EPL Table Week 22: Breaking Down Fixtures with Highest Stakes

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Saturday's Premier League action showed that despite the frosty conditions, there's no putting an end to the entertainment at hand in the English top flight, with every facet of the table getting tighter as things go.

This season has been labelled largely as one of, if not the most competitive Premier League campaign in regard to the title race, but it's something that applies from top to bottom.

Wins for Sunderland and West Ham already this weekend breathes new life into the relegation battle, while Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham also notched wins on Saturday to keep things interesting among the big guns.

Looking ahead to Week 22, we've considered which fixtures might be looked upon as proverbial six-pointers, with a lot more on the line than your average encounter.

2013-14 Premier League Table (As of Saturday, Jan. 11)
PositionClubPlayedWonDrawnLostGDPTS
1Chelsea2114432146
2Arsenal2014332145
3Manchester City2014243444
4Everton2111821541
5Tottenham Hotspur211245140
6Liverpool2012352339
7Manchester United2111461137
8Newcastle United201037433
9Southampton21867430
10Hull City216510-523
11Aston Villa20659-623
12Stoke City20578-1122
13Swansea City215610-421
14West Bromwich Albion21498-521
15Norwich City215511-1820
16Fulham216114-2419
17West Ham United214611-918
18Cardiff City214611-1918
19Sunderland214512-1517
20Crystal Palace215214-1817
PremierLeague.com

 

Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City

Tony Pulis meets former club Stoke City for the first time in the Premier League since being handed his marching orders over the summer, giving new meaning to a fixture that may have otherwise meant a lot less.

The former Potters boss has succeeded in injecting a new-found sense of stability at Selhurst Park since being appointed Eagles boss in late November, the likes of which Stoke will be all too familiar with.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Geoff Cameron of Stoke battles with Jose Campana of Palace during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Crystal Palace at Britannia Stadium on August 24, 2013 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Mark Hughes' side travel to a Palace side that has improved its home record dramatically since Pulis' arrival, losing just one of their four league outings in South London since the Welshman came aboard.

Though the Premier League new boys reside in the relegation zone, the gap between these two sides isn't exactly huge at just five points, although the Potters have a chance to stretch that lead against Liverpool on Sunday.

 

Norwich City vs. Hull City

HULL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Jake Livermore of Hull City in action with Bradley Johnson of Norwich City during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Norwich City at the KC Stadium on August 24, 2013 in Hull, England. (Photo by Chris Brunsk
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Hull City may count themselves unfortunate not to have taken more from their encounter with Chelsea this weekend, putting up a fight in the first period. But ultimately, they succumbed to the vast resources at Jose Mourinho's disposal.

Ex-England striker Michael Owen commented that the promoted party are capable of much more, however:

However, a trip to Carrow Road may bear more fruit for Steve Bruce's side, although travelling to unfamiliar territory has been a major weakness of the Tigers' campaign thus far.

Chris Hughton's Canaries are currently three points below Hull, and while a vastly worse goal difference means the opportunity to overtake them next week isn't an option, it's still a win that would claw the Norfolk side away from the drop zone.

Norwich have won just three home matches all season but can hope to pounce against one of the leakiest away defences in the division next time out.

 

Chelsea vs. Manchester United

A meeting between Chelsea and Manchester United this weekend isn't quite the same high-profile matchup it once was, with David Moyes' side having dropped in the general estimations since the last time these two sides met.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26:  Oscar of Chelsea is challenged by Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United  during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Al
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

That being said, the Scot still has largely the same team that drew 0-0 at Old Trafford back in August and will hope to recapture some of that defensive spirit at Stamford Bridge next Sunday.

The two teams are a sizeable nine points apart as things stand, but three points remains as important as ever for two of England's giants enjoying rather different veins of form.

One massive factor for the West London visitors will be the fitness levels of Wayne Rooney, who has missed fixtures through injury of late but will be needed if the club are to have a chance of succeeding in Robin van Persie's absence.