World Football

Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide: Gunners' Tough Anfield Trip

Richard MorganContributor IFebruary 6, 2014

Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide: Gunners' Tough Anfield Trip

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    All eyes on Anfield: Liverpool host Arsenal on Saturday lunch time in the Premier League's standout fixture of the weekend
    All eyes on Anfield: Liverpool host Arsenal on Saturday lunch time in the Premier League's standout fixture of the weekendBogdan Maran/Associated Press

    With Week 25 of this wonderfully thrilling and totally unpredictable Premier League season now just days away, we are here to give you a full run down of all of this weekend's 10 top-flight fixtures.

    With so much now at stake for those clubs competing at both the top and bottom ends of the table, we really are fast approaching the business end of the campaign...

Liverpool V Arsenal

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    Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

    Where: Anfield

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 12:45 p.m. GMT

    Fourth versus first on Merseyside in what is clearly the standout fixture of the weekend.

     

    Form

    Each side enters this much-anticipated match-up on good runs in the league, while they also meet each once again in an FA Cup fourth-round tie at the Emirates on Sunday Feb 16.

     

    Key Battles

    With injury problems affecting both outfits, this looks like being a contest that will be won and lost in the centre of the park.

    In that regard, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger will be hugely relieved to have both Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere back from injury for the trip to Anfield.

    However, the Reds recently blew Everton away on their own patch, and if skipper Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson can perform as they did in that encounter this Saturday, then the north Londoners could be in for a tricky 90 minutes.

     

    Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

    The visitors have an impressive recent record at Anfield and have been desperately hard to beat in the league of late, meaning this top-of-the-table clash is likely to end with the spoils shared.

Aston Villa V West Ham United

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    Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Where: Villa Park

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 3 p.m. GMT

    A potential relegation battle in the West Midlands.

     

    Form

    The Hammers recorded a long-awaited and morale-boosting win over Swansea City at Upton Park last Saturday, although their record on the road this season is abysmal and they will also be without club-record signing Andy Carroll through suspension this weekend.

    Meanwhile, the home side will be looking to bounce back from defeat at Everton last time out and get the win that would move them eight points clear of their opponents in the drop zone.

     

    Key Battles

    This tight affair is likely to come down to small details, such as can the east Londoners' returning centre-back Winston Reid get the better of Villa's lone frontman Christian Benteke? Especially now that the powerful Belgium international has finally returned to somewhere near his best form in front of goal again this season.

     

    Prediction: Villa 2-0 West Ham

    Benteke proves too hard to handle for Big Sam's men, who remain deep in trouble as a result of this latest setback on their travels.

Chelsea V Newcastle United

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Where: Stamford Bridge

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 3 p.m. GMT

    Can the Blues build on their impressive win at Manchester City on Monday night against a Magpies team missing key striker Loic Remy through suspension?

     

    Form

    These two sides could not go into this fixture in more contrasting form, with the west London club having just produced their best performance of the entire season earlier this week in leaving Eastlands with a 1-0 win.

    Meanwhile, the north-east giants were humiliated 3-0 by arch-rivals Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby in front of their own fans last Saturday, the second campaign in a row that Alan Pardew's team have been on the end of such a dispiriting setback against the Black Cats.

     

    Key Battles

    You really get the impression that visiting keeper Tim Krul is going to be a busy man at Stamford Bridge this weekend against a confident and in-form home team.

    However, if any shot stopper is capable of single-handedly keeping out an opponent, then it is the Magpies No. 1—just ask Tottenham Hotspur fans.

     

    Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle

    A stroll in the park for Jose Mourinho's title-chasing outfit.

Crystal Palace V West Bromwich Albion

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Where: Selhurst Park

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 3 p.m. GMT

    With both of these sides currently level on points hovering just above the drop zone, this really is a relegation six-pointer.

     

    Form

    New Baggies boss Pepe Mel has drawn two of his first three matches in charge of the struggling west Midlands outfit, although they did come against high-flying Everton and Liverpool.

    The Eagles, meanwhile, have become far harder to beat since Tony Pulis was appointed back in November and have also made a habit of beating the teams around them in the table.

     

    Key Battles

    Expect the visitors to dominate possession, while pressing high up the pitch, and for the south-east London side to try and hit their opponents on the break.

    One player that West Brom will need to keep a close eye on is Palace's in-form wide-man Jason Puncheon.

     

    Prediction: Palace 1-1 West Brom

    All square in the capital in a result that suits neither side.

Norwich City V Manchester City

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Where: Carrow Road

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 3 p.m. GMT

    How will City react to losing Monday's top-of-the-table title showdown at home to Chelsea against a struggling Canaries outfit?

     

    Form

    The home side have barely been able to string together two good displays all campaign long, let alone two results, which is why Chris Hughton's men are currently sitting precariously just two points above the relegation zone.

    The Blues, in stark contrast, have been scoring goals and winning games for fun so far this season, Monday's blip aside, and having netted seven times the last occasion the teams met at Eastlands in November, this threatens to be yet another difficult afternoon for Norwich and their supporters.

     

    Key Battles

    City coach Manuel Pellegrini may be without prolific striker Sergio Aguero through injury at present, however, frontmen Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko are more than capable replacements.

    If those two forwards do not enjoy their trip to East Anglia this weekend, then there will be some serious questions being asked about the visitors' title credentials.

     

    Prediction: Norwich 0-2 Manchester City

    A comfortable enough afternoon for City's slick-looking attack against their relegation-doomed hosts.

Southampton V Stoke City

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    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

    Where: St Mary's

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 3 p.m. GMT

    Despite recording a memorable home win against the champions last weekend, the Potters are still only three points from safety going into this fixture against the high-flying Saints.

     

    Form

    Mark Hughes' men have struggled on their travels all campaign long, with their last away win in the Premier League coming way back in August.

    The south-coast club, meanwhile, rarely if ever lose at fortress St Mary's.

     

    Key Battles

    Everyone knows that under Mauricio Pochettino, the home side will press high up the pitch, looking to win back possession as early as possible against Stoke on Saturday.

    This is exactly the type of game plan that the visitors tend to struggle against, meaning their back four will need to be rock solid if they want to leave St Mary's unbeaten.

     

    Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Stoke

    The Potters nick an undeserved point thanks to a late set-piece goal.

Sunderland V Hull City

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    Tim Keeton/Getty Images

    Where: The Stadium of Light

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 3 p.m. GMT

    These two teams go into this fixture level on points, although still only two clear of the bottom three.

     

    Form

    The Black Cats and the Tigers appear to be heading in different directions in the Premier League at present, with Gustavo Poyet's side now out of the relegation zone thanks to last Saturday's thumping 3-0 win at city-rivals Newcastle.

    However, Steve Bruce's team have collected only one point from their previous five league encounters, although it was an impressive one, coming against UEFA Champions League-chasing Spurs at the KC stadium last time out.

     

    Key Battles

    It will be vital for the visitors that recently acquired strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic jell as quickly as possible if the club are to beat the drop this season, with the former getting off the mark last time out.

    However, it would be a surprise if Sunderland did not take great confidence and self-belief, not only from their win at St James', but their form in general of late.

    As a result, you feel the visitors' back five will need to stand firm in the north east on Saturday if they are to avoid being dragged further towards the drop zone.

     

    Prediction: Sunderland 2-0 Hull

    The home side's recent good run continues against a lacklustre Tigers.

Swansea City V Cardiff City

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Where: The Liberty stadium

    When: Saturday, 8 February, kick-off 5:30 p.m. GMT

    Just three points separate these two fierce city rivals going into this massive showdown near the bottom of the table

     

    Form

    Neither side is in great form at the moment, as one would expect with the home team in 12th and the visitors 19th in the Premier League.

    However, the Bluebirds did win their most recent league fixture against fellow strugglers Norwich last weekend.

    Meanwhile, in contrast the Swans lost a relegation six-pointer at West Ham, a defeat that in the end resulted in manager Michael Laudrup getting the sack.

     

    Key Battles

    Do not expect much football to break out in this South Wales derby, especially with so much at stake for both outfits.

    However, the business that Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to do in the January transfer window in bringing in the likes of Kenwyne Jones and Wilfried Zaha appears to have given his men the edge, in what is sure to be a closely fought contest in the Principality.

    As a result, expect the visitors to try to get their impressive forward players running as much as possible at the home side's brittle defence.

     

    Prediction: Swansea 1-2 Cardiff

    A memorable league double for the Bluebirds over their arch-enemy.

Tottenham Hotspur V Everton

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    Tony Marshall/Getty Images

    Where: White Hart Lane

    When: Sunday, 9 February, kick-off 1:30 p.m. GMT

    The battle for the last remaining UEFA Champions League berth next season comes to the capital as sixth in the table play host to the fifth-placed team.

     

    Form

    Roberto Martinez's men were thrashed 4-0 in their last Premier League contest on the road, and not only that, but it came at the hands of fierce city rivals Liverpool.

    However, the Toffees did show their strength of character last time out by immediately getting back to winning ways with a hard-fought 2-1 win over mid-table Aston Villa at Goodison Park.

    The visitors will be especially confident of collecting all three points in north London this weekend at a ground where the Merseysiders always seem to do well at, especially given the inconsistency the home side have shown of late under new boss Tim Sherwood.

     

    Key Battles

    Everton arrive in the capital without their injured front duo Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku, which means their normally rock solid back four are going to need to stifle Spurs' attacking threat and then try and hurt their opponents on the counter-attack.

     

    Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Everton

    The Toffees' lack of firepower up front in the end catches up with them against their attack-minded hosts.

Manchester United V Fulham

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Where: Old Trafford

    When: Sunday, 9 February, kick-off 4 p.m. GMT

    The champions just cannot afford any more slip-ups if they still want to finish this season in the top four of the Premier League.

     

    Form

    Neither side goes into this contest in front of the TV cameras in great form, although with the west Londoners currently propping up the table, their need for a win is far greater than the home team's.

    Meanwhile, United's loss last time out at Stoke was their eighth already of the campaign, and an unthinkable ninth against the Cottagers on Sunday could leave them a whopping 10 points behind arch-rivals Liverpool in the race for the final UEFA Champions League qualifying place for next season if the Reds beat Arsenal 24 hours earlier.

     

    Key Battles

    Expect the Red Devils to dominate this match from start to finish, with under-pressure manager David Moyes certain to recall young winger Adnan Januzaj to his starting line-up against Fulham.

    With key strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie also now both back to full fitness, expect the shackles to come off at the Theatre of Dreams this weekend and United to turn on the style against a visiting outfit that have conceded 53 goals in the league so far this season, 12 more than any other team.

     

    Prediction: United 4-0 Fulham

    No happy homecoming for former United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen as his side head further towards the Championship.

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