Welcome to "High Fives" the personal column of our ace Director of Football "Magic Mike".
Magic Mike's football credentials are first class. Last season he handily beat the Beeb’s expert tipster “Lawro” who never got a look in after Magic took an early lead at the start of the 2008/09 season.
A good number of our players were rescued by Magic’s tips in our Five Lives scheme which automatically gives you his tips, up to five times during the season, should you forget to enter them yourself. Magic Mike's canny inside knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of players and teams, combined with a passion for getting it right, is what you need to make an impact in this game. It also means you're going to have to be at your best to outdo him.
The Management - Score Five
And now, once again, over to Magic Mike...
See what Mike had to say in the olden days - visit his 2008/09 season archives.
previous predictions - Round 27.... FA Cup 5th Round.... Round 26.... Round 25.... Round 24.... Round 23
The top of the table Saturday lunchtime clash features Chelsea vs. Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have a chance to re-establish their 4 point lead over Manchester United with United being out of Premier League action due to their Carling Cup final date against Aston Villa. Chelsea comfortably breezed past Wolves last weekend with a Didier Drogba brace and will also be looking for revenge after their 2-1 defeat at Eastlands earlier in the season.
Manchester City lost out on 4th place last weekend after their home draw with Liverpool whilst rivals Aston Villa and Tottenham both won. The chase for the 4th spot would appear to still have many twists and turns before the ultimate prize of entry to the Champions League is decided. Roberto Mancini‘s side will be looking for a league double over Chelsea but the Pensioners will be a different proposition on their home turf. This is the game of the weekend.
Magic predicts: Chelsea 1 - Manchester City 0
Birmingham City vs. Wigan Athletic at St Andrews Stadium. Has Birmingham’s bubble finally burst? After such a great run Birmingham have managed just 4 points out of their last 5 league games and Alex McLeish’s side will probably now give even greater focus on progress in the FA Cup and a date next week at Portsmouth. Last weekend The Blues were felled by a late Bobby Zamora goal at Fulham and will be hoping to bounce back against struggling Wigan.
Wigan have taken just 1 point out of their last 2 homes games and face some difficult games in the next month. The Latics look set to be heavily involved in the relegation battle through to the end of the season.
Magic predicts: Birmingham City 2 - Wigan Athletic 0
Bolton Wanderers vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium. The battle of the Wanderers and a massive game for both clubs in their fight for survival. Owen Coyle’s side endured a disappointing 3-0 defeat against local rivals Blackburn last Sunday a result that left them in 18th place in the table. A win today could lift Bolton 3 places and out of the danger zone.
A win for Wolves could see them move 2 places in the table and with Manchester United the next game on the agenda, Mick McCarthy’s side need a result or face the prospect of swapping places with Bolton and into the relegation zone.
Magic predicts: Bolton Wanderers 0 - Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Burnley vs. Portsmouth at Turf Moor. The bottom 2 teams meet and the stakes are high with games running out for both clubs to survive. Burnley could move up 4 places in the table with a win and having lost only 2 out of 12 games at home the Brian Laws’ team will be out to avenge their defeat at Fratton Park and claim 3 vital points.
Portsmouth are stranded at the bottom of the table and their Premier League fate could be sealed without another ball being kicked should their date in court result in the club going into administration. Avram Grant’s side will be fighting to the end and will give Burnley a difficult game. Pompey are now 3 wins adrift of 17th place and with only 12 games to go would need to win at least half the remaining games to survive even if they get a reprieve from the taxman.
Magic predicts: Burnley 3 - Portsmouth 2
Stoke City vs. Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke will be looking to repeat what they did to Arsenal in the FA Cup 4th round a month ago. On that day Stoke’s direct approach and set-piece plays upset Arsene Wenger’s side and Stoke deservedly took the honours. Stoke moved into the FA Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday with a tremendous replay win over Manchester City to book a date at Stamford Bridge next week. The FA Cup distraction may this time work to Arsenal’s advantage as Arsene Wenger’s side still harbour hopes that they could yet lift the title. With Manchester United and Chelsea dropping points in recent weeks the Gunners are just 6 points adrift of Chelsea and 5 behind Manchester United. The Gunners should have learned a lot from their FA Cup defeat, as they badly need 3 points.
Magic predicts: Stoke City 1 - Arsenal 2
Moving onto Sunday and the early kick-off features Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton at White Hart Lane. Spurs took advantage of Manchester City and Liverpool’s draw to move back in 4th place in the battle for the final Champions League qualification spot. Only a point separates 4th to 7th place and Harry Redknapp will be keen for his side to take 3 points and at the same time end Everton’s outside chance.
David Moyes’ side are on the crest of a wave at the moment having defeated Chelsea and Manchester United in their last 2 homes games and put a spoke in the wheel of both sides’ title chances but at the same time boosting their outside chance of claiming the 4th and final Champions League qualifying place. If Everton can win today they would reduce the gap on Spurs to just 5 points and with 11 games to play they could yet surprise the 4 teams ahead of them. A defeat to Spurs would see the gap rise to 11 points and that would then be surely too much to make up. With everything to play for and nothing to lose the Toffees will be hard to beat.
Magic predicts: Tottenham Hotspur 1 - Everton 1
Liverpool vs. Blackburn Rovers at Anfield. A battling draw at Manchester City was a good result for Liverpool as they are still tightly locked in the 4-way battle for the Champions League qualifying spot. They could steal a march on their rivals this week by beating mid-table Rovers with both Manchester City and Spurs facing tougher games and Aston Villa out of league action due to their involvement in the Carling Cup final.
Barring a disastrous run-in to the season Blackburn assured their participation in the Premier League next season with a 3-0 victory over struggling local rivals Bolton. Sam Allardyce’s side can be in a more relaxed state of mind for their remaining games and that could mean they become more difficult to beat.
Magic predicts: Liverpool 2 - Blackburn Rovers 0 Banker
Sunderland vs. Fulham at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland have now gone 13 games without a league win. They lost at Craven Cottage which was the second game in this sequence and Steve Bruce will be hoping for a little bit more luck as the Black Cats now have to be looking over their shoulders at teams in relegation difficulty. A 3 point haul would go a long way to ease any relegation fears but if this losing sequence were to continue another month then things will be looking bleak at the Stadium of Light.
Bobby Zamora produced a late free-kick winner to take the honours last weekend in a win over Birmingham and Roy Hodgson will be looking for his side’s recent good form to continue ahead of the FA Cup quarter final against Tottenham next Sunday. The Cottagers have a bigger squad this season which ensures fiercer competition for places in the starting eleven. This should keep Roy Hodgson’s side competitive for the visit to Sunderland.
Magic predicts: Sunderland 1 - Fulham 0