With an important round of fixtures coming up in the English Premier League, Goal.com's Atishay Agarwal gives us his predictions on the outcome of each one of them...
Arsenal, despite being in 5th position and well behind Aston Villa, are unbeaten in nine matches in all competitions, which somewhat suggests that they have been a more stable side than at the start of the season. They've lost a lot of flair in the form of Fabregas and Walcott, but are grafting a bit more on the pitch.
On the other hand, West Ham are on a run of their own, and are unbeaten in seven games, which has seen them rise to 8th in the league table. Zola will in all probability forgo his methods and make sure there are ten men behind the ball, so it looks like it will be another frustrating match for the Gunners, which they should nick through a late goal.
Liverpool vs Chelsea
Liverpool seem to be in turmoil, even though they're just two points off the top. There were opinions flying about that Benitez's comments on Ferguson would bring about his own team's downfall, which is quite juvenile according to me. But Rafa's comments after the Wigan game left a lot to be desired. There seems to be something wrong inside the club, and they will find it hard to beat Chelsea this time around.
The Blues have recovered well after the embarrassing result at Old Trafford, and have won four in four, although all of them have been significantly weaker teams. The game promises to be a tight, and probably dull affair, with both defences holding fort. This has stalemate written all over it.
Fulham vs Portsmouth
Both teams come into the game in not the best of form, with Fulham having picked up one victory in their last nine league games, and Portsmouth having won two in 14 games under Tony Adams. However, Fulham have racked up 21 points at home this season, which is the joint highest tally outside of the "Big Four" clubs. Portsmouth will have to check on Sol Campbell, who's scheduled to undergo a late fitness test, but with or without the former Arsenal defender, it looks like a tough place for Pompey to register a much-needed win.
Stoke City vs Manchester City
Stoke had a decent start to the season, but their form has been wretched recently, as they come into the game without a win in 11 in all competitions, which has included their exit in both the domestic cups at the hands of lower league opposition. Everything about Man City has been news recently, except their football of course, which has been utterly inconsistent at best. They're currently 9th in the table, but only six points off the bottom. Ricardo Fuller might just return for this game, although his contribution might not be enough to avoid defeat for the home side, as City have that extra bit of quality up front.
Aston Villa vs Wigan Athletic
Aston Villa aren't getting enough credit for what they're doing at the moment, as they go about their business quietly, and lie in fourth position, just three points behind Manchester United! They're unbeaten in 11 games, with the draws in that run coming against Arsenal, Man Utd, and Fulham, and look the second best side in the league at the moment (after United). The visitors have played very well this season, although they're without a win in their last three games, which sees them in 7th spot. They will surely miss Palacios, although Mido has gotten off to scoring debut against Liverpool a few days back. However, Antonio Valencia will sit out the tie due to a hamstring problem. Villa to win this one as well, and maybe overtake Chelsea and Liverpool in the league table!
Hull City vs West Bromwich Albion
West Brom have had a few good results at home recently, barring the United game, but have been one of the poorest travellers in the league this time, which isn't a surprise when you notice that they're bottom. Hull have also fallen away after a terrific start to the season, and are without a win in seven Premier League games. However, what goes in their favour is that West Brom are missing key players at the back, with Olsson and Meite likely to miss out, and their replacements not being 100% fit as well. If Hull could win at the Hawthorns, they should definitely take three points from this game.
Newcastle United vs Sunderland
Newcastle United, who were recovering well under Joe Kinnear, seem to have lost the plot again, and are slowly making their way to the much-dreaded relegation zone again. They're without a win in eight games in all competitions, and to make things worse, N'Zogbia has vowed never to play for Newcastle again, and their ever-reliable goalkeeper seems to have made up his mind to move elsewhere. Things look murky at St. James' Park, but nothing can liven things up like the Tyne-Wear derby in these areas, especially if revenge is on the cards.
Sunderland beat the magpies for the first time in 28 years in October, and Newcastle fans and players should be up for this one, at least for retribution's sake. Sunderland have been inconsistent under Ricky Sbragia, and might not be able to handle the hostile atmosphere at the game. However, keeping the home side's troubles in mind, it might just end in a draw.
Manchester United vs Everton
One has to feel a bit for Everton, who will be travelling to Old Trafford to face an upbeat and record-breaking United side after having played Liverpool twice and Arsenal once in about a week's time. United will be as confident as they could be, after thrashing 10-man West Brom 5-0 at the Hawthorns, and then seeing Liverpool drop points against Wigan.
With the depth in their squad, the hosts will not be as affected as Everton by the congested fixture list, with Moyes likely to give a few players a rest keeping the FA Cup replay against Liverpool on Wednesday in mind. The match was originally scheduled to be played on Monday, but has been brought forward to Saturday due to that replay fixture. The result, however, will in all probability be only one, a Manchester United victory.
Bolton Wanderers vs Tottenham Hotspur
Bolton have been poor of late, with no wins in five league games, which culminated in them letting a two-goal lead slip against Blackburn at Ewood Park, and also saw many angry fans target manager Gary Megson. Tottenham are as unpredictable as the London weather at the moment, and are one of the harder teams whose results one has to predict! Spurs look in better shape though, with Cudicini and Palacios at the club, whereas Bolton have lost their talisman Kevin Nolan to Newcastle. It might just be a rare away win for Harry Redknapp's side.
Middlesbrough vs Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn have been enjoying a honeymood period, so to say, under Sam Allardyce, and are unbeaten in seven games, whereas Middlesbrough have been dwindling their way down the table right till the relegation zone, which is where they lie currently. They will be looking to win their first league match in 12 attempts, with Marlon King heading their attack. Blackburn will also be buoyed by the signing of El Hadji Diouf from Sunderland, and this could be another draw, which will help neither side.
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