You would be hard-pressed to find a tighter race across the entire sports landscape than that on top of the English Premier League table.
There are seven matches on tap for Jan. 18, two matches scheduled for Jan. 19 and one for Jan. 20. Entering these contests, the table is as follows:
|West Bromwich Albion||4||8||9||21|
|West Ham United||4||11||6||18|
With three teams within two points of each other and six teams within eight points of each other, every match will be critical going forward. Let’s dig into some Week 22 predictions.
Arsenal vs. Fulham
Arsenal may be sitting atop the Premier League table, but they are dealing with some injuries heading into Saturday's contest with Fulham.
Tomas Rosicky will have a protective face mask on, but Nacho Monreal will likely miss the game with a foot issue. Throw in injuries to Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Vermaelen, Nicklas Bendtner, Yaya Sanogo, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott, and the list of walking wounded is certainly concerning.
Even with all the injuries, the Gunners should still take care of business against relegation-threatened Fulham. Arsenal have won four straight contests, while Fulham have struggled to scrape together victories.
Throw in the fact that Fulham have never won at Arsenal and this one should be over rather quickly.
Prediction: Arsenal 3, Fulham 0
Chelsea vs. Manchester United
Manchester United may be outside of the top five in the table right now, but they will always draw headlines whenever they take the pitch.
Manchester United won the last time out against Swansea City and will look to continue with the momentum for a potential run at teams ahead of them in the standings. A victory over third-placed Chelsea on Sunday would certainly be a good place to start.
As for the Blues, Frank Lampard may return from his calf injury, according to the Express, which would give them a critical boost. Considering that Chelsea have won four straight and Manchester United will still be without Wayne Rooney, this isn’t the best formula for United to snap out of their longtime funk at Stamford Bridge.
Prediction: Chelsea 2, Manchester United 1
Liverpool vs. Aston Villa
Liverpool have a golden opportunity Saturday against mediocre Aston Villa, considering third-placed Chelsea have a difficult match with Manchester United on their hands.
Who will win?
Two straight victories for the Reds have them in position to make a charge at the EPL leaders. Furthermore, they should be motivated to avenge last season’s loss to Aston Villa in the contest at Anfield.
There will be some new faces on the Aston Villa side in the form of Grant Holt and Ryan Bertrand, but that won’t be enough to overcome the firepower of the Reds. This one will not be as close as the scoreboard will read at the end of the match.
Prediction: Liverpool 3, Aston Villa 1
Sunderland 1-Southampton 2
Crystal Palace 1-Stoke City 4
Manchester City 2-Cardiff City 0
Norwich City 0-Hull City 1
West Ham United 2-Newcastle United 3
Swansea City 1-Tottenham Hotspur 2
West Bromwich Albion 1-Everton 3