Premier League preview
Super Sunday throws up some mouthwatering games this weekend as the Premier League enters the festive period.
Last Updated: 17/12/11 2:18pm
Super Sunday throws up some mouthwatering games this weekend as the Premier League enters the busy festive period.
Manchester City are still top of the table but, after defeat to Chelsea last time out, they face another difficult challenge when they host Arsenal.
That game signs off the weekend, but before that on Sunday QPR welcome Manchester United to Loftus Road and Liverpool go to Aston Villa - all live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1.
Elsewhere, Andre Villas-Boas and his Blues play Wigan, while rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers travel to the capital where Fulham lie in wait.
It has not been a good few weeks for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City - falling out of the UEFA Champions League before a defeat at Stamford Bridge. City's lead at the top of the table has been cut to two points and in-form Arsenal come to town on Sunday - live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1 from 4.10pm. The Gunners were made to work for three points against Everton and it was once again left for Robin van Persie to score the winner - the red-hot Dutchman netting a sumptuous volley. If Arsenal win this one then they will be only six points off City and considering their terrible start to the campaign, that would be some achievement.
Manchester United are down in numbers and Darren Fletcher is the latest player to need a lengthy lay-off. Crashing out of the Champions League was a major blow for Sir Alex Ferguson's side but they at least got back to winning ways against Wolves. A run of victories over Christmas will be the top priority for Ferguson before he possibly strengthens in the January transfer window, starting against QPR on Sunday at 12pm, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1. Rangers sit in mid-table but have not picked up a win in their last three matches - losing to Liverpool most recently.
Sunday's Christmas cracker also sees Aston Villa host Liverpool at Villa Park. Alex McLeish's side earned him a much-needed three points at Bolton last weekend but his antagonistic relationship with the fans shows little sign of abating. It has been a solid if unspectacular start to his tenure since switching from Birmingham City in the summer with Villa currently ninth in the table with 19 points from 15 games. McLeish's style of football has frustrated certain sections of the fans this term but if they overcome Kenny Dalglish's men then they will be just four points behind Liverpool. Watch this one from 2.05pm.
Tottenham's impressive run ended in a controversial defeat to Stoke last weekend with Harry Redknapp unhappy with the performance of referee Chris Foy. The chairman Daniel Levy has this week claimed that Redknapp is not considering the possibility of taking the England job next year, and believes that Spurs can mount a serious title challenge this season. The north Londoners are fourth in the table but have a game in hand over the teams around them. They host Sunderland at White Hart Lane with Martin O'Neill taking charge of the Black Cats for the second time. A repeat of the gutsy comeback victory against Blackburn will be his remit.
Two important wins for Chelsea mean Andre Villas-Boas can breathe a little easier - the pressure was mounting on the Portuguese boss a few weeks back but his side now find themselves in a much stronger position going into the game at Wigan. The Latics' last home game ended in a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Arsenal but that result has been sandwiched in between two impressive away victories, against Sunderland and West Brom. If Roberto Martinez can get his team to reproduce that form at the DW then they could cause Chelsea some problems.
Owen Coyle cuts a forlorn figure at the moment and it is no wonder considering his Bolton side are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with just nine points from a possible 45. Since demolishing Stoke 5-0 Wanderers have lost four successive matches and a poor result at Fulham on Saturday could spell the end for Coyle's time in charge. Martin Jol will want a response from his charges after they dropped out of the Europa League on Wednesday night with the last kick of the game against Odense.
Newcastle have the opportunity to get back on track when they host Swansea City. The Magpies are seventh in the table, level on points with sixth-placed Liverpool, but have lost their last two - conceding seven goals in the process. Alan Pardew will see a home contest against the Welsh side as a good chance to take three points but Brendan Rodgers' outfit have acquitted themselves well on their debut Premier League campaign. Having said that, the Swans have yet to win away this term. This one could provide a contest between two in-form goalkeepers - the impressive Tim Krul and Michel Vorm.
Kick in the teeth
Blackburn's defeat at Sunderland was a real kick in the teeth for Steve Kean with Rovers leading 1-0 until the 84th minute at the Stadium of Light. This week they take on West Brom who themselves are on a poor run. Roy Hodgson's Baggies have picked up only one point from their last three games and defeat at Ewood Park would see Blackburn go within two of their Black Country opponents. Every week Kean comes out fighting and this will be no different - but his position remains a question of serious contention for the majority of Rovers fans.
Everton have been boosted by the news that Landon Donovan will rejoin the club on loan during January and February. The Toffees certainly need something fresh in attack as they have only scored 15 league goals this season and the American could provide that spark when he arrives. David Moyes will have to do without him in the meantime, though, and this weekend Norwich visit Goodison Park. Paul Lambert's side have impressed of late but find things more difficult away from Carrow Road.
Finally, Wolves and Stoke meet at Molineux. Mick McCarthy's side sit just outside of the relegation zone but will want to move further away from danger. Stoke's Europa League tie at Besiktas in midweek was a dead rubber and Tony Pulis rested a number of players for the trip to Turkey. Expect a return to full-strength and a good old English battle here.