league matches.

Southend v Luton

Southend have hit a purple patch just at the crucial time of the season and are only outside the automatic promotion places on goal difference after a run of 6 wins in a row. They have had Wycombe Wanderers in their sights for some time and have really cranked up the pressure on the team in 3rd place.

In Luton Town they face a team who are battling for the final playoff spot with Plymouth Argyle. The Hatters have arrested a terrible run of form with a 3-0 win over Hartlepool last time out. They are a physical and competitive side who will be up for the match. No result will be surprising in this game, however form and momentum points towards Southend.

Bristol Rovers v Alfreton

The Pirates will be ready to sieze the Conference title and automatic promotion should Barnet capsize at home to Gateshead. They are one point behind the league leaders going into the final game of the season this weekend.

Barnet have the much tougher game on paper against Gateshead so Rovers will be gunning for the win against Alfreton. They surely would not be able to bear not winning and seeing Barnet not win and still get promoted.

Rovers have not been beaten in their last 28 league matches. They conceded a late goal against Dover last time out that cost them dearly as they could have gone top as Barnet also slipped up away to Kidderminster. They will not want that feeling of failing to capitalise again.

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