English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 13
Defending Premier League champion Manchester City has taken over the top spot thanks to a blowout victory over Aston Villa paired with losses by Manchester United and Chelsea. It was one of several storylines to emerge during a wild weekend around the EPL.
Arsenal continued to show signs of life by knocking off rival Tottenham in the latest edition of the North London derby. The Gunners have made a lot of progress since the start of the season and are within striking distance of a top-four position.
Equally impressive was West Brom's defeat of Chelsea, proving the team's hot start is no fluke. The Baggies didn't look overmatched, going stride for stride with the Blues. Peter Odemwingie played the role of hero with a second-half winner.
It was another terrific weekend throughout the league. Now let's take a look at some of the latest news followed by a preview of what to expect in the week ahead.
Andrey Arshavin Latest
Andrey Arshavin arrived to Arsenal with high expectations after a strong run with Zenit. After a couple lackluster seasons, he's failed to make the impact the Gunners were hoping for and now might be on the move in January.
Wayne Veysey of Goal.com reports two clubs are already looking into acquiring the midfielder. Premier League rival Fulham, which are in need of an offensive spark, and Zenit are both interested. Arsenal are seeking at least €5 million in any deal.
Arshavin would benefit from a change of scenery after falling out of favor at Emirates. The Gunners might have to budge on their asking price because he's in a contract year, but they should benefit from a potential bidding war between Fulham and Zenit.
Mark Hughes Out at QPR
ESPN reports the Queens Park Rangers have decided to let manager Mark Hughes go after an extremely slow start to the campaign. The club hasn't announced who will take his place, but the article states Harry Redknapp is the most likely option.
QPR currently sits in last place with just four points in 12 matches. They are also the only team left without a win during the campaign. So it isn't a major surprise the club decided to shake things up a bit before it was too late.
The team released a statement about the decision, in part thanking Hughes for his time with QPR:
The Board of Directors wish to thank Mark for his commitment, hard work and dedication in his ten months in charge.
Mark has shown integrity and professionalism throughout his time here, but ultimately the circumstances we find ourselves in have left the Board of Directors with very little choice but to make a change.
Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki will take control until a full-time replacement for Hughes is named. QPR goes up against Manchester United on Saturday.
Luis Suarez Staying Put?
Luis Suarez has been a popular name on the rumor mill ahead of the January window. While there are surely no shortage of clubs that would love to add the dynamic striker to their roster, Liverpool doesn't appear ready to let him go.
Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph passed along the thoughts of Reds chairman Tom Werner, who said there are no plans to let Suarez get away during the midseason window. Instead, he praised the team's most effective player.
He’s a beautiful player to watch and, as a Liverpool fan, I hope I’m watching him for many years to come. We made a long-term contract with him in the summer and we are going to see a lot of his play at Liverpool.
Things change on a weekly basis when it comes to transfer plans. Anything is possible by the time January rolls around. That said, it sounds like Liverpool is serious about keeping Suarez in the fold despite the plentiful interest.
Interest in Mario Balotelli on Rise
Manchester City has shown no sign that the club is looking to move Mario Balotelli in January, but plenty of high-profile clubs are lining up just in case he's made available. He's struggled to make a consistent impact this season.
Greg Stobart of Goal.com reports Paris Saint-Germain are the latest club to show interest in the polarizing striker. PSG would join Inter and Milan in the race to sign him, but for now it appears City has plans to keep him.
Since there figures to be so few big-name strikers on the midseason market, the Citizens would probably get some pretty big offers for Balotelli. Yet, he's a rare talent and they probably want to keep him in the mix as they chase another title.
Match of the Week: Chelsea vs. Manchester City
Chelsea has cooled of considerably after a red-hot start to the campaign. Now the Blues sit four points behind Manchester City for first place, but they can take a big chunk out of that advantage by picking up a home victory on Sunday.
Even though the Blues dominated possession against West Brom over the weekend, they weren't able to capitalize on their scoring chances. It's once again a major concern with Fernando Torres back out of form just when it looked like he was back on track.
City knows Chelsea is reeling and would love to push them even further behind before they figure things out. The trio of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko gives manager Roberto Mancini plenty of options up front, making life incredibly difficult on opposing back lines.
Sunderland vs. West Bromwich Albion
This is an intriguing match. Both squads are coming off solid victories–Sunderland over Fulham and West Brom over Chelsea–and will be looking to carry over that momentum. Expect a tightly contested match the entire way.
Everton vs. Norwich City
The Toffees have watched their hold on a European spot slowly slip away due to a string of disappointing results. That includes a loss to lowly Reading on Saturday. Norwich is coming off a win over Manchester United, meaning Everton is in danger again.
Manchester United vs. Queens Park Rangers
Fans can expect to see a determined performance from United after losing the top spot after losing to Norwich. It helps that QPR hasn't shown any signs of turning things around after a slow start, sitting in last place by four points.
Prediction: 3-0, Manchester United
Stoke City vs. Fulham
These are the type of matches Fulham must find a way to win if the club wants to make a run toward a European spot. That's especially true since a tough stretch of the schedule follows. But Stoke's sturdy defensive approach should be enough to earn a point.
Wigan Athletic vs. Reading
Wigan would love to pick up all three points in this winnable home match, which would put some distance between them and the relegation zone. Shaun Maloney and Co. must be more effective in the attacking third to make it happen, though.
Prediction: 2-1, Wigan Athletic
Aston Villa vs. Arsenal
Arsenal's attack has been on fire as of late. That's a phrase Gunners fans probably weren't sure if they would heard this season, but the offseason additions are paying dividends. Given Villa's lackluster showing against City, Arsenal should cruise.
Prediction: 2-0, Arsenal
Swansea City vs. Liverpool
Given the inconsistent performances of these two squads this season, no result would be a surprise. That said, the Reds did have their most complete showing of the campaign in a 3-0 victory over Wigan and should be able to build off that.
Prediction: 2-1, Liverpool
Southampton vs. Newcastle United
Newcastle has too much attacking talent to keep struggling on offense. You get the feeling that eventually the Toon will explode for a bunch of goals and get back on track. A chance to face the league's worst defense is the perfect opportunity.
Prediction: 4-2, Newcastle United
Chelsea vs. Manchester City
This is the definition of a toss-up game. Chelsea has been terrific at Stamford Bridge and have more on the line given their current deficit in the table. But City has finally found its championship-winning form. An exciting draw seems most likely.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United
Andre Villas-Boas has taken a lot of heat for Tottenham's recent struggles, but there's really not much he can do when his back line breaks down like it did against Arsenal. West Ham's offense has been stuck in first gear, though, so Spurs should be able to get back in the win column.
Prediction: 1-0, Tottenham Hotspur