After the recently entertaining F.A Cup and Champions League games, Premier League football returns this weekend and, with plenty of reasons to be glued to the football on television, here are five games to watch:
Man City vs Stoke:
Man City will want to bounce back in style after suffering defeat to Barcelona during the week. City are just three points off first place but the Manchester club have a game in hand on their title rivals which could prove crucial come the end of the season. Stoke on the other hand are currently 14th and are just 3 points outside the relegation zone. The Potters will be looking to put as much distance between themselves and the drop zone as possible. If they lose Saturday, Stoke will be dragged into one of the tightest relegation dog fights ever in the Premiership, which is the last thing manager Mark Hughes wants.
Stoke will be optimistic after they beat City’s rivals Man United but playing at the Etihad is a daunting proposition. With such talent at his disposal, Manuel Pellegrini has made the ground a fortress. Only two teams, Chelsea and Barcelona, have beaten City at home this season. Stoke have very little chance against a team which contains players like Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. With City’s title fate in their own hands, they seem destined to take all three points this Saturday.
Chelsea vs Everton:
The current league leaders face a tough test this Saturday in the form of Champions league chasing Everton. Chelsea are top by just a point and have Arsenal and City breathing down their necks. Liverpool also appear to be making a late charge for the title having thrashed Arsenal two weeks ago. With three teams hot on their heels, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will be desperate to take all three points this weekend.
The Blues boss has been the centre of attention lately with his mind games and brazen comments making the back pages for some time. Mourinho will be wary of the threat posed by Everton who are 8 points off the top four. Boss Roberto Martinez has built a strong side that is capable of testing Chelsea. The Blues will be looking for a win this weekend after losing to Man City in the F.A cup last weekend but Everton will provide a stern test for Mourinho’s men.
The battle between Chelsea’s Hazard and the Everton full backs Coleman and Baines should prove to be a very interesting one. Hazard has been terrorising full backs all season but Baines and Coleman have established themselves as two of the best defenders in England and will be confident that they can shackle the Belgian winger. With Chelsea pushing to finish top of the table, Everton fighting for the top four and talented players on both teams, this clash is definitely one to watch.
Cardiff vs Hull:
This clash is a real six pointer for both sides. With just three points separating them, both Hull and Cardiff will be desperate for points. Cardiff are languishing in 19th, while Hull are 13th. However, with just three points between the sides, Cardiff could be level with the Tigers come Sunday night. Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn’t had the best of starts but the Norwegian will be hoping his side can make home advantage count on Saturday.
Hull City’s new strike duo of Long and Jelavic has been terrorising defences since the pair moved to the KC Stadium in January. Tigers boss Steve Bruce knows that their form is crucial to Hull’s survival. The Cardiff defence will find it difficult to deal with Long’s pace and Jelavic’s strength. Cardiff fans will hope that their new signings can make an impact on Saturday. The Hull defence will be wary of loan signing Zaha who has the pace and guile to create opportunities for his side. In a relegation battle as ferocious as this years, this match is a real “six-pointer.” Both sides are in desperate need of points to maintain their Premiership status.
Crystal Palace vs Man United:
The appointment of Tony Pulis and some very shrewd transfer dealings have given Palace a new lease of life. The Eagles are now 15th in the league to the disbelief of many who saw them as favourites to be relegated. The signings of Tom Ince, Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon has inspired both the team and fans to believe that Palace could stay up. However, home form is vital for the supposed lower clubs so Palace will need to make Selhurst Park a fortress if they wish to stay up.
Usually a game against Man United is one of resignation, where the fans sincerely doubt that their side can win. However since the appointment of David Moyes and United’s severe dip in form, there has been renewed optimism when facing the Red Devils. With United languishing in 7th, a massive 15 points off the top spot, Palace may feel that the former champions are there for the taking. Although, with Van Persie back from injury and Rooney playing well, Moyes will feel a turn-around is on the cards. A win at Palace on Saturday is vital if United are to finish the league with any sort of dignity. However, with Palace desperate for points they could find this hard to achieve. The Eagles will be inspired by the fact that fellow strugglers Fulham drew with United at Old Trafford. The belief and desire around Selhurst Park could be enough to topple the former English giants.
Liverpool vs Swansea:
The Reds are flying high in 4th place but with Spurs just 3 points behind, Liverpool can’t afford any slip ups at this stage of the season. With a top four place at stake, the Reds will want to be firing on all four cylinders come Sunday. Visitors Swansea will also want to take points from this game. Although they are currently 10th, they are still just 4 points outside the relegation zone. The Swans will be confident having drawn with Napoli in the Europa league on Thursday night. However, with Liverpool trying to secure fourth spot and even make a late title charge, Swansea are in for an even tougher test this Sunday.
With Gerrard, Sturridge and Suarez all in form, Liverpool are currently the team that nobody wants to play. The SAS strike partnership has been terrorising defences while Gerrard and Sterling have also been getting in on the scoring act. New Swansea boss Gary Monk will want his team to defend well at Anfield. The Reds have made their home a fortress of late and with just four points separating them and the top spot, Liverpool will play to win on Sunday. With both sides needing points, and favouring a passing style of football, this is destined to be a very entertaining clash. However, with a world class attack, Liverpool may just have too much for Swansea this Sunday.
This season has truly been one to remember and with 12 games left, there is still a long way to go. With the tightest title race in years and a ferocious relegation dogfight on show, what other reason do you need to watch arguably the best league in the world. With plenty more goals and controversy in store, this weekend of Premiership football is definitely one to watch.
Pundit Arena, Darragh Bermingham.