Merson's predictions: Man City and Chelsea to deliver as their tussle for the title continues, plus a win for Arsenal

Magic Man sees hotly-contested draws for Man United, Liverpool , Spurs and West Ham

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04:  Loic Remy of Chelsea (18) is congratulated by Kurt Zouma (5) and team mates as he scores their second goal during the FA Cup
Image: Chelsea: Need to get back to winning ways in the league

The Premier League returns after the FA Cup break and, ahead of it's first weekend in the New Year, Sky Sports' Paul Merson gives his tips and predictions for what is set to be another thrilling round of fixtures.

Arsenal v Stoke – Super Sunday, 1:30pm

I’m going for Arsenal but I don’t know why if I’m being honest. I watched the game against Hull and I didn’t think they were great and against Southampton they shot themselves in the foot again.

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Stoke are half decent away from home, they were bang unlucky against Man United and should have won that game.

But with Alexis Sanchez up front and with Oliver Giroud returning from suspension, that will make the difference. I think Wenger will have Giroud straight back into the team because of his height.

I very rarely go against Stoke but the Gunners should have too much for them going forward.

PAUL PREDICTS: 3-1 (Sky Bet odds 11/1)

Manchester United v Southampton – Super Sunday, 4pm

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Sadio Mane of Southampton (obscured) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premi
Image: Southampton have been brilliant in recent weeks

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The highest compliment I can pay Southampton is that I don’t think there is anything between these two teams, I really don’t. The Saints gave them the absolute run around when they last played and lost 2-1.

That is a major compliment to them. The fact they can go to Old Trafford and it is heads or tails who wins shows how far they have come in my opinion.

They have been absolutely outstanding; they could have beaten Arsenal by five or six the other day. United would have had no complaints if they lost to Stoke and at Yeovil in the FA Cup they weren’t great either.

They have been falling over the line pretty much every week.

PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (Sky Bet odds 11/2)

Crystal Palace v Tottenham – Saturday Night Football, 5:30pm

Harry Kane of Spurs celebrates
Image: Kane: Looking to continue outstanding form

I do fancy Tottenham and I think they have turned the corner. I have been impressed with them to be fair and they were very good against Chelsea.

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The lad Harry Kane was unbelievable in that match, that’s as good as it gets. That was one of the best centre-forward performances I have seen. Not many people give Gary Cahill and John Terry the run around, he was absolutely outstanding against two of the best defenders in the world.

Alan Pardew has made the switch to Selhurst Park and I think he’ll do a good job because he is a good manager. They had a good result against Dover which was potentially the banana skin to end all banana skins, so to go there and win that easily was a good start.

He’ll keep them up, there’s no doubt about it, and he’ll get them going for this match, which will be a real battle. This will be a tough game for both sides, a proper London derby which we don’t really see anymore, with Palace and Spurs going at each other from the start.

PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (Sky Bet odds 5/1)

Sunderland v Liverpool – Saturday, 12:45pm

I’m going to go for a draw here. I haven’t been that impressed with Liverpool. They were lucky against Leicester and I thought they were lucky against AFC Wimbledon in the third round of the FA Cup. Playing away at the Stadium of Light is a tough fixture and I can’t split these two.

Image: Steven Gerrard: Liverpool's best player by miles

Steven Gerrard is still their best player by a million miles, he can’t help but play. It's unbelievable how he has been allowed to leave, it’s scary really. He’s my favourite player in the Premier League and he’ll be a big miss once he’s gone.

PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (Sky Bet odds 5/1)

Chelsea v Newcastle – Saturday, 3pm

Leicester City's Leonardo Ulloa celebrates scoring the opening goal during the FA Cup Third Round match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.
Image: Newcastle should be pushing for cup success

I’m going for a walk in the park here. Chelsea have to get back to winning ways in the league; they were eight points clear at one point and now they are level on points with Man City. They need to bounce back from the disastrous result against Tottenham. Newcastle aren’t that great and they will soon see just what a great job Alan Pardew did at St James’ Park.

I saw their loss away to Leicester in the FA Cup, and considering they haven’t won anything in my lifetime, I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t go for a cup run to please the fans. They’re not going to get relegated and they are not going to get into Europe, surely the club have got to try their hardest in the cups, their game at Leicester really shocked me.

PAUL PREDICTS: 3-0 (Sky Bet odds 11/2)

Burnley v QPR – Saturday, 3pm

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Danny Ings of Burnley celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates during the Barclays Premier League m
Image: Danny Ings: Vital to the Clarets' survival hopes

This is a big, big game. QPR had a disastrous result in the cup at home to Sheffield United, losing 3-0 at home and they and a decent team out as well. It’s vital that the Clarets keep hold of prized-asset Danny Ings, I like him as a player and I’m a big fan of his. His injury at the start of the season might see clubs shy away from signing him, though.

Burnley have all the momentum, they’re playing alright, they’re going places, scoring goals and I think they’ll have too much for QPR. They deserved to get three points away to Newcastle and I thought they were unlucky not to get a result at Loftus Road when they played back in December. It’s a must-win game for them and I don’t see them making the same mistake twice, and I really fancy them to win.

PAUL PREDICTS: 3-1 (Sky Bet odds 18/1)

Everton v Manchester City – Saturday, 3pm

Man City's James Milner celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the English FA Cup third round football match against Sheffield Wednesday
Image: City should have too much for a stuttering Everton side

Everton are struggling, aren’t they? I can’t believe what has happened to them. They got out of jail the other night to force a replay with the last kick of the game against West Ham and I just think City will have too much for them.

Everton need a goalkeeper, according to Roberto Martinez, following Tim Howard’s injury, and I just wonder how that makes Joel Robles feel. That doesn’t make him feel too clever and it doesn’t breathe faith into the second-choice stopper so there’s a problem there.

Pellegrini’s side have been on an unbelievable run, bar that disastrous result against Burnley, and they’ll win again here. Yaya Toure’s strike against Sunderland was incredible and it will be interesting to see how they cope without him while he’s away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

PAUL PREDICTS: 1-2 (Sky Bet odds 15/2)

Swansea v West Ham – Saturday, 3pm

Image: How will the Swans cope without Wilfried Bony?

I like West Ham, they are a decent team. It will be interesting to see how Swansea cope without Wilfried Bony but Bafetimbi Gomis doesn’t look too bad a replacement. There isn’t anything between these two teams; they are about level with each other, despite West Ham giving them a bit of a lesson at Upton Park in the corresponding fixture.

The Hammers will be happy with their replay in the FA Cup despite being so close to making it into the fourth round. Their one disappointing result this season came against Arsenal, where they probably expected to at least get a draw that day. Two evenly matched teams here and I can’t split them.

PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (Sky Bet odds 5/1)

Leicester v Aston Villa – Saturday, 3pm

Leicester have been playing well and have really recovered from that difficult patch they went through a month or so ago. They were bang unlucky at Liverpool the other day and I think they’ll get the win on Saturday.

Wes Morgan (right) congratulates Riyad Mahrez on his winning goal at Hull
Image: Leicester: Unfortunate not to win at Liverpool

Villa simply do not score enough goals, they have failed to score in ten games this season, and they’ve only managed to score two goals in two games. They haven’t scored three goals in a game this season and in the end that catches up with you.

They are defending OK but they’ve scored just four goals away from home all season and you’re not going to win too many matches like that. They are struggling and I think they are fortunate to be where they are in the league – if results don’t go their way Villa could be in real trouble come Saturday night.

If they were to lose Benteke in January they would be relegated, simple as. He’s the only person they have who looks like they can score a goal. They have to keep hold of him.

PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (Sky Bet odds 8/1)

West Brom v Hull – Saturday, 3pm

If you look at Tony Pulis’ record when he went to Palace – they won eight out of 11 games all by one goal to nil. I have to go with West Brom here because of the Tony Pulis factor, he’s a top manager and he’ll have them well organised and well up for this game. I'm not sure if Saido Berahino will stay at The Hawthorns because if we look at Pulis’ time at Stoke he had people like Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters up front – big people.

New West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis waves to the fans before the FA Cup Third Round match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich.
Image: Will the Tony Pulis factor have an influence again?

At Palace he had Marouane Chamakh so he does like a bit of presence and if they were offered the right money for Berahino I think they would let him go. Hull are struggling at the moment as well and I think the Albion will be too strong for them.

PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1 (Sky Bet odds 8/1)

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