Saturday Select #34

The League season may have been concluded in The Football League but the Premier League rolls on with a few weeks of crucial fixtures still left to play out. A number of teams are wrapped up in a relegation dogfight still and need vital points to edge over the finishing line. Find out which fixtures make the hitlist this week.

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Aston Villa v West Ham

Aston Villa are just two points clear of the drop zone and need to pick up points desperately. Like him or loathe him Sherwood seems to have the players on side and has galvanised the group. In fact he has got a previously hapless attacking side scoring goals.

Villa have scored 17 times in their last 10 games. Much of that is credit to Sherwood’s ability to get Christian Benteke firing. The Belgian has scored 10 goals in his last eight Premier League appearances.

Christian Benteke will be joined by Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor who looks set to be welcomed back into the side after missing three matches with a hamstring injury and winger Scott Sinclair is also pushing to be included. They will give the Villian’s an added injection of pace.

West Ham are sat safely in mid-table with little to play for. However opponents Aston Villa have not beaten West Ham or scored a goal in the last three meetings between the clubs. More recent form seems to contradict the recent history though and favours Villa. The Hammers have been inconsistent in 2015 and are winless in 10 Premier League away games.

Leicester v Southampton

Nigel Pearson was named manager of the month after his Leicester team won 5 of their last 6 league matches. An incredible run for a team that have looked at points destined for relegation this season. The Foxes have netted 15 goals in their last 7 matches and they also have David Nugent who is back fit and in
contention.

Southampton’s season has tailed off dramatically after a good start to their 2014/15 campaign under Ronald Koeman. They have gone three matches without a win and have picked up just one point from a maximum 15 available from their last 5 away games.

Some of their poor form can be attributed to injuries. Influential Morgan Schneiderlin and key creative force Dusan Tadic are still out injured as is first choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster as well as Emmanuel Mayuka.

Southampton might take some confidence from the fact that they are unbeaten i won the reverse fixture back in November at Saint Mary’s. Do Southampton just have Leicester’s number? Momentum lies with Leicester and they are the ones who desperately need the points for survival.

Newcastle v West Brom

Newcastle is a club in crisis at the moment with Mike Ashley’s terrible management of the club at boardroom level hindering them severely. Many fans have expressed sympathy for passionate Geordie manager John Carver who looks completely out of his depth in the poison chalice job as manager.

However Carver did himself absolutely no favours when he came out with the laughable comment that he believes he is the best coach in the Premier League. That came not long after he heavily criticised and questioned the integrity of his playing staff in public. It is hard to believe that the players respect him and they will so even less after that incident.

They are in truly atrocious form having lost 8 games on the bounce and were hammered by Leicester City last time out. Mike Williamson and Daryl Janmaat are both suspended after being sent off in their last match. The Magpies will therefore be desperately short of experienced defensive options. In attack they do have Striker Papiss Cisse is available after serving a seven-match ban and is expected to be named in the squad but he has been carrying a knee injury and won’t be fully fit.

Having said all that 1 point would probably ensure Newcastle’s Premier League status and they have some relatively easy fixtures; ‘relatively’ being the key word. Will their losing streak continue?

They take on West Brom at home a team who have seemingly nothing to play for. Tony Pulis has ‘done his thing’ at West Brom this season. After winning at Manchester United last time out their Premier League status looks to be secured. The Baggies have lost just 4 of their 15 league matches under Tony Pulis’ stewardship.

They will be free of pressure which may aid their performance and will be keen to arrest their bad record at St James’ Park. The Baggies have only won once in 13 league visits to St James’ Park. However they may have to go about it without key midfielder, James Morrison. He missed the win over Man United with a back injury last week and is remains doubtful to return for this match.

It’s an exceptionally tough match to judge as West Brom may take their foot off the gas but who would back Newcastle in their current predicament?

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