The schedule has thrown up some mouthwatering contests this weekend, as Arsenal can go within a point of leaders Manchester United with a victory at home to Sunderland ahead of their midweek trip to the Nou Camp, while Sir Alex Ferguson's side take on the old enemy, Liverpool, at Anfield; in what is the Red Devils' manager's second meeting with renewed rival Kenny Dalglish in the space of two months.
So with 10 matches on offer, here are the predictions of the Goal.com UK team...
| Birmingham City
| West Brom
Nick Price says...
After an exceptional display at Wembley to see off Arsenal in the League Cup final, it's back to the nitty gritty of the Premier League for Alex McLeish's side when they face a resilient West Brom side. Both teams are perched perilously above the drop zone but Blues' home form has been reasonably steady of late, with only a defeat to Newcastle taking the gloss off of a relatively unblemished run at home since the turn of the year.
Roy Hodgson has overseen two comebacks since replacing Roberto Di Matteo at the Hawthorns, with Carlos Vela popping up late to snatch wins from the grasps of Wolves and Stoke. The former Liverpool manager's away form is notoriously poor, and if he is to get a result on the road it's most likely to come from the chaotic confines of a derby game. Yet the celebratory atmosphere and solid St Andrew's record should see Birmingham hold out for a point that might not fully please either manager, but will keep both above the drop zone for a few hours at least.
Wayne Veysey says...
With injuries casting a black cloud over their capacity to keep fighting on all fronts, resources at Arsenal are being squeezed to the max. Sound familiar? The parallels, as they prepare for a return to the Nou Camp for the second leg clash (it was a quarter-final last year rather than last-16 tie) are almost spooky.
No Robin van Persie, serious doubts over the fitness of Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas and a key centre-back missing (for William Gallas last year, read Thomas Vermaelen this).
Yet Arsenal must put thoughts of overcoming Europe's most glamorous team to one side and do the business against Sunderland on Saturday afternoon to keep the pressure on Manchester United. They will come up against Jordan Henderson, a technically gifted central midfielder who wouldn't look out of place in the Arsenal set-up. Henderson's form has bottomed out since making his England debut last November but he has started all 28 of Sunderland's league games this season and is every bit as important to Steve Bruce's team as another young England midfielder, Jack Wilshere, is to Arsenal.
Alex Fisher says...
This weekend I’ve got a trip up the M61 to Bolton to watch Owen Coyle’s men take on Aston Villa.
I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Daniel Sturridge again - he’s the striker in form in the Premier League at the moment with four in four and his arrival has really perked Bolton up after a tough December.
Of course Villa have a new striker of their own in Darren Bent but he has not made as much of an impact since arriving from Sunderland, only scoring twice in six games, but it’s worth noting Villa have only lost once since his arrival.
Both teams are in good form in the league which should hopefully lead to a good open game with lots of goals, but recent history indicates this will be a draw so I’m going for a high scoring draw.
Oliver Yew says...
Mark Hughes takes on another of his old clubs at the weekend and he will be hoping to keep Fulham’s recent resurgence going. Blackburn are the visitors to Craven Cottage and they will be looking to bounce back following their capitulation against Aston Villa last week.
There is a lot on offer for the winner of this match as three points for either side could propel them into the top half of the table. Expect goals, as between them Fulham and Blackburn have conceded 75 goals this season.
I am looking forward to seeing two target men in west London on Saturday. Bobby Zamora is slowly being nursed back to a clean bill of health following his broken leg last year and could get some game time, while Roque Santa Cruz has made a slow start to his second spell at Ewood Park but the sight of Hughes in the dug-out could spark him into life.
| Newcastle United
Owen Watson says...
Newcastle welcome Everton this weekend with the hosts looking to secure a double, having beaten their opponents 1-0 back in September thanks to an absolute screamer from Hatem Ben Arfa.
The France international is still on the road to recovery and both managers will be missing key personnel. This game will be as much a test of mettle as ability and, as much character as Newcastle have shown this season, you get the feeling theirs is a campaign very much on the decline.
It could well turn out to be a battle of the left backs – with Leighton Baines for Everton and Jose Enrique for Newcastle both enjoying superb seasons.
A win by a big enough margin could even see Everton climb above Newcastle in the table,
And I think Everton will just shade it – it’s a case of them needing the points more than the hosts, who look like a team ready to settle for mid-table obscurity.
| West Ham
| Stoke City
Josh Clarke says...
A gloom has lifted from Upton Park recently, with back-to-back home victories – including a convincing pummelling of Liverpool – belying the Hammers’ record as the Premier League’s worst home performers.
Whether or not West Ham have a revival on their hands, it’s too early to say. Though after a campaign characterised chiefly by mediocrity and disinterest, a Winston Churchill-esque half-time monologue by Scott Parker seems to have roused some life at the club. The goals are flowing and Avram Grant almost has a selection headache with Demba Ba, Carlton Cole and Victor Obinna firing on all cylinders and Thomas Hitzlsperger looking impressive after finally gaining match fitness.
Stoke’s mid-table position flatters to deceive, with the physically-imposing unit only six points above West Ham. Nevertheless, utilising directness as blunt as a butter knife, Stoke’s play can be as effective as it is unsightly. The claustrophobic nature of Upton Park may have a part to play in the game, if not from the home support’s reinvigorated optimism, then at least from the material barrier to Rory Delap’s sideline delivery.
| Manchester City
Matt Monaghan says...
Not even manager Roberto Mancini seems to know what to expect from Mario Balotelli. The ex-Inter man has scored two fantastic goals in a week but also has been on the receiving end of some criticism from his boss at a perceived lack of work-rate.
Balotelli's talent has never been in doubt. The £21 million invested in him last summer has been rewarded with 10 goals in 16 appearances in all competitions.
However, tantrums and lethargy have been just as frequently witnessed. With Chelsea and Tottenham hot on City's heels in the chase for Champions League football, the Italian must work hard to take some of the goalscoring responsibility off Carlos Tevez's shoulders, starting with Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
| Manchester United
Greg Stobart says...
The biggest game in the Premier League calendar comes at the end of a week that has raised questions over Manchester United's quest for a 19th top flight title that would see them overtake their bitter rivals.
Everywhere you look at Anfield on Sunday, there will be subplots: whether it's a potential Liverpool debut for Andy Carroll, Sir Alex Ferguson versus Kenny Dalglish or Wayne Rooney back on Merseyside.
United face the prospect of losing top spot to Arsenal this weekend and, crucially, will be without captain Nemanja Vidic following his red card in Tuesday night's damaging 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.
With the Serbian absent, Dalglish will be tempted to throw £35m January signing Carroll in at the deep end and put United under pressure from the off in what will be a raucous atmosphere.
Liverpool will be so up for this one and I fancy United to drop points, which could seriously dent their title challenge.
Ian Murphy says...
Whether you believe it is fate or just the fixture list that brings together these two teams just a week after the tragic death of Dean Richards, it is sure to be an emotional affair at Molineux this Sunday.
Richards played for both Spurs and Wolves and special tributes are being arranged for the game - with one social network group campaigning for both sets of fans to chant ‘Deano’ repeatedly throughout the 36th minute of the game.
On the pitch itself, both teams will be desperate to pick up the three points. Chelsea's surprise victory over Manchester United last Tuesday night means they leapfrogged above Spurs. With Chelsea not playing until Monday, Spurs have a chance to climb back into fourth spot.
For Wolves, and it has been the impressive form of a Spurs player that has inspired them in recent weeks. January loan signing Jamie O'Hara is ineligible to face his parent club and will be sorely missed by Mick McCarthy’s side – having netted twice in their last two games.
In what is expected to be an open game, full of attacking football, the sub-plot to Sunday's game is a sobering reminder that there is more to life than football.
Greg Stobart says...
Confidence makes so much difference in football and Chelsea will fancy their chances of going on a good run of results after their midweek victory over Manchester United.
Carlo Ancelotti has employed a 4-4-2 formation which seems to suit his strikers, David Luiz has toughened up a fragile defence - and it all seemed to click in the second half on Tuesday night.
Fernando Torres is still waiting for his first Chelsea goal but he has scored already at Blackpool this season and he should get plenty of chances to open his Blues account against the Seasiders' ropey defence.
Ian Holloway's side will be without two key players in Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell, who are both suspended. Adam has been the driving force at Bloomfield Road this season and the Scot was badly missed in last weekend's 4-0 defeat at Wolves.
||3 CORRECT 2 PERFECT 4 WRONG