Premier League preview
Another blockbuster Super Sunday takes centre stage this weekend as Chelsea host Arsenal and Manchester United travel to Tottenham.
Last Updated: 22/01/13 11:59am
Another blockbuster Super Sunday takes centre stage in the Premier League this weekend as Chelsea host Arsenal and Manchester United travel to Tottenham.
Second-placed Manchester City have the chance to cut United's seven-point lead at the top when they host Fulham in one of Saturday's seven fixtures, which also include a London derby between West Ham and basement dwellers QPR.
Elsewhere, a key clash at the foot of the table sees struggling Newcastle and Reading collide, while Liverpool will look to take advantage of Norwich's recent slump.
Chelsea may be in the top three but just one win from their last three Premier League games has left them only two points clear of in-form Tottenham and Rafa Benitez's side will be keen to shrug off the disappointment of Wednesday's draw with Southampton, during which they threw away a two-goal lead, when they take on sixth-placed Arsenal in Sunday's London derby at Stamford Bridge. Arsene Wenger's men have also struggled for form to leave them winless in two league games but they will be boosted by their FA Cup triumph over Swansea in midweek, when Jack Wilshere sealed a last-gasp win. For the Gunners there is also the added motivation of knowing victory over their neighbours would lift them into fifth above Everton, who do not play until Monday evening, as the battle for European football continues.
Sunday's other encounter, which follows on Sky Sports 1HD, is no less high-profile as leaders Manchester United look to hold onto their seven-point advantage against Andre Villas-Boas' fourth-placed Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Spurs emerged surprise winners in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in September and will be looking to pull off a rare league double over Sir Alex Ferguson's men on home soil as they chase UEFA Champions League football this term. However, the North Londoners have not won a home fixture against United since 2001 and could face a tough task against a side feeling buoyed by their four-match winning streak in the league and an FA Cup triumph over West Ham in midweek which saw them safely into the fourth round. Spurs have gone unbeaten in six league games but were frustrated last weekend when they went up against former boss Harry Redknapp for the first time since his departure in the summer and his QPR side held them to a goalless draw.
Manchester City have the chance to trim their neighbours' lead before their trip to Spurs when they entertain Fulham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon. After allowing United to establish their comfortable advantage, Roberto Mancini's side have got back to winning ways by claiming three triumphs on the bounce and will be keen to make it four against Martin Jol's visitors, who have won just one of their last six league encounters to leave them 13th in the standings. Fulham will be wary of a side that came through their crunch clash against Arsenal last weekend with three points but a midweek FA Cup win over Blackpool should have lifted spirits in the Cottagers' camp.
Liverpool were left disappointed by defeat to fierce rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend but have the chance to redeem themselves against a Norwich side who are winless in five league games - with four of those meetings ending in defeat. Brendan Rodgers' men welcome the Canaries to Anfield knowing they have the chance to take advantage of West Brom's recent slump and climb into seventh with a win. Chris Hughton's men will be desperate to put a stop to their own nosedive, with an uninspiring goalless draw at struggling Newcastle last weekend marking their latest setback.
For Newcastle and Reading, Saturday's showdown at St James' Park marks a relegation six-pointer as both sides look to dig themselves out of danger. The Royals are second-bottom and three points adrift of safety, while the Magpies' recent slide has left them just two points clear of the drop zone, having lost five of their last seven league games. Victory over Brian McDermott's men would give Newcastle breathing space but they will go up against a Reading side just as keen to claim a much-needed three points.
The first London derby of the weekend sees West Ham host rock-bottom QPR, who received a welcome boost in midweek when they dumped West Brom out of the FA Cup at the Hawthorns. Rangers fans will also be feeling encouraged by Harry Redknapp's business in the transfer window, with the manager beating Newcastle to the signing of Marseille's Loic Remy, who could make his debut at Upton Park. Redknapp's men will look to take advantage of a wounded Hammers side stinging from their FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United, having secured just one win in eight games in all competitions.
Escaping the drop zone will be Aston Villa's priority when they travel to neighbours West Brom in Saturday's Midlands derby, with Paul Lambert's side sitting third from bottom on goal difference after a run of four defeats and a draw from their last five league matches. The Baggies were flying high in the European places earlier this season but a slump in form has seen Steve Clarke's men slip down the table and while they remain in seventh place, a worrying three straight defeats mean they will also be keen to get back on track against their local rivals.
Also languishing near the bottom of the table are Wigan, who sit a place outside the bottom three on goal difference only. They host 14th-placed Sunderland at the DW Stadium hoping to build on their FA Cup triumph in midweek, when they eliminated League One Bournemouth at Dean Court. The Black Cats suffered upset in the competition when they lost at home to Championship side Bolton and will be keen to recover from that setback.
Saturday's final encounter sees Stoke and Swansea collide in a midtable tussle, with just a place and a point separating the two sides. Michael Laudrup's men are ninth and unbeaten in five league games, although four of those encounters have ended in draws. They were also on the end of disappointment on Wednesday night when they suffered late defeat at Arsenal in the FA Cup and will look to get back on track against a Potters side who advanced to the next round with a convincing 4-1 win over Crystal Palace.