Premier League Weekend Preview, Game-by-Game Guide: All Eyes on Eastlands

Richard MorganContributor IJanuary 30, 2014

Premier League Weekend Preview, Game-by-Game Guide: All Eyes on Eastlands

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    Blue is the colour: but who will emerge victorious in Monday night's title showdown at Eastlands?
    Blue is the colour: but who will emerge victorious in Monday night's title showdown at Eastlands?Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Following a memorable round of midweek matches in the Premier League, we take a look ahead to this weekend’s fixtures in what promises to be yet another three days of eye-catching top-flight drama.

    With title favourites and league leaders Manchester City hosting third-placed Chelsea in front of the TV cameras in a contest of enormous significance at the top of the table on Monday night, Week 24 of the campaign could prove pivotal to the outcome of the championship.

Newcastle United vs. Sunderland

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    Richard Sellers/Getty Images

    Where: St James’ Park

    When: Saturday, 1 February, kick-off 12:45 p.m. GMT

    The Premier League weekend kicks off with what should be a thunderous Tyne-Wear derby in the North-East.



    The Black Cats actually moved out of the relegation zone for the first time since August thanks to their 1-0 win over Stoke City at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday and go into this derby unbeaten in their previous two meetings with the Magpies.

    The home side, meanwhile, played their first match since selling key midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain against Norwich the previous day.

    And worryingly for everyone associated with the club, they drew a blank at Carrow Road to make it just four wins in 20 games without the Frenchman in their side.


    Key Battles

    As always when it comes to a fiercely fought local affair, this fixture is most likely to be won and lost in the middle of the park, which is where Alan Pardew’s men hold a significant advantage in terms of both quality and goals.


    Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Sunderland

    The Geordies may have lost their last two clashes against Sunderland, including a stunning 3-0 home reverse towards the end of the previous campaign, but it will be a case of third time lucky on Saturday lunchtime for the hosts.

West Ham United vs. Swansea City

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    Tom Dulat/Getty Images

    Where: Upton Park

    When: Saturday, 1 February, kick-off 12:45 p.m. GMT

    A huge game for the home side as they look to get a much-needed win to propel themselves out of the bottom three against the travel-sick Swans.



    The struggling East Londoners have not recorded a victory at Upton Park in their previous four matches, although somehow the Hammers did manage to leave Chelsea with a point after a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

    Meanwhile, the South Wales outfit have not won on the road for five games. However, Michael Laudrup’s men did register a morale-boosting 2-0 triumph over Fulham at the Liberty stadium on Tuesday evening.


    Key Battles

    You would expect West Ham boss Sam Allardyce to target this particular fixture as one the home side need to take all three points from and, as such, will set his side up to attack from the start.

    And on that basis, the contest between visiting centre-backs Ashley Williams and Chico Flores and West Ham’s returning club-record signing Andy Carroll looks like being vital to the outcome of this particular contest.


    Prediction: West Ham 1-0 Swansea

    The Hammers to just edge this nervy affair at Upton Park.

Cardiff City vs. Norwich City

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Where: Cardiff City Stadium

    When: Saturday, 1 February, kick-off 3 p.m. GMT

    You just feel this is already an absolute must-win fixture for recently appointed Bluebirds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.



    The South Wales side have lost their last two matches on home soil—to West Ham and then Southampton—and coupled with Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat at champions Manchester United, Cardiff now find themselves propping up the Premier League.

    Meanwhile, 12th-in-the-table Norwich may now be five points clear of the drop zone following Tuesday night’s hard-fought draw with Newcastle, but Chris Hughton’s men are still finding it desperately hard to win games in the top flight.


    Key Battles

    With only two other teams having scored fewer Premier League goals than the Canaries so far in this campaign, this match is most likely to be decided at the other end of the pitch.

    And to that effect, all eyes will be on red-hot Cardiff striker Fraizer Campbell to see if the Englishman can build on his recent good run in front of goal that has seen the player net four times in seven matches in all competitions.

    However, will the forward be able to get the better of visiting keeper John Ruddy, with the England international having seemingly returned to his best form of late?


    Prediction: Cardiff 1-0 Norwich

    The Bluebirds will record the crucial win they need to keep their Premier League survival hopes alive, while at the same time dragging Norwich back towards the danger zone.

Everton vs. Aston Villa

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    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

    Where: Goodison Park

    When: Saturday, 1 February, 3 p.m. GMT

    A great opportunity for the Toffees to get back to winning ways following their mauling in the Merseyside derby against an unpredictable and inconsistent Villa.



    Having lost just once at home in the whole of 2013, the hosts will be very confident of overcoming a Villa side who themselves emerged victorious following a seven-goal thriller in Wednesday night’s West Midlands derby against West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park.


    Key Battles

    Everton will need to come up with a pre-match plan to stop the visitors from launching their now characteristically lightning-fast counter-attacks on Merseyside this weekend in a way that neighbours Liverpool were so patently unable to do at Anfield recently.


    Prediction: Everton 0-0 Villa

    A stubborn Villa back line just does enough to thwart a frustrated home side.

Fulham vs. Southampton

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Where: Craven Cottage

    When: Saturday, 1 February, 3 p.m. GMT

    The Cottagers just cannot afford another damaging defeat this weekend, especially in front of their own supporters.



    The West London club have been poor at home all campaign long and were even thrashed 4-1 by fellow strugglers Sunderland in their last league encounter at Craven Cottage.

    However, the hosts will take some heart from the fact that the Saints themselves have hardly been tearing up trees on the road so far this season, with the South Coast outfit having won just once in their last eight on their travels.


    Key Battles

    A lot, as ever, is likely to rest on the mercurial shoulders of Bulgaria international Dimitar Berbatov if Fulham are to get the three points they so desperately need this weekend.

    However, will the hosts be able to get enough possession of the ball against the suffocating visitors to create the chances for their star man to put away?


    Prediction: Fulham 1-2 Southampton

    A smash-and-grab raid by Mauricio Pochettino and Co to leave Fulham still languishing in the drop zone.

Hull City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Where: The KC Stadium

    When: Saturday, 1 February, 3 p.m. GMT

    This should be a lively contest between two sides who like to pass the ball and play attacking football.



    Both teams lost their midweek Premier League fixtures, the Tigers disappointingly going down 1-0 at Crystal Palace, while Spurs were thrashed 5-1 at home by leaders Manchester City. And so each will be looking to bounce back with immediate effect in the North-East this weekend.


    Key Battles

    With Hull boss Steve Bruce unable to call upon key midfielders Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone against their parent clubs, the North Londoners will surely look to exploit the huge gaps in central midfield that the duo’s loss will inevitably create for the home side.

    And whether the Tigers can compensate adequately for the pair’s absence will ultimately go a long way towards deciding the outcome of this fixture.


    Prediction: Hull 1-2 Tottenham

    Tim Sherwood’s men are likely to just have too much class for their spirited hosts on this occasion.

Stoke City vs. Manchester United

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Where: The Britannia Stadium

    When: Saturday, 1 February, 3 p.m. GMT

    A real test awaits the champions on Saturday afternoon against the Potters—although, whisper it quietly, but this may just be a good time to face Mark Hughes’ out-of-form side.



    The Red Devils are targeting what would be a fourth win on the road in their last five against a Stoke team that are now just two places and three points above both West Ham and Fulham in the drop zone after a poor recent run of form.


    Key Battles

    There is no doubt that Hughes will be hoping to exploit the absence of United captain Nemanja Vidic this weekend, with the influential central defender suspended for the fixture following his recent red card at Chelsea.

    And just how well the visitors’ relatively inexperienced back four are able to cope with the inevitable aerial and physical challenges that will come their way at the Britannia should decide whether they leave with just one or three points.


    Prediction: Stoke 1-1 United

    More points dropped by the champions as the spoils are shared in this typically bruising affair. 

West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Where: The Hawthorns

    When: Sunday, 2 February, 1:30 p.m. GMT

    Another chance for the Reds’ lethal front pairing to get among the goals again in the West Midlands.



    The visitors are in brilliant form at the moment, thrashing city rivals Everton 4-0 at home in the 222nd Merseyside derby at Anfield on Tuesday night.

    However, in stark contrast, new Baggies head coach Pepe Mel is still looking for his first win since arriving at the Hawthorns, although the Spaniard will at least have taken great heart from the way his side performed in their own derby at Villa on Wednesday, despite being on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller.


    Key Battles

    Well it is hard to look past how the home team will stop the Reds’ in-form striking duo of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, with the latter netting his 23rd goal of the campaign against the Toffees in midweek in just 18 matches—the same total as the Uruguayan managed in the whole of last season.


    Prediction: West Brom 1-3 Liverpool

    The Merseysiders’ attacking threat proves to be too much for the Baggies’ back four to cope with.

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    Where: The Emirates

    When: Sunday, 2 February, 4 p.m. GMT

    This London derby has the potential to be a far tougher encounter for the Gunners than many may imagine.



    The Eagles have appeared a team revitalised since Tony Pulis replaced Ian Holloway in the Selhurst Park dugout on Nov. 23, with the Welshman having garnered a highly impressive 1.38 points per game since taking charge of the South-East London side.

    Meanwhile, the Gunners dropped two points at Southampton on Wednesday night to surrender top spot in the Premier League, although a win against Palace will at least see Arsene Wenger’s men temporarily return to the summit.


    Key Battles

    There is no denying the fact that Pulis has significantly tightened up Palace’s defence since arriving at the club, with seven clean sheets recorded in their previous 13 matches, during which time they have conceded just 10 goals.

    And so this particular encounter looks like coming down to a straight battle between the North London club’s eye-catching front line and the visitors’ impenetrable back line.


    Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Palace

    The Gunners have too much pace, technique and finishing power on this occasion for Pulis’ men at the Emirates.

Manchester City vs. Chelsea

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Where: Eastlands

    When: Monday, 3 February, 8 p.m. GMT

    A mouthwatering title showdown in the North-West between City’s slick attack and the Blues’ mean defence for all to savour.



    City have won all 11 league games at home so far this campaign, scoring an impressive 42 goals in the process, while in total the Blues have managed 68 top-flight strikes at an astonishing rate of 2.96 goals per game this season.

    And it is those kind of intimidating and devastating attacking numbers that the West Londoners must try and stop on Monday night.


    Key Battles

    Can the visitors’ experienced and well-drilled back four repel the home side’s explosive front line is the main question on everyone’s lips going into this enticing match-up.

    Well, the London Blues will at least be relieved not to be facing in-form Argentina international Sergio Aguero, with the deadly striker set to miss this contest after damaging his hamstring in City’s midweek win at Spurs.


    Prediction: City 1-1 Chelsea

    This is likely to be a cagey, tactical affair with neither team wanting to hand the initiative to the other in the title race by suffering a damaging defeat.