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Roberto Mancini's men are looking to bounce back from their Monday night defeat at Stamford Bridge with a result in a tough home fixture against a resurgent Gunners side

With the Christmas rush well and truly upon us and the fixtures piling up, every side in the Premier League will be looking to stockpile as many points as possible with the new year fast approaching.

The undoubted showpiece game of the weekend is set to take place at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, as table-topping Manchester City look to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on Monday. In their way stands an Arsenal team who have turned their season around. All eyes, including the City scouts it is thought, will be on Robin van Persie once again.

City could go into the game having been toppled at the Premier League summit if Manchester United beat QPR in the first game on Sunday, before Aston Villa host Liverpool and Tottenham entertain Sunderland with a view to bouncing back from their defeat away to Stoke on Sunday.

There are six games on Saturday in the division also, with Blackburn and West Brom facing off at Ewood Park and Everton hosting Norwich having been bolstered by the news of Landon Donovan's imminent return on loan to the club in January.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Newcastle will be looking to reverse their recent dip in form when Brendan Rodgers' Swansea travel to Tyneside while Fulham and Bolton come head-to-head at Craven Cottage.

Stoke will make the short trip to Wolves before the day is rounded off with Chelsea's evening visit to the DW Stadium, where Andre Villas-Boas' men will look to deflate a buoyant Wigan side, whose confidence will have no doubt been boosted with victory over West Brom at the Hawthorns last weekend.

It looks set to be another enthralling two days of Premier League action and with reporters at every single ground, will be bringing you complete coverage of all 10 games.

West Brom


Ewood Park hosts the 124th meeting between two founder members of the Football League and this game is massive for both sides.

Rovers have struggled at home this season but did win their last game on home soil, though injuries have depleted Steve Kean’s squad drastically as they look to progress up the table.

The Baggies are currently on a run of three games without a win and were beaten in their last match by Wigan.

Hodgson’s men have been frugal in front of goal this season on their travels, so fans travelling from the Midlands should not expect too many celebrations.

Both teams need a win: Rovers to get them closer to safety and Albion to keep them clear of danger, so it is undoubtedly going to be a tense encounter and one goal should be enough for the hosts to earn a priceless victory.



It took a world-class Robin van Persie strike to finally fell a stubborn Everton side in their last outing against Arsenal and they will be determined to atone for that loss at Goodison Park.

They face Paul Lambert's Norwich, who have just one win on the road this season and have conceded 16 goals away from Carrow Road. That said, the Blues have failed to net in their last two matches and will be hoping to put that right immediately.

The Canaries currently sit three points ahead of their opponents on Saturday and David Moyes will be looking for the victory which would move his side ahead of them and into a position they may see as more befitting of a club of their stature.


JOE DOYLE says...

I think this will be a tight game. Martin Jol's team suffered a huge disappointment in midweek after being knocked out of the Europa League with the last kick of the game. However, the Dutchman will opt for the same style of football.

They played some excellent stuff in the opening 45 minutes against Odense and should have easily held their lead against their Danish opponents. With a couple of substitutions and some more experienced players, they probably would have done.

Both teams have had bad starts to the season, with Fulham winning only three of their 15 games. They have had it better than Bolton, however, who sit at the bottom of the Premier League and are on a poor run of results, having lost all but three of their games this season.

Fulham will edge this match with some more experienced players back in their lineup, as Danny Murphy revealed in his programme notes from the game against Odense that he expects to be back to marshal the midfield.

Newcastle United


After a fantastic start to the season, injuries are beginning to take their toll on Newcastle, especially in defence. Last week's defeat to Norwich showed how vulnerable they are without captain Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor. Fortunately for the Magpies their skipper could return this weekend.

Swansea have played some great football this season and have been rewarded with a place in mid-table. However, a trip to the newly named Sports Direct Arena will be a challenge and the Swans' away form hasn't been great as they are yet to win on the road.

Newcastle will look to Demba Ba for their goals and he could be the match winner as he has been so often this season. For a chance to get a result from this game, the Swans have got to stop him otherwise they could be heading for more away day disappointment. That'll be the key battle in the game, and I'm backing the striker to win.

Stoke City


Wolves return to Molineux following last weekend’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United with a vitally important pair of fixtures before Christmas.

With Wigan facing Chelsea and Liverpool and Blackburn, Bolton, Fulham and West Brom all intermingling, there is likely to be some movement around the drop zone over the course of the week. Following the visit of Tony Pulis’ team, Wolves host Norwich in another winnable match on Tuesday evening.

Stoke usually present a more defensively minded proposition away from the Britannia Stadium so the onus will be on Mick McCarthy’s team to take the game to the visitors. They have won two in a row at home and with just one victory in eight away from Molineux they must maintain that consistency in front of their own supporters if they wish to avoid the drop.



Now they have shown that Manchester City are anything but invincible when it comes to the Premier League, Chelsea will not only be expected to beat lowly Wigan but also do it with plenty to spare.

They beat the Latics 6-0 at the DW Stadium last season and this time around, while a repeat performance is not beyond the realms of possibility now that they have hit form, the Blues should at least be aiming to secure all three points with the minimum fuss so they can preserve their energy for the traditionally gruelling festive period.

Wigan might play decent football but they are weak in central defence, so this could give Chelsea the chance to improve their goal difference and, who knows, Fernando Torres might even get among the scorers if Didier Drogba is given a rest with a visit to Tottenham next Thursday looming.

  Manchester United


The disappointment of not reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, reinforced by the long-term sidelining of Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic, threatens to cloud judgment when assessing Manchester United’s current bill of health.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s sides have carved out a blueprint for when the chips are down, with many instantly forgettable yet title-winning 1-0 wins over the years. Indeed, they’ve won three of their last five Premier League away trips in such manner, the finer details of which escape me.

Nevertheless, I’m not only intrigued to see how exactly Sir Alex shuffles his pack, but eagerly anticipating the prospect of a United side that looks defensively vulnerable – especially with Heidur Helguson banging them in for fun at the moment.

That said, QPR are not good enough to bully Manchester United into dropping what they will have earmarked as points in the bank back in August. Harsh – but probably true.

Aston Villa

JOEL LAMY says...

A first away win of the season will have taken some of the pressure off Alex McLeish, but back-to-back home games against Liverpool and Arsenal will see if he has learned how to play against the best sides after disappointing showings against both Manchester clubs.

McLeish has denied that he is willing to listen to offers for captain Stiliyan Petrov, but his performance will once again be scrutinised. Similarly, with Gabriel Agbonlahor suspended it allows an opportunity for other men linked with a move – Nathan Delfouneso and Stephen Ireland (or Emile Heskey) – to prove their worth to the manager.

Luis Suarez will have discovered his fate over alleged racist comments about Patrice Evra before the match and Kenny Dalglish will hope that he is not put off his game as Liverpool will need his creativity to unlock what is likely to be a defensive Villa set-up.



After 83 minutes against fellow strugglers Blackburn at the Stadium of Light last Sunday, it was beginning to appear as though Martin O’Neill would be denied any sort of ‘Honeymoon period’ as Sunderland boss.

But late goals from David Vaughan and Sebastian Larsson changed all that, and the Black Cats will now travel to White Hart Lane for this Sunday’s clash with Tottenham on a newfound wave of optimism.

However, while surely encouraged by the comeback, O’Neill will know much improvement will be required if Sunderland’s revival is not to be quickly snuffed out by an aggrieved Spurs side still smarting from a controversial defeat to Stoke last time out.

Boss Harry Redknapp has repeatedly insisted his team can challenge for the Premier League title this season, but such boasts will begin to ring hollow if the north Londoners fail to demonstrate the necessary powers of instant recovery on Sunday.

Manchester City


It’s turning into a very frosty December indeed for Manchester City, with Champions League elimination in their last game at home swiftly followed by a first league defeat of the season away to Chelsea.

How Mancini’s side respond against a Robin van Persie-inspired Arsenal on Sunday afternoon may provide a telling indication of how the title race will run over the coming months: win and City are back on track, lose and it could be a very blue Christmas at the Etihad Stadium.

The atmosphere should be tense, with the Manc swagger running off a little less bravado than it was a month ago, and the visit of an Arsenal outfit who haven’t lost in the division since the start of October could very well jangle a few nerves.

Regardless of who takes the initiative, it promises to be the absorbing game of the weekend.

5 CORRECT            3 PERFECT            2 WRONG

An excellent week saw only two of our reporters pick incorrect results and three hit the nail on the head. Joe Wright foresaw Swansea beating Fulham 2-0, Simon Sinclair correctly predicted Sunderland's 2-1 win over Blackburn at the Stadium of Light and Wayne Veysey made it three perfects out of four by backing Chelsea to beat Manchester City 2-1 on Monday evening.

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