Arsenal v Middlesbrough
Emmanuel Eboue returns for Arsenal to face Middlesbrough at the Emirates stadium in the Saturday tea-time kickoff in the Premiership following a three-match ban. Kolo Toure and Robin van Persi also return from injury, but the Gunners could be without Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby through injury. Boro’s main injury worry is Andrew Taylor, who took part ina reserve game in midweek, but looks set to miss out, whilst Gareth Southgate welcomes back Afonso Alves and Jeremie Aliadiere to the squad following injury and suspension respectively.
Arsenal have dropped four points in the last three Premiership matches, and Manchester United have taken full advantage, closing the gap at the top of the league to just two points, and having played a game less. Arsene Wenger will know his side cannot afford to drop many more points, especially at home – They will more than likely have dropped to second by kickoff as Manchester United face whipping boys Derby at 3pm, and Arsenal will not want to stay there at full time.
Arsenal are strong favourites to see off Middlesbrough, with the best available odds being just 3/10 with Bet 365, whilst you can get 12/1 (Blue Square) on a Boro win. The draw is 9/2 with Boylesports.
Derby v Man United
Alex Fergusons men have the chance to go back to the top of the Premier League table in the easiest of fashions – Agsint a Derby county side who lie bottom of every table you care to look at – Premiership, goals Scored, points-per-game, goals per game, goal difference, form.. need I go on? Oh yes, and they were hammered 6-1 by Chelsea in midweek.
Ben Foster should finally make his debut for Manchester United after spending most of the last two seasons on loan at Watford, thanks to an injury to Edwin van der Sar, and Tomasz Kuszcak suspended. Sir Alex Ferguson is not expected to risk Louis Saha or Ryan Giggs in this match. Derby will be without Alan Stubbs, whilst Stephen Pearson will face a late fitness test.
This is likely to be the only match this weekend that a bookie will offer you 16/1 for a home win (Boylesports). Manchester United are just 1/6 for the win (Blue Square), whilst the draw is priced at 7/1 (VC Bet)
Liverpool v Reading
Daniel Agger is out for the season following a metatarsal injury, whilst Xabi Alonso returns to the squad after missing Liverpool’s win over Inter Milan due to his wife giving birth to a son. Reading will be without Graeme Murty, Emerse Fae and Brynjar Gunnarsson through injury as they look to pick up the points that could propel them away from the relegation dogfight, whilst Liverpool continue their quest for the fourth Champions League place.
Portsmouth v Aston Villa
Portsmouth have fallen behind in the race for European qualification, and must now surely see the FA Cup as their best cahnce of seeing European football at Fratton Park next season. Pompey will be without Noe Pamarot, whilst Sol Campbell will undergo a fitness test before the match. Villa’s main injury doubts are Gabriel Agbonlahor and Craig Gardner.
Portsmouth are favourite to win the match, with VC Bet offering odds of 29/20 for the home win. The odds of Villa beating Portsmouth are 21/10 (BET 365). William Hill have the best odds for the draw at 23/10.
Sunderland v Chelsea
Sunderland could welcome Carlos Edwards back into the squad for the first time since he suffered a broken leg in their win against Derby in December, whilst Dickson Etuhu and Anthony Stokes are likely to miss out again. Avram Grant’s only casualty remains Petr Cech, which means an extended run of games for Carlo Cudicini.
Ladbrokes have the best odds for Sunderland to beat Chelsea (7/1), and also the best odds for Chelsea to beat Sunderland! (8/15). Totesport have the best odds for the draw (16/5)
West Ham v Blackburn
West Ham host Blackburn Rovers in the battle of mid-table mediocrity this weekend, as Alan Curbishley looks to avoid a Fourth successive 4-0 defeat (The odds of Blackburn winning 4-0 are currently 125/1 with Boylesports). Luis Boa Morte is supended, and Mark Noble should take his place. Matthew Upson could return to the squad following a calf injury, however Craig Bellamy, Matthew Etherington, Lee Bowyer and Danny Gabbidon remain out. Brett Emerton and David Dunn should return for Rovers, whilst Ryan Nelson and Steven Reid look set to miss out.
The Hammers are favourite to win the match – but only just. Their odds are 31/20 to win (VC Bet), whilst Rovers are 19/10 (also VC Bet). Totesport have the best odds for the draw at 12/5.