TEAMtalk's Premier Picks

TT's Premier Picks: Mad Mario, brave Stan

Saturday 31st March 2012 12:33

Balotelli: In the spotlight again

Balotelli: In the spotlight again

Mario Balotelli, Stiliyan Petrov, doomed Wolves and resurgent Wigan all feature in TEAMtalk's review of Saturday's Premier League action.

On Saturday evenings throughout the 2011/12 season, TEAMtalk's writers are presenting their Premier League Picks - the special moments, star performers, stunning matches or shocking incidents from the day's action which we expect to dominate the headlines.

We'll be watching all the action unfold on the live TV feeds which are piped into TEAMtalk Towers from grounds up and down the country.

Once you've read through our choices for March 31, let us know your opinions by adding a Comment below.

A point gained or two points lost?

It depends if you see the glass half full or half empty, and knowing plenty of City fans I'd go for the latter!

On the face of it, surely it was two points lost for Man City after being held to a 3-3 home draw by Sunderland? But on further inspection, the City optimists (and there must be some out there) will tell you it could well prove to be a point gained.

City simply could not get the ball for large spells in the second half at The Etihad and they looked dead and buried at 3-1, but a piece of magic from Mario Balotelli gave them a lifeline after his earlier penalty and they capitalised 60 seconds later to grab an unlikely point.

Balotelli also showed his dark side again when he was involved in an on-the-field fracas with Aleksandar Kolarov and Carlos Tevez over the taking of a second-half free-kick as the pressure started to tell on the hosts. But City, somehow, came out of the game with a point after being second best for the majority of it.

As for Sunderland, the result must feel like a loss. They looked in total control and put in one of their best displays of the season after their midweek FA Cup exit. Surely there are better times around the corner next season with Martin O'Neill at the helm?

Matty Briggs

Wolves' surrender leaves mission improbable

It's looking increasingly bleak for Wolves' survival hopes after Saturday's 3-2 home reverse against Bolton. Going into this, I'd have said the Molineux men's entire hopes of staying up were resting on the outcome of this one. Win, and staying up was a real possibility; lose, and I'd have said it was game over for their hopes.

Terry Connor has taken an awful amount of stick since he took charge but to be fair to him, Wolves started like a house on fire and were extremely unfortunate not to go in at half-time with the lead, Steven Fletcher going close on three occasions.

But when they did take the lead, Wolves suffered yet another embarrassing capitulation - throwing away not only the lead, but three points and probably their Premier League lives in the process.

And it's clear all is not well in the camp after Roger Johnson and Wayne Hennessey's needless on-field spat.

Quite what Mick McCarthy must be making of all this intrigues me. I repeat my calls from earlier this month by urging Wolves to put him back in charge if they are to have any chance of retaining their Premier League status.

James Marshment

Brave Stan begins his biggest fight

Stiliyan Petrov may have been diagnosed with acute leukaemia but that didn't stop the Aston Villa captain bravely turning up to cheer on his team-mates in their defeat to Chelsea on Saturday.

Both sets of fans and benches gave the Bulgarian a minute's applause as the clock ticked round to the 19th minute (19 being Petrov's shirt number). It was a moving moment as Stan, as he is affectionately known, returned the compliment whilst struggling to hold back the tears.

Following recent events surrounding Fabrice Muamba, football once again showed that despite the rivalries, our wonderful game still finds a way of pulling together at times like these.

Let's just hope that Stan pulls through and goes on to lead a long and healthy life.

As for the match, Fernando Torres finally ended his Premier League goal drought with a well-taken strike late on and again looked sharp, but Villa could easily be dragged into the relegation scrap on this form - although you have to sympathise with Alex McLeish to a certain extent, with several key performers missing and youngsters having to fill the void.

Rob McCarthy

Great Escape on again for Latics

In seasons gone by, I've often championed Wigan's survival hopes - but I may now have to eat my words after suggesting this season would finally be the one where their luck runs out.

After the surprise win at Liverpool last weekend, Roberto Martinez really needed his side to follow that up by claiming a win over Stoke - and Latics did not disappoint with another thoroughly-deserved victory.

Martinez has the happy knack of getting Wigan winning at the right time of the season and Saturday's 2-0 triumph over the Potters proves they have the hunger and desire to see the job through again.

Jean Beausejour looks a good capture for Wigan and if he'd brought his shooting boots on Saturday, Stoke might have been looking down the barrel of an embarrassing scoreline.

Latics are away to Chelsea in their next game and will travel to Stamford Bridge with reasons to be optimistic and with a realistic hope I feel of taking something from the game. JM

Carry on Clint

Clint Dempsey set Fulham on course for three points against Norwich with an early opener before providing the assist for Damien Duff to score Fulham's second.

Fulham's 2-1 win ended a three-match losing streak and Dempsey now has 18 goals this season in all competitions, proving his worth to the Cottagers.

The win puts Fulham on 39 points and boss Martin Jol can perhaps try out some of the Cottagers' fringe players in the next few games as he looks to build on a solid first season at Craven Cottage.

Sam Nightingale

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