The Premier League returns with a bang this weekend as fans prepare to take in derby fixtures on Merseyside, the Midlands and in London over three days of action.
With the league table closer than ever, games are becoming increasingly difficult to predict (who saw Sunderland's win over Manchester City coming?) and the difference between winning and losing can equate to several places in the table.
Add in clashes between Manchester City and Tottenham at the top of the table, as well as Stoke vs. Sunderland near the bottom, and it is clear that a weekend of tremendous thrills and spills lies in wait.
|Fixtures and Predictions|
|Fixture||Day||Time (GMT)||TV Info||Prediction|
|Everton vs. Liverpool||Saturday||12:45||BT Sport||2-2|
|Fulham vs. Swansea||Saturday||15:00||1-3|
|Hull vs. Crystal Palace||Saturday||15:00||2-0|
|Arsenal vs. Southampton||Saturday||15:00||1-0|
|Newcastle vs. Norwich||Saturday||15:00||2-0|
|Stoke vs. Sunderland||Saturday||15:00||1-2|
|West Ham vs. Chelsea||Saturday||17:30||Sky Sports||0-3|
|Man City vs. Tottenham||Sunday||13:30||Sky Sports||2-2|
|Cardiff vs. Man Utd||Sunday||16:00||Sky Sports||1-3|
|West Brom vs. Aston Villa||Monday||20:00||Sky Sports||2-1|
Everton vs. Liverpool (2-2)
The Merseyside derby is rarely a dull fixture, and with both Liverpool-based sides flying high in the league so far, the pressure will be on at Goodison Park.
Everton's last home derby win came in October 2010, but the past two games have been drawn and both clubs will therefore be guided by young managers yet to experience success in the fixture.
Liverpool need a win to keep the pressure on Arsenal but could be joined on 23 points by Roberto Martinez's side if the Toffees triumph—with Everton having been beaten just once this season.
In the Reds' duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, as well as Everton's on-loan forward Romelu Lukaku, there are in-form striking options available. The hope must be for a high-scoring and entertaining game come Saturday lunchtime.
Arsenal vs. Southampton (1-0)
If Liverpool vs. Everton was unexpected as a top-of-the-table clash in November, then Arsenal taking on Southampton in a battle of first- and third-placed sides is even more so.
Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton side have a terrific defensive record this season, having conceded just five times in 11 games—leaving them level with Everton as the only other team with just one league defeat this season.
Arsenal have been flying high since a calamitous opening day of the season and will hope to get straight back into winning ways after defeat to Manchester United. They would have preferred less combative opponents, though.
Southampton have been excellent this season, pressing as a unit high up the pitch and looking to retain the ball when in possession. The game with Arsenal will test their ability to keep the ball against a Gunners team that also rank among the league's best for ball retention.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham (2-2)
Per WhoScored.com, both Manchester City and Tottenham top the charts in terms of Premier League possession this season, registering around 60 percent apiece.
Manuel Pellegrini and Andre Villas-Boas, though, have seen very different issues arise. Pellegrini's side score goals aplenty but have conceded twice as many as their North London rivals. Villas-Boas' side, meanwhile, have struggled to find the back of the net.
Lying in disappointing early positions of seventh and eighth, as well as coming off the back of defeats prior to the international break, both sides will be hoping to add to the other's increasing pressure.
The two teams shared a win apiece last season in the fixture, with City winning their home tie 2-1. However, given the importance of the coming game to the hopes of both managers, past results will mean little come Sunday afternoon.
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