Premier League 2012, Week 30 Preview And Fixtures: Chelsea Looks To Gain On Spurs

Rafael van der Vaart of Tottenham Hotspur scores while being challenged by Petr Cech and John Terry of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Chelsea can pull to within two points of Tottenham in the race for fourth when they host Spurs at Stamford Bridge this weekend

The weekend's biggest and best matchup will be over and done with before the rest of a pretty uninspiring-looking slate even gets under way. So, yeah!

Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday 3/24; 12:45 GMT/8:45 AM ET

They aren't waiting long to cut to the chase this week, are they? Mathematically, Chelsea can't catch Spurs for fourth place this week, but a win here would make their once seemingly insurmountable grasp on the Champions League look far more than tenuous. Though the narrative makes Chelsea the clear favorite, it's important to keep in mind that Spurs still have a five-point edge over their London rivals. There's a reason Roberto di Matteo is calling this game a "must-win;" though that's the kind of mild hyperbole you'd expect from a manager, he's not that far off. A Tottenham win wouldn't book their tickets to the Champions League, but it'd be close. A draw would give Spurs a solid advantage headed into the home stretch.

Pick: Chelsea, 3-2

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa

Saturday 3/24; 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Because Villa is safely clear of the relegation zone, well behind the European places and can afford to experiment a bit, I'm really looking forward to seeing a far more dynamic, attacking, ambitious si -- oh god, even I can't do it anymore.

Pick: Arsenal, 3-1

Bolton vs. Blackburn

Saturday 3/24; 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

This is going to be a very difficult game for most to watch without some pretty serious emotional toll being taken. Bolton returns to the pitch for the first time since Fabrice Muamba's collapse, and with the 23-year-old midfielder improving but still clearly not out of the woods just yet, it would be understandable if their minds were elsewhere.

On the other hand, things like this have a way of bringing a team together. With Bolton still fighting for their place in the league, a win against an improved but still far from safe Blackburn side would be a major boost to both their chances and morale. With absolutely no ill-will toward Blackburn intended, I feel pretty comfortable in my belief that I'm far from the only person pulling for such an outcome.

Pick: Bolton, 2-1

Liverpool vs. Wigan Athletic

Saturday 3/24; 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Last we saw Liverpool, they were fresh off blowing a 2-0 lead to Wigan's relegation rivals QPR. You can safely bet that Kenny Dalglish's side will not want to see lightning strike twice. Of course, they probably weren't especially thrilled with lightning striking once either; who wants to get hit by lightning? That's probably very unpleasant! And it didn't really help them at Loftus Road, did it? So maybe they ought to play better.

Pick: Liverpool, 3-1

Norwich City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Saturday 3/24; 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Though just three points from 17th and safety, it's really not looking good for Wolves at the moment. When three teams are guaranteed to go down, you've been one of the three worst teams in the league all season and you're sitting dead last in the table, it's a pretty tough hill to climb. There are tougher teams in the league than Norwich, but at this point, Wolves beating anyone has got to be considered a major surprise, especially away from home.

Pick: Norwich City, 2-0

Sunderland vs. Queens Park Rangers

Saturday 3/24; 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Fresh off a 45-minute spell as almost everyone's favorite team in England, QPR must now get back to the business of trying to stay up. They've got good pieces of a strong core and the seemingly committed ownership necessary to make a significant improvement next season, but it's going to be difficult to take a big leap forward if they're playing in the Championship. A point here helps QPR a whole lot.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Swansea City vs. Everton

Saturday 3/24; 15:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Swansea City could quite plausibly make the Europa League. There's insanity, and then there's that previous sentence.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Stoke City vs. Manchester City

Saturday 3/24; 17:30 GMT/1:30 PM ET

Based on the lineup City puts on the field in this game, you'll have a pretty good idea of who Roberto Mancini wouldn't mind seeing beaten senseless for an hour and a half.

Pick: City, 2-1

West Bromwich Albion vs. Newcastle United

Sunday 3/25; 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Is making this the only Sunday game the Premier League's idea of a joke?

Pick: Newcastle, 2-1

Manchester United vs. Fulham

Monday 3/26; 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET

Manchester United is just a point ahead of their neighbors at this point and, frankly, appear to be the inferior team, but their winning the title this season after all that's happened would be so cosmically hilarious that it's starting to look like a foregone conclusion.

Pick: United, 3-1

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