Premier League 2012, Week 29 Preview And Fixtures: Mid-Table Sides Dominate A Short Weekend Schedule

Shola Ameobi of Newcastle United celebrates scoring the equalising goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Sunderland at St. James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United and Wigan look to pick up points to improve their standing at opposite ends of the table on a weekend with just four league games thanks to the FA Cup.

Thanks to the FA Cup, this is something of a strange week in the Premier League, with most of the action taking place in the middle of the week. Here's a look at the four games taking place over the weekend.

Fulham vs. Swansea City

Saturday 3/17; 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

We've reached the point in the season where it's difficult to see any additional teams added to either the competition for Europe or the relegation battle. Five teams are still in danger of the drop, while seven teams still look to be chasing either Europa or the Champions League. Then there's everyone else, and these two sides are a part of that group. That being the case, it's tough to think of this game as being important, exactly; yes, the finishing order has an effect on prize money and I'm sure the clubs themselves care about that to some extent, but no one else really does.

That's totally understandable, but man, this should be a really fun game. Fulham and Swansea go about things in very different ways, but they're both a pleasure to watch and two of the clearer examples in England of clubs performing at a higher level than their means would imply is possible. There's a very good chance this game will be more fun than any other this weekend, and the good news is that there's only one other game happening at the same time.

Pick: Fulham, 2-1

Wigan vs. West Bromwich Albion

Saturday 3/17; 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Wigan still hasn't done a whole lot to improve their outlook this season and they're quite fortunate that their relegation rivals haven't done very much to make things too much worse. When you're as poor as Wigan has been, winnable games don't come along too often. This is one of them. Not a lot of mystery in what the Latics need to do.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Manchester United

Sunday 3/18; 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

Stunningly, United have managed to go top of the table. I'm not sure how they've managed it; in desperate need of help in central midfield, the Red Devils spent their money pretty much everywhere else. They were embarrassed in continental competition, first failing to make it out of the group stage in the Champions League and then completely outclassed by Athletic Bilbao over two legs in Europa. They made it only as far as the 4th round of the FA Cup and were bounced from the League Cup by Crystal Palace. They've only lost three times in the league, but all three defeats were in their own way embarrassing. They've never looked anything other than a football team composed of human beings.

And yet, they still have a very good chance of winning the league. This has been one of the worst United seasons in recent memory in a number of ways, and they still may have claim to being England's best come May. What a weird year.

Pick: United, 3-1

Newcastle United vs. Norwich City

Sunday 3/18; 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Newcastle's Champions League hopes are, if we're being honest, dead and gone. A failure to pick up three points in this one would make impossible for even a serial liar to make the case for such a thing, and it might open up a challenge from behind that would see Newcastle fail to make Europe altogether. The Canaries seem like the kind of side that could give the Toon a pretty good run for their money, and if anyone says they would have predicted this game could be such an interesting one back in August, they are lying through their teeth.

Pick: Newcastle, 2-1

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