Premier League preview
There are two huge games on a blockbuster Super Sunday as Manchester United face Liverpool and Arsenal take on Manchester City.
Last Updated: 12/01/13 4:01pm
There are two huge games on a blockbuster Super Sunday as Manchester United face Liverpool and Arsenal take on Manchester City, while the weekend starts with Harry Redknapp's Queens Park Rangers up against his former club Tottenham Hotspur.
Elsewhere, there are key matches at the bottom of the table as Reading tackle West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa entertain Southampton and Wigan Athletic travel to Fulham, while in the race for the UEFA Champions League Chelsea make the tough trip to Stoke City and Everton host Swansea City.
Manchester United currently have a seven-point advantage at the top of the table and will be looking to strengthen their position on a crucial day in the title race. Liverpool are the visitors to Old Trafford and the rivalry between the sides remains as strong as ever, although both managers will be hoping to keep controversy out of the headlines after bad blood in previous meetings. The hosts will certainly start as favourites, having won eight of their past nine Premier League games, but Liverpool have shown some good form themselves in recent weeks and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top in the battle between two of the most prolific strikers in the league, Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie.
Sunday's second match, which follows on Sky Sports 1HD, sees Manchester City visit Arsenal. Roberto Mancini's men will be desperate to stay in touch with their local rivals at the league summit by claiming victory at Emirates Stadium, but the Gunners will also view the fixture as a possible springboard for success in the second half of the season. Arsenal are currently sixth in the standings and four points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Tottenham occupy third place following an excellent recent run, but will be wary of running out of steam like they did at this stage last term. Missing out on Champions League qualification was followed at the end of the season by the departure of Redknapp, and he will be in the opposition dugout when Spurs make the journey across London to Loftus Road on Saturday, for a clash that can be seen live on Sky Sports 2HD. QPR boosted their survival hopes with a shock win at Chelsea last time out in the league and another victory would put them within striking distance of safety.
That loss to QPR has not been the only disappointment suffered by Chelsea in 2013, with Rafa Benitez blasted by fans following a 2-0 home defeat against Swansea in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final. The Blues have struggled for consistency for some time now and next face a difficult away clash at the Britannia Stadium. Tenth-placed Stoke may have only won once in their past six games, but they are still unbeaten at home in the league this season.
Everton are just a couple of points behind Chelsea in fifth place, having lost just once in nine games, and will be aiming to continue their push for Europe with a home win this weekend. Swansea are the visitors at Goodison Park, fresh from their impressive League Cup win, and are also on a four-match unbeaten run in the league.
While Swansea enjoyed a great midweek in the Capital One Cup, Aston Villa's loss to Bradford City only increased the pressure on their manager Paul Lambert. Villa are hovering a couple of places above the relegation zone and are just one higher than Southampton, their opponents this weekend. Saints were thumped 5-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup last time out but have become increasingly hard to beat in the league and will be looking to build on a sequence of three straight draws.
With Villa and Southampton going head to head, Wigan know they can climb out of the bottom three by beating Fulham at Craven Cottage. The Latics have only won once in eight games and Fulham will be hoping to pile on further misery, having halted their own worrying slide down the table with a 2-1 triumph at West Brom on New Year's Day.
West Brom next travel to Reading, who are level on points with QPR at the bottom of the table and have a mountain to climb to stay in the top flight. Brian McDermott's side have won twice all season and will find it difficult to overcome a Baggies side still flying high in seventh despite two straight defeats.
Chris Hughton welcomes former club Newcastle United to Carrow Road as Norwich City strive to end a run of four consecutive losses. The Canaries are still in a healthier position than the Magpies, with Alan Pardew fully aware that his men are involved in a relegation scrap after nine defeats in 11 games. Mathieu Debuchy could make his debut for a Newcastle side currently just two points clear of the drop zone.
Saturday's final clash pits together two teams in the lower half of the table as Sunderland welcome West Ham United to the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats have a four-point cushion over the bottom three and can climb to within a point of the Hammers with a home win. For Sam Allardyce's side, all eyes will again be on Joe Cole as he prepares to make his first Premier League appearance since re-signing earlier in the month.