English Premier League Gameweek 27: 5 Predictions for This Week's EPL Matches
It's another big weekend of action in the Premier League, with the two biggest games both happening in the north of England.
Newcastle take on Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby, while Liverpool face Arsenal at Anfield.
Elsewhere, Tottenham will attempt to bounce back from defeat in the North London derby when they play Manchester United at White Hart Lane.
I'll also be looking at Chelsea's trip to West Brom, and Stoke's match against Norwich.
Last week I successfully predicted four out of the five matches I previewed.
Find out after the jump what I think will happen this week.
Newcastle to Edge out Sunderland in a Frantic Tyne-Wear Derby
The Tyne-Wear derby is a difficult match to predict at the best of times, but it's particularly hard to call this year.
Newcastle have enjoyed a great season so far and sit in sixth place in the Premier League. Sunderland are only in ninth place, ten points behind Newcastle, but might be higher up in the table had Martin O'Neill taken control of the team earlier in the season.
Indeed, the recent form of both teams is remarkably similar. Newcastle have won three, lost two and drawn one of their last six games, while Sunderland have won three and lost three.
However, both teams are coming into the match on the back of disappointing performances.
Sunderland were hammered 4-0 at West Brom, while Newcastle threw away a two goal lead against Wolves at St James Park in a game that ended in a draw.
The game is also interesting tactically.
Newcastle have been lining-up in a 4-4-2 of late, with both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse up-front, while Sunderland may well play in a 4-4-1-1, with Stephane Sessegnon playing as a support striker behind either Fraizer Campbell or Nicklas Bendtner. Alternatively, Sessegnon could continue up-front on his own in a 4-5-1 which is practically a 4-6-0.
Newcastle could thus go into the match with more firepower, but could see themselves outnumbered in midfield.
That said, I predict that Sunderland may well go through a rough patch of form after their 4-0 beating in the Midlands, and that the combination of Ba and Cisse could prove too much for their defence.
Moreover, while Sunderland will have more players in midfield, I still fancy Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye to take control of the game.
So, I predict a 2-0 or 2-1 Newcastle win.
A Low-Scoring Arsenal Win at Anfield
On Saturday, Arsenal will be looking to avenge their 2-0 defeat to Liverpool earlier in the season.
Liverpool secured this victory against an Arsenal side in turmoil.
Andrei Arshavin, Henri Lansbury, Samir Nasri and Nicklas Bendtner all featured for Arsenal that day, and all have either permanently or temporarily left the club since the match.
Arsenal seem to have recovered their league form after a terrible start to the new year, in which they failed to win any of their league matches in January.
Indeed, since the start of February, they have won their last three matches in the league, including a crushing 5-2 victory over bitter rivals Tottenham.
Despite winning the Carling Cup on Sunday, Liverpool's league form has been less than impressive of late, with only one win in their last six games. Their home form has been patchy in general. They have not lost a game at Anfield, but have only won 4 of their 12 home matches.
Similarly, they boast a superb defensive record (the second best in the league), but have only scored 29 goals in the league this season, compared to the 53 scored by Arsenal.
I predict that Liverpool will suffer a post-Carling Cup hangover, and will go down to a narrow defeat.
No team has scored more than one goal against Liverpool at Anfield this season, meaning that I predict a 1-0 victory to Arsenal.
But with Daniel Agger out, and Jamie Carragher up against Robin van Persie, Arsenal could secure an even bigger victory.
Manchester United Will Add to Tottenham's Misery
Tottenham will find it difficult to bounce back from their defeat against Arsenal last weekend, when they take on Manchester United on Sunday.
Even with home field advantage, United have to be considered favourites.
Indeed, here's one staggering statistic for you—United are unbeaten in their last 25 matches against Tottenham in all competitions.
Still, Tottenham have improved significantly in recent years, and have been in sparkling home form this season, winning 10 of their last 12 matches in the Premier League.
I think this has the potential to be a relatively high scoring game, particularly if Wayne Rooney is passed fit. Both teams have shown that they are effective at creating and finishing goal scoring chances in the league this season.
Ultimately, I think the two teams will experience very different run-ins.
I have a suspicion that Tottenham will drop a lot of points between now and May, and will do very well to hang on to their top-four place. By contrast, United are notorious for ending the season strongly, and I think this will happen again this season, whether they win the league or not.
So, 3-1 to United.
West Brom Will Hold Chelsea to a Draw
Everything would seem to point to a Chelsea win in this match.
They have, after all, beaten West Brom in their last 11 meetings in all competitions. Combined with the return of Didier Drogba from the African Cup of Nations, and their morale boosting 3-0 win over Bolton last Saturday, Chelsea should be firm favourites.
But, interestingly, West Brom's recent form is slightly better than Chelsea's.
West Brom's record of three wins, one draw and two loses yields ten points, while Chelsea's record of two wins, three draws and a defeat gives them only nine. This also doesn't factor in Chelsea's morale sapping defeat away to Napoli, and the embarrassing home draw against Championship side Birmingham in the FA Cup.
Moreover, the bitter divisions within the Chelsea dressing room don't appear to be abating. David Luiz was even forced to deny this week that he had criticized Frank Lampard in a media interview given in Portugal over his poor relationship with Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas.
So, I think a disunited Chelsea team could drop points in the Midlands.
I predict a score draw.
Norwich to Beat Stoke at the Britannia
Finally for this week, let's take a look at Norwich's visit to the Britannia Stadium, where they'll face Stoke.
This is a difficult match to call. Last week, I incorrectly predicted that another newly promoted team, Swansea, would defeat Stoke in the Midlands. Instead, Stoke scored twice to secure a much needed win.
Norwich lost last weekend, but it's hard to criticize their spirited performance against a Manchester United side who required a last minute winner to take all three points.
Indeed, Norwich are having a better season than Stoke. They have earned two more points in the Premier League, and have won three of their last six games.
By contrast, Stoke have only won once in their last six. Stoke's main problem this season has been a lack of goals. The 26 goals they've scored is the joint-second worst record in the Premier League, just behind the 23 scored by Wigan.
Despite Norwich's reasonably porous defence, I think they will do enough for a win.
Norwich will not be physically intimidated by Stoke, and simply have more in-form players than the Potters.
So, I predict 2-0 to Norwich.