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Saturday, February 29

Premier League

Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace – AMEX Stadium

Palace takes on old adversaries, Brighton, looking to record back-to-back Premier League victories and put further daylight between themselves and the Seagulls.

Patrick van Arnholt’s free-kick was enough to see off Newcastle and earn Roy Hodgson’s men their first victory of the new decade: “It was hard to lose three in a row especially when in the last two we were hard done by,” the former England boss told BBC Sport. 

“We dominated the game but I am disappointed we had to suffer towards the end. When it’s 1-0 they are never out of the picture.

“It’s our first win in 2020. It was vitally important, and had we conceded in the last few minutes it would have been disastrous. That would have knocked us for six.

“But it’s a win that moves us up the table and away from the relegation zone. We never lost sight that this would be a dogfight and we wanted to stay ahead of the curve on that.”

Host’s Brighton have drawn five of their last six and sit four points above the dropzone – two places and five points behind their bitter rivals. 

AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea – The Vitality Stadium

Frank Lampard described Chelsea’s Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich as a harsh lesson, and the former midfielder will be looking for a vast improvement when the Blues face lowly AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

Tammy Abraham appeared to be struggling after that midweek setback – Olivier Giroud – who lead the line with good effect against Spurs – could step in?

Bournemouth beat Chelsea by a single goal when the sides met at Stamford Bridge in December. However, the Cherries remain two points outside the relegation zone following back-to-back defeats.

West Ham United v Southampton – London Stadium

David Moyes delivered a rallying call to his relegation-threatened Hammers ahead of Saturday’s huge clash with Southampton at the London Stadium.

The east Londoners provided a much-improved performance at Anfield on Monday night. However, their 3-2 defeat to champions-elect Liverpool extended their winless league sequence to seven matches, leaving them occupying a place in the bottom three.

“Our really big games start now, and we’ve got big games over the next eight to ten weeks, so I need everybody in the best form they can be in,” Moyse told www,whufc.com 

“I believe we will play better. I think we should play better, I think we should be better with the ball, I thought we had opportunities to pass the ball even better than we did tonight and we didn’t do it, so we need to work on doing that even better.

“Tonight’s a positive, but I’ve got to say, I think since I’ve been at West Ham, there have been a lot of positives. It’s hard to show because you don’t win. We got close but close isn’t enough.

“Three of our last four games have been Liverpool twice and Manchester City away, so I’ve got to say that the players have players have done really well, but we’re not getting any points and it’s points we want. I’d rather be standing here saying it was rubbish tonight but we’d picked up a point if I could have done, but a lot of teams have said that after coming here.”

Southampton head to the capital in an altogether more healthy position following last weeks comfortable 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at St Mary’s.

Watford v Liverpool – Vicarage Road

Watford remain in deep relegation trouble following their 3-0 defeat at Manchester United last time out, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Hornets, who entertain unbeaten leaders, Liverpool, at Vicarage Road.

Speaking to BBC Match of the Day after that Old Trafford setback, Watford boss, Nigel Pearson, explained: “It was a difficult day. A day in which we started OK.

“We had opportunities we did not make the most of and really think we put them in a position where we frustrated them. I think we started the second half OK and we went on to be opened up.

“It’s frustrating because I know when we are at our best we could have had them. I thought today we were a little disjointed from time to time.”

Sky Bet Championship

Cardiff City v Brentford – Cardiff City Stadium

Brentford will look to get back on track at Cardiff, this after a run of four games without a win.

The Bees play-off aspirations took a knock – their most recent outing a disappointing 2-1 defeat at bottom of the table Luton Town.

“We definitely didn’t play at our normal high level,” Bees boss, Thomas Frank, told BBC Radio London. 

“We started well and then the goal changed the momentum of the game.

“We needed to do better. After the goal, we struggled and it was back and forth for 20 minutes but by the final 10 minutes [of the second half] we were back on top.

“In the second half we started badly and we built pressure at the end of the game. We scored one goal and came close to a comeback but this is the Championship and we knew it would be difficult against Luton.”

Meanwhile, Cardiff went down by a goal to nil at the hands of Nottingham Forest during the week – they are without a win in three Championship matches.

Fulham v Preston North End – Craven Cottage

Fulham are five points behind the top two following their 1-0 victory over Swansea City at Craven Cottage during the week.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the only goal of the game four minutes into stoppage-time, shortly after seeing his penalty saved and much to the delight of Head Coach, Scott Parker.

“We didn’t get out of jail, I thought we were exceptional from start to finish,” Parker told BBC Radio London.

“They came with a little bit of pressure but we moved the ball well, there was an attacking impetus about us and we had a lot of conviction.

“You miss a penalty and you think ‘maybe it’s not our night’ but full credit to my team the commitment they showed, the belief, the mentality and in the end you deserve your moment to win the game.”

The Cottagers now face a tough test against a Preston side themselves with play-off aspirations and keen to bounce back following a 2-0 defeat at leaders West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday evening.

Huddersfield Town v Charlton Athletic – John Smith’s Stadium

Lee Bowyer insisted it shouldn’t be too difficult to lift his charges following their sickening stoppage-time defeat at Sheffield Wednesday during the week.

“Yeah they’re a good bunch and they’re honest and no matter what game they go into they give one hundred per cent,” the former midfielder told www.cafc.com. 

“It’s not going to be hard to pick them up. They’re going to be disappointed tonight but they’ll be training tomorrow so it shouldn’t be too hard to pick them up.”

The ‘Addicks face a Huddersfield side two points above the dropzone following their notable 2-1 victory over Bristol City last time out.

Millwall v Bristol City – The Den

A goalless draw with Birmingham City proved to be another jolt in Millwall’s fading play-off ambitions. Nevertheless, the tenth-placed Lions will be looking to close the six-point gap on the top-six when out of sorts Bristol City visit the Den on Saturday.

Speaking to www.millwallfc.co.uk after that stalemate with the Blues, boss Gary Rowett, explained: “It’s just that final ball. When we’ve played really well this season, we’ve found the final ball or we’ve found the set-piece and that’s opened the game up.

“Today was a classic example where we just couldn’t find that final bit, but you know what, I couldn’t ask any more from the players or from the fans.

“It was just one of those games where we couldn’t quite find the last little bit and I’m sure we’re all a little bit frustrated by it.”

Bristol City head south of the river off the back of three successive defeats – a run which has seen them slip away out of the play-off places.

Queens Park Rangers v Birmingham City – The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium

Grant Hall and substitute, Ilias Chair, scored the goals as the R’s grabbed a well-earned 2-1 victory over Dery County during the week.

“They’re a tough opponent and their front line is up there with anything in the division so we knew they posed an attacking threat,” boss, Mark Warburton, told BBC Radio London.

“We felt we could expose them with our attacking threat at the other end of the pitch and that was the case.

“In the first half, I thought we were lethargic, deserved to be in front but huffed and puffed in the final third. We felt if we stepped up the tempo we would take the points.”

Rangers host a Birmingham side unbeaten in ten league matches following Wednesday’s goalless draw at Millwall.

Sky Bet League One

Gillingham v AFC Wimbledon – Priestfield Stadium

Glyn Hodges insisted there will be no let-up, despite his Dons side establishing a five-point gap over those in the dropzone following their 0-0 draw with Blackpool last weekend.

Wimbledon face a tough test against a strong Gillingham side and former Welsh international, Hodges, insisted his side needed to take care of business themselves as they look to put further daylight between themselves and the bottom three.

“We can’t rely on other teams, it’s in our own hands and we have to make sure we do what’s required,” Hodges told www.afcwimbledon.co.uk.

“There’s an eight-point gap now, but last season we were effectively 10 points behind. Anything can happen, football is a funny old game. 

“All we can do is take care of business and not worry about looking down. We are a point closer to Rochdale, so we are looking to get up the league, rather than looking over our shoulders.”

Sky Bet League Two

Forest Green Rovers v Leyton Orient – The New Lawn 

Leyton Orient take on a Forset Green Rovers side slipping frm the play-off places following a run of eight without a win.

The hosts are currently in tenth place, nine points off the top seven, while the O’s have been beaten once in their last five.

This could prove to be a feisty encounter with feelings perhaps still running high from the corresponding fixture at Brisbane Road in late November when the respective managers, Ross Embleton and Mark Cooper, clashed on the touchline – O’s chief Embleton sent to the stands for his part in the fracas. 

Sunday, March 1

Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Jose Mourinho took the pressure off his players after back-to-back defeats dented their Champions League and top-four aspirations.

Spurs are clearly suffering the loss of Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane which was never more evident than during those defeats to RB Leipzig and Chelsea.

“I think you are going to be very bored with me because I think I’m going to be very repetitive,” Mourinho told BBC Match of the Day after the 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge. 

I’m going to say exactly the same words I said against Leipzig.

“I’m very proud of the players – they gave absolutely everything. We don’t have a striker. Our attacking players are not strikers and are in huge levels of fatigue, so very, very difficult for us. No tactical problems, [we were] completely in control of the space, punished by a couple of individual mistakes.

“A defeat is a defeat, but the good thing is, in the last seconds the players were still fighting for a result and that for me is a very important thing.

“In the last part of the game when Chelsea was scared of the 2-1 we didn’t have that presence, that power, we didn’t have that to do more than what we did.”

Spurs now face another tough test when Wolves are the visitors to N17. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side booked their place in the last sixteen of the Europa League with a 6-3 aggregate victory over Espanyol. The Black Country outfit currently occupy eighth place but will leapfrog the Lilywhites with a win in North London.

Monday, March 2

Emirates FA Cup fifth-round

Portsmouth v Arsenal – Fratton Park

Mikel Arteta will be looking for a positive response from his Arsenal side when they travel to Fratton Park for an eagerly anticipated FA Cup clash.

Following their disappointing Europa League exit, the cup is now the Gunners only hope of a trophy this season: “I just want to concentrate now on lifting those players and getting back the belief and convince them that there is still a lot to play for, and move on,” Arteta explained 

“It’s part of this sport that a big disappointment can happen and it happened tonight. We have to learn and react as a team and as a club.”

The Arsenal chief was hopeful that his honeymoon period with the group wasn’t over, adding: “I hope not because I will try and show them what happened in the game and where the game should have finished, and the things that we didn’t do to finish the game the way that it should have finished. 

“Hopefully it’s part of the process to learn from that and improve as a team.” 

The Gunners take on a Portsmouth side who will be backed by a raucous crowd. Pompey are handily placed in League One, five points off the automatic promotion places.

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]

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