ANDREW VORCE - Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Tim Howard and Everton take on the Europe bound Birmingham as Eddie Johnson and Eric Lichaj lock horns as Preston North End takes on Leeds United in Championship action in a limited midweek.
Everton - Birmingham
Tim Howard and Everton could advance into the top eight with a win over Birmingham.
Everton's season as of late has been a roller coaster with the boys in blue being unable to string together consecutive results since January. Everton have benefited from the return of Mikel Arteta but Tim Cahill is out for another week with an ankle injury. Marouane Fellaini is the only other Toffee out, sidelined for the season with a sprained ankle.
Birmingham secured a spot in the Europa League after winning the Carling Cup against Arsenal but have dropped into the relegation zone in the Premier League. A win would take them well out of the relegation zone and as high as 13th place. Birmingham will have another game in hand however and can significantly climb the ranks with wins in both games.
Birmingham do have six players out with three due back by the end of March. Alexander Hleb and Enric Valles are out for another week while Craig Gardner will be monitored with his thigh muscle strain. James McFadden is out with a knee injury while Barry Ferguson is out with a rib injury. Scott Dann is out for the season with a hamstring injury.
Preston North End – Leeds United
Eddie Johnson and Preston North End take on Eric Lichaj and Leeds United.
Johnson started and went the distance for North End's tie against Norwich. He should again feature this midweek. Eric Lichaj went the full ninety minutes and should also start against Preston.
North End is at the bottom of the standings and are hoping for some sort of momentum to give their fans something to cheer about.
Preston's Nathan Ellington has a hurt ankle and is questionable to play this midweek. Barry Nocholson, Leon Cort and David Gray also look to miss for North End.
United have a four point lead for the final playoff spot and look to solidify that spot this Tuesday.
Leeds have no injury news.
Hull City – Burnley
Brad Guzan and Hull City take on Burnley in Championship action.
Guzan is returning to Hull City on loan and could get the start as he has in the last two months for the Tigers.
Hull beat Nottingham Forest this last weekend and are hoping to continue that momentum and grab on to the last playoff spot. They are five points from Leeds who hold on to the last spot in the playoffs.
Burnley sit one point ahead of Hull in the standings and are also eyeing the last playoff spot. They are coming off two straight wins and look for their third in a row against the Tigers.
They look to be without Charlie Austin who is injured with a shoulder problem. Steven Thompson also will miss with a groin injury while Martin Paterson's thigh will keep him sidelined as well.
Carlisle United – Hartlepool
Frank Simek and Carlisle United travel to play Hartlepool in League One play.
Simek started and went the distance in the Cumbrians 4-3 loss to Brighton this last weekend. He should again feature this midweek.
After the tough loss last weekend against the current league leaders, the Cumbrians hope to bounce back and take the three points from Hartlepool.
Paul Thirlwell is a long-term injury concern for Carlisle.
Hartlepool beat Brentford this last weekend and looks to continue that momentum in the midweek.
Neil Austin is sidelined with a calf problem and is the only injury concern for Hartlepool.
Swindon Town – Plymouth Argyle
Mike Grella and Swindon Town take on Anton Peterlin and Plymouth Argyle in League One action.
Grella started and went the distance in Swidon Town's tie to Walsall. He should again feature for Town.
Peterlin did not feature in Plymouth's win over Sheffield Wednesday. He hopes to dress this midweek.
Plymouth are currently at the bottom of the standings and can only hope to maximize their points from now on in any hope of League One action next season.
Argyle have won two games in a row and hope to keep that momentum going.
Town are coming off a tie in the midweek, but they will need a win this midweek to climb out of the relegation zone.
Vincent Pericard is still out with a knee problem for Swindon Town.
Jon-Paul Pittman and Wycombe travel and play Barnet.
Zak Whitbread left Norwich City's last game with a back injury and is questionable to play against Leicester.