English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 22

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 22

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    Manchester United maintained their seven-point Premier League lead over rival Manchester City with an easy victory over Wigan last week. It was Chelsea who made the biggest splash, however, by landing striker Demba Ba from Newcastle.

    Ba proceeded to score twice in his first match with the Blues in a dominant FA Cup triumph over Southampton. He should provide some much-needed stability in the attacking third. That's something the club didn't have during its recent slump.

    Elsewhere around the EPL, Tottenham remained in top form to earn a spot in the top three, Everton moved back into a European spot with a victory over the Magpies and Liverpool continued their climb, sliding into eighth place.

    It should be another busy week around the league with the transfer window heating up and a full slate of matches over the weekend. Let's take a look at some of the latest transfer updates followed by a preview of the week's fixtures. 

Latest on Marouane Fellaini

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    Marouane Fellaini has always stood out on the pitch thanks to his hair style, but the Everton midfielder is quietly putting together a terrific season for the Toffees. He leads the club with eight goals in 16 Premier League matches.

    Sure enough, as he enjoys a breakout campaign other clubs are lining up with hopes of swiping him away from the Toffees. But Tim Poole of Goal.com reports Everton manager David Moyes doesn't believe he will lose the midfielder, despite interest from a group of teams led by Chelsea.

    Since Everton are in a close race with Tottenham and the Blues for spots in the Champions League, it's no surprise they hope to keep one of their top assets. It will be interesting if the Blues continue the pursuit or begin to target other options.

Alvaro Negredo to Tottenham?

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    Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo has shined in an otherwise nondescript first half of the season for the La Liga side. He's scored eight goals in 16 league matches, carrying the Sevillistas' attack on his back in the process.

    His strong play generated a lot of attention from the Premier League. Tottenham are planning a £15 million move with Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle all have shown interest in the Spain international, according to Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail.

    A move to the Spurs would make sense because they lack depth up front. Negredo has already proven he can produce in one of Europe's top leagues, which should ease any transition he's forced to make. Tottenham clearly face competition, though.

United Seek Keeper Upgrade

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    Even though Manchester United are threatening to run away with the Premier League, the play between the pipes has given reason for pause. David De Gea and chief backup Anders Lindegaard have both struggled to establish themselves.

    The Red Devils rank in the middle of the pack in goals allowed. Part of that is due to the club's open style of play, but lackluster goalkeeping has also played a role. So it's not a major surprise they are tracking other keepers, according to Alan Nixon of the Daily Mirror.

    He reports Asmir Begovic of Stoke City and Liverpool's Pepe Reina are two options on the table for United. While both players have their positives and negatives, it all comes down to whether Ferguson wants the upside of Begovic or the experience of Reina, if he makes a move at all. 

Edinson Cavani Tracked by City

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    Edinson Cavani has been nothing short of spectacular since joining Napoli in the summer of 2010. The Uruguayan forward has scored 91 goals in 118 matches across all competitions. Now the transfer rumors are beginning to swirl.

    Graeme Yorke of the Daily Mail reports City are keen to land Cavani in January. A bid of £45 million is already being tossed around as a possibility, and that's just a starting point. A lot depends on the future of polarizing star Mario Balotelli.

    If City are hoping to chase down United, it's going to take a dominant effort in the season's second half. Adding a dynamic goal scorer like Cavani to the mix would certainly be a step in the right direction. It doesn't sound like a deal is imminent, though. 

Match of the Week: Arsenal vs. Man City

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    Sunday features two terrific matches. Along with Arsenal taking on Manchester City, Manchester United will battle Liverpool. Luckily, the games start at different times, giving fans a chance to catch them both in their entirety.

    The Gunners come off a frustrating week, which featured draws with Southampton in league play and Swansea in the FA Cup. They will need a much more complete performance against City to avoid another letdown.

    On the flip side, the Citizens enjoyed a successful week with a pair of 3-0 victories. The key for them on Sunday is trying to manufacture an early goal to force Arsenal's frustrations to boil over. If that happens, City will cruise again. 

Saturday Predictions

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    Queens Park Rangers vs. Tottenham Hotspur

    The tremendous play of Gareth Bale has been one of the main reasons Tottenham made a major move up the table. Paired with Jermain Defoe, Spurs feature two reliable goal scorers and a struggling QPR side won't be able to slow them down.

    Prediction: 2-0 Tottenham

     

    Aston Villa vs. Southampton

    Villa continue to sit dangerously close to the relegation zone, which makes home matches against clubs like Southampton—who are in a similar position—crucial. However, during a weekend with so many good games, this is one that fans can skip.

    Prediction: 1-1

     

    Everton vs. Swansea City

    Although they sit in fifth place, Everton haven't scored a convincing EPL victory since late September. Every league match since that point has been a draw or decided by one goal. Expect the Toffees to change that against Swansea.

    Prediction: 2-0 Everton

     

    Fulham vs. Wigan Athletic

    The addition of Dimitar Berbatov paid off for Fulham, but the veteran forward hasn't received enough support from his teammates. The same can be said for Arouna Kone of Wigan. Whichever star shines on Saturday will lead his club to victory.

    Prediction: 2-1 Fulham

     

    Norwich City vs. Newcastle United

    Newcastle have only scored one goal in two matches since Demba Ba left for Chelsea. It's going to take some time for the squad to replace his production, which opens the door for Norwich to earn a victory.

    Prediction: 1-0 Norwich

     

    Reading vs. West Bromwich Albion

    In order to remain within striking distance of a European spot, these are the type of matches in which West Brom must secure three points. They can't allow points to slip away against a relegation-level opponent, even on the road. Look for them to squeak by.

    Prediction: 1-0 West Brom

     

    Stoke City vs. Chelsea

    The arrival of Ba seemed to energize Chelsea. They put together a terrific performance against Southampton, led by their new striker, and should be able to carry over that momentum. The Blues will need it against Stoke's tough back line.

    Prediction: 2-0 Chelsea

     

    Sunderland vs. West Ham United

    West Ham came within minutes of eliminating Manchester United from the FA Cup, but Robin van Persie saved the Red Devils in stoppage time. It was still an encouraging performance. Winning on the road has been an issue for the Hammers, though.

    Prediction: 1-1

Sunday Predictions

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    Manchester United vs. Liverpool

    The arrival of Daniel Sturridge should take some pressure off Luis Suarez, who's been Liverpool's lone reliable scorer so far. Combined with the Reds' recent form, it should be a competitive match, but United is just playing too well right now.

    Prediction: 3-2 Manchester United

     

    Arsenal vs. Manchester City

    Theo Walcott's recent play illustrates how important it is for Arsenal to lock him up. The 23-year-old star needs to continue his run of form to give the Gunners a chance against a City squad that will be desperate for three points, especially if United wins the early match.

    Prediction: 2-2