MATHEW WAGNER - Friday, March 21, 2014
Jozy Altidore should return to Sunderland's starting lineup, while Tim Howard and Everton could move into fifth place in the Premier League with a win over Swansea City.
Norwich City - AFC Sunderland
Jozy Alitdore should make his return to Sunderland's starting lineup in a relegation showdown with Norwich on Saturday.
Alitdore hasn't had much success since joining Sunderland this past summer, not even dressing in the FA Cup final and scoring just one goal in the league, but he earned praise from his coach Guy Poyet for his play in the second half of last weekend's goalless draw against Crystal Palace.
He'll need to build off that as Sunderland will be without Steve Fletcher, who has been splitting time with Altidore all season long, because of a knee injury.
With Sunderland having three matches in hand over Norwich and sitting just four points behind its opponent, the Canaries come into the match needing three points to keep themselves away from the drop zone. They need to turn around a cold streak, riding a three-match winless streak into this weekend.
Norwich city will be without Micahel Turner and Gareth McAuley, as the two continue to recover from hamstring and calf injuries. Outside of Fletcher, Sunderland is not reporting any significant injuries.
FC Everton - Swansea City
Tim Howard and Everton will look to extend its two-match winning streak in the Premier League when they host Swansea City on Saturday.
Everton's chances at finishing in the top four of the Premier League are almost nonexistent at this point, as the Toffees sit nine points behind Manchester City having played one match more, but they can put themselves in prime position to take over fifth place.
The Toffees are two points behind Tottenham, which is on a two-match losing streak.
Swansea City, meanwhile, are in need of some points, albeit for different reasons. The Swans lie just four points above the relegation zone and have lost six of their last 10 matches.
Steven Pienaar has a knee injury and is unavailable for the Toffees, joining Darron Gibson who's also struggling with knee injuries and Bryan Oviedo who broke his leg earlier this season in missing the match. Everton captain Phil Jagielka is questionable because of a hamstring injury.
For Swansea, Jonjo Shelvey and Nathan Dyer are probable with hamstring and heel injuries.
Aston Villa - Stoke City
In a matchup of Americans, 10th place is on the line when Brad Guzan and Aston Villa host Geoff Cameron and Stoke City on Sunday.
Guzan and Villa are coming off a huge win over Chelsea last weekend that catapulted the Villans to 10th place and a nine-point cushion over the drop zone. That was Villa's second win in a row, and the team is hoping that streak will continue this weekend.
Chances are quite high that Villa could get a positive result, as Stoke City hasn't fared well away from home. The Potters haven't won a match away from Britannia Stadium since Aug. 31, beating West Ham 1-0 on that day.
Stoke's Stephen Ireland cannot play against his former team because of an agreement made between the two clubs when Ireland transferred to Stoke in January.
Stoke will also be without Charlie Adam and Jon Walters, who are suspended. Charles N'Zogbia will not play for Aston villa, as his season is done with an Achilles tendon injury.
Birmingham City - FC Reading
Will Packwood, Jonathan Spector and Birmingham City will hope to bounce back from a bad loss on the weekend when they host Danny Williams and Reading.
The entire Birmingham City team capitulated last weekend in a 4-1 loss to Sheffield Wednesday, which couldn't have come at a worse time.
The Blues have a tough stretch, playing Reading and then relegation-threatened Millwall in a four-day span, and considering they are just five points above the relegation zone, these next four days could be crucial.
Reading, meanwhile, are at the other end of the Championship standings, trying to find a way into the promotion playoffs. The Royals trail Nottingham Forrest by one point for sixth place and the final spot in the playoffs, with Forrest currently riding a six-match winless streak. While Reading is on a four-match unbeaten run, three of those matches have ended in ties.
Brian Howard is questionable for the Blues with an ankle injury, while long-term absentees Matt Green and Neal Eardley are out with knee injuries.
As for Reading, both Williams and Hal-Robson Kanu are questionable with knee and hamstring injuries.
Doncaster Rovers - Sheffield Wednesday
Oguchi Onyewu and Sheffield Wednesday will attempt to buck a trend when the travel to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
Sheffield Wednesday has been on fire recently, beating Queens Park Rangers and Birmingham in a four-day span by a 7-1 scoreline.
The problem for the Owls is, however, inconsistency, as they have created a pattern in the past 10 matches - winning two consecutive matches and then losing two matches.
Doncaster is on a bit of a good run itself, recording seven out of a possible nine points in the team's last three matches to pull away from the relegation zone. Still, the Rovers can't breathe easily, as they are only five points ahead of Millwall in the last relegation position.
Doncaster will be without goalkeeper Ross Turnbull because of a calf injury and Gabriel Tamas because of a broken cheekbone. The Owls aren't reporting any significant injuries at this time.
Yeovil Town - Bolton Wanderers
Tim Ream and Bolton haven't lost on the road since Feb. 1 and will look to extend that streak when they go to Yeovil Town on Saturday.
Bolton had a five-match unbeaten streak snapped last weekend in a loss to Brighton & Hove Albion, but the Trotters are now eight points above the relegation zone.
Yeovil Town, meanwhile, is in dire straits and needs to earn some positive results in a hurry.
The Glovers, who earned promotion from League One last year, are stuck in the relegation zone and have been depleted by the end of two players' loan spells, which includes American Duane Holmes, earlier this week.
American midfielder Stuart Holden will continue to be absent for Bolton with his knee injury, while Ruben Palazuelos will miss the match for Yeovil Town with a hamstring injury.
Brad Friedel should be on the bench for Tottenham's Sunday match against Southampton at home.
Eric Lichaj won't be available for Nottingham Forrest's big match at Zak Whitbread and Derby County on Saturday because of a groin injury. Whitbread could feature for the Rams.
Duane Holmes will hope to dress for Huddersfield Town against Blackpool on Saturday after returning from a loan to Yeovil Town earlier this week.