English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 14

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 14

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    Manchester United used a victory over Queens Park Rangers to get back atop the table as Manchester City was only able to muster a draw with Chelsea. The rivals are trading the lead on a weekly basis, and it's likely to change hands a few more times before season's end.

    The more surprising development is third place. Chelsea's poor run of form has dropped the Blues to fourth while upstart West Brom have slid in between the Manchester clubs after a terrific showing against Sunderland on Saturday.

    That group of four has put a little bit of distance between themselves and the next wave of clubs, which includes Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham. That said, the season is still young and there will undoubtedly be plenty more twists and turns along the way.

    Let's take a glance at some of the latest news making the rounds ahead of a busy week of action, with matches scheduled for both the middle of the week and the weekend. Match predictions are also included.

Arsenal Chasing Wilfried Zaha

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    Wilfried Zaha continues to be one of the most popular names on the rumor mill leading up to the January window. The Crystal Palace star has drawn interest from across the Premier League as clubs have fallen in love with his potential.

    Wayne Veysey of Goal.com reports Arsenal have taken the lead by opening talks with Zaha's Championship side. He states the Gunners are hoping to beat out the Manchester rivals and Liverpool with a £10 million base deal.

    The 20-year-old striker has immense upside, which is why so many clubs are hoping to land him now before his value goes way up. The Gunners need some depth up front, especially when looking toward the future, making him a good fit if they could work out a deal.

Chelsea Striker Plans

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    After a terrific start, Chelsea have fallen into a slump. A Premier League lead has quickly turned into a seven-point deficit, and the Blues have changed managers to Rafael Benitez. They are trying anything and everything to get back on track.

    Unsurprisingly, the club's patience with striker Fernando Torres is starting to run out as Chelsea gets prepared for the January window, according to Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror. He states Taison is being viewed as a replacement option.

    The 24-year-old Brazilian currently plays for Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine and would help give the Blues more depth up front. They have relied too heavily on Torres for awhile now. Landing Taison would start to change that.

Gareth Bale to La Liga?

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    Gareth Bale is enjoying another successful season with Tottenham. The 23-year-old winger has scored five league goals and has often been the club's most dangerous player in the attacking third. But will Spurs have to plan for the future without him?

    Greg Stobart of Goal.com reports Bale is hoping for a move to La Liga before next season, with Real Madrid being his preferred destination as he seeks more Champions League football. His rumored price tag is an eye-popping €62 million.

    Given that Tottenham just signed him to a new contract over the summer, it's unlikely the club would be willing to part with the rising star unless it was completely blown away. If Barcelona joins the race and makes it a bidding war, that's possible.

Everton Wants Goalkeeper

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    Everton have undergone a lot of changes over the past handful of seasons. One of the few constants has been goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has been the unmatched No. 1 for six years. His status might change after the January window, however.

    Manager David Moyes wasn't pleased with his team allowing a late equalizer against Norwich on Saturday and has started talking about bringing in competition for the veteran keeper, according to Andy Hunter of The Guardian. "We need competition in all areas and that extends to Tim Howard in goal, absolutely," said the Everton manager, who looked at Jack Butland and Artur Boruc in the summer.

    Howard has been as reliable as they come in the Premier League. But the Toffees have allowed several late leads to slip away already during the current campaign. They can't afford that in the chase for a European spot, so a message is clearly being sent to the American.

Match of the Week: Everton vs. Arsenal

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    Everton have cooled off considerably after starting the season in terrific form. Arsenal started slow, but started showing signs of life before a lackluster scoreless draw with Aston Villa over the weekend. Now both clubs are desperately seeking three points.

    The Toffees' biggest problem has been a lack of finishing ability up front. After scoring at least three goals in three of their first six matches, they haven't hit that mark in the last seven. Nikica Jelavic has struggled during that span, which really hurts the offense.

    Since the Gunners are giving up an average of just one goal per match, it will be difficult for Everton to reverse their fortunes on Wednesday. How Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud bounce back after getting shut down will ultimately decide the outcome.

Midweek Predictions

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    Top Matches

    Everton vs. Arsenal

    Tim Howard is a fiery competitor. Talk about the club potentially bringing in somebody to battle him for the starting job will either cause him to go on an absolute roll or cause him to start overplaying, which is the danger of putting more pressure on him.

    The Gunners will be waiting to pounce. Lukas Podolski has been impressive over the past month, a sign he's finally settled into his new home and come to understand the sky-high expectations. He will get back on track in an Arsenal victory.

    Prediction: 2-1 Arsenal


    Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool

    Spurs put together one of the most complete performances of their season against West Ham. Jermain Defoe scored twice, Gareth Bale found the net after a nice setup from Clint Dempsey and the back line ensured there was no comeback late.

    Tottenham will find tougher sledding against Liverpool. The Reds have emerged from their early-season slumber to play solid football recently. That improvement should lead to a tightly contested match with both sides earning a point.

    Prediction: 1-1


    Other Matchup Predictions (winners in bold)

    Sunderland 1, Queens Park Rangers 1

    Aston Villa 2, Reading 1

    Chelsea 3, Fulham 1

    Southampton 2, Norwich City 2

    Stoke City 2, Newcastle United 1

    West Bromwich Albion 1, Swansea City 0

    Manchester United 2 West Ham United 0

    Manchester City 2, Wigan Athletic 0

Weekend Predictions

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    West Ham United vs. Chelsea

    Rafael Benitez wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms by the Blues' faithful, hearing some jeers during his first match since taking over for Roberto Di Matteo. The team's inability to create chances against Manchester City didn't help the cause, either.

    Chelsea are on a five-match winless streak heading into the week and must face a West Ham side that surprisingly sits in eighth place. The Blues know they must find a way to get back on track quickly before they let the entire season slip away. Expect a showing that illustrates that.

    Prediction: 2-0 Chelsea


    West Bromwich Albion vs. Stoke City

    West Brom have exceeded expectations in a major way during the first third of the season. There are plenty of skeptics about their ability to maintain their current level of form for the final two-thirds. But the Baggies have at least given themselves a chance at European football.

    They can't afford to overlook Stoke, though. The Potters continue to play a strong defensive style. Take out one poor performance against Manchester United and they have only given up seven goals in 12 matches. It won't be pretty, but West Brom will squeak out a win.

    Prediction: 1-0 West Brom


    Other Matchup Predictions (winners in bold)

    Arsenal 2 Swansea City 0

    Fulham 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

    Liverpool 2 Southampton 1

    Manchester City 3 Everton 1

    Queens Park Rangers 1 Aston Villa 1

    Manchester United 3, Reading 0

    Norwich City 0 Sunderland 0

    Newcastle United 2 Wigan Athletic 1