Arsenal 2 Palace 0
Victory will be a perfect tonic for Arsene Wenger as he seeks to shut up the cynics who are doubting Arsenal’s durability in the aftermath of their timid stalemate at Southampton. The Gunners looked jaded, yet this is the last ‘easy’ tie ahead of a fixture pile up that sees them play Liverpool twice, Bayern Munich twice, Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton, Spurs and Man City inside one month. Palace will make it hard but the Gunners will reign. .
Fulham 1 Southampton 1 `
Mauricio Pochettino’s Saints played their best game in three months against Arsenal but victories away from the St Mary’s Stadium are becoming fewer and further between. Rene Meulensteen will view this as a must-win encounter as he seeks to guide the Cottagers away from a relegation dog-fight. The Dutchman’s failure to get Adel Taarabt’s creative juices flowing has denied the Londoners a cutting edge upfront. None of the two sides is strong enough to claim all three points.
Stoke 1 Man United 2
The champions are purring. Juan Mata’s arrival has coincided with the return from injury of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. Mark Hughes has a habit of giving his former side major headache, notably beating the Red Devils on multiple occasions when he was Blackburn manager. Nevertheless, Manchester United have traditionally done well at Stoke City. I can see the Roo-Van-Mata triumvirate wreaking havoc at the Brittania Stadium as the champions begin an assault on that fourth Champions League place.
West Brom 2 Liverpool 2
Liverpool were at their devastating best as they disposed of Everton in the Merseyside derby. The prolific form of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez means the race for Champions League positions is going right to the wire. Liverpool have the firepower but West Brom have the determination to get a result.
Man City 1 Chelsea 1
All good things come to an end. Manchester City have been tremendous for punters while playing at the Ettihad, winning all matches with an average of almost four goals. It will thus take a monumental effort from Jose Mourinho’s re-energised Blues to get something from this top of the table clash. Reputations are made or broken on the basis of results in crunch matches like this one, and I am tipping Chelsea to achieve what Watford and Liverpool flirted with.
Newcastle 0 Sunderland 0
IYohan Cabaye’s move to Paris St Germain was a huge body blow for Alan Pardew’s Magpies but they were adequately compensated. Even though it is hard to find players of Cabaye’s quality, a 23 million pound profit represents good business for Newcastle United. Even without Cabaye, the hosts have sufficient ammunition to dispose of Gustavo Poyet’s well drilled Black Cats. As Pardew learnt last season, this derby is a potential banana skin. Still, I am backing Newcastle to prevail.
Hull City 1 Spurs 1
Steve Bruce must be wondering when his big money January signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are going to start scoring. Hull City narrowly lost two games they should have got at least two points when they fell 0-1 to Norwich and Crystal Palace. In Spurs, the Tigers face a team with the second best away record in the Premiership. I can see them claiming a point, though Tim Sherwood’s Spurs will give them a good run for their money.
West Ham 2 Swansea 1
Sam Allardyce is running out of time to save West Ham’s season. Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino are inspired signings reminiscent of Big Sam’s recruitment of continental gems Ivan Campo, Fernando Hierro and Jay Jay Okocha at Bolton. However, he needs more firepower upfront to stave off the relegation monster. The last time West Ham played a Welsh side, they bettered Cardiff and I think they will pull off a narrow victory.
Cardiff 1 Norwich 0
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has had a difficult start to his managerial career at Cardiff, with Cup brilliance interspersed by lukewarm Premier League results. Having squandered the chance to top relegation rivals West Ham, the Norwegian assassin will look at Norwich as perfect fodder for three points. Norwich have been throwing around their weight in the transfer market, but are blighted by the failure of pricey summer recruits Rick van Wolfwinkel and Gary Cooper to find the net with regularity.
Everton 2 Aston Villa 0
Roberto Martinez must have been taken aback by the manner of his team’s 0-4 capitulation to Liverpool. Romelo Lukaku’s injury made matters even worse, with on-loan Ivorian Lacina Traore set to be thrown in at the deep end immediately. Aston Villa are plucky opposition that tends to thrive on the counter-attack but it is hard to see them thriving against an Everton.