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Houllier heads back to Anfield

Man City v Bolton Wanderers
Saturday December 4 – 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-1
Key players:  Carlos Tevez & Johan Elmander

Free-scoring Bolton head to Eastlands keen to keep pace with the European contenders.

Some of Bolton’s football of late has been majestic and they’ll fancy their chances against a City side who have been struggling at home. Johan Elmander can’t stop scoring on his travels and he’ll be Bolton’s danger man.

City are still in fourth spot but they never seem convincing. Under Mancini, City appear content to play keep ball and rarely go all out attack. They are the favourites in this match, and I expect the Sky Blues to edge a tight game by playing defensively. As always, City will rely on Carlos Tevez to make the difference in the final third.

Blackburn Rovers v Wolves
Saturday December 4 – 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-1
Key players:  Jason Roberts & Wayne Hennessey

Wolves travel to a shell-shocked Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

Mick McCarthy knows their victory last week was massive and he’ll want to keep the momentum going. Wayne Hennessey has confidently taken over the goalkeeper’s jersey and he’ll need to be in fine form again as Rovers will bombard Wolves’ box with crosses.

Big Sam will demand a reaction after Blackburn shipped seven goals last week. Rovers have a host of injuries in midfield, so they’ll need their strikers to improve. Big Jason Roberts will be key as Rovers will play more direct and try and bypass the midfield.

Chelsea v Everton
Saturday December 4 – 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-0
Key players:  Didier Drogba & Tim Cahill

Everton visit Chelsea anticipating a Blues backlash.
Everton can’t keep relying on Tim Cahill for goals. Last week they missed so many guilt edged chances and they have no chance of causing an upset if this continues.

Chelsea might be stuttering in the title race, but their performances are improving and they should have too much in the tank for Everton. Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have been unusually goal shy of late and a home match against Everton should rekindle their seasons.

Arsenal v Fulham
Saturday December 4 – 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-0
Key players:  Samir Nasri & Clint Dempsey

Mark Hughes’ Fulham face a tough test away at Arsenal.

Fulham are the league’s draw specialists and if they are to nick a point this weekend, there’ll have to be a marked improvement in their play. Clint Dempsey is the club’s top scorer and he’ll need to produce a fine showing as the Cottagers will have to dig deep.

Arsenal were back to their classy best against Aston Villa last Saturday and unless they get complacent, this should be a straight forward home win. Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshire will have the task of filling Fabregas’ boots, which they should do with ease.

Birmingham City v Tottenham
Saturday December 4 – 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-1
Key players:  Alexander Hleb & Luka Modric

Birmingham entertain a Spurs side carrying lofty ambitions.

Birmingham need to start turning draws into wins quickly, but no club fancies a trip to St Andrews. They still lack creativity in midfield, so former Gunner Alexander Hleb will be their key man in the Blues’ bid to open up Tottenham.

Spurs are on a role and every week seem to be involved in a classic. They will struggle to break down a determined Birmingham team and will need Peter Crouch the win the aerial battles to allow the likes of the majestic Modric to dictate the game.

Wigan Athletic v Stoke City
Saturday December 4 – 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-2
Key players:  Charles N’Zogbia & Kenwyne Jones

Wigan welcome Stoke City to the DW Stadium.

Wigan are hit and miss, and they’re likely to be battling it out for survival all season long. With Hugo Rodallega still suspended, Charles N’Zogbia will inevitably be their biggest weapon going forwards.

Stoke are in cracking form and they’ll be expecting to take all three points. The Potters play with two wingers in Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, and they’ll launch balls into the box hoping Kenwyne Jones will torment Wigan’s shaky defence.

Blackpool v Man United
Sunday December 4 - 12:30am
Dring’s prediction: 1-3
Key players:  DJ Campbell & Wayne Ronney

Blackpool take on Manchester United in a truly David and Goliath encounter tomorrow night.

Blackpool have been a breath of fresh air this season but they’re going to struggle against a United side who have started slipping through the gears. DJ Campbell has been wasteful in front of goal recently, and he’ll need to rediscover his shooting boots.

United were irresistible against Blackburn last week. Berbatov and Rooney look like a match made in heaven and with both players firing on all cylinders again, Sir Alex’s side should comfortably take home all three points.

West Brom v Newcastle United
Sunday December 5 - 8:30pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-1
Key players:  Chris Brunt & Joey Barton

West Brom v Newcastle is the early kick off on Sunday.

Newcastle battled hard last week to get a draw against Chelsea, but with suspensions and injuries hampering their preparation, they’ll settle for a point again. Joey Barton’s return to the side is a big plus and he’ll need to add the creative spark in midfield, which the Toon Army have been lacking.

The Baggies thumped Everton last Saturday and it should give them a welcome boost and help them push up the table. West Brom’s star player Chris Brunt should be fit and he could be the difference in a game too close to call.

Sunderland v West Ham
Sunday December 5 – 11pm
Dring’s prediction: 3-1
Key players:  Darren Bent & Scott Parker

A buoyed West Ham side make the long trip up north to take on Sunderland.

The Hammers finally gave their fans something to shout about last week, but their form on the road is dismal. Scott Parker is the club heartbeat, and if they are going to pull off a shock, the influential midfielder will need another stirring performance.

Steve Bruce will have to go all out attack as he’s missing both first choice centre halves. Sunderland should have too much class for West Ham, and with Darren Bent back amongst the goals and their harden supporters behind them, they’re red hot favourites for the win.

Liverpool v Aston Villa
Tuesday December 7 – 3am
Dring’s prediction: 3-1
Key players:  Fernando Torres & Stewart Downing

Gerard Houllier takes his Aston Villa side to face former club Liverpool in the Monday night game.

Villa are dangerously close to the relegation zone and with a packed treatment room crippling their selection, they won’t fancy a trip to Anfield. Stewart Downing and Ashley Young will have to take on more responsibility as Houllier will be forced to play the kids once more.

Liverpool were unlucky last week at Tottenham, and if they can turn in another performance like that, they should have too much for Aston Villa. Torres was wasteful last week but with his sharpness returning, he should torture Villa’s back four.

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