Manchester United look to separate from the pack
Although the January transfer window did not produce too much excitement for English Premier League fans, this weekends' extended schedule is sure to fill the void.
It is evident that this years' title will not be won based on results against the top five in the table. The past two weeks saw nil-nil draws when title contenders met.
This week pits those teams and Chelsea, who have leapfrogged Tottenham into fourth place, against lesser opponents. The top five all need to win to keep title hopes alive, but it will not come as easily as they might hope.
While the match-ups won't be as glamorous as a Tottenham vs Manchester United showdown, the games themselves will surely be much more open and entertaining.
Here are some predictions for the games to be held on Saturday, January 22 and Sunday, January 23.
Wolverhampton vs. Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC head into Wolverhampton just four points above the relegation zone and have failed to record a win under new manager Kenny Dalglish. The storied manager has been promised funds to improve the squad, but nothing has been done in the way of signings at Anfield.
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Fortunately, striker Fernando Torres has been in good form of late, scoring two goals in his last four matches.
Wolverhampton find themselves second from the bottom of the table with just two points needed to climb out of the relegation zone. An impressive win in their last home fixture against Chelsea coupled with a strong showing at Manchester City should give the Wolves some confidence heading into Saturday's game.
Look for Wolverhampton to exploit their home-field advantage as well as a reeling Liverpool side.
Prediction: Wolves 1 - Liverpool FC 0
Arsenal vs. Wigan
Arsenal find themselves just two points behind leaders Manchester United and the Premiership title in their sights. After a disappointing tie to Manchester City, Arsenal rebounded with an emphatic win over bottom-dwellers West Ham.
Wigan managed a 2-2 draw in the counterpart to this fixture, but don't expect that to give them too much confidence. They will be fighting to get out of the relegation zone, but it won't happen this week.
Arsenal has too much firepower and confidence at home to drop this one.
Prediction: Arsenal 2 - Wigan 0
The story of this game will revolve around how well Sunderland cope in their first game without star striker and leading goalscorer Darren Bent, who was shipped off to Aston Villa for a fee of 18 million pounds.
Sunderland come into Saturday's game with fairly good form, sitting pretty in sixth place in the table. However, it is unknown what type of team they will be without Bent. Rumor has it that they are looking to replace Bent with a January move, but it will not affect this game.
Blackpool have been a very inconsistent side this season. They have lost three of their last four, but beat Sunderland 2-0 in their December meeting.
Look for Blackpool to take advantage of a Sunderland team amidst change and steal three points.
Prediction: Blackpool 2 - Sunderland 1
Everton vs. West Ham
Everton head into the fixture full of confidence after an impressive win over Tottenham and tie in the Derby against Liverpool. The side was struggling before that, but West Ham is sure to be a welcome sight for the Liverpool-based club.
West Ham are at the bottom of the table with just 20 points. They have been outscored 8-0 in their last two Premier League games and look the part of a bottom of the league team.
Signing Wayne Bridge on loan will help in plugging the gaping holes in their defense, but his impact will not help them win this one.
Prediction: Everton 1 - West Ham 0
While neither team has made a great splash in the transfer window, they have both made changes to shore up their squads.
Having played just last week to a 1-1 draw at Stoke, the teams are quite familiar with each other. Both have experienced good form as of late. Stoke has climbed into a respectable position, while Fulham pulled themselves out of the relegation zone.
This is sure to be an entertaining game without much significance in the way of positional finishes.
Prediction: Fulham 3 - Stoke City 2
Manchester United vs. Birmingham
Birmingham may have one glimmer of hope in this lopsided fixture. They managed a draw with United less than a month ago.
Manchester United are at the top of the table with a game in hand to Arsenal FC and two with crosstown rivals City. Their undefeated record will surely not be broken this weekend.
Each win for United brings them closer to a title. These are the types of games they cannot afford to drop two points in. Look for Sir Alex to focus the team on the task at hand.
Prediction: Man U 3 - Birmingham 1
Newcastle vs. Tottenham
The addition of Steven Pienaar will add yet another playmaker to Harry Redknapp's arsenal. Tottenham will need him and the other stars to step up if they hope to keep pace with leaders Manchester United.
Newcastle has been enjoying a successful season after being promoted from the Championship. They find themselves ninth in the table and on very good form with seven points in the last three games.
Newcastle will hope to take advantage of a Tottenham side that lost their last away fixture to Everton.
Prediction: Newcastle 2 - Tottenham 2
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City
Aston Villa hasn't seen the same success that they achieved last season, and it shows in their January transfer moves. Jean Makoun and Darren Bent are set to make their debuts on Saturday with the aim of turning the team's fortune around.
They will be facing off against a Manchester City team that is tied atop the table and looking to keep pace with United.
Manchester City has dropped just two points in their last five league matches, including an impressive tie at Arsenal.
Villa will be full of energy and spunk, but they are facing a juggernaut that have their sights on the hardware.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1 - Manchester City 2
Blackburn vs. West Bromwich
This game will feature two middle-of-the-road teams who are trying to stay above the tight race for relegation. Last month, Blackburn took the points with a 3-1 win at West Brom.
West Brom will hope to make up for it, but Blackburn performs much better at home.
This game is up in the air, but look for Blackburn to play off the energy of their home crowd.
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Prediction: Blackburn 2 - West Bromwich 0
Bolton vs. Chelsea
Bolton has exceeded expectations and currently find themselves seventh in the table. However, they have only managed one point in their last four league games.
They come up against a Chelsea team that has been mediocre at best as of late.
The unpredictability of Chelsea's recent performances has troubled their supporters. They need a win to have an outside shot at the title this year.
Chelsea is also fighting for a Champions League spot next season. Their talent should overwhelm Bolton at home and Chelsea will return to the form that they experienced early in the Premier League Season.
Prediction: Bolton 0 - Chelsea 1