Liverpool and Suarez aim for top spot as Arsenal sweat
The last round of games before Christmas could change everything in the title race
THE Premier League Christmas programme is upon us, and it could be Arsenal who are left feeling like turkeys if results go against them this weekend. The Gunners, who top the table going into the weekend, do not play until Monday, but by the time their showdown with Chelsea kicks off they could have been relegated to third place.
To make matters worse, if things go badly against the Blues they could end up celebrating the big day down in fourth spot.
And as corks pop for the festive season there is plenty of Champagne football to look forward to before Monday in the final round of pre-Christmas games. Here's the best of the weekend's action:
Liverpool v Cardiff City
The fortunes of these two clubs could not be more different at the moment. Liverpool have Luis Suarez, probably the best player in Europe right now, leading the line and on board for another four years after signing a new contract. and a win would send to the summit of the Premier League. As for Cardiff, owner Vincent Tan appears hell-bent on ensuring that their stay in the Premier League is a short one, and has given the Bluebirds' impressive manager Malky Mackay his marching orders, although there is still a chance he could still be in charge tomorrow. If that is the case then Liverpool could administer the coup de grace to a Premier League boss for the second week running. Certainly Liverpool will be favourites after their stellar performance against Spurs, which suggested that they have a real chance of winning the Premier League. The Reds had problems at home last season, but things have been better this time out, with seven wins out of eight at Anfield and 22 goals scored. Poor old Cardiff have managed just four goals and six points on their travels this season.
Fulham v Man City
This could be an intriguing showdown. A look at the table would suggest that City will wipe the floor with lowly Fulham, but things might not be so simple. City have been unstoppable at home, but have won only twice on the road this term. Fulham, on the other hand have shown signs of improvement under new manager Rene Meulensteen, a former Man United coach, who would love to get one over on City. With Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta both missing City will be without two key players, but they should still have too much for the Cottagers, although a draw might not be the greatest surprise.
Man Utd v West Ham
David Moyes will be hoping that United's rivals drop points over Christmas as his team tries to claw its way back up the table after a string of poor performances. He will also be desperate for a convincing showing at Old Trafford after back-to-back home league defeats against Everton and Newcastle. However, this game could turn into a midfield battle. Sam Allardyce has been willing to play without a front man in the absence of Andy Carroll this season, and is likely to do so again. Last week at Aston Villa, Moyes played Danny Welbeck on his own up front, with Wayne Rooney behind him. That formation worked well for United and Moyes may stick with it. It will also be interesting to see how former United prodigy Ravel Morrison gets on back at Old Trafford. He will certainly have a point to prove, but surely United can't lose three home league games in a row.
Southampton v Tottenham
The Sunday lunchtime clash between Southampton and Spurs could give a real indication of what is in store for both clubs in 2014. Southampton, after an amazing start to the season, have not won for five games and have slipped to ninth in the table, but they will smell blood as managerless Spurs, dumped out of the League Cup by Sunderland in midweek, visit St Mary's. Who knows how Spurs will play? They have been dire at the back before and after the sacking of Andre Villas Boas and since the manager's departure enigmatic striker Emmanuel Adebayor is in from the cold. They will be up against a Southampton team who have improved in recent weeks but have not got the results to show for it. Spurs will need to up their game for new manager Tim Sherwood if they are to get anything from this one.
Swansea v Everton
On Sunday afternoon the Toffees have the opportunity to force their way into the mix at the top of the table as they take on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. Roberto Martinez's team have been a real surprise package this term and have lost only once all season, while everyone else has lost at least three times. At the heart of it all has been the rampaging figure of Romelu Lukaku, but the likes full-back Seamus Coleman and young midfielder Ross Barkely have also done their bit. Swansea have not been firing this season, and a draw could be the most likely outcome here.
The weekend's other fixtures:
Crystal Palace v Newcastle
Stoke v Aston Villa
Sunderland v Norwich
West Brom v Hull
Then on Monday there is the long awaited showdown between Arsenal and Chelsea. ·