With the total spend of Premier League clubs hitting an astonishing £130m in the January transfer window, hopes couldn’t be higher for those that have dug deepest into their pockets as we enter into February.
Week 24 of the Premier League offers a mouth-watering line-up with a local derby, relegation scraps galore and a certain "title-decider" for us to sink our teeth into.
|SATURDAY, 12:45||Newcastle United||vs.||Sunderland||Newcastle United 1-3 Sunderland|
|SATURDAY, 12:45||West Ham United||vs.||Swansea City||West Ham United 2-0 Swansea City|
|SATURDAY, 15:00||Cardiff City||vs.||Norwich City||Cardiff City 1-0 Norwich City|
|SATURDAY, 15:00||Everton||vs.||Aston Villa||Everton 3-1 Aston Vila|
|SATURDAY, 15:00||Fulham||vs.||Southampton||Fulham 1-1 Southampton|
|SATURDAY, 15:00||Hull City||vs.||Tottenham Hotspur||Hull City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur|
|SATURDAY, 15:00||Stoke City||vs.||Manchester United||Stoke City 0-3 Manchester United|
|SUNDAY, 13:30||West Bromwich Albion||vs.||Liverpool||West Bromwich Albion 1-3 Liverpool|
|SUNDAY, 16:00||Arsenal||vs.||Crystal Palace||Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace|
|MONDAY, 20:00||Manchester City||vs.||Chelsea||Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea|
The Premier League has thrown up all kinds of surprises in the current campaign, but I sense that week 24 will be one of those weeks where the favourites live up to their names.
Stoke City vs. Manchester United
Following Juan Mata's £37.5m arrival, a new confidence is oozing around Old Trafford and suddenly the "Moyes Out" placards have found a way out themselves. United breezed to a 2-0 victory over Cardiff City in midweek, and I expect more of the same at the Britannia Stadium—a place that's proved a happy hunting ground for the Red Devils over recent years.
Manchester United are unbeaten away at Stoke City in the modern Premier League era, winning four out of five league meetings with the Potters and conceding just two goals in the process. Things haven't quite gone to plan for Moyes' boys this season, but with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney once again fighting fit, United fans have reason to be optimistic. In the 34 starts that the pair have made together up front, United have lost just once.
Stoke City have lost five of their last six Premier League matches, and it's hard to see that run ending with Mata, Rooney and van Persie on show.
Prediction: Stoke City 0-3 Manchester United
Everton vs. Aston Villa
Everton suffered a considerable dent in their local pride thanks to a 4-0 thrashing at Anfield on Wednesday, but it'll be business as usual when they welcome Aston Villa to Goodison Park on Saturday.
Roberto Martinez's team have been in irresistible form this season and even produced spells of glowing football during their Merseyside derby thrashing, which is enough to suggest they're ready to mount a serious top-four challenge this year.
Everton have lost just one of their 13 matches at home in all competitions this season—a surprise 1-0 loss to Sunderland—and have produced performance after performance away from home to boot, including a 2-0 victory at Villa Park back in October.
With striker Romelu Lukaku sidelined for the visit of Villa, Everton will need to look elsewhere for goals; but that shouldn't be an issue for the current crop of Blues, who are all loving getting in on the goalscoring act.
Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley, Gareth Barry and Leighton Baines have netted 15 times between them in the Premier League in the current campaign, and they'll be hoping for more success in front of goal when they welcome the leaky Villans—a side that have conceded eight goals in their last four away matches.
Prediction: Everton 3-1 Aston Villa
Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
Arsenal and Crystal Palace may have had contrasting activity in the January transfer window, much to the disappointment of the player-hungry Gunners fans, but I feel a routine home win beckons at the Emirates against Tony Pulis' Palace.
It always seems to be the same story when teams in the bottom half visit the Emirates—they pack 11 men behind the ball, think for all the world that they're going to hold out for the draw...then Arsenal make the breakthrough.
Though Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey will play no part in the London derby, Arsenal have more than enough quality to see off Palace who will, without a doubt, produce a stubborn performance.
Pulis will have new signings Tom Ince, Scott Dann, Joe Ledley and Wayne Hennessey at his disposal, but with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud piling the pressure on his side's goal, it's likely to be a bad day at the office for the merchandise-mad manager.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Is it too early to call this one a title-decider? Probably not—I can't see the title going anywhere else but the Etihad Stadium at the end of the campaign.
We've expected unbeatable brilliance from City for years now, but they've always been wobbly in places and haven't quite earned their world-beater status. Now, however, under Manuel Pellegrini, they truly are the full package.
Pellegrini's phenomenal pack have won all 11 of their Premier League matches at home this season, scoring 44 goals, and on top of that, they haven't tasted defeat to Chelsea in the league at the Etihad since September 2008.
With so much class on show, you might say that the match could go either way, but I can see City proving just that little bit too strong for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, who will hopefully provide us with another entertaining press conference following a disappointing result.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea
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