Week 24 in the Premier League ushers in a new team at the top of the table. With Arsenal picking up a draw against Southampton and Manchester City taking down Tottenham, the Citizens have moved into the top spot of the table.
EPL: Manchester City knock Arsenal off top spot as Chelsea falter http://t.co/wJCSPfSndy— Man. City News (@ManCity_Nws) January 29, 2014
The Citizens will have to work to avoid pulling a Liverpool and having just a one-week stay atop the table. Chelsea are up next for Manchester City.
That match will come at Etihad Stadium, however, and Manchester City fans have to like their team's chances of picking up three points, no matter who the opponent is.
Meanwhile, Arsenal will be hosting Crystal Palace. Although Crystal Palace have been resurgent, Arsenal will likely pick up three points to put the pressure on City. The Gunners play on Sunday, Feb. 2, and the Chelsea-Manchester City showdown will not take place until Monday.
Needless to say, we have an interesting week of fixtures on tap for the Premier League. I'll offer up my predictions for all fixtures and then highlight the two matches I just mentioned and one other affair, but first we'll take a look at the current table, how we got there and what will shape it for next week.
|Feb. 1||Stoke City||1-3||Manchester United|
|Feb. 1||West Ham||1-1||Swansea City|
|Feb. 1||Cardiff City||2-2||Norwich City|
|Feb. 1||Everton||1-0||Aston Villa|
|Feb. 1||Hull City||1-2||Tottenham|
|Feb. 2||West Brom||1-4||Liverpool|
|Feb. 2||Arsenal||2-0||Crystal Palace|
|Feb. 3||Manchester City||3-1||Chelsea|
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Chelsea
Manchester City crushed Tottenham, 5-1, on Wednesday, but that match was closer than it appeared. The Citizens were in a dog fight until a controversial red card on Danny Rose left the Spurs with little hope of overcoming the 1-0 deficit they faced at the time:
Penalty to City + red card for Rose after tackle on Dzeko. Replay shows Rose got the ball, linesman gave it. Touré scores. 0-2, 51'— Julien Laurens (@LaurensJulien) January 29, 2014
Meanwhile, playing at home, Chelsea failed to get on the board against West Ham and had to settle for a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea have now been held scoreless in their last two league matches, and both of those came at home.
That does not bode well for Chelsea, as they must now head into Etihad to try to give the Citizens their first home outcome of the season that didn't result in them picking up three points.
The Citizens are not just 11-0-0 at home this league year; they have outscored opponents 42-8 in league matches at Etihad.
Although the Blues beat the Citizens, 2-1, earlier in the year, considering Chelsea's recent problems scoring, it would be foolish to expect them to go on the road and duplicate the feat.
Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace
Arsenal couldn't earn more than a 2-2 draw on the road against Southampton this past week. It was a well-played match, and the Gunners can't be too disappointed about picking up a point.
Still, those are the exact kind of matches Arsenal have been finding a way to win to help them stay atop the table.
Now, Arsenal will return to Anfield to host Crystal Palace, and that is definitely the kind of match the Gunners have proven they can handle with consistency.
Crystal Palace have been wildly improved since their terrible start to the season and have climbed to 14th in the table. Palace are now 3-1-2 in their last six league matches, but this side is still struggling to score. They have not scored more than a single goal in any of those six matches.
Meanwhile, Arsenal haven't allowed a goal in any of their last five home matches across all competitions.
I expect Arsenal to come out of the gate strong to get back on the winning track, and Crystal Palace will not find a way to net a goal.
Everton vs. Aston Villa
Prediction: Everton 1-0 Aston Villa
Everton's stingy defense was humbled in Week 23. Liverpool is good at that kind of thing, however.
In the 222nd Merseyside derby, the Reds dumped in four goals—three of which were in the first half—to easily dispatch Everton, 4-0.
As a result, Everton went from being tied for the fewest goals allowed in league play to having the third-fewest allowed at 24.
Allowing four goals appears to be more of a function of a bad day and a stiff opponent rather than a slumping defense. Heading into that contest, Everton had allowed just one total goal over their previous four matches across all competitions.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa have scored six combined goals in their last two matches and appear ready to test Everton's defense.
Prior to that stretch, however, Villa had not scored more than a single goal in any match since Dec. 4.
As the Guardian tweets, Everton did receive good news on the injury to Romelu Lukaku, but that won't help them for this match:
Everton won't need him against Villa, however.
Look for Everton to come out feisty after their humbling by Liverpool. This team has proved resilient all season, and I expect they will do so again by putting Aston Villa on a defensive lockdown.