English Premier League: Week 22 Match Previews and Predictions
Over the last weekend, the English Premier League once again proved why it is such a great league to watch.
Swansea City continued to impress at their Wales home ground of Liberty Stadium as they claimed the scalp of previously fourth-placed Arsenal 3-2, thanks to goals from Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer and Danny Graham.
Chelsea managed to get back into the top four through a hard-fought victory over Sunderland 1-0 with Fernando Torres's skill striking the bar but deflecting back in off of Frank Lampard, giving the veteran 11 goals this season, while Torres is still frustrated by a lack of strikes.
Liverpool managed to stay unbeaten, but once again left their charge too late, as poor form in front of net cost them their seventh draw at Anfield this season, dropping them to seventh.
Wolverhampton continue to scrape at the bottom with a 1-1 draw against Tottenham, while Blackburn Rovers pulled off a 3-1 upset of Fulham with only 10 men on the pitch.
Norwich City once again claimed victory to keep themselves in the top half with a 2-1 win over injury-stricken West Bromwich Ablion, while both Manchester United and Manchester City continued to keep pace at the top with victories over Bolton Wanderers and a scrappy 1-0 win for the Citizens over Wigan Athletic.
Newcastle United, meanwhile, returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over QPR thanks to Leon Best. Everton were frustrated to a 1-1 draw while away to Aston Villa.
This weekend sees some great matches as four of the top five face off in huge games that could have major influence on the title race.
Norwich City vs Chelsea
Chelsea face a tough test in Norwich City as the Canaries have been very strong in their first season back in the top flight.
The tandem force of Grant Holt and Steve Morrison has powered the club to victory with the assistance of a breakthrough-signing Anthony Pilkington.
Fernando Torres looks to be regaining some of his form, but still continues to be frustrated in front of the net, while Frank Lampard keeps on finding the back of it even when he is not trying to.
Predicted Score: Norwich City 1-2 Chelsea
Predicted Norwich City Starting XI: John Ruddy, Marc Tierney, Zak Whitbread, Russell Martin, Kyle Naughton, Andrew Crofts, David Fox, Wesley Hoolahan, Andrew Surman, Grant Holt, Steve Morison
Predicted Chelsea Starting XI: Petr Cech, Jose Bosingwa, David Luiz, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Oriel Romeu, Juan Mata, Ramires, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge
Players to Watch: Grant Holt and Fernando Torres
Everton vs Blackburn Rovers
Everton managed another draw last weekend thanks to a goal set up by on-loan forward Landon Donovan. The American is once again proving his value to the Toffees for what looks to be his second successful loan spell so far.
Manchester United outcast Darren Gibson should make his Everton debut in the match with Phill Neville likely to have to fill in as a makeshift center, half due to injuries in the side.
Blackburn will be without former Toffee Yakubu as he is on suspension for last week's Red Card against Fulham, but if Rovers prove as deadly with 11 this week as they did with 10 last week, it could be a tough match for David Moyes' side.
Predicted Score: Everton 2-2 Blackburn
Predicted Everton Starting XI: Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, John Heitinga, Phil Neville, Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, Apostolos Vellios, Darren Gibson, Royston Drenthe, Landon Donovan, Louis Saha
Predicted Blackburn Rovers Starting XI: Paul Robinson, Jason Lowe, Chris Samba, Adam Henley, Grant Hanley, Steven Nzonzi, David Dunn, David Hoillet, Morten Gamst Pederson, Mauro Formica, David Goodwillie
Players to Watch: Landon Donovan and Mauro Formica
Fulham vs Newcastle United
Fulham were shocked to a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers last weekend as Steve Kean pulled another Rabbit out of a hat to lead his 10-man side to an impressive victory.
The Cottagers are in need of improvement once again as their level of consistency has been all over the board this season. Forward Clint Dempsey has been their brightest player on the pitch and he will be needed desperately against Newcastle.
Newcastle United are without Demba Ba, who will continue to be away at the African Cup of Nations along with midfielder Cheik Tiote. However, they will also be without new striker Papiss Demba Cisse, who joined this week, as the striker is also away in Africa.
Predicted Score: Fulham 2 - 3 Newcastle United
Predicted Fulham Starting XI: David Stockdale, Stephen Kelly, Brede Hangeland, Philippe Senderos, John Arne Riise, Danny Murphy, Simon Davies, Clint Dempsey, Bryan Ruiz, Andrew Johnson, Bobby Zamora
Predicted Newcastle United Starting XI: Tim Krul, Davide Santos, Michael Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi, Leon Best
Players to Watch: Clint Dempsey and Leon Best
Queens Park Rangers vs Wigan Athletic
Mark Hughes continues to push for new signings as Queens Park Rangers dropped into the relegation zone last week, thanks to their loss to Newcastle United.
The addition of Manchester United striker Federico Macheda on loan is yet to bear fruit in the league, but that could be a different story this week as the club plays host to Wigan Athletic.
Roberto Martinez's Latic's have been impressing though in the last two months as the team seems to be coming together despite them being in the last place of the league.
Predicted Score: QPR 2 - 2 Wigan
Predicted Queens Park Rangers Starting XI: Radek Cerny, Luke Young, Clint Hill, Daniel Gabbidon, Bradley Orr, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jaime Mackie, Joey Barton, Tommy Smith, Federico Macheda, Jay Bothroyd
Predicted Wigan Athletic Starting XI: Ali Al Habsi, Maynor Figueroa, Gary Caldwell, Anton Alvarez, Ronnie Stam, David Jones, James McCarthy, Jordi Gomez, Ben Watson, Victor Moses, Hugo Rodallega
Players to Watch: Federico Macheda and Hugo Rodallega
Stoke City vs West Bromwich Albion
Stoke City frustrated Liverpool at Anfield to earn a point last weekend as they continue to hold their own in eighth place in the EPL table.
Tony Pulis continues to show his ability to keep the club moving forward and looks to start pressing for a return to the Europa League next season.
Roy Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion have been riddled with midfield injuries but are copping at the moment without their captain, Chris Brunt, who is one of their most influential creators on the pitch.
Predicted Score: Stoke City 2 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
Predicted Stoke City Starting XI: Thomas Sorenson, Jonathan Woodgate, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson, Jermaine Pennant, Rory Delap, Dean Whitehead, Matthew Etherington, Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters
Predicted West Bromwich Albion Starting XI: Ben Foster, Nicky Shorey, Jonas Olsson, Gareth McAuley, Billy Jones, Sam Mantom, Graham Dorrans, Somen Tchoyi, Scott Allan, Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie
Players to Watch: Peter Crouch and Peter Odemwingie
Sunderland vs Swansea City
Sunderland squandered a host of chances that could have seen them see off Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week, but the goal-scoring touch was just not there for the Black Cats.
Swansea, on the other hand, were firing on all cylinders as they upset Arsenal 3-2 at their home Liberty Stadium in Wales and claimed their biggest scalp of the season.
Predicted Score: Sunderland 2 - 2 Swansea City
Predicted Sunderland Starting XI: Kieren Westwood, Phillip Bardsley, John O'Shea, Michael Turner, Kieran Richardson, Sebastian Larsson, David Vaughn, James McClean, Lee Cattermole, Stephane Sessegnon, Nicklas Bendtner
Predicted Swansea City Starting XI: Michel Vorm, Angel Ranger, Steven Caulker, Ashley Williams, Ashley Richards, Mark Gower, Leon Britton, Luke More, Joe Allen, Danny Graham, Scott Sinclair
Players to Watch: Stephane Sessegnon and Danny Graham
Wolverhamoton Wanderers vs Aston Villa
Wolverhampton claimed a massive point away to Tottenham at White Hart Lane last weekend, thanks to Steven Fletcher once again.
Wolves should have a great chance to take the match against Aston Villa as the Villains have had poor away form.
The arrival of Robbie Keane to Villa gives their attack another boost, but it is unseen exactly how the veteran former Spurs player will be utilized over the course of his loan.
Predicted Score: Wolves 2 - 2 Aston Villa
Predicted Wolverhampton Wanderers Starting XI: Wayne Hennessey, Stephen Ward, Christophe Berra, Roger Johnson, Emmanuel Frimpong, David Edwards, Stephen Hunt, Karl Henry, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle, Steven Fletcher
Predicted Aston Villa Starting XI: Shay Given, Allan Hutton, James Collins, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, Ciaran Clark, Stiliyan Petrov, Marc Albrighton, Charles N'Zogbia, Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor
Players to Watch: Steven Fletcher and Darren Bent
Bolton Wanderers vs Liverpool
The look on Steven Gerrard's face above is all that can be said for Liverpool right now. The Reds have endured a frustrating season as they seem to be struggling to get over the hump from okay to good to great.
There offense has been misfiring all season, and if they awarded points for how many times you can hit the woodwork in the first part of a season, they would be at the top of the table.
Nevertheless the Reds should be able to knock off Bolton away from home as their traveling form has been much better than their home form.
Bolton are two points from the safe zone and the loss of Gary Cahill to Chelsea only compounds their defensive problems.
Owen Coyle has his work cut out for him to turn this season around and avoid the drop and the sack.
Predicted Score: Bolton 0 - 2 Liverpool
Predicted Bolton Wanderers Starting XI: Adam Bogdan, Paul Robinson, Gary Cahill , Zat Knight, Dedryck Boyata, Fabrice Muamba, Martin Petrov, Mark Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker, Kevin Davies, Ivan Klasnic
Predicted Liverpool Starting XI: Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, Maxi Rodriguez, Charlie Adam, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Craig Bellamy, Andy Carroll
Players to Watch: Ivan Klasnic and Steven Gerrard
Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
This is the biggest game of the season for both teams at the moment, as Manchester City look to maintain their gap at the top, while Tottenham are looking to prove that they are worthy title contenders by taking three points away at the Etihad.
Roberto Mancini's men pulled off a close 1-0 victory over Wigan Athletic this past Monday but they will have to do better than that to get the best of Tottenham.
Jermain Defoe has been hotly linked with a move to Liverpool this week and he should get his time to shine against Manchester City as Emmanuel Adebayor will be unavailable for the match because he is on loan from the Citizens.
City have been suspect lately and I could see them dropping this match to Tottenham, who, despite their draw to Wolves, are still in great form.
Predicted Score: Manchester City 1 - 2 Tottenham
Predicted Manchester City Starting XI: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Samir Nasri, David Silva, Eden Dzeko, Sergio Aguero
Predicted Tottenham Hotspur Starting XI: Brad Friedel, Kyle Walker, Yonus Kaboul, Michael Dawson, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Sandro, Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe
Players to Watch: Sergio Aguero and Gareth Bale
Arsenal vs Manchester United
Arsenal host Manchester United in the second round of this season's campaign between the two. The Gunners' trip to Old Trafford back in September was one that Arsenal will wish they could forget, while Manchester United fans herald it as a victory for the ages, as the Red Devils obliterated Arsene Wenger's squad 8-2 in front of the Manchester United fans.
Sir Alex Ferguson will hope his team can do even half that amount of damage when they head to London this weekend and will hope that Tottenham knock off Manchester City to allow a Red Devils Victory to put them back level at the top of the table.
If the Gunners have anything to say about it, they will have their chance, as Robin Van Persie continues to be on fire up front. However, it is once again down to the Arsenal defense as to which way this match will play out.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 2 - 2 Manchester United
Predicted Arsenal Starting XI: Wojciech Szczęsny, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Ignasi Miquel, Johan Djourou, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie, Andrei Arshavin
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI: David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Patrice Evra, Nani, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez
Players to Watch: Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney
It looks to be a doozie of a weekend in the EPL with the two matches on Sunday afternoon being the highlight of match day 22 in the league.
This is sure to be another weekend that sees the table get a little mixed up, and it all adds to what is the excitement of the World's most popular football league.