With Arsenal taking down Aston Villa on Monday, Jan. 13 to reclaim the top spot in the Premier League table and bring a close to Matchday 21, let's look ahead at what's in store for Week 22.
Arsenal defeat Aston Villa 2-1 on goals from Wilshere and Giroud to return to the top of the Premier League. http://t.co/MBOornkEgJ— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) January 13, 2014
A quick scan over the upcoming fixtures and it is readily apparent that it is not the most dynamic week of matchups on the calendar.
With Arsenal taking on abysmal Fulham, there is roughly 0.01-percent chance that the Gunners pick up anything less than three points and allow Manchester City or Chelsea to steal the top spot. Of course, Arsenal isn't likely to extend their lead, either.
Manchester City is hosting Cardiff City and should roll. Chelsea will see a tougher test as they face Manchester United. Still, the match will be at Stamford Bridge and the disappointing Red Devils have lost two of their last three league matches.
There is always a chance of an upset or two that rattles the table, but I don't see that happening this week. Have a look at the table, and my predictions for the upcoming week, and then I'll add more insight into some of those predictions.
|14||West Bromwich Albion||21||4||8||9||-5||21|
|17||West Ham United||21||4||11||6||-9||18|
|Jan. 18||Crystal Palace||2-1||Stoke|
|Jan. 18||Manchester City||6-0||Cardiff|
|Jan. 18||West Ham||0-1||Newcastle|
|Jan. 18||Liverpool||3-1||Aston Villa|
|Jan. 19||Chelsea||2-1||Manchester United|
|Jan. 20||West Brom||0-1||Everton|
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United
After dropping back-to-back home matches, Manchester United reversed their shocking trend of results at Old Trafford with a 2-0 victory over Swansea City. Let's not get carried away in a Red Devils revival, however.
Manchester United can't seem to get Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie healthy and on the pitch at the same time. Although Shinji Kagawa has recently stepped up his play, it's become apparent that after Rooney and van Persie, Manchester United does not have the kind of world-class talent we've grown accustomed to seeing from the storied club.
Meanwhile, in all competitions, Chelsea have outscored their opponents by the combined score of 7-0 in their last three matches. In fact, in their last six matches, they've only allowed one goal, and that came to Liverpool.
There are questions about Chelsea's attack, but certainly not about their back. Jose Mourinho has his team playing consistent and reliable soccer, and his players will benefit from a recent boost due to Mourinho's recent commitment to the club:
The Red Devils will not be able to crack Chelsea's back until late in this game and when Chelsea are already up 2-0. This will be a convincing win for Chelsea.
Manchester City 6-0 Cardiff
Manchester City have been unbelievable at Etihad Stadium this year. They are 10-0-0 at their friendly confines.
Meanwhile, Cardiff City isn't having much success anywhere, and there is no reason to think that will change. They are 0-1-4 in their last five league matches. Now they have to go on the road to face the Citizens, who have outscored opponents 38-6 at Etihad.
This is not to suggest that things are all rosy for Manchester City. The Citizens recently suffered a major blow with the injury to Samir Nasri:
Manchester City's in-form star Samir Nasri is set to be out for 8 weeks after suffering a knee injury. pic.twitter.com/qwZYdyipmH— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) January 13, 2014
Nasri's absence won't make much of an impact in this game. Cardiff doesn't have the talent to contend with City. They've allowed the third most goals in the EPL, and they will only cement their status as a defenseless side with Manchester City torching them for six goals.
West Brom 0-1 Everton
Everton have struggled to keep their players healthy, but that is not derailing this team. Everton are battling to hang onto fifth in the table.
This starts with fabulous defense. Everton have not allowed an opponent to score more than a single goal in any game since a 3-3 draw with Liverpool on Nov. 23.
That defense will be enough to carry them to a victory on the road over West Brom. West Brom haven't scored a goal in either of their last two matches, and they've only scored more than one goal just once since Dec. 4. That offensive ineptitude will not be eased against the excellent defense of Everton.
Tim Howard kept his 9th clean sheet of the season & his 110th for Everton in 330 appearances. pic.twitter.com/rjzrNNW1fp— Everton Records (@EvertonRecords) January 13, 2014
Everton will pitch another clean sheet and ensure they stay within striking distance of the top four.