Our reporters envisage the league top-two matching each others' exploits with a home win, while the Gunners are set for more disappointment as Owen Coyle's side look to bounce backWelcome to the latest edition of our weekly series, where we introduce you to the Goal.com UK reporters who will be travelling the length and breadth of the country to bring you all the action from the grounds.
This weekend kicks off with Manchester United looking over their shoulders at Chelsea, with Carlo Ancelotti's side having leapfroged over Arsenal into second spot in the table.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who will be back in the dugout having completed his five-match ban, will be demanding three points against Everton before the Stamford Bridge side take on strugglers West Ham in the evening kick-off.
So with nine matches on offer, here are the predictions of the Goal.com UK team...
| Manchester United
Greg Stobart says...
The key to this game could be how Sir Alex Ferguson tinkers with his Manchester United side ahead of Tuesday's Champions League semi-final against Schalke.
United have a crucial run of games ahead and Ferguson will be eager to make sure his players are fresh after the hard fought goalless draw against Newcastle in midweek.
I expect United to make as many as five changes to that side and the likes of Antonio Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov will have to be right at the pace of the game from the first whistle.
Everton are in good form but, like many others, have a psychological barrier to overcome at Old Trafford – and it's unlikely to happen this weekend with the paucity of their striking options.
United will know that Everton will make them work hard, but an early goal should settle the nerves and set them on their way for a comfortable three points.
| Aston Villa
| Stoke City
Oh how football can change in a matter of days. Three weeks ago, Aston Villa fans were heckling fron the stands while Stoke City were heading serenely for their highest ever Premier League finish. Now Villa are looking upwards in the league table with a confidence that comes from winning your two previous games.
Stoke, however, have teams scrapping for survival breathing right down their necks and at present they need a win to settle any nerves.
A confident Villa can only be a good thing for the game, as when at their fluent best the boys from Brum play some fantastic football and with Ashley Young and his supporting cast they can cause Tony Pulis’s men all sorts of trouble.
Stoke should have all the confidence in the world though, their annihilation of Bolton Wanderers at Wembley goes to serve how far the club have come under Pulis’s stewardship. Difficult to pick a winner, a score draw seems most likely.
Jon Birchall says...
With only two wins since the start of the year, Blackpool’s campaign has gone the way of the Big Dipper in the second half of the season, leaving opposition fans relishing a trip to the seaside for more than a stroll down the pier and a stick of rock.
In contrast, Newcastle look to have all but secured their place in the Premier League for another season, having reached the magic 40-point mark with a goalless draw with Manchester United on Tuesday.
With Joey Barton transformed on the right and Jonas electric on the left, if the Magpies deliver a performance of that quality against Ian Holloway’s side, I and the portly Geordie gentlemen that will undoubtedly shed their black and white stripes in the Lancashire sunshine, are in for a treat.
With Kevin Nolan returning from suspension to offer a much-needed goal threat, I’m predicting a tight win for Alan Pardew’s men to leave their hosts deeper in the relegation mire.
Liverpool's form has been nothing less than a rollercoaster since Kenny Daliglish took over as interim manager. The Reds have soared against Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, but sunk against West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic.
The Scot has transformed the mood at Anfield since he was brought back as saviour. No matter his undoubted effect, however, his squad has only seemed to rise for the glamorous dates in the calendar.
With the distant dream of Europa League qualification still alive, this trend must be reversed on Saturday against Birmingham City. They will probably have to do this without Andy Carroll after the giant striker finally discovered his scoring boots in the red of Liverpool.
Much will rest on Raul Meireles and Luis Suarez to spark back to life after a muted attacking performance in the dramatic 1-1 draw against Arsenal last weekend. With six goals in last five Premier League games, Dirk Kuyt has the form to finish any chance that comes his way.
| Wigan Athletic
Simon Sinclair says...
Sunderland are getting themselves in real bother after what was a great start to the season. They really need to scrap a win out of anywhere to stop their slide towards the relegation zone. This week they need to stand up and be counted, especially record signing Asamoah Gyan, who needs a goal.
Wigan are battling like mad and need to show more of the team that battered Blackpool last week. They also need their big players to come through for them like they did in that game, in particular Charles N'Zogbia, who was great at Bloomfield Road.
I am looking forward to seeing how Sunderland cope with the pressure, the fans will be really edgy so it will be very interesting to see if they sink or swim.
Wigan have a good record at the Stadium of Light so I'm going to back them to make former boss Steve Bruce's life even worse by winning on Wearside.
Josh Clarke says...
I’m looking forward to a real gung-ho game of attacking intent and verve, with a reckless disregard for anything defensive. With both teams building a reputation this season on a desire to play open and expansive football, while being somewhat haphazard, to say the least, at the back, I’m crossing my fingers for a few goals.
With both teams desperately in need of a win, I can’t see them abandoning their principles either. Despite Spurs’ midweek heroics against Arsenal, they’re still off the pace in the race for fourth, while Roy Hodgson will have the Baggies well drilled that they’re not safe until it’s a mathematical certainty.
The home factor will be massive for Spurs and I see them having a little too much firepower for a West Brom side that has not kept a clean sheet in an astounding 35 games.
Richard Parry says...
The first team to beat Manchester United in the league this season, a victory at Anfield, and sending Manchester City packing without a point – it’s hard to understand quite how Wolves are bottom of the table. That is until you glance at their away results.
Having recorded just the eight points on their travels this season, Mick McCarthy’s side must make their home matches count, and will be hunting all three at Molineux on Saturday.
Under new management following their Europa League exploits this season, Mark Hughes’ Fulham once again languish in mid-table but safe in the knowledge that, realistically, their top-flight status is secured for another year.
Nonetheless, such sides are the ones teams hope to face come this stage of the campaign, and I feel the passion from home crowd – mounted with the Cottagers’ traditional poor away form – should be enough for the hosts to seal a vital win.
| West Ham
Oliver Yew says...
Carlo Ancelotti's side have crept up on the rails in this title race and although they are still six points behind Manchester United they are back in the hunt for the trophy.
It will be interesting to see how they cope with the pressure of playing a West Ham side fighting for their Premier League life and how they handle being back in the title spotlight after slipping under the radar in recent weeks.
West Ham, on the other hand, have their own battle on their hands at the other end of the table and after some very disappointing results in the last few weeks they will be looking to bounce back with a bang against the reigning champions.
Robbie Keane got back on the scoresheet last time out and it will be interesting to see how he plays up against England captain John Terry at Stamford Bridge. How he performs in the remaining few games could be vital to the Hammers hopes of survival.
Greg Stobart says...
Only one club will be able to say they have 'bounced back' from recent disappointments when the full-time whistle blows at the Reebok Stadium.
Arsenal's mental strength has quite rightly been called into question after they let leads slip in the last two games but they are still in the title race. A win is the only option if they are to keep that dream alive.
Bolton's day out at Wembley last week turned into a nightmare as they were crushed 5-0 by Stoke, and pride will be on the players' agenda as they look to respond in front of their own fans.
If Stoke can rip Bolton apart, so can Arsenal, especially if they play with the same flair and imagination as they did in the first-half of their 3-3 draw at Tottenham.
I have no doubt that Arsenal will score, but as always the question will be whether they defend against the physicality of their hosts, who will be fired up to prove a point of their own.
||3 CORRECT 1 PERFECT 4 WRONG
Three right, one perfect, and four wrong - not a bad weekend all in all for our reporters. Star of the show was Andrew Kennedy, who correctly predicted a 2-1 victory for Aston Villa. Meanwhile, Matt Monaghan, Greg Stobart and Jonathan Birchall each receive a pat on the back.
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