Stage set for Lampard to sink Chelsea in title showdown
Premier League preview: will under-pressure Chelsea go negative? Can Sturridge fire up Liverpool?
Could this weekend that decides the title? Quite possibly, as holders Man City visit league leaders Chelsea, knowing that defeat would leave them eight points behind the Londoners. Chelsea have thrown away an eight-point lead once this season but they are unlikely to do it twice, so City cannot afford to slip up.
There are some interesting fixtures elsewhere with Southampton, Man Utd and Arsenal all playing at home as they fight over top four place places. Liverpool, in eighth place, can continue their march up the table if they beat West Ham in seventh on Saturday.
Here's the best of the weekend action:
Chelsea v Man City
No doubt about the game of the weekend as second visit first. Win it and Chelsea will be eight points clear, lose and it's game on with City closing to within two of the Londoners.
Chelsea may have booked a place at Wembley this week, but their build-up to this game has hardly been ideal. They were humbled by Bradford City in the FA Cup last week; Diego Costa is banned for three matches after losing his appeal against a violent conduct charge for stamping on Emre Can of Liverpool; Cesc Fabregas is a doubt with a hamstring problem; and a snarling Jose Mourinho has been courting controversy with attacks on the media and a £25,000 FA fine for moaning about a "campaign" against Chelsea.
That doesn't bode well for lovers of open football. Shorn of his main striker and with his tin hat on Mourinho is likely to set up his team to ensure Chelsea don't lose.
Will City go for the win? Well, they have problems of their own. They are still without Yaya Toure, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations and they have not kept a clean sheet since before Christmas. Even worse, their prolific strikeforce has not scored a goal for two games.
It's the sort of game that could hinge on a single moment of genius... enter Frank Lampard. What are the odds that his contribution to the game is critical?
Liverpool v West Ham
Anfield will welcome Daniel Sturridge back with open arms on Saturday. Liverpool have struggled in the five months they have been without him and he will surely be critical to the rest of their season.
Whether or not he starts the game remains to be seen. If he is only fit for a place on the bench then Raheem Sterling may continue up front, with neither Rickie Lambert or Mario Balotelli having done much to impress this season.
Talking of injury-prone strikers and Liverpool flops, Andy Carroll will be keen to prove a point against his old club. The big centre forward has come into form in recent weeks and could cause Liverpool's leaky defence a few problems.
If Liverpool win this game they will leapfrog the Hammers and could even go sixth in the table. The question is: do they have the firepower? A draw is not a bad bet.
Man Utd v Leicester
Perhaps the shock of the season so far came back in September when Leicester recovered from 3-1 to stun Man United 5-3. Louis van Gaal will not want to see a repeat and the chances of it happening at Old Trafford are pretty slim.
Van Gaal has a full complement of forwards to choose from, and having so far failed to select all five of his big name attackers (Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Angel di Maria and Juan Mata) in the same team all eyes will be on who gets left out. Falcao didn't even make the squad for the Red Devils' last game at Old Trafford and there will be raised eyebrows if he is left out again.
Whoever LVG selects, Leicester, who have managed just 15 goals in 21 games excluding the win over United, will still be bottom of the table on Sunday.
Arsenal v Aston Villa
The Gunners play on Sunday lunchtime and if they can overcome goal-shy Villa will go level on points with Southampton, for a hours at least because the Saints do not play until later in the day.
Arsenal have won four games on the trot and will still be buzzing after beating Man City away from home two weeks ago and then watching the FA Cup draw open up in front of them.
The Gunners might have Jekyll and Hyde characteristics but they look as though they are on a positive run at the moment. History suggests the wheels will fall off at some point, but probably not before the north London derby in a week's time.
New singing Gabriel Paulista could make his Gunners debut, and it might not be a taxing one. Aston Villa have scored a dismal four league goals away from home this season and only have 11 altogether. New signing Charles Gil will have to go some to inspire them to victory.
The weekend's other fixtures:
SATURDAYHull v NewcastleCrystal Palace v EvertonStoke v QPRSunderland v BurnleyWest Brom v Tottenham
SUNDAYSouthampton v Swansea