PREVIEW: WEEKEND ENGLISH ACTION
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MATHEW WAGNER - Thursday, March 13, 2014
Brad Guzan and Aston Villa host Premier League leader Chelsea, while an All-American defender affair happens in the Championship when Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City meet.

FC Everton - Cardiff City

After a one week break, Tim Howard will return to Everton's starting lineup when the Toffees host struggling Cardiff City on Saturday.

Everton lost last weekend in the FA Cup quarterfinals to Arsenal, but the Toffees can now turn their sights on securing a Europa League spot.

They sit just five points behind Tottenham in fifth place while having two matches in hand, and they are tied with sixth place Manchester United on points while having one match in hand on that team.

Everton should manage to get a positive result against Cardiff City, which despite ending a four-match winless streak with a win over last-place Fulham last week, has struggled for most of the year.

Cardiff holds the second-worst goal differential in the Premier League and sits one point ahead of Sunderland in 19th place, but Sunderland has three matches in hand.

Everton's Phil Jageilka and Steven Pienaar are questionable with a hamstring injury and an undisclosed injury, respectively, while long-term absentee Bryan Oviedo will miss with a broken leg.

Defender Ben Turner is questionable for Saturday with an injury he picked up in last weekend's win.

Stoke City - West Ham United

Geoff Cameron and Stoke City have an opportunity to solidify their chances at survival when they host West Ham on Saturday.

Stoke has moved its way to 12th place in the standings, and the Potters are tied on points with the 10th and 11th place teams (31).

Normally, that is a good place to be, but with the bottom 11 teams separated by just 10 points, the Potters, who sit six points above the relegation zone, need to continue to push up the standings.

West Ham is in a similar situation as its opponent, as the Hammers are the team in 10th place.

The Hammers struggled early in the season, sitting in the relegation zone for much of the season until January, when they moved up from 19th to 10th place, thanks in large part to a four-match winning streak that was snapped last weekend.

Stoke City will be without Oussama Assaidi is out because of a knee injury, and for West Ham, Andy Carroll is probably despite having a broken finger, while Marco Borriello and Joey O'Brien are out with a calf strain and a dislocated shoulder.

Aston Villa - FC Chelsea

In a matchup of two teams that like a comeback, Brad Guzan and Aston Villa host Chelsea on Saturday.

Aston Villa sits in 11th place and is in need of points to give itself a bigger cushion over the relegation zone.

The Villans at least come into the match after a big win last time out, and they know they have the capability to come back, as Villa has earned 13 points in comebacks.

The problem for Villa is Chelsea is even better at picking up points despite trailing, as the blue have managed to get 14 points coming from behind. Chelsea is currently on fire, riding a 14-match unbeaten streak into the weekend, and the team leads the league by seven points.

Charles N'Zogbia will not play for Aston villa, as his season is done with an Achilles tendon injury. Chelsea forward Fernando Torres is out with a groin injury, Ashley Cole will be unavailable with a knee problem and David Luiz is questionable because of a groin injury.

Bolton Wanderers - Brighton & Hove Albion

Tim Ream and Bolton will look to continue their climb up the Championship standings when they host Brighton on Saturday.

Bolton is riding a five-match unbeaten streak into this weekend, which in a three-match span, the Trotters outscored their opponents 11-1.

The Trotters now sit 11 points above the relegation zone, but because they have played more matches than those in the drop zone, they could use some more positive results to pull away.

Brighton, meanwhile, is at the other end of the standings and has a good chance at making the promotion playoff. With a match in hand over Reading, the Seagulls are two points back and are coming off a big win over Queens Park Rangers in the midweek.

Bolton's Stuart Holden had surgery on his knee earlier this week and found out he will miss the next six to nine months in order to recover from yet another setback.

Joe Mason is questionable with an ear infection, while Andy Lonergan will miss because of the same issue. Long-term absentees Marc Tierney and Darren Pratley are also out for the Trotters with a broken leg and a shoulder injury.

As for Brighton, Andrea Orlandi is questionable, and Gordon Greer and Andrew Crofts are out.

Queens Park Rangers - Yeovil Town

With three matches left in his loan spell, Duane Holmes hopes to continue his team's strong play since joining in January when Yeovil Town travels to London on Saturday to play Queens Park Rangers.

Yeovil Town missed a big chance to get out of the relegation zone with a midweek loss to Ipswich Town, the team's first loss since Holmes joined it.

Still, the Glovers have played one match less than Millwall, which sits in 21th place and is only two points ahead of them.

Once a favorite to earn direct promotion back into the Premier League, QPR now looks like it will have to go through the playoff to return to the English top tier. QPR has lost four of its last six matches and is now nine points behind Burnley in second place.

Yeovil Town coach Gary Johnson will have a full selection, with Liam Davis the only player unavailable because of a toe injury.

QPR will have to wait to know whether Niko Kranjcar and Andy Johnson will be available, while leading goal scorer Charlie Austin and Danny Simpson are out with a shoulder injury and back problems.

Sheffield Wednesday - Birmingham City

In a matchup of Americans in England, Oguchi Onyewu and Sheffield Wednesday host Jonathan Spector, Will Packwood and Birmingham City on Saturday.

Sheffield Wednesday are looking to end a two-match losing streak, having lost to two teams on the opposite ends of the Championship standings - Wigan in seventh place in the midweek and to Yeovil Town in the relegation zone last weekend. The Owls are now just 10 points above the drop zone in 17th place.

Birmingham City also has a long road on the run in to the end of the season. The Blues are on a four-match winless run, and they sit just eight points above the relegation zone, having played one match more than Yeovil Town.

Sheffield Wednesday might have Kieran Lee back from a thigh injury, but they will be without No. 1 goalkeeper Chris Kirkland and defenders Reda Johnson and Kamil Zayatte.

The Blues will not have Mitch Hancox and Brian Howard available with ankle injuries, while long-term absentees Matt Green and Neal Eardley are out with knee injuries.

Notes

Jozy Altidore could return to the 18 for Sunderland on Saturday against Crystal Palace in a big relegation-battle six-pointer, as he has recovered from an unspecified illness.

Brad Friedel should be on Tottenham's bench on Sunday when the Spurs host archrival Arsenal in the North London Derby.

Reading's Danny Williams is questionable for the Royals' Saturday match against Derby County in the English Championship. Zak Whitbread could feature for Derby.
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As clubs wrap up the pre-season, several Americans featured in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League this Thursday.
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