Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide
The Premier League returns this weekend having taken a back seat to the FA Cup.
This round of games is a repeat of the opening day's fixtures from back in August; fixtures that left Manchester City topping the table ahead of Manchester United, and Newcastle propping up the division.
Twenty games later and Arsenal lead the way on 45 points, 31 ahead of bottom-placed Sunderland.
Here's a look ahead to each of this weekend's Premier League fixtures, including Monday Night Football.
All statistics via WhoScored?
Hull vs. Chelsea
Where: The KC Stadium
When: Saturday 11 January, 12:45 p.m. GMT
The weekend begins with Chelsea's trip to Hull.
Jose Mourinho's side can temporarily go top of the table, at least until Sunday, while Hull will be hoping to cement their current residence in the Premier League's top 10.
The visitors are coming off a run of three-straight wins and sit second in the form table.
In contrast, Hull's 6-0 thrashing of Fulham is their only victory in the past seven games.
The Blues were comfortable 2-0 winners earlier in the season and haven't lost to Hull in nine previous meetings, winning seven.
Oscar and Eden Hazard will be tasked with creating enough to see off Hull and must overcome Jake Livermore's attempts to disrupt their rhythm.
The home side's attacks rely almost entirely on creating space for Ahmed Elmohamady to cross, leaving Ashley Cole a tough task if selected.
No Premier League side attack their right flank more than Hull (44 percent) and no player has crossed more than Elmohamady this season (127 crosses). If he is stifled, Hull will find it difficult to create.
Prediction: Hull 1-2 Chelsea
The hosts have been an unexpectedly tough side to beat this season, especially at the KC Stadium.
Steve Bruce's squad have the Premier League's sixth best home record, losing just twice, and Chelsea must be close to their best to secure three points. They have enough quality to win, but may leave it late.
Cardiff vs. West Ham
Where: The Cardiff City Stadium
When: Saturday 11 January, 3 p.m. GMT
The three o'clock kick-offs begin with a crunch game at the foot of the table as 17th-placed Cardiff entertain a beleaguered West Ham, who sit 19th.
A win could see the Hammers climb out of the relegation zone at Cardiff's expense.
Both these sides have been in predictably dire form, reflecting their precarious league standings.
West Ham have just two points from their last seven games, the worst return in that period, while Cardiff sit 18th on the form guide with four points from a possible 18.
August's clash brought a win for West Ham, as did their Capital One tie in September. In fact, the hosts have lost their past five games with the Hammers since an away win in 2011.
Despite the lowly position of both sides, this game has the potential to entertain. Both clubs favour a direct approach, sitting in the top four for most long balls per game.
While there may not be enough attacking quality on show, this should see the action regularly jump between both penalty boxes at a rapid pace.
Each side relies on a target man for an attacking platform, leaving the clashes between centre-backs and strikers as the most pivotal matchups.
Prediction: Cardiff 1-0 West Ham
Galvanised by a new leader, the Cardiff City Ground should be a much more pleasant atmosphere for the home side to work in.
Aided by a bout of new manager syndrome and an opponent short on defenders, the home side should add to what's been a miserable few weeks for West Ham.
Everton vs. Norwich
Where: Goodison Park
When: Saturday 11 January, 3 p.m. GMT
Everton welcome Norwich to Merseyside, hoping to climb back into a Champions League place.
With Liverpool playing on Sunday, the Toffees need three point to retake fourth place, while 15th-placed Norwich will hope to put further ground between themselves and the bottom three.
Everton have 11 points from their past six games but will feel frustrated at not taking more from a favourable run of fixtures.
Their opponents haven't won for five games and lie 13th in terms of form.
The Canaries haven't lost to Everton in the three years since their Premier League return, although four of the five games have been drawn, including the season opener in August.
Everton average 10 percent more possession than Norwich per match and will expect to control the game, keeping the ball in an attempt to draw their opponents out.
Chris Hughton will set his side out to reduce the space in the Canaries' defensive third, which may initially prove tough to break down.
After a mini-drought, Romelu Lukaku returned to scoring ways during his last game at Goodison Park. The Belgium international may face a depleted Norwich defence which would struggle to contain him.
Prediction: Everton 3-1 Norwich
Despite no wins in five attempts, expect Everton to finally see off Norwich with a comfortable home win.
The Canaries have the third worst defence in the division, which should eventually give way.
Fulham vs. Sunderland
Where: Craven Cottage
When: Saturday 11 January, 3 p.m. GMT
Fulham host rock-bottom Sunderland in another key clash in the scrap for survival.
The Cottagers are five points above their opponents on Saturday and, at the very least, will want to maintain that gap.
The home side found a little festive form under Rene Meulensteen, winning three of their past six games.
Sunderland have also improved under new leadership, rising to 14th in the form table with six points from a possible 18.
Fulham secured an away win on the opening day of the season, putting immediate pressure on Paolo Di Canio. The Cottagers have only lost one of their past nine clashes with Sunderland, winning four.
Gus Poyet has tried reinventing Sunderland as a passing side, with Ki Sung-Yueng crucial to their approach.
The South Korean moves his team around, making at least 10 passes more than any other teammate in the Black Cat's past three games. Reducing his time and space will be Fulham's best way of dictating play, which will be down to Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell.
The home side will once again rely on Dimitar Berbatov to link up with and play off in the final third. The tighter John O'Shea and Wes Brown keep to their former team-mate, the better the away side's prospects.
With so much at stake, this has the potential to end all square.
The match features the Premier League's two worst defences, which may lead to a high-scoring draw; both sides can't afford to lose but neither will be confident hanging onto a lead.
Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion
Where: St Mary's Stadium
When: Saturday 11 January, 3 p.m. GMT
Southampton seem to have replaced West Brom as dark horses for the top six.
The ninth-placed Saints are a little isolated at the moment, six points off eighth and four points above 10th. The Baggies are six points and five places behind going into Saturday's matchup.
These sides sit next to each other in the form table, both with just one win in their past six fixtures.
Southampton have five points in that period, losing three of their last four games, while West Brom have at least been progressing—unbeaten in four with three draws and a win.
The Saints secured a 1-0 win earlier this season, having lost both meetings in the 2012/13 campaign.
This game should present an interesting clash of styles, with West Brom happy to sit back and break while Southampton look to press high.
Adam Lallana has continued to star despite his side's slump in form, and he must find space around the visitor's defensive shield of Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob.
West Brom will rely on Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano launching most of their attacks, with Morgan Schneiderlin deployed to thwart them.
Prediction: Southampton 2-0 West Brom
This game should propel Southampton back into form.
At home, they have enough quality to overcome West Brom and return to winning ways.
Tottenham vs. Crystal Palace
Where: White Hart Lane
When: Saturday 11 January, 3 p.m. GMT
Crystal Palace travel to a Tottenham side keen to erase memories of an FA Cup exit to Arsenal.
In league terms, the right results could see Spurs finish the weekend in fourth position, while 18th-placed Palace need at least a point to climb out of the relegation zone.
Tim Sherwood has roused an impressive burst of form from Spurs, who have the third best record over the past six games.
Palace have also been much better under new direction, taking seven points from a possible 18.
Spurs grabbed a 1-0 win on the opening day of the season, thanks to a Roberto Soldado penalty. It was the first meeting since 2005, with Palace winning the previous game 3-0.
This match may see a slightly old-school clash of 4-4-2 vs. 4-4-2, which would provide an extremely open contest.
The visitors have simplified their approach under Tony Pulis and will be happy to sit back and invite their opponents forward, hoping to gain quick possession in the final third via a direct route.
Playing 4-4-2 presents key matchups all over the field, but Mile Jedinak's task of spoiling Spurs' numerous playmakers will be most crucial.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Crystal Palace
It's hard betting against Spurs, despite just four home league wins this season.
On paper there's a sizeable gulf in class, which should eventually shine through against a far more organised Crystal Palace.
Manchester United vs. Swansea
Where: Old Trafford
When: Saturday 11 January, 5:30 p.m. GMT
Saturday concludes with Manchester United facing 13th-placed Swansea just a week after the Welsh side's impressive FA Cup win at Old Trafford.
The champions are seventh, five points adrift of the top four, while Swansea have dropped to 13th.
Despite three consecutive losses in all competitions, United's league form is still the fifth best in the division; a defeat to Tottenham ended a run of four straight wins.
Swansea will hope their cup result provides them momentum, having not won in their past six games and taken just three points from a possible 18.
United secured a 4-1 win on the opening day of the season, getting David Moyes' tenure off to a flying start. The Swans' FA Cup win was their first ever triumph at Old Trafford, having lost four of their five Premier League meetings.
Pass masters Swansea will have more of the ball than most sides to play at Old Trafford this season.
They managed more possession, shots and passes during their FA Cup clash and will look to do the same, with Jonathan de Guzman dictating their tempo.
Wayne Routledge was particularly menacing against Chris Smalling, who will have to marshal him far better at the second time of asking. Manchester United will look to Wayne Rooney to find space in front of Ashley Williams and Chico Flores to expose the visitors.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Swansea
Swansea will be buoyed from their recent success at Old Trafford and can add to the growing pressure on Moyes.
A repeat of their cup heroics seems unlikely, but they may be the latest Premier League side to leave Old Trafford unscathed.
Newcastle United vs. Manchester City
Where: St James' Park
When: Sunday 12 January, 2:05 p.m. GMT
Arguably the weekend's biggest clash sees second-placed Manchester City tackle eighth-placed Newcastle.
A win would see City take top spot ahead of Monday Night Football, while the Magpies risk being cut adrift from the top six with defeat.
The home side are the Premier League's top-form side with five straight wins, scoring 16 goals in the process.
Newcastle have also been consistent, before two losses in their past two games moved them down to eighth in the form table.
City romped to a 4-0 win on the opening day of the season and have won the last nine straight games, not losing to the Magpies in 16 meetings.
City are unlikely to deploy much width against Newcastle, who may opt to close off the central areas and offer space on the flanks.
For this reason, the movement and intricacy of the likes of Samir Nasri and David Silva will be key to unlocking the hosts' defence.
Newcastle have enough firepower to worry City and must look to Moussa Sissoko and Hatem Ben Arfa to overload the space behind Yaya Toure.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Manchester City
City have found their rhythm in recent weeks and will continue marching through everything in their path.
This game has the potential to be close, initially, until City's quality eventually shines through.
Stoke vs. Liverpool
Where: The Britannia Stadium
When: Sunday 12 January, 4:10 p.m. GMT
Sunday's main event captures Liverpool's away tie at Stoke.
The Reds must win to keep up with the three teams above them, while a home win could see the Potters return to the top 10.
Liverpool sit fourth in the form table with four wins and two losses over the past six games.
Stoke sit six places below in terms of form, taking eight points from a possible 18.
The Reds emerged with a 1-0 win on the opening day of the season, their first win in four Premier League ties with Stoke.
Jordan Henderson has been one of the Premier League's top-form players in recent months. His pace and energy is crucial to his side's approach on and off the ball.
His confrontations with Stoke's bruising midfield of Steven N'Zonzi and Glenn Whelan should prove entertaining viewing.
Elsewhere, the home side's attempts to shackle Luis Suarez will obviously be essential to their hopes of success.
Prediction: Stoke 1-2 Liverpool
Stoke have tried altering their style this season but face a Liverpool side far more advanced at enforcing their desired approach.
With Suarez up front, the Reds will create and convert enough chances to win.
Aston Villa vs. Arsenal
Where: Villa Park
When: Monday 13 January, 8:00 p.m. GMT
The round of games finishes with Monday Night Football, replaying the surprise result from the season's opening day as Arsenal lost to Aston Villa.
The Gunners could feasibly find themselves third before kick-off and may need to win to regain top spot, while Villa have the top 10 in their sights.
Arsenal have emerged through a tough run of fixtures with three consecutive wins.
Villa's recent win over Sunderland ended a wretched sequence, although the visitors remain 17th in the form table.
The hosts' opening day win was only their second in 10 games against Arsenal, with last season's corresponding fixture drawn 0-0.
This match pits the league's fourth best possession side, Arsenal, against the second worst in Villa. The home team will surrender the ball and look to counter, their best avenue to success.
Christian Benteke's return provides a lot more danger to Villa's attacks, and the Belgian will provide a tough test for the Premier League's leading defence.
His battle with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will be absorbing, as will Villa's off-the-ball work around Arsenal's fluid attackers.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal
Villa perform better against the top teams but won't have enough to temporarily derail Arsenal's title hopes.
An early goal would turn this into a comfortable away win.
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