English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 27

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2013

English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 27

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    Manchester United already have one hand on the Premier League trophy. They hold a 12-point edge over rival Manchester City with 12 matches left, which means they should cruise to another title barring a complete collapse down the stretch.

    So, unless the Red Devils make things interesting with a couple losses in the near future, fans will be forced to look elsewhere for intriguing races. It's a stark contrast from last season's fight to the finish that went down to the final moments.

    There are still key spots up for grabs, though. The difference between third (Chelsea) and sixth (Everton) is seven points, and Liverpool are still alive in the race for a European spot as well. Then there's the relegation battle, which could include around six clubs.

    Although it's not as exciting as if the title was still up for grabs heading into the final months, at least there should be several key matches down the stretch anyway. Let's preview the week ahead and take a look at some of the latest news and rumors making headlines.

Big Summer Ahead for Arsenal?

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    Arsenal fans are still frustrated after the FA Cup loss to Blackburn over the weekend. It's just the latest disappointment for the inconsistent Gunners and manager Arsene Wenger, who's been leading the London club for nearly two decades.

    A successful summer could get Arsenal back on track, though. That's because the longtime boss will be handed around £70 million to upgrade the squad during the next transfer window, reports Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph.

    That should be enough to target at least a couple marquee players. Although the season hasn't lived up to expectations for Arsenal supporters, they are still one of the league's top five clubs and a few key additions before next season would make a major difference.

Liverpool Ready to Defend Assets

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    Right now, Liverpool are hoping for a late surge to help secure a European spot for next season. But it won't be long before the summer transfer rumors start heating up and the Reds feature several players that will be coveted by other clubs.

    Simon Mullock and Ken Gorman of the Daily Mirror report Luis Suarez leads the group of players that are likely to get targeted by other clubs during the offseason. But manager Brendan Rodgers stands prepared to keep his biggest stars.

    As always, that's easier said than done, especially when big-spending clubs are waiting in the wings. The Reds found their stride after a slow start and have a strong foundation. It appears they will be forced to work hard to avoid an exodus, though.

Match of the Week: Manchester City vs. Chelsea

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    Even though Manchester City and Chelsea's title hopes have faded away, they are still battling for second place and to secure their places in the Champions League. City currently holds a four-point edge over the Blues.

    The clubs have faced off twice already this season, with City earning a Community Shield victory and a draw. The Blues will be looking for at least a draw at Etihad Stadium on Sunday after they look to fend off Tottenham, who are pushing for a top-three spot.

    It should be a hard-fought, defensive battle between the EPL's top two defensive clubs. The slight edge goes to City, who have only dropped one league match at home all season, but Chelsea have also been strong on the road. Expect a terrific match.

Saturday Predictions

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    Fulham vs. Stoke City

    A total of one goal has been scored in Fulham's last two matches and Stoke have relied on their defense to help keep them in the top half of the table. In other words, don't expect many fireworks in this match. Dimitar Berbatov is the best bet to provide a winner.

    Prediction: 1-0 Fulham


    Arsenal vs. Aston Villa

    Arsenal's FA Cup loss wasn't due to a lack of chances. The Gunners controlled possession and generated a dozen shot, but Blackburn keeper Jake Kean was up to the task. Look for Wenger's group to take out their frustration on Villa.

    Prediction: 3-1 Arsenal


    Norwich City vs. Everton

    Everton were one corner clearance away from advancing in the FA Cup and couldn't do it. The Toffees have allowed far too many leads to slip away this season, making it hard to have confidence in their chances of earning a top-four spot.

    Prediction: 1-1


    Queens Park Rangers vs. Manchester United

    This match will mark the end of a stretch that sees United play four games in 14 days. Sir Alex Ferguson would probably like to get some of his regulars a rest ahead of a busy stretch run, but he also doesn't want to let City back in the race. A strong lineup will equal an easy three points.

    Prediction: 2-0 Manchester United


    Reading vs. Wigan Athletic

    A key battle in the relegation race. Both clubs are in the relegation zone, but they are each within a victory of getting out. While that means it should end up being a pretty entertaining back-and-forth match, a draw is the most probable result.

    Prediction: 1-1


    West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland

    West Brom finally showed signs of life with a convincing 2-0 victory over Liverpool the last time out. They cooled off after a surprising start, but should be able to build off that win and get past a sliding Sunderland side on Saturday.

    Prediction: 2-1 West Brom

Sunday and Monday Predictions

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    Manchester City vs. Chelsea

    One club could decide to open the match up and attempt to change the complexion of the game—probably Chelsea on the road—but it's not likely. Both sides have played solid at the back all season and that's going to continue in the match of the week.

    Prediction: 1-1


    Newcastle United vs. Southampton

    Newcastle already have a win over Chelsea this month and also kept their match with Tottenham close. They are welcome signs of progress for a club that's hanging around the relegation zone, and they will keep moving in a positive direction by knocking off Southampton.

    Prediction: 2-1 Newcastle


    West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

    Tricky match for Tottenham. The Spurs can't allow points to slip away even though it's a road match against a mid-table club. Luckily for them, Gareth Bale has been pretty much unstoppable recently and should help lead the charge to another victory.

    Prediction: 1-0 Tottenham