Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide as Arsenal and City Headline

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 27, 2014

Premier League Weekend Preview: Game-by-Game Guide as Arsenal and City Headline

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    With the Premier League title pursuit losing traction, Arsenal can get things back on track in a major way this weekend, welcoming heavy-hitters Manchester City to the Emirates Stadium.

    Should Arsene Wenger's side manage to claim the Citizens' scalp, it would put another extreme twist in the race for this year's Premier League crown, which has already been a wide open hunt by normal standards.

    Liverpool and Tottenham are also set to collide in a meeting which could alter the makeup of the top four dramatically, with a host of other high-profile encounters on the schedule.

    Read on for a game-by-game breakdown of this weekend's fixtures.

    All statistics come via WhoScored.com.

Manchester United vs. Aston Villa

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Where: Old Trafford

    When: Saturday, March 29, 12:45 p.m. GMT

    Manchester United are striving to ensure their streak of home league defeats doesn't extend to three consecutive matches when they welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford this weekend.

    Last Sunday's 3-0 loss to rivals Manchester City heaped further woe upon Moyes, just over a week after the Red Devils helmsman watched his side slump against Liverpool by the same, damning scoreline.

    The Villans have seen their fight against relegation go through some positive change over the last few weeks, and a win at the Theatre of Dreams would move the Birmingham outfit within touching distance of assured safety.

     

    Form

    Despite the 17-point gap between these two sides, United and Villa actually boast very similar recent runs of form.

    Both teams have lost two of their last five games across all competitions, but whereas Paul Lambert's side have two wins and a draw in that same stretch of time, David Moyes' outfit have managed three wins.

    It's now been a fortnight since Aston Villa managed a shock 1-0 win over Chelsea, but with United having failed to win an unprecedented nine home league games already this term, the mid-table candidates can look to strike against a club on the ropes.

     

    Key Battles

    When morale has been low at Old Trafford of late, Wayne Rooney has looked like the sole source of inspiration for Manchester United, and if Villa are to have any chance of success, the striker's input must be limited.

    Leandro Bacuna's surging runs from right-back are usually of great importance to the Villans' attack, but the 22-year-old won't want to get caught out of position with the lurking Rooney, while central defenders Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker will also have a job on their hands.

    Christian Benteke has found some scoring form since making his return from injury weeks ago, and with Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans still doubts for the fixture, it could be Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones tasked with keeping the Belgian international quiet.

     

    Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa

Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Where: Selhurst Park

    When: Saturday, March 29, 3 p.m. GMT

    With Liverpool and Manchester City right on their tails, Chelsea make the short trip to Selhurst Park this Saturday in the hopes that they can maintain their place atop the Premier League pile.

    The Blues gave one of their less convincing performances on the way to claiming a 2-1 win over the Eagles back in December, but they can hope to tie up a double against their relegation candidate hosts this weekend.

     

    Form

    Jose Mourinho's side have been convincing in their run to the top of the Premier League standings, not always giving the flashiest displays but claiming 12 wins from their last 16 league matches, losing just once.

    Tony Pulis' men have found it far more difficult to piece successive results together and are without a win in five Premier League outings, last claiming three points from a match in early February. 

     

    Key Battles

    At Stamford Bridge, Samuel Eto'o has been Chelsea's danger man of late, but it's the ever reliable trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Andre Schurrle who must be watched with a close eye in South London.

    Should Jose Mourinho choose to field the pair in midfield, David Luiz and Nemanja Matic can be a devastating anchor force in the Chelsea midfield, one which Mile Jedinak, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Joe Ledley will find extremely difficult to overcome. 

     

    Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-3 Chelsea

Southampton vs. Newcastle United

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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    Where: St. Mary's Stadium

    When: Saturday, March 29, 3 p.m. GMT

    Whoever wins between Southampton and Newcastle United this Saturday is guaranteed to finish the weekend in eighth place as the pair continues to jostle for prominence just below the top six.

    As things stand, the Magpies just about boast a one-point advantage over their south-coast foes but make the trip to St. Mary's with the view to extending that gap to four points.

     

    Form

    It's befitting that two sides so closely poised alongside one another should have such identical records in the Premier League of late, having each won three and lost three of their last six league outings.

    Both teams come into this matchup on the back of defeats, too, Newcastle having dropped 3-0 at home to Everton last time out, whereas the Saints' 3-2 loss at White Hart Lane was a somewhat more bitter pill to swallow in midweek. 

     

    Key Battles

    This weekend's hosts have been in fine scoring form of late, failing to net just once in their last 11 Premier League fixtures. As is ever the case for a team travelling to St. Mary's, Newcastle will need to give the English trio of Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert their full attention.

    Of course, the northeast outfit can't spend the afternoon worrying about enemy movements alone, and they must look to the likes of Loic Remy, Papiss Demba Cisse and Yoan Gouffran for inspiration.

    Standing in their way will be Mauricio Pochettino's defence, which is still looking to rediscover its better form with Dejan Lovren fully returned from injury.

     

    Prediction: Southampton 3-2 Newcastle United

Stoke City vs. Hull City

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Where: Britannia Stadium

    When: Saturday, March 29, 3 p.m. GMT

    Back in December, these two teams failed to find a winner as Stoke City left the KC Stadium far happier for the 0-0 result than their Hull City hosts.

    However, Mark Hughes will be under more pressure to deliver a bigger haul this time around when the Tigers make their way to the Britannia.

     

    Form

    The Potters have picked their moment well in putting together this season's most impressive patch of form, winning three of their last four league matches and losing just once in their last seven.

    Hull happen to have gone in an almost opposite direction but have managed to win two of their last three away fixtures in the Premier League, triumphing at Sunderland and Cardiff City. 

     

    Key Battles

    The January double signing of Shane Long and

    Where: Britannia Stadium

    When: Saturday, March 29, 3 p.m. GMT

    Back in December, these two teams failed to find a winner as Stoke City left the KC Stadium far happier for the 0-0 result than their Hull City hosts.

    However, Mark Hughes will be under more pressure to deliver a bigger haul this time around when the Tigers make their way to the Britannia.

     

    Form

    The Potters have picked their moment well in putting together this season's most impressive patch of form, winning three of their last four league matches and losing just once in their last seven.

    Hull happen to have gone in an almost opposite direction, but have managed to win two of their last three away fixtures in the Premier League, triumphing at Sunderland and Cardiff City. 

     

    Key Battles

    The January double signing of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic have experienced a boost in form of late, having each netted in the double-booked past week of fixtures.

    However, visiting strikers have found it difficult to see the goals mount up at the Britannia this season, and one has to trace back to mid-January to find the last time that a team managed to score more than one league goal there.

    Steve Bruce's visitors are no slouches at the back either, though, and it's possible that the quality of each teams' attack could ultimately result in another sharing of the spoils.

     

    Prediction: Stoke City 1-1 Hull City

     have experienced a boost in form of late, each having netted in the double-booked past week of fixtures.

    However, visiting strikers have found it difficult to see the goals mount up at the Britannia this season, and one has to trace back to mid-January to find the last time that a team managed to score more than one league goal there.

    Steve Bruce's visitors are no slouches at the back either, though, and it's possible that the quality of each teams' attack could ultimately result in another sharing of the spoils.

     

    Prediction: Stoke City 1-1 Hull City

Swansea City vs. Norwich City

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    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    Where: Liberty Stadium

    When: Saturday, March 29, 3 p.m. GMT

    Garry Monk will look to improve upon the 1-1 result that his Swansea City side managed to take from Carrow Road in their trip to Norwich three months ago, then still under the management of Michael Laudrup.

     

    Form

    Swansea City's boss was understandably upset after Swansea City were denied a last-minute chance to win their game at the Emirates Stadium in midweek, having to settle for a 2-2 draw with the Gunners in the end.

    That point was just Swansea's second in the month of March, while Norwich City's weekend win against Sunderland see them sitting in 14th, one place and two points above the Swans.

    The Canaries possess the third-worst goal difference in the English top flight, but having lost just four of their last 10 matches, winning three and drawing three, Chris Hughton's side are piecing together that which matters most—results.

     

    Key Battles

    Robert Snodgrass was integral to the win over Sunderland last weekend, and if Norwich are to prevail again, they must hope that the Scottish international is able to reign just as freely against Ben Davies.

    Norwich have concerns of their own, though, as Wilfried Bony has begun to show more frequent glimpses of his powerful form up top for the Swans. Joseph Yobo and Sebastien Bassong have managed to combine and stage some impressive defensive feats in recent months, and they can hope to do so against the Ivorian striker on Saturday.

     

    Prediction: Swansea City 2-1 Norwich City

West Brom vs. Cardiff City

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    Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

    Where: The Hawthorns 

    When: Saturday, March 29, 3 p.m. GMT

    West Brom and Cardiff City sit just three places apart from one another, and the West Midlands outfit can take a major step away from the relegation fight if they were to bag three points against the Bluebirds on Saturday. 

     

    Form

    However, that hunt is made all the more difficult when one considers the Baggies have won just one of their last 10 Premier League outings, with Pepe Mel struggling in his new post.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have gone through some similar misfortune but have won two of their last eight games. They were good enough to beat West Brom 1-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium back in December.

      

    Key Battles

    Stephane Sessegnon has been in and out of the West Brom line-up on a sporadic basis this season, but he showed some brilliant form in the 2-1 win at Swansea City several weeks ago, the likes of which West Brom would like to see on a more consistent basis.

    Unfortunately for the Benin international, Cardiff's midfield anchors are among some of their most valued assets, and while the Bluebirds can't always be relied on to score goals, their value in stemming the opposition's tide through Gary Medel and Kim Bo-Kyung can often be impressive. 

     

    Prediction: West Brom 2-1 Cardiff City

Arsenal vs. Manchester City

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Where: Emirates Stadium

    When: Saturday, March 29, 5 p.m. GMT

    This weekend's highlight fixture comes between Arsenal and Manchester City, who sit one place and three points apart as things stand.

    The Citizens lie in third, just above their North London foes, and they have two games in hand to their advantage, making it of crucial importance that Arsene Wenger's side claw back a result on Saturday evening.

     

    Form

    Having looked like title contenders up until mid-February, Arsenal have won just three of their last nine league outings, dropping from first to fourth in a matter of months.

    City, on the other hand, have won three on the trot, scoring 10 goals in the process, and they are fully intent on heaping more misery on Arsenal, having embarrassed them 6-3 several months ago. 

     

    Key Battles

    There will be key battles in just about every area of Saturday night's meeting, but should Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta fail to challenge Fernandinho and Yaya Toure sufficiently in the engine room tug-of-war, this fixture has already been lost.

    Olivier Giroud will also need to do what many strikers this season have failed to in holding up an attack almost single-handedly against the likes of Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis, but the supporting runs of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla will be pivotal in that battle.

     

    Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City

Fulham vs. Everton

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    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

    Where: Craven Cottage

    When: Sunday, March 30, 1:30 p.m. GMT

    Fulham's hopes of moving off the bottom of the Premier League's standings wouldn't appear likely to see a bump in fortune this Sunday, where they'll play host to in-form Everton at Craven Cottage.

     

    Form

    Everton's four straight back-to-back wins have put the Toffees straight back into contention for a top-four finish, with Arsenal sitting just six points ahead of them in fourth, but having played a game more.

    What's been so encouraging about that run in particular is the wide assortment of players managing to get on the scoresheet for Roberto Martinez's side, with no less than six players contributing to the team's last eight finishes.

    Fulham, who were beaten 4-1 on their trip to Goodison Park earlier in the campaign, have won just one of their last 11 matches in the Premier League and are in serious danger of seeing the drop this term. 

     

    Key Battles

    Romelu Lukaku has managed to find his scoring boots again since making his comeback from injury, and it appears that even though the Belgian shaved off his signature dreadlocks, the power is still within him.

    Brede Hangeland and John Heitinga will seek to limit the striker's influence and, in the process, aim to give Cauley Woodrow—the young striker given some surprise prominence in the team following Kostas Mitroglou's recent injury—some good foundations to work from in attack.

     

    Prediction: Fulham 2-3 Everton

Liverpool vs. Tottenham

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Where: Anfield

    When: Sunday, March 30, 4 p.m. GMT

    Liverpool remain within touching distance of league leaders Chelsea, and a home win over Tottenham this weekend will only serve in further boosting the morale at Anfield, which is currently at the highest point we've seen for some time.

    Tottenham's top-four hopes might be laid to rest unless they take a result in Merseyside this weekend, with the North Londoners currently seven points away from fourth-place Arsenal.

     

    Form

    Spurs have just one win in their last five matches across all competitions, but they won their first league match since being knocked out of the Europa League, taking a crucial three points from Southampton last weekend.

    With no midweek fixture, Tim Sherwood's side may be slightly fresher than their hosts, but there's only so much that those extra days' rest can do in terms of on-pitch impact.

    Liverpool are now 12 matches unbeaten in the Premier League and haven't lost at Anfield in the league since September, hoping to ensure that both runs are extended by the visit of Tottenham on Sunday. 

     

    Key Battles

    Christian Eriksen was the man responsible for Spurs' revival against the Saints last weekend, and if there was one, in-form asset for Liverpool to watch out for this Sunday, the Dane is it.

    Liverpool's midfield trio of Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson may once again be deployed in an effort to counter Spurs' own creative gems, but the visitors have some concerns of their own.

    Sherwood's defence will be fully aware of the threat coming their way, and it's likely that Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul are the centre-backs tasked with taking care of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, the Premier League's most prolific duo this season.

     

    Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Tottenham

Sunderland vs. West Ham

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    Steve Bardens/Getty Images

    Where: Stadium of Light

    When: Monday, March 31, 8 p.m. GMT

    Monday evening's meeting between Sunderland and West Ham gives Gus Poyet's men the best opportunity for points that they're likely to receive for at least the next month.

    After Sam Allardyce's side, the Black Cats face Tottenham, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea in that order in their Premier League calendar, and so they must pounce if they're to stave off relegation.

     

    Form

    Poyet's men are up there with the most out-of-form sides in the Premier League right now, having failed to win any of their last five fixtures, their only saving grace being that they have two games in hand over the teams below them, Cardiff City and Fulham.

    West Ham have had a difficult run of late but bounced back from three successive losses to earn their first win in the month of March during midweek, triumphing over Hull in East London. 

     

    Key Battles

    Sunderland's centre-backs will have to pinpoint Hammers striking focus Andy Carroll, who against Manchester United last weekend was unfortunate not to have made more of an impact, though his side did prove slightly one-dimensional as a result.

    Instead, the 2-1 win over Hull several days later spoke better of the side's technical capabilities, and Mark Noble in particular will need to be shut down by the Black Cats' central assets, who were so noticeably outclassed in the 2-0 loss to Norwich last Saturday.

     

    Prediction: Sunderland 2-2 West Ham