MATHEW WAGNER - Friday, April 18, 2014
Tim Howard and Everton will look to keep the race for fourth place in the Premier League tight, while Oguchi Onyewu and Sheffield Wednesday will try to end a slump against Bournemouth.
Aston Villa - FC Southampton
Brad Guzan and Aston Villa will hope to end a four-match winning streak when they host Southampton on Saturday.
Guzan will man the pipes once again for Villa, which sits in 14th place in the Premier League Standings.
Aston Villa is a team in turmoil on and off the field. To go along with the struggles recently that have seen the Villans drop to just four points above the relegation zone, they also have suspended two coaches for undisclosed reasons.
Like Villa, Southampton has struggled of late, although nowhere near as severe. The Saints have lost their last two matches, but they have already clinched safety, sitting in eighth place with 48 points.
Villa will be without Leandro Bacuna because of a hamstring, Gary Gardner because of an ankle injury, Christian Benteke because of a ruptured Achilles' tendon and Charles N'Zogbia because of a calf injury. Southampton, meanwhile, will miss Jay Rodriguez with a knee injury, Kelvin Davis and Artur Boruc with back problems and Gaston Ramirez with a foot injury.
Cardiff City - Stoke City
Geoff Cameron and Stoke City continue their climb up the Premier League standings with a trip to Cardiff on Saturday.
Cameron will start at right back for the Potters, while fellow American Brek Shea can only hope to dress for Stoke.
Prior to this season, Stoke City has never finished higher than 11th place and has amassed no more than 47 points. With four matches to go, the Potters are four points away from tying that mark and are in 10th place, three points ahead of Crystal Palace in 11th place.
While Stoke will play in the Premier League next season, things aren't looking good for its opponent, Cardiff. The Bluebirds are three points away from safety in the relegation zone, and they are running out of time to find a way to survive.
Stoke will have not have Oussama Assaidi and Robert Huth because of knee injuries. Cardiff has a few injury problems, starting with Andrew Taylor and Declan John who have an undisclosed injury. Kenwyne Jones should miss with a kidney injury and Craig Noone with an abdominal strain.
FC Everton - Manchester United
After losing control of their own destiny in the race for fourth place, Tim Howard and Everton will attempt to keep up the pressure on Arsenal when the host Manchester United on Sunday.
Barring a late injury, Howard will play in net against his old team.
Everton jumped into fourth place and the final Champions League spot last weekend thanks to a seven-match winning streak, but a loss to Crystal Palace on Wednesday dropped the Toffees back into fifth place. Still, they trail Arsenal by just one point and own the better goal differential, meaning Everton will be ready to capitalize should the Gunners slip up.
Normally a lock to be in a Champions League place, Manchester United is currently on the outside looking in when it comes to even an Europa League spot. The Red Devils are in seventh place and trail Tottenham in sixth, although they have a match in hand.
Everton's injury woes won't go away, as Steven Pienaar, Phil Jagielka, Lacina Traore and Byran Oviedo continue to miss with cartilage damage in a knee, hamstring injuries and a broken leg. Darren Gibson is also out with a knee injury. Manchester United, meanwhile, will be without main striking options in Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie because of a foot injury and a knee injury. Marouane Fellaini and Johnny Evans are questionable with calf injuries, while Rafael is dealing with a hamstring injury.
AFC Bournemouth - Sheffield Wednesday
Oguchi Onyewu and Sheffield Wednesday need to turn around a slump at Bournemouth on Friday.
Onyewu should start at center back for Wednesday, which is winless in its past four matches and sits nine points above the relegation zone. Although there are just four matches left in the season, the Owls' safety isn't secured unless they can end the streak in which opponents have scored 12 goals in the past four matches.
Trying to get a positive result against Bournemouth could prove tricky, as the Cherries are currently riding a six-match unbeaten run that includes five-consecutive win. With only one loss in the past 10 matches, the Cherries now find themselves in the midst of a promotion fight, sitting just two points out of a promotion-playoff spot.
In terms of injuries, Sheffield Wednesday's Glenn Loovens is questionable with a thigh injury, while Jose Semedo is still recovering from a broken leg. Bournemouth, meanwhile, will only be missing Harry Arter, as he serve the last of his three-game suspension.
Charlton Athletic - Bolton Wanderers
Tim Ream and Bolton look to continue their six-match unbeaten run at Charlton on Friday.
Ream should start in central defense for the Trotters, while American fan favorite Stuart Holden will continue to miss with a serious knee injury.
Bolton has recovered from a slow start to the season and has managed to secure safety in the Championship thanks to a hot streak. The Trotters have lost just one of their last 12 matches, with the loss coming on March 15 to Brighton at home.
While Bolton is safe, Charlton is in serious dangerous of entering the relegation zone. The Addicks have lost their last two matches and are one point above the drop, albeit having a match in hand over their competitors.
Midfielder Mark Davies with a groin problem and defenders Joe Riley and Marc Tierney with a knee injury and a broken leg join Holden on the Bolton injury list, while defender Rhoys Wiggins will miss for Charlton with a broken metatarsal bone.
Nottingham Forest - Birmingham City
Jonathan Spector, Will Packwood and Birmingham will look to stay above the relegation zone when they travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Spector should start at either right back or in midfield for the Blues, while Packwood should have fully recovered from a hamstring injury.
Birmingham has a match in hand and owns the best goal differential of the bottom seven teams in the Championship standings, but the Blues are still dangerously close to the drop, having just a three-point cushion.
The Blues may have run into Nottingham Forest at the right time, which will help their race for safety. Once tabbed as a sure bet to make the promotion playoffs following a 16-match unbeaten streak, Forest is winless in its last 13 matches, and that has allowed the team drop to 11th place.
Birmingham will be without Mitch Hancox, Neal Eardley and Matthew Green, while Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Jack Hobbs are questionable for Forest.
Brad Friedel should be on the bench for Tottenham on Saturday when the team hosts Fulham.
Jozy Altidore will hope to dress for Sunderland at Chelsea on Saturday.
Duane Holmes should make the 18 for Huddersfield Town against Brighton on Friday.
Zak Whitbread will hope to feature for Derby County at Doncaster on Friday.
Danny Williams is questionable for Reading's big matchup with Wigan on Friday.