After some scintillating matches and shock results in the midweek fixtures, the Premiership returns this weekend with more goals, shocks and controversy in store. Here are five games to watch this weekend:
Newcastle vs Sunderland:
The North-West Derby is always a hard fought encounter. Sunderland and Newcastle are bitter rivals and have a history of tough-tackling matches. Sunderland came out on top when the sides met earlier this season in one of Gus Poyet’s first games in charge. However, Newcastle have since turned their season around and are now 8th in the league. The Toon Army will be out for revenge this time and their fans will hope that home advantage will count in their favour. The Black Cats have been in fine form since Poyet took over and are now in 17th. Despite their progression, they are far from safe and will be looking for a result this weekend to avoid plummeting back into the relegation zone.
Stoke vs Man United:
Man United fans will hope that, with the acquisition of Juan Mata, the second ahlf of the season will be better than the first. However, they face a tough test at the Brittania this weekend. They will come up against another side managed by a former United player, this time Mark Hughes. Hughes will be hope he has better luck than new Cardiff boss Solskjaer. The Potters will look to stifle United’s attack which now contains Spanish international Juan Mata. The Red Devils are just six points off a top four place and manager David Moyes will be hoping his side can play their way back into contention. He Potters are currently 16th, and have lost some of their steel since the departure of former boss Tony Pulis. However they have adopted a passing style of play but we will have to wait and see if it can help them avoided the dreaded drop zone.
Everton vs Aston Villa:
Everton were trounced by bitter rivals Liverpool in midweek and will be looking to put that behind them with a win against in-form Aston Villa. The Villains won a seven goal thriller against West Brom in midweek and Paul Lambert will be counting on his rejuvenated side to put Everton to the sword this weekend. Everton will still be reeling from the 4-0 loss in the Merseyside derby, but Roberto Martinez knows he has the players capable of bouncing back. Despite a slow start to the season, Villa have turned their luck around and are currently 10th in the table. Everton are pushing for a Champions League place and will be hoping that Liverpool and Spurs slip up, allowing them to leap into the top four.
West Brom vs Liverpool:
West Brom were on the losing end of the thriller in Villa Park in midweek, but will be looking to bounce back with a win this weekend. Liverpool on the other hand, are full of confidence having beaten Everton 4-0 in the Merseyside derby during the week. The strike team of Suarez and Sturridge is back to its best and Baggies boss Pepe Mel will be fearful of the duo come kick-off. Both sides have been very quiet in the transfer market but with a little while to go, we might see that change yet. Liverpool beat West Brom at Anfield earlier in the season and Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will be looking for all three points this weekend. With Liverpool in pursuit of a top four finish and Spurs and Everton breathing down their neck, Rodgers knows that his team can’t afford to slip up at any stage and drop points. West Brom are currently 15th in the league and will look to put as much space between themselves and the drop zone as possible.
Man City vs Chelsea:
This clash has the potential to turn the title race on its head. With three teams, Arsenal, City and Chelsea, realistically vying for the league title, this clash on Monday night takes on added importance. City trounced Spurs in midweek and Manuel Pellegrini will hope that his side can overcome another London side. The Blues were frustrated by West Ham’s “19th Century football” during the week, according to Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. Chelsea will be looking to bounce back with a good result that could see them leap-frog their opponents in the title race. City will be without Aguero for this one but with Negredo and Dzeko still at his disposal, Pellegrini is hardly short of options up top. Both sides need a win to stay in the Premiership title race but will either side risk losing and go for the three points?
With the Premiership entering what Sir Alex called “squeaky bum time”, the matches will be coming thick and fast and one slip up, one goal, one save can be difference between your club achieving their goals for the season and failing miserably. Every football fan will be glued to the television this weekend and for many more to come.
Pundit Arena, Darragh Bermingham.