We're in the Premier League stretch run, folks, and this week's slate of games should answer quite a few questions about how both the top of the table and relegation zone will play out.
At the top, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton each have two games to make their move for the top four, while Tottenham plays just once, a brutal matchup against Manchester City on Sunday.
At the bottom, there are several key games between teams fighting for their Premier League lives. Oh, and Manchester United is just seven points shy of winning the league and will face West Ham on Wednesday.
Let's take a closer look at this week's upcoming action and some of the hottest rumors buzzing around the league.
The week opens with a huge tilt on Tuesday, as third-place Arsenal faces sixth-place Everton in a battle between two teams fighting for the right to play in the Champions League next season. The Gunners have won five in a row and six of seven in all competitions, so Arsene Wenger's men should be favored at home.
Arsenal and Everton will both be in action on Saturday as well (against Fulham and Sunderland, respectively) so each squad has the opportunity to make up ground on the table this week.
Chelsea, currently in fourth place, will also have two matches this week, with a Wednesday tilt against Fulham and a Sunday match against Liverpool. With fifth-place Tottenham playing just once this week—and that game against Manchester City with Gareth Bale still questionable to play—Spurs is in danger of falling off the top-four pace.
In the race to avoid relegation, Wigan likely won't claw its way out of 18th place on Wednesday, facing Manchester City. Reading and Norwich City will face each other on Saturday in a huge match for both sides, while Wigan will hope to steal three points from West Ham.
But the relegation match of the week will be Stoke City's match against Queens Park Rangers, a matchup between the 16th and 19th teams on the table. If QPR is to somehow climb out of the relegation zone with five games remaining—and it seems unlikely—this game against Stoke is a must-win.
And Andre Villa-Boas, too?
Real Madrid are plotting a £50million raid on Spurs for Gareth Bale and Andre Villas-Boas, writes the Sunday People.
The Spanish giants plan to splash out £40m on Welsh wonder Bale and replace outgoing Jose Mourinho with Villas-Boas, who will cost them £10m in compensation to Spurs chief Daniel Levy
Real Madrid's rumored interest in Bale isn't anything new—I mean, after the season he's having, who isn't interested in Bale?—but the Villas-Boas bit has come out of left field. I'm not sure I buy that aspect of this rumor, but if you believe the speculation, Bale isn't the only popular man at White Hart Lane these days.
You may think Chelsea has plenty of options at forward and out wide on the wing, but the team apparently doesn't agree, showing interest in Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schurrle.
Chelsea are ready to open talks this week with powerful German striker Andre Schurrle abut a £20million switch to Stamford Bridge.
Representatives of Schurrle's camp were at the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City at Wembley yesterday and will discuss personal terms shortly.
Chelsea has bigger needs, in my opinion—holding midfielder and perhaps fortifying the defense—but Schurrle would certainly be a splash signing and bring some firepower. For that reason alone, this rumor seems plenty feasible.
With 24 goals for Blackburn this season, forward Jordan Rhodes is sure to be a popular name this summer. One team that is already said to be showing interest is West Ham.
From Alan Nixon of the Mirror:
Sam Allardyce is ready to swoop for Blackburn Rovers goal machine Jordan Rhodes—if he gets big money from West Ham’s owners.
Hammers boss Big Sam was keen on the Scotland international when he was at Huddersfield but backed away as the asking price went too high.
Rovers spent £8 million on Rhodes, who has been their top scorer and a consistent marksman in a poor season—but he could go in the summer for the right bid.
West Ham probably wishes it could land Rhodes for the stretch run—the team currently has 38 points in league play and is probably safe from being relegated in 12th place, but with six games remaining nothing is set in stone.
Though he has been sidelined for much of the year due to injury, defender Micah Richards should have a busy market in the summer if City decides it is willing to sell him.
According to John Cross of the Mirror, Liverpool will be leading the charge to land the talented Richards:
Brendan Rodgers is keen on a summer move for Manchester City defender Micah Richards.
Liverpool have made an enquiry and are among a clutch of clubs who are interested in signing 24-year-old Richards.
Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are also watching developments closely while Real Madrid and Juventus have checked on his availability.
It's a bit hard imagining Richards would choose Liverpool over the other teams cited above, all clubs that should be playing European football next year, but Liverpool is a team on the rise, so it certainly isn't out of the question.
If City sells him, that is, which I still believe is a rather large "if."
Arsenal 2, Everton 2
Both the Gunners and Toffees will hope to gain a vital three points with European play at stake in this contest. Instead, I expect the teams will settle for a very entertaining draw.
Manchester City 3, Wigan 0
Manchester United 2, West Ham 0
Chelsea 2, Fulham 1
Nothing to see here, people—chalk will hold and Chelsea will move back into third place.
Arsenal 2, Fulham 0
Reading 0, Norwich City 0
QPR 1, Stoke City 0
Everton 2, Sunderland 0
Swansea City 1, Southampton 1
West Brom 1, Newcastle 0
West Ham 1, Wigan 1
Relegation Saturday, as this slate of games feels like, will be highlighted by a huge QPR win. Oh, and Arsenal will continue its charge for the top four with another key victory.
Manchester City 2, Tottenham 1
Liverpool 2, Chelsea 2
What a pair of games we get on Sunday. Tottenham will be in full late-season swoon mode with this loss as Arsenal will jump five points up on the table and Chelsea four ahead of Andre Villas-Boas' side, while Liverpool will show it intends to hang with the big boys next year with an exciting 2-2 draw against the Blues.