Goals set to flow at Etihad
David John previews all seven of Saturday's Premier League games and expects plenty of goals when Man City host Southampton.
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This screams entertainment with two teams in rattling good form and I don't for one moment think the visitors will be fazed by Manuel Pellegrini's side. The young home-grown Saints given a chance this year by Mauricio Pochettino have really risen to the challenge as Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez are on the verge of helping their team to a hugely creditable finishing position with Europe still an outside chance. Rodriguez has caught the eye in particular and five goals in his last four Premier League outings will mean the City backline have to be extremely vigilant with 10/3 anytime potentially a popular wager for those looking to get involved. Opposite number Edin Dzeko has thrived for his team since Pellegrini took over from Roberto Mancini and he is likely to remain the focal point of the attack for another weekend as Sergio Aguero nurses his hamstring problem. So the Argentine remains sidelined but I still think it could be a case of calculators at the ready. This fixture was 3-2 last season, so I am going to take a punt on the floodgates opening once more and roll the dice on an even higher-scoring home victory.
Verdict: Manchester City 4 Southampton 2
Man City have averaged more goals per game at home than any other team in the Premier League (3.43).
Edin Dzeko has scored in two of his three Barclays Premier League games against Southampton.
Southampton have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League (18).
Villa might have missed a bit of a trick at Old Trafford last weekend having taken the lead against a rickety Manchester United but they wilted and Paul Lambert suffered back-to-back 4-1 defeats. They have a golden opportunity to get back on the right trail against the league's bottom side who are running out of opportunities for Felix Magath. Lambert will be fully aware that the feel-good factor following the victory over Chelsea could evaporate very quickly if they don't put on a show and at the very least get something from this fixture. Fulham's abysmal recent record on the road this season also stretches historically to Villa Park so the omens do not look great. They may well need five wins from six games remaining with Norwich, Hull, and Crystal Palace on the horizon at home arguably the showdowns that will seal their fate one way or the other. The stat below suggests a low-scoring encounter but both these teams don't exactly have a great deal to recommend them in terms of reliability. Villa may just have the edge but you are braver than me if you step in at odds-on.
Verdict: Aston Villa 1 Fulham 0
There have been just six goals scored in the last five Barclays Premier League meetings between Fulham and Aston Villa.
Fulham have won none of their last 14 away games in the league at Villa Park (L7 D7).
Fulham have won just one of their last 12 Premier League away games (W1 D2 L9).
I have not written a great deal about Cardiff this year but it has been a tough campaign back in the top flight which surely would have been slightly easier without all the upheaval involving the exit of Malky Mackay. The chirpy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tried to stem the tide but I just start to get the feeling they could be 'that' team this year that gets sunk despite possessing some gifted players and a willing spirit. They have scored six times in their last two games but managed only one point as they remain mired in the bottom three and all but four points from safety if you take their -32 goal difference into account. While they continue to ship goals at an alarming rate, Palace have really tightened up as they continue to defy the critics under Tony Pulis. They have conceded just three in their last five games as he somehow continues to instil a belief in his side that they can keep their top-flight status. They destroyed many a coupon last week by beating Chelsea and another three points here would almost have them over the line while putting an important nail in the coffin of a relegation rival. I find these battles so hard to call at the end of a season with such a lot at stake but perhaps both will contribute enough to claim one point apiece.
Verdict: Cardiff 1 Crystal Palace 1
Cardiff earned 0.9 points per game under Malky Mackay, but have averaged just 0.67 per match under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Crystal Palace have won none of their last nine visits to Cardiff City in all competitions (D4 L5).
Palace have scored fewer goals away from home than any other team in the top flight (6) and have failed to find the net in five of their last six road trips.
These two are at the happy end of the current fight for survival and a win for either would almost alleviate all fears of a protracted battle over the closing few weeks. That will certainly be at the forefront of Steve Bruce's mind ahead of date next weekend with Sheffield United in an FA Cup semi-final and his talk in the local press this week has already been about who may or may not be in line for a Wembley berth. There is a worry that this could mean a little lack of focus to go along with consecutive losses and four out of their last five in the Premier League. The Swans might not be a team to be trifled with at the moment either after an excellent draw at Arsenal followed by putting Norwich to the sword 3-0. They weren't disgraced in the defeat at Everton either and you could argue that they are the side with the momentum heading to the KC Stadium. It seems they have found some confidence and interim boss Garry Monk has kept an upbeat outlook but they still are finding it hard to scratch out the points - the stat below is pretty telling as they gone well over year without posing back-to-back top-flight victories. I think this is a solid shout for a scoring draw with a goal each at 6/1 worth a shy - the outcome on the last two occasions down in Wales.
Verdict: Hull 1 Swansea 1
The Swans have scored more goals than any other team in the bottom 12 of the Premier League.
Swansea have not won back to back Premier League games since December 2012.
Steve Bruce's side have lost four of their last five Premier League matches (W1 L4) and won only one of the last six on home soil (W1 D1 L4).
Despite only joining in January. Nikica Jelavic has already fired in more shots on target than any other Hull City player this season (17).
Newcastle fortunately find themselves in a safe place with 46 points because their last two efforts have not been up to scratch - and that is putting it kindly. They were not great against Everton, even worse at Southampton as the goals currently flow freely against them while unable themselves to make an impact at the other end. Boss Alan Pardew may well decide on a few personnel changes in a bid to get the motors going again and I think he will be delighted with the news that 13-goal Loic Remy is at least back in contention for a place in a team that has managed to find the back of the net just once in the last four games. Toon have improved their record recently against the visitors but this regularly used to be a very happy hunting ground under the old regime but what David Moyes will come up with in terms of a gameplan and personnel could be anyone's guess. You may be surprised to know that they boast the best away record in the section so the Scot must be doing something right while getting Wayne Rooney on the ball currently within hailing distance of the target seems to be paying off as well. United have two good results to build on and remain well up to seeing off all but the top tier these days and unless Remy plays - and plays well - I am keen on the even money about the Red Devils.
Newcastle 0 Manchester United 2
Wayne Rooney has scored six goals in his last six Barclays Premier League appearances.
Manchester United have earned fewer points this season than in any previous Premier League campaign and are guaranteed to finish with a lower total than in any of Sir Alex Ferguson's 21 campaigns.
Rooney has netted 10 Premier League goals against Newcastle; only against Aston Villa (12) has he netted more.
Newcastle United have failed to score in 10 of their last 14 Premier League games.
Get down to Carrow Road on Saturday afternoon for the Tension Derby. Norwich players were at each other on the pitch following another feeble display away from home at Swansea last week while the Baggies managed to get to the privacy of their own dressing room before all hell broke loose - allegedly - and a reported altercation that left Saido Berahino with bruises on his face after his error allowed Cardiff to snatch a point in a 3-3 draw. The Canaries have a six-point safety cushion at the moment thanks to their strong recent home form and manager Chris Hughton will hope that his side are energised again against a beatable rival a la Sunderland. They are a best price of 7/5 and the pressure is quite substantial - they head to Fulham next but finish off the campaign against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. West Brom obviously tried to play down the incident after the Cardiff game by denying its severity and also saying that it showed the players cared. Relationships apparently remained frosty on resumption for training between those involved and really highlights the current unrest at the club. This sort of thing could galvanise a club but just as easily rip its heart out and which way it goes on Saturday is tough to say with any great accuracy. But it can't be helpful and all adds up to another unpredictable fixture at the wrong end of the table which is best avoided.
Verdict: Norwich 1 West Brom 0
West Brom have won three of their last four league trips to Carrow Road, but lost in the Barclays Premier League there last season 0-4 (W3 L1).
The Baggies have gone 11 Premier League games without a clean sheet; only Fulham (14) have mustered a longer run without a shut out this season.
Norwich City are unbeaten in their last six Premier League home games (W3 D3), keeping five clean sheets and conceding just one goal in that run.
Jose Mourinho is managing to deliver one of the greatest pieces of self-fulfilling prophecy ever. His canny plan to convince the world his team are not ready to win anything in a bid to take some pressure off has worked. Unfortunately his players were listening as well and have lost three of their last five games with a lead in the Premier League gone and a chance of making the last four of the Champions League in serious jeopardy. Then again, perhaps Mourinho's psychobabble was right all along and the deficiencies in his squad - in the main, up front - at the sharp end of the season on two fronts were always going to be exposed. But his side still have a fighting chance and who better to face than Stoke, who have lost their last six visits to Stamford Bridge and failed to score on each occasion. The Potters have rallied nicely though for Mark Hughes when it has counted in recent weeks and have built up an unbeaten run of five games with four of them victories. They may not be mathematically safe quite yet but 40 points is a very healthy state of affairs in 10th spot and should approach this in a very positive frame of mind while Mourinho tackles his demons. Stoke are certainly one of those teams not afraid to rattle the big guns and a few may be tempted into something like the Double Chance market where Stoke-Draw is 10/3. But their record in this fixture and Chelsea's last three home games - 4-0, 2-0 and 6-0 - just make it feel a trifle optimistic.
Verdict: Chelsea 2 Stoke 0
Chelsea are unbeaten in 76 Premier League home games under Jose Mourinho winning 60 and drawing 16.
Chelsea have dropped just eight points from the last 75 available at Stamford Bridge (P25 W21, D4).
After winning eight and losing none of the first 10 Barclays Premier League meetings with Stoke City, Chelsea lost the last encounter earlier this season 2-3 to the Potters.