English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 17
Robin van Persie continues to pay dividends for Manchester United. On Sunday, he scored a stoppage-time winner against rival Manchester City. The victory pushed the Red Devils six points clear as the season's halfway point nears.
Elsewhere around the English Premier League, Chelsea finally got back on track with a convincing win over Sunderland. It was the Blues' first league win since late October. Also, Everton pulled off a stunning comeback against Tottenham to regain a top-four spot.
As it stands now, the difference between fourth and 12th place is just four points. It's a sign the league lacks dominant squads outside of the Manchester rivals and should make for some terrific races in the second half.
The outlook for at least some clubs is likely to change once again after Week 17. Knowing that, let's take a look at some of the latest news before examining this week's matches.
Frank Lampard Leaving Chelsea?
Frank Lampard has spent more than a decade at Stamford Bridge. The Chelsea star and England international has been one of the most reliable players in the Premier League over that span. But the run might be coming to an end.
Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror reports Lampard isn't expected to remain with the Blues heading into next season. The midfielder has been been linked to moves to China or the MLS, but it's still too early to guess where he would land if he does in fact leave Chelsea.
There's still plenty of time for things to change. That said, it would mark the end of a tremendous run for Lampard with one club. Staying in the same place for so long doesn't happen much anymore, and it goes to show how important he's been to the club.
Fernando Torres and Radamel Falcao
One of the main reasons Chelsea fell into a prolonged slump over the past month is a lack of firepower up front. That led to plenty of speculation about a potential January move to land another striker, possibly Radamel Falcao of Atletico Madrid.
Harry Harris of ESPN reports a move for Falcao, or any other striker, won't happen for the Blues if Fernando Torres remains in form. The high asking price for the best available strikers means the club will proceed with caution.
Torres found the net twice in both of the club's matches last week, showing a lot more confidence in the attacking third. He has a similar run of form when the season began, however, and then went into a slump. So it's a situation that warrants watching.
Southampton Eyes Gary Hooper
Celtic star Gary Hooper turned a lot of heads while helping his squad advance in the Champions League, so it's no surprise the transfer talk has begun. One manager who has always been keen of him is Nigel Adkins of Southampton.
The Saints have made two previous attempts to land Hooper and are hoping the third time's a charm, according to the Daily Mirror. The report states Adkins will make another push to sign him during the January window.
Southampton need all the help they can get as the Saints look to avoid relegation. Right now, the Saints are only two points clear of the bottom three. Hooper would surely give them the extra scoring punch they need to make sure they remain in the EPL.
Match of the Week: Tottenham vs. Swansea
Both Tottenham and Swansea are caught in the mid-table logjam, which should make for an exciting match on Sunday. Both clubs understand any loss can lead to a serious slide in the table right now and will be hoping to earn all three points.
For Tottenham, their current fifth-place standing isn't a surprise. They will be forced to recover from a shocking loss to Everton that saw the Toffees tally two late goals. That said, the Spurs have been in fine form aside from that two-minute lapse.
Swansea are more of a surprise. The Welsh side have been keeping pace mostly thanks to the strong play of Michu. Furthermore, recent victories over Arsenal and West Brom show they are more than capable of keeping pace with Tottenham in what should be a terrific match.
Newcastle United vs. Manchester City
City will be looking to take out their frustrations after letting United steal three points. Unfortunately for Newcastle they are next up on the schedule and that doesn't bode well for their chances. Expect a big City victory.
Prediction: 3-0 Manchester City
Chelsea vs. Southampton
The Blues watched their Premier League lead become a 10-point deficit and must now begin a prolonged point streak to get back in the mix. They can't afford anything less than all three points against a lackluster Southampton side.
Prediction: 2-0 Chelsea
Liverpool vs. Aston Villa
Playing without Luis Suarez, the Reds were still able to escape with a victory against West Ham. It's the latest sign that the squad's early struggles are behind them as they look to start making a move back up the table. Villa have not been as fortunate.
Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool
Manchester United vs. Sunderland
Sir Alex Ferguson will want to start seeing some improved play at the back after allowing five goals over the last two matches. Luckily for the Red Devils, Sunderland feature one of the league's least potent attacks and should help resolve those woes.
Prediction: 3-0 Manchester United
Norwich City vs. Wigan Athletic
Norwich are currently at the bottom of the table's muddled middle, but still in the mix. If they want to avoid falling off the pace, these are the types of matches they must win. Wigan are just two points clear of the relegation zone due to consistently poor defending.
Prediction: 2-1 Norwich
Queens Park Rangers vs. Fulham
There are two ways to view things for QPR. The positive side is that they have been more competitive lately, earning three straight draws. But they still haven't won a game. A struggling Fulham squad provide a chance to end that streak, but a draw seems more likely.
Stoke City vs. Everton
While Stoke's defensive approach isn't much fun to watch most weeks, it works. The Potters are in ninth place solely because of their league-leading defense. Everton must find a way to gain traction if they want three points on the road, but it's an uphill battle.
Sunday and Monday Predictions
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Swansea City
Tottenham need to be careful here. It's a match Spurs should win on paper, but Swansea have shown a knack of making life difficult on high-profile opponents—just ask Arsenal. Ultimately, expect an exciting back-and-forth battle leading to a draw.
West Bromwich Albion vs. West Ham United
This is a turning-point match for West Brom. They have lost three straight games and are beginning to slide after a tremendous start. If the skid doesn't come to an end against West Ham, the huge pack of teams behind the Baggies will begin to pass them.
Prediction: 1-0 West Brom
Reading vs. Arsenal
The Gunners picked up a key victory over West Brom on Saturday and are now within striking distance of the top four. While they have struggled to maintain any momentum this season, it's hard to imagine Reading giving Arsenal any serious issues.
Prediction: 2-0 Arsenal