THIS WEEKEND'S action, snow permitting, offers another respite from the transfer rumours and provides another opportunity for new acquisitions to settle in.
Liverpool welcome Norwich to Anfield hoping to banish memories of last weekend’s defeat at Old Trafford, which blemished an otherwise promising run from Brendan Rodgers’ men. The Reds will need to beat sides such as Chris Hughton’s if they are to rise above mid-table mediocrity and will hope to extend the Canaries’ run of four weeks without a league win.
With Manchester United not playing until Sunday Manchester City have an opportunity to reduce the deficit at the top to four points. The champions will relish their chances of doing so against a Fulham side that seldom travel well.
Newcastle’s miserable form has seen them dragged into the relegation battle with visiting Reading. Alan Pardew welcomes his former club with the hope of getting the Magpies’ season back on course against a Royals’ side who will look to build on last Saturday’s stupendous last gasp 3-2 defeat of West Brom.
Swansea’s hectic January schedule does not ease with the visit of Stoke to the Liberty Stadium. The Potters’ defence has been more porous in recent matches and Michael Laudrup, who rested six players in Wednesday’s FA Cup defeat at Arsenal, will hope to avenge September’s 2-0 reversal at the Britannia Stadium.
Bottom club QPR have brought in striker Loic Remy as they look to escape from the relegation zone and their cause will be aided if West Ham are as abject as they were in last weekend’s defeat to Sunderland. Sam Allardyce has just three fit defenders but his side will likely be much improved as they look to dampen Harry Redknapp’s latest return to Upton Park for this London derby.
Wigan are another club facing relegation peril and the visit of a seemingly resurgent Sunderland is the latest challenge to their continuation in the top flight. Martin O’Neill’s Mackems have found greater midfield creativity in recent outings and could condemn Wigan to the bottom three if a Sunderland victory complies with results elsewhere. Roberto Martinez’s inconsistent side will need to find their best form to prevent such a confluence.
West Brom are still smarting from the perceived injustice of last weekend’s loss at Reading as they welcome a faltering Aston Villa for the latest Midlands derby. The visitors have been spluttering since their December win at Anfield and West Brom are anxious to claim their first league victory of 2013. The Baggies are looking towards Europe, the Villans towards survival, and that will give this contest an extra edge.
Chelsea’s indifferent home form is a small cause for optimism amongst Sunday’s visitors, Arsenal, whose Premier League campaign has shown signs of flagging. The Blues will look to exploit the north Londoners’ defensive uncertainty and enter the weekend’s other London derby as favourites despite looking fragile themselves.
Manchester United’s visit to White Hart Lane provides another opportunity for Tottenham to display their top-four credentials as they seek a league double over Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. United’s knack for extracting results in testing circumstances has seen them take a seven-point lead over rivals City at the top and makes them a dangerous prospect for Andre Villas-Boas’ men. Yet should Spurs claim a famous victory their Champions League hopes will be further strengthened.
Southampton welcome Everton to St Mary’s on Monday evening with renewed confidence about their survival hopes following a promising run of results. The Saints will have to halt an Everton side looking to maintain the pressure on fourth-place Spurs after last weekend’s goalless stalemate at home to Swansea.