The Big Weekend Preview

The penultimate weekend of the Premier League season sees Manchester United just needing a point at home to Arsenal and a showdown for a Europa League place at White Hart Lane. There is also a massive clash in France between Lyon and Marseille as well as a potentially season defining match in Russia.

Manchester United v Arsenal, Premier League, May 16, 2009

Even Arsene Wenger, seemingly certain of the quality of his young Arsenal players, must be dreading this fixture. The Gunners have nothing to play for with two games remaining and have had the stuffing kicked out of them by Chelsea last week and before that by United in the Champions League.

Over two legs of the Champions League quarter-final Sir Alex Ferguson’s side could easily have scored eight goals rather than the four they did in 180 minutes of almost complete domination. And with Fabianski, Silvestre and Denilson all likely to start in the Gunners now famous soft-centre, this could be a rout reminiscent of the 6-1 mauling United handed out to their London rivals in 2001.

The good news for Arsenal is that Andrey Arshavin returns from a virus after missing the 4-1 defeat to Chelsea and the Gunners have shown this season that they can live with the best. Performances at Liverpool and Chelsea were the high points of Arsenal’s season and there is definitely the quality to play the role of party poopers.

However, psychologically everything is pointing to a comfortable United win that secures the title in style and ensures Sir Alex Ferguson can rest his Champions League final XI away at Hull on the final day of the season.

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United will be eager to prove why they are about to claim their third successive Premier League title and there will be no pressure to perform following the 2-1 win at Wigan on Wednesday.

Much attention will no doubt focus on Carlos Tevez, who is now playing some excellent football with talk of his future now dominating the back pages. The tireless Argentinean has scored two goals this week and will surely get on the scoresheet against the Gunners on Saturday lunchtime.

Ferguson’s side have won nine out of their last ten games with the only blip coming against Everton in the FA Cup which could have set the way for an incredible quintuple.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney will no doubt get the party pieces out and whilst there could well be a repeat of the game in 2001, United will also be able to avenge Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2002 when Sylvain Wiltord secured the league title.

101gg predicts: Manchester United 4 – Arsenal 0 (33/1)

Full match odds here.

Tottenham v Manchester City, Premier League, May 16, 2009

The battle for seventh place and the Europa League will be heavily contested at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

With Fulham and West Ham facing away games at Newcastle and Everton respectively this match should set up a final day battle for the poisoned chalice that is a place in Europe’s second-class competition.

City travel to London knowing that if they lose this game they will be out of the running for Europe, leaving Mark Hughes’ job prospects hanging by a thread having spent a whole heap of money with nothing to show for it.

Hughes won’t be able to call on Brazilian trickster Robinho and City’s away form has been dire this season with just two wins and their performance at Old Trafford last week was abject at best.

Incredibly, after a wretched start to the season, Heurelho Gomes can finish the home campaign by setting a new record. Spurs have conceded just nine goals at home this campaign and if they concede less than two at home to City the all-time record for least goals in a season at White Hart Lane.

But, their should be goals in this one, neither team is shy of having a go and Wilson Palacios, who has shielded the Spurs defence since arriving in January will be a big miss following his brothers tragic death.

At times this season City have played well without Robinho and the likes of Stephen Ireland and Elano have enough quality to trouble any defence. After playing 3-5-2 at Goodison last week, Spurs could play an attacking version of the same formation and look to finish their season on a high.

101gg predicts: Tottenham 3 – Manchester City 1 (14/1)

Full match odds here.

Olympique Marseille v Olympique Lyon, Ligue 1, May 17, 2009

The games between OM and OL are always worth watching, this match-up in particular could be a cracker as for once Marseille, and not Lyon, are the team challenging for the Ligue 1 title late on in the season.

With three weeks remaining it couldn’t be much tighter at the top, OM and Bordeaux are level on points with the team from the south in first place thanks to having scored two more goals.

Lyon are in third place, seven points behind and are only aiming for a place in the Champions League next season. This could be a difficult task since PSG are only a point behind and besides the title race, the fight for third should be gripping.

Marseille last lost in Ligue 1 in the beginning of February against Sochaux but having put eight successive wins together Bordeaux are proving a difficult team to shake off. Erik Gerets, the Belgian coach who is leaving at the end of the season, could not contain his delight after seeing his “fantastic” Marseille side stay top of Ligue 1 with a win at Nice earlier in the week.

Gerets: “I am very happy and above all else very proud,” he said. “This was football of the highest order. There are matches where the team has fun on the pitch. I saw they were enjoying playing together and playing fantastic football.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s match, Marseille captain Lorik Cana said: “Lyon are a top team, they’re still aiming for a top three finish. They’ll come motivated and organized. We’ll have to play really well to give ourselves the best possible chance.”

Both of Marseille’s goal scorers at Nice are in great form.  Mamadou Niang (pictured) who suffered from an injury in the middle of the season, appears to be back in shape. In each of the last three matches he has scored one goal and the 29-year-old Senegalese striker seems to be once again one of the strongest strikers in France. This season he has scored 11 goals in the league and another six in UEFA Cup matches.

Brandao, who scored the second goal against Nice, has been a super signing. The Brazilian striker who joined from Shakhtar Donetsk in the winter break, and had a bad start in France (he didn’t score in his first four games), is continuing his amazing ability since March and scored his sixth goal against Nice. Brandao has great heading ability and has scored three of the six goals with his head.

Lyon come into this game with mixed emotions after their 3-0 win on Tuesday against Nantes. They still hold slim hopes that they can claim the French title again.

Kim Källström, who has played as a left-sided defender in the last month, can’t wait for the game: “It’s always nice to go to Marseille,” he said. “And with everything that’s at stake, it’ll be even better.”

But, Lyon are not in such great shape as the victory over Nantes was their first in the last five matches. The first meeting between the teams in the Stade Gerland ended goalless, but this Sunday, with the amazing crowd of OM in the Stade Vélodrome of 60,000 people, who will push for an attacking game, this will be worth watching.

101gg predicts: Marseille 2 – Lyon 2 (16/1)

Full match odds here.

CSKA Moscow v Zenit St Petersburg, Russian Premier League, May 17, 2009

Two of Russia’s biggest teams face off on Sunday in a duel between the two most successful clubs in recent years.

CSKA are in second place at the moment, but have already drawn one and lost two in eight matches, which means another loss to Zenit which will put a lot of pressure on Brazilian manager Zico. The former Japan and Fenerbahce coach came to the club with the intention of returning the championship to Moscow.

Zico will play his usual 4-4-2 formation that he has established at the club with the only bad news on the horizon that Alan Dzagoev, the young playmaker with three goals and an assist so far this season, is injured and will likely miss this encounter. Milos Krasic will likely replace Dzagoev.

The CSKA attack has been impressive so far with 16 goals in eight matches and we can expect to see Vagner Love and either Ouwo Maazou or Tomas Necid alongside the Brazilian.

Zenit St Petersburg have also had a patchy start to the season with four wins, three draws and one loss. Dick Advocaat’s team have not been playing smoothly without departed star Anrey Arshavin who has left much of the creative burden on Danny in a 4-3-3 formation.

The three midfielders players Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Konstantin Zyryanov and Igor Semshov will have the mission of stopping the CSKA midfield from creating and providing balls and space to Danny, Igor Denisov and Pavel Pogrebnyak who will likely start up front.

Both these clubs are on a mission for first place and to stop last year’s champions Rubin Kazan from winning the league again. A win in this one could set either side up for the next few months and three points could be season defining.

101gg predicts: CSKA Moscow 2 – Zenit St Petersburg 0 (8/1)

Full match odds here.

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