Premier League 2012, Midweek 29 Preview And Fixtures: Chelsea, City Desperate To Stay In Their Respective Races

Fernando Torres of Chelsea holds off Joleon Lescott of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Manchester City face Chelsea in what is by far the biggest match of the Premier League's midweek fixtures.

After a tragic weekend in English football, the rest of the Week 29 fixtures in the Premier League get underway on Tuesday. Except for one; Aston Villa-Bolton has been postponed with no makeup date announced. There's really no other decision that could have been made, and even though Bolton won't be in action this week these games promise to have very somber overtones.

Blackburn vs. Sunderland

Tuesday, 3/20; 19:45 GMT/2:45 PM ET

Blackburn has finally managed to pull their heads above water, coming off a 2-0 win over Wolves at the Molineux that gave Rovers a three-point edge over the drop. Still, Blackburn is undeniably mired in a relegation battle and with little reason to think they're significantly better than QPR or Bolton, they can ill afford to rest on their laurels. Though the Martin O'Neill bump has calmed a bit, Sunderland have still been more than respectable of late. This will be a tough task for the home side, and they're firmly within point-scraping territory. It could get gritty.

Pick: Sunderland, 2-1

Manchester City vs. Chelsea

Wednesday, 3/21; 19:45 GMT/2:45 PM ET

This is pretty clearly the game of the (mid) week; City has somehow managed to fall from the top of the table, while Chelsea are desperately scrambling to avoid the miniature financial disaster that would be missing out on the Champions League on the eve of UEFA Fair Play regulations taking effect. It's been a pretty decent couple of weeks for Chelsea; since the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas the Blues have won every game. Though Birmingham, Stoke and Leicester are all teams you'd expect them to roll over with ease, advancing to the next stage of the Champions League despite a two-goal deficit to Napoli was a pretty special achievement.

It's been largely the opposite for City; a defeat to Swansea was bookended by two Europa League ties against Sporting that saw the Portuguese club advance on away goals. City still look, on paper at least, to be the best team in the Premier League but it's fair to say they appear vulnerable at the moment. Still, a win against Chelsea could be just the thing they need to get their fortunes turned back around in the right direction and at the risk of sounding cynical, they're likely going to be taking this one a bit more seriously than they did the Europa League.

Pick: City, 3-2

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City

Wednesday, 3/21; 19:45 GMT/2:45 PM ET

This has not been a very good month for Spurs. Champions League qualification once looked all but a foregone conclusion, and for a pretty good chunk of the season they looked to be legitimate title contenders. That whole title run thing has...not turned out as well as they'd likely hoped, and with Arsenal and Chelsea within striking distance even a return to the Champions League is beginning to look less and less secure.

Of course all of that will pale in comparison to what happened on Saturday. The emotional turmoil Fabrice Muamba's collapse due to cardiac arrest has caused (and likely continues to cause) for all that witnessed it first-hand is undoubtedly enormous and there's certain to be some lasting effect from that. It's the kind of traumatic event that no one can ever truly be prepared for, and though the effect it has on Spurs' form is somewhere very near the bottom of the list in terms of importance, it's something that has to be acknowledged in this context.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Everton vs. Arsenal

Wednesday, 3/21; 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET

With the nearest threat to the Gunners' top-four standing facing the unenviable task of taking on City at the Etihad, Arsenal have an opportunity to, if not sew up qualification to the Champions League, at the very least begin threading the needle. It's difficult to predict how Arsenal games will go because there has seldom been a more schizophrenic team in the Premier League. At times, they look positively unbeatable. At other, occasionally confusing times, they look like hot garbage. If the Gunners are on their game, the list of teams that could expect to beat them is incredibly short. But on the days they are not, any opponent is liable to smell blood in the water.

Pick: Arsenal, 3-1

Queens Park Rangers vs. Liverpool

Wednesday, 3/21; 19:45 GMT/2:45 PM ET

I'm sure I'm not alone in maintaining a pretty high level of confidence in QPR's ability to turn things around in time to avoid the drop. But despite Liverpool's underachievement, I don't expect this to be the day that starts to happen.

Pick: Liverpool, 2-0

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