Sanchez takes on Aguero as erratic Arsenal visit Man City
Premier League preview: who will win in the battle between the league's most potent strikers?
Having let their lead at the top of the table slip over Christmas, Chelsea re-estbalished themselves as Premier League leaders last week, opening up a two-point gap over rivals Manchester City. And this week Blues boss Jose Mourinho will be in the unusual position of supporting Arsene Wenger as the Gunners visit City on Sunday in the weekend's big showdown.
With only three of the top eight at home this week, there is an opportunity for Spurs and West Ham to force their way back into contention for Europe as they face Sunderland and Hull in London. There will be added spice at White Hart Lane if former striker Jermain Defoe makes his debut for new club, Sunderland. If Liverpool can secure an away win over struggling Aston Villa, they too will have hauled themselves back into the race for a top five finish.
At the bottom of the table there is a critical clash between Burnley and Crystal Palace, with the winner opening up a three point gap over their opponents, and potentially moving four points clear of the drop zone.
Here's the best of the weekend action:
Manchester City v Arsenal
Not much doubt about the game of the weekend as Arsenal head north to take on the champions Man City, whose impressive pre-Christmas form is in danger of deserting them after two draws in three games, which have handed Chelsea an advantage in the title race.
Arsenal meanwhile are doing what Arsenal do – lurching from demoralising defeat to impressive victory and back again. After the loss to Southampton and two impressive displays against Hull and Stoke, it may be time for the Gunners to come unstuck again at the Etihad.
In terms of personnel this game offers the mouthwatering prospect of watching two of the Premier League's best players go head to head, as Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez face off.
These two South Americans have more in common than haircuts that make them look like Johnny Cash. They are also their team's most potent attacking weapon. Aguero has 19 goals this season, despite having missed a month of the season with injury. And Sanchez is not far behind with 18 goals, and a heap of assists that have kept Arsenal respectable.
Both players could win this match for their respective teams, but Man City have the edge because even if Aguero has a quiet game they still have players like David Silva and Frank Lampard to fall back on, although Yaya Toure is away at the Africa Cup of Nations. The problem for Arsenal this season has been that everything has revolved around Sanchez this season. Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain have flickered intermittently, but not enought to suggest that they can drag Arsenal over the line against City.
The Gunners' defence still looks threadbare a fortnight into the transfer window and, with Mikel Arteta out, the midfield could be vulnerable. Given Arsenal's record in the big games, a City win is on the cards.
Swansea v Chelsea
How will Swansea cope without Wilfried Bony? Well, for this fixture the question is immaterial because the striker, who joined Man City this week, would not have been available anyway because he is on international duty in Africa.
So it will fall to Bafetimbi Gomis to lead the line against the Blues, although Gary Monk does have the option of playing on-loan Benfica striker Nelson Oliveira as well. The Swans will also be without Jefferson Montero, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-yueng, because of injury, suspension and international duty respectively. Against that backdrop their chances of ending a three game run without a win look slim.
Chelsea have no problems with personnel, apart from an injury to full-back Cesar Azpilicueta. After two defeats and a draw in six games saw them throw away an eight point lead at the top of the table, the Blues re-established a two-point cushion last week as they beat Newcastle. They showed their old resiliance in that game and will expect to secure another three points at Swansea. Diego Costa may also want to seize some of the weekend's limelight from Sanchez and Aguero.
An interesting sub-plot is who Mourinho selects in goal. Thibaut Courtois is fit again, but Petr Cech had a fine game last week and will hope to retain the jersey.
Newcastle v Southampton
The Saints have proved themselves to be genuine Champions League contenders in the last few weeks, beating Arsenal and Man Utd and drawing with Chelsea, but this is the sort of tricky away fixture that can derail a side's aspirations. Southampton also head north without their midfield lynchpins Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama.
Newcastle were impressive in the first half against Chelsea last week, but they are also without a permanent manager, have only one win in eight games and are without striker Papiss Cisse. Such is their erratic form that this is a difficult game to predict. All three results are possible, but it is harder to see Southampton leaving empty handed than Newcastle.
QPR v Man Utd
Harry Redknapp takes on Louis van Gaal as United head to London. The main question is who will be in the Dutch manager's squad. He left Radamel Falcao out altogether last week and looked on as his side were beaten by Southampton. Another omission for the Colombian would surely mean the end of any hopes that he will stay at Old Trafford beyond the end of the season.
But if there was no room for him in a home game, what are his chances of ousting Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie or Angel di Maria away from home? Certainly United cannot afford any more slip ups in what looks a tight race for Europe, and Van Gaal's main concern will be restoring his side's confidence.
As for QPR, they will be pinning their hopes on Charlie Austin, while former United hero Rio Ferdinand could make a return from injury. If he does he will be afforded a warm reception by the visiting fans, especially if he keeps defending in the manner that he did at the start of the season.
Aston Villa v Liverpool
Will this be the game that Mario Balotelli finally breaks his Premier League duck? Brendan Rodgers may consider playing the Italian as his scoring record is only marginally worse than Villa's this season, with Paul Lambert's team having managed 11 goals in 21 games and one in their last six.
If Villa lose this one they will not be flirting with relegation but actively courting it and discontent in the stands could make life even more uncomfortable to Lambert, who must surely be fearing for his future. New signing Charles Gil could go straight into the side as he tries desperately to find a spark in midfield.
Liverpool know that a win would catapult them into the race for Europe, and with Raheem Sterling back in the squad after a week off there should be plenty of zip about the Reds. An away win looks on the cards.
The weekend's other fixures:
SATURDAY:Burnley v Crystal PalaceLeicester v StokeTottenham v Sunderland
SUNDAY:West Ham v Hull
MONDAY:Everton v West Brom