Who Will Be Barclays Best? The Race Is On!

Derek ViveirosContributor IJanuary 22, 2009

With the FA Cup break coming to a close, the race for the Barclays Premier League crown is shaping up to be a photo finish. With the table being so incredibly tight at the top and the bottom, look for exciting fixtures for coveted points on a weekly basis.

Only six points separate the top-five teams with defending champions Manchester United holding one game in hand. The battle against relegation has five teams tied for last place and an amazing nine teams within three points. Here is what is on hand for the current "top-four" squads in the premiership.

On Tuesday January 27th, the top and bottom of the table meet as Manchester United head to The Hawthorns Stadium to take on a rejuvenated West Bromwich Albion side. A surprising 3-0 defeat of Middlesborough has hopes of top-flight football for another season at an all-time high.

Although both might be feeling a tad sluggish coming into this mid-week affair with both playing FA Cup matches three days prior. Look for an injury-riddled United squad to field a much different starting eleven.

On the same day Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa side head south to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth. Villa trails the league-leaders by only three points and look to take advantage of an underachieving Pompey squad who appears to be in disarray since the departure of Harry Redknapp.

Ashley Young will be watching the fixture from the sidelines as he picked up a three match ban after receiving a red-card at Sunderland last week. Jermaine Pennant could possibly make his first appearance for Portsmouth as they try and avoid entering the relegation zone.

Chelsea welcomes Middelsborough to Stamford Bridge Wednesday. Speculation regarding the dismissal of Luis Filipe Scolari may have become a reality, if not for late-game heroics by Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard. Their two last minute strikes helped Chelsea avoid a stunning home defeat to Stoke City. 

With the same kick-off time as the aforementioned match, Liverpool will pay a visit to the JJB Stadium to an up and coming Wigan Athletics club. The last time these clubs met, Dirk Kuyt's 84th minute goal was the difference as Liverpool went on to steal three points. The tough 3-2 loss at Anfield in October has Wigan looking to avenge the result. Many feel Wigan displayed that they were the better squad and were undeserving of leaving the Merseyside Stadium empty-handed.

On the outside looking in, an intriguing match between Arsenal and Everton at Goodison Park should highlight the beginning of what will be an extraordinary second half of the season.