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Dublin: 14 °C Saturday 26 July, 2014

Premier League and FA Cup previews: Who will win this weekend’s games and why

Man United v Chelsea, Tottenham v Liverpool and much, much more.

All games kick-off at 3pm on Saturday unless stated otherwise.

Premier League:

Norwich v Southampton

Betting: 11/8 (home), 23/10 (draw), 2/1 (away).

Injured: Norwich – Andrew Surman, John Ruddy.

Both these sides have suffered indifferent form of late.

Norwich have only won one of their last 11 matches, while Southampton have lost their last two games.

The Saints suffered a particularly debilitating loss against QPR last week, having previously looked well capable of avoiding an end-of-season relegation battle.

Moreover, Norwich are normally quite solid at home, while Southampton have the worst away defensive record in the Premier League, so expect the former to prevail.

Verdict: Norwich

QPR v Sunderland

Betting: 5/4 (home), 23/10 (draw), 11/5 (away).

Injured: Sunderland – Wes Brown

Doubtful: QPR – Bobby Zamora, Julio Cesar. Sunderland – Danny Rose.

While occasionally just collapsing, QPR have at times shown fight under Harry Redknapp.

Their win over Southampton last week was proof that they still have the stomach for the battle.

Sunderland, meanwhile, are not quite safe from harm yet – even though they sometimes play as if they are.

And given that Martin O’Neill’s men have looked so lackadaisical in recent times, QPR seem likely to continue their resurgence under Harry Redknapp this afternoon.

Verdict: QPR

Reading v Aston Villa

TV: Setanta Sports 1

Betting: 7/5 (home), 23/10 (draw), 2/1 (away).

Injured: Reading – Adam Federici. Aston Villa – Darren Bent.

Suspended: Aston Villa – Fabian Delph. Reading – Pavel Pogrebnyak.

Doubtful: Reading – Jimmy Kebe. Aston Villa – Karim El Ahmadi, Ron Vlaar.

This is the type of game where the loser’s chances of Premier League survival will inevitably be written off.

Villa actually gave a decent performance last Monday, only losing 1-0 against Manchester City.

Reading, in contrast, are in wretched form, having lost their last three games on the trot.

Villa also boast an excellent record against Reading, but Brian McDermott’s team have a habit of coming good when little is expected of them, so a draw seems the most likely outcome today.

Verdict: Draw

West Brom v Swansea

Betting: 13/10 (home), 23/10 (draw), 21/10 (away).

Injured: Swansea – Kemy Agustien, Chico Flores.

Doubtful: West Brom – Shane Long.

Let’s be honest, this game is probably the most meaningless Premier League match of the weekend.

Both teams have reached the 40-point mark, meaning they are all but safe from relegation.

On the other hand, both sides have highly-rated managers, who surely won’t allow their players to slack off too much.

But given that there is little to play for, this game has all the hallmarks of a draw waiting to happen.

Verdict: Draw

Newcastle v Stoke City

Betting: 17/10 (home), 5/2 (draw), 10/3 (away).

Injured: Newcastle – Fabricio Coloccini, Tim Krul.

Doubtful: Newcastle – Papiss Cisse. Stoke – Matthew Etherington.

Suspended: Stoke – Robert Huth.

Newcastle have an excellent recent home record, while Stoke have been pretty poor away for the most part.

Therefore, upon first glance, this seems like a straightforward Magpies win.

However, there is the added complication of Alan Pardew’s men having had to undergo a grueling trip to Russia for Thursday’s game with Anzhi.

But if Newcastle can overcome their tiredness, recent form dictates that they should win this encounter.

Verdict: Newcastle

Liverpool v Tottenham, Sunday 4pm

TV: Sky Sports 1

Betting: 19/20 (home), 13/5 (draw), 11/4 (away).

Doubtful: Tottenham – Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone, Clint Dempsey.

This is undoubtedly one of the weekend’s most intriguing games.

Both teams are in excellent form, and each possess a player (Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale) who has regularly lit up the league this year.

It is consequently incredibly difficult to predict a winner.

Spurs have the better recent head-to-head record of the two, but Liverpool’s home advantage should be enough to help them earn at least a point.

Verdict: Draw

FA Cup:

Everton v Wigan (Saturday, 12.45pm)

TV: ITV

Betting: 4/9 (home), 10/3 (draw), 13/2 (away).

Injured: Everton – Phil Jagielka.

Doubtful: Everton – Tim Howard.

If logic could always be trusted in sport, Everton would win this game comfortably.

The Toffees have invariably been superb at home this year, while Wigan have struggled all season.

However, the hosts’ backline could be upset by the potential absence of both Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka, while Wigan have the capability to produce the odd big performance.

That said, Roberto Martinez’s men have more pressing concerns in the league and probably won’t be overly disappointed if they lose, so on that basis, Everton are strong favourites.

Verdict: Everton

Man City v Barnsley (Saturday, 5.30pm)

TV: ESPN

Betting: 1/7 (home), 7/1 (draw), 16/1 (away).

Injured: Man City – Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero.

Doubtful: Barsley – Stephen Dawson

The fact that Barnsley are 16/1 to win this game tells you everything you need to know about their prospects (or lack thereof).

Man City, while they have slipped up against inferior sides already this season, surely won’t do so again.

Roberto Mancini will be especially eager for his side to triumph in the FA Cup, as they are highly unlikely to win any other silverware at this stage.

Even though City are without two of their best players in Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero, it looks an impossible task for the underdogs.

Verdict: Man City

Millwall v Blackburn (Sunday, 2pm)

TV: ESPN

Betting: 7/5 (home), 23/10 (draw), 2/1 (away).

As much as anything else, the fact that there is an all-Championship game in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup reflects bigger sides’ increasing lack of interest in the competition.

It should be a good contest though, as both teams look relatively evenly matched.

Blackburn, currently in 13th place in the league, have underachieved this year, owing somewhat to a lack of managerial stability.

Millwall, meanwhile, sit just a point behind them in 15th, and even managed to reach the final of the competition as recently as 2004.

Their similar positions in the table accordingly suggests that this encounter will end in a stalemate.

Verdict: Draw

Man United v Chelsea (Sunday, 4.30pm).

TV: ITV

Betting: 5/6 (home), 13/5 (draw), 10/3 (away).

It’ll be interesting to see how United react to their demoralising midweek Champions League exit.

Alex Ferguson’s men could be deflated, but Fergie teams more often than not tend to recover well from setbacks.

Chelsea will hardly go into this game in the best of spirits either though, having shown indifferent recent form, and seen Tottenham leapfrog them into third place.

They will be a tough challenge for United following their midweek exploits, but if the Red Devils reach full potential, they’ll probably just about overcome their London rivals.

Verdict: Man United

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