The Big Weekend Preview

Hull v Liverpool, Premier League, April 25, 2009

While Liverpool come into this encounter hoping to keep their title hopes alive, the home team will be looking for maximum points in a bid to halt their free-fall back into the Championship.

Hull have had a quite woeful time of things in recent months mirroring the reputation of their manager Phil Brown. When the Tigers started the season, the media fell in love with their straight talking manager and a team that sensationally claimed victories at the Emirates and White Hart Lane and scored three goals at Old Trafford.

In recent months it has all gone a little pear-shaped with the public halftime dressing down at Manchester City on Boxing Day the first signs that all was not well at the plucky team from the north. Brown’s standing has also decreased as episodes at the Emirates in the FA Cup and last week’s rant against the Sunderland players that backfired have left him looking a little out of his depth.

Of course, the Premier League is a results business and if Hull had won a few games of late the atmosphere around the club and their manager would be very different. The Tigers have won just one league game in 2009 and only two since the beginning of December. (Hull are 5/4 to be relegated, full relegation odds here.)

Hull’s form in their last three games has been particularly woeful, gaining just one point in “six-pointers” against Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Sunderland. The one bright hope for Hull recently has been the Manucho (10/3 to score) who appears to have taken over as the talisman of the team. Geovanni, who lit up the start of the Premier League season, has claimed just one league goal since the end of November.

All in all it looks very bleak for Hull with further games to come against Aston Villa and Manchester United where they may struggle to get on the scoresheet let alone gain some points. Judging by the fact that they need six points to reach the magic 40-mark the games against Stoke and Bolton may represent more likely games to target.

Following their recent games, Liverpool may fancy playing a side with an impotent attack. The two 4-4 draws may have been great entertainment but Rafa Benitez must be tearing his goatee out over games he has such little control.

Despite only gaining one point at Anfield on Tuesday night and losing ground in the title race, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt (6/4 to score) and Yossi Benayoun (11/4 to score) were in sensational form and will fancy picking up a crucial three points to keep their title hopes alive.

101gg predicts: Hull 1 – Liverpool 2 (15/2)

Full match odds here.

Fiorentina v Roma, Serie A, April 25, 2009

Roma will travel to Florence to meet fifth-placed Fiorentina in the knowledge that only a win will keep them alive and kicking in the race for fourth place and a Champions league ticket in a match that is surely the match of the Serie A weekend. (Roma are 15/8 for the win, Fiorentina 11/8.)

After losing 3-1 to Udinese last weekend, Fiorentina will play Roma in a “six-pointer,” with a draw no good for either side.

Despite the loss, Fiorentina seems to be in a better shape than Roma, they won their last three matches before traveling to Udinese and even the defeat at the Friulli stadium can be related to the absence of excellent midfielders Riccardo Montolivo and Felipe Melo who left a hole in midfield that other players couldn’t fill. Montolivo will be available this weekend while Melo is still suspended and Stevan Jovetic will continue instead of the injured Adrian Mutu.

Roma did well to take advantage last week as they beat Lecce and closed the gap behind Fiorentina to three points..If they will win this forthcoming match the will be level with the Viola, and on a weekend that Genoa travel to Bologna, the Giallorossi will cross fingers that their Mihailovic’s men can pick up the three points.

If this happens Roma will be just two points from fourth place and back on the right track for another Champions league season next year, which is crucial for their short term economic future.

Roma’s main problem for the last two months has been their defence who have conceded thirteen goals in the last five matches. With goalkeeper Doni and central defender Juan out injured and Philipe Mexes struggling for fitness, coach Luciano Spalletti will rely on the cooperation between veteran Christian Panucci alongside January signing Souleymane Diamoutene in the center of the defence. (Roma are 5/2 to keep a clean sheet.)

It is a crucial match for Roma as nothing but a win will be a major setback for them, and Roma’s talisman Francesco Totti (7/1 to be the first goalscorer) will play and try to lead the club to a victory that will hopefully restart the journey to a Champions League ticket.

101gg predicts: Fiorentina 2 – Roma 2 (12/1)

Full match odds here.

OSC Lille v Olympique Marseilles, Ligue 1, April 26, 2009

This clash marks the second top of the table match-up in France this weekend, the other being Lyon versus PSG on Friday night. (Marseille are favourites for the title at 5/4, followed by Bordeaux (7/4) and Lyon at 3/1.)

Lille have not lost at home since the first game of the season and OM know that only a win at the Stadium Metropole will keep them in first position in Ligue 1. Marseille will also be well aware that not one of the other contenders for the title have won at Lille this season.

As always, OM will rely on their team ethic which has taken them to the top of the table. Not one of their players is in the leading goal-scorers table in Ligue 1, yet numerous squad members have chipped as the workload has been spread between the teammates.

Bakary Kone and Mamadou Niang have scored eight goals each in the league, Hatem Ben Arfa has six goals and Brandao, who joined in January, has five. And the Brazilian seems to be the form player of the team, scoring a goal a game in the last four matches. (Brandao is 7/4 to score.)

With Taye Taiwo injured, Boudewijn Zenden will probably fill as left back as he did last week which means Rudi Garcia could switch Lillie’s best player this season, Michel Bastos (7/4 to score), to the right side of the attack, like he has done in recent matches.

Lille is in sixth place, eight point behind OM, their ambition is to claim a Champion League place next season and a win in their home stadium could give them an outside chance of the title.

The first meeting between these two teams ended in a 2-2 draw, Mamadou Samassa and Boudewijn Zenden scored for OM, Adil Rami and Michel Bastos were on the scoresheet for the visitors.

101gg predicts: OSC Lille 1 – Olympique Marseilles 1 (11/2)

Full match odds here.

Blackburn v Wigan, Premier League, April 26, 2009

Blackburn seem to have obeyed some of the unwritten laws of Premier League football this season.

A member of the England Euro 96 squad in Paul Ince let them down and left them in a precarious position a la Gareth Southgate and Tony Adams. To save themselves from relegation they bought in an experienced Englishman and Sam Allardyce immediately paid dividends lifting them away from the relegation zone similar to Harry Redknapp at Spurs.

The similarities end there as Blackburn are beginning to look like relegation fodder who could only be saved by the current bottom-three failing to rouse themselves in the final weeks of the campaign.

A glance at Blackburn’s fixture list, which includes further home games against Portsmouth and West Brom, suggests they should have enough firepower to get out of trouble but it is looking a little precarious.

Undoubtedly this is a must win game (Blackburn are 10/11 to win, Wigan 10/3) and since Wigan are only playing for a Europa League place all three points are a real possibility. We can expect Allardyce to inspire his side for this game at Ewood Park and he may need all his motivational skills after a disappointing defeat to Stoke last week and two 4-0 defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool in recent games.

Blackburn’s woes were highlighted by the fact that they played Christopher Samba (10/3 to score) up-front against Spurs and Liverpool and they will need to beach a Wigan defence that has looked decent this campaign.

This game though does stink of a very winnable fixture for the home side and we can expect the likes of Benni McCarthy, Stephen Warnock, El-Hadji-Diouf and Morten Gamst Pedersen to trouble Chris Kirkland and Titus Bramble, both of whom have been impressive for Steve Bruce’s side this season.

Wigan still have six games of the season and despite being only four points off seventh have barely been talked of as European challengers. The fact they are still in the hunt is testament to the job Steve Bruce has done at the club, especially after losing Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey in the summer.

The nagging suspicion remains that Wigan are satisfied with safety and eight goals conceded in their last two games bears this out. Allardyce’s Bolton side perfected wins like this to avoid the drop and the home fans will know the importance of a win so they aren’t the victim of any potential Newcastle “Great Escape,” inspired by old-boy Alan Shearer.

101gg predicts: Blackburn 1 – Wigan 0 (11/2)

Full match odds here.