Premier League predictions: Liverpool vs. Man Utd, Stoke vs. Arsenal
Manchester United's trip to Liverpool is always one of the biggest matches of the season. The clash at Anfield is one of the highlights of a weekend that also includes a tricky encounter for Arsenal at Stoke.
Each week, ESPN FC's club bloggers will preview their match and give a prediction. Do you agree or disagree? Have your say below by voting in the match poll.
LIVERPOOL vs. MANCHESTER UNITED
LIVERPOOL: Louis van Gaal has suddenly discovered how to be entertaining after the 3-3 draw with Newcastle. Liverpool have few fit defenders and let Exeter pass them twice -- so a goal-feast on Sunday, right? Wrong. Both sides will be so tense and anxious to avoid defeat it'll be extremely tight and cautious.
Prediction: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United -- Steven Kelly.
MAN UNITED: Judging from their 3-3 draws earlier this week, we could hope the clash at Anfield will involve lots of goals. Both teams showed encouraging signs going forward in midweek but were appalling in defence. Van Gaal figures to want to tighten things up and the price of not conceding is not scoring too many.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United -- Scott Patterson.
STOKE vs. ARSENAL
STOKE: Stoke face old foes Arsenal, who will be looking to pass the Britannia test to further their title credentials. This could well be another game for the False No. 9 formation, with Bojan Krkic causing the Gunners all manner of problems in their last visit.
Prediction: Stoke 2-0 Arsenal -- James Whittaker.
ARSENAL: Failure to take all three points at Liverpool on Wednesday night is disappointing and frustrating. Arsene Wenger's team must turn that into something positive at a ground that is traditionally difficult for them. They simply have to respond to show their title credentials and the return of Alexis Sanchez might help in that regard.
Prediction: Stoke 1-2 Arsenal -- Andrew Mangan.
CHELSEA vs. EVERTON
CHELSEA: It's a case of one step forward and one step back as highlighted by Wednesday's 2-2 draw with West Brom. That said, Chelsea are certainly capable of raising themselves if needed and they will need to against an impressive Everton side. Former Blue Romelu Lukaku has been rampant in front of goal and will be eager to prove a point. Hopefully, Diego Costa will have a suitable response.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Everton -- Phil Lythell.
EVERTON: Defensive improvements continued in midweek as Everton became the first visiting team in almost a year to keep a clean sheet at Manchester City, but the Blues are winless in 20 league visits to Stamford Bridge and must rediscover their attacking edge. A third successive league draw this month seems more likely.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Everton -- Luke O'Farrell.
MAN CITY vs. CRYSTAL PALACE
MAN CITY: Manuel Pellegrini's side are in decent form, with only one loss in their last six -- but only three wins in that time, too. However, the Eagles haven't scored in the Premier League since mid-December (knowing City, there's a fair chance that run might end Saturday).
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace -- David Mooney.
CRYSTAL PALACE: If ever there was a time to put Manchester City defenders in your fantasy football team this is it. Crystal Palace haven't scored in their last four Premier League games, look blunt going forward and have injuries to most of their attacking players.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace -- Jim Daly.
TOTTENHAM vs. SUNDERLAND
TOTTENHAM: Sunderland have hit some form, largely thanks to ex-Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe, who has struck five in two games, while Spurs have lost two of their last three home matches in the league -- one of them against struggling Newcastle. But this is still a top four hopeful at home against a relegation battler.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Sunderland -- Ben Pearce.
SUNDERLAND: Defoe is on fire. Tottenham present a stiffer test after those successive league wins against Aston Villa and Swansea, but manager Sam Allardyce must convince his team that Spurs' patchy form at White Hart Lane gives them hope
Prediction: Tottenham 2-2 Sunderland -- Colin Randall.
NEWCASTLE UNITED vs. WEST HAM
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Steve McClaren's men go into the game at home to West Ham in dire need of a win, despite the positivity following a late equaliser in the 3-3 draw at home to Manchester United. The Hammers are without Geordie boy Andy Carroll through injury but are flying high in fifth.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 West Ham -- Lee Ryder.
WEST HAM: The Hammers are enjoying an eight-match unbeaten run and will relish a visit to struggling Newcastle. There are signs McClaren's men are stepping up a gear in their relegation battle and they will be delighted that former favourite Andy Carroll will miss the game.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 West Ham -- Peter Thorne.
SOUTHAMPTON vs. WEST BROM
SOUTHAMPTON: Ronald Koeman's side restored their battered confidence with a 2-0 victory at home to Watford on Wednesday -- only their second win in 11 matches. The Dutchman will expect his side to kick-on against West Brom and is likely to recall fit-again striker Graziano Pelle to combat the visitors' aerial strength.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 West Brom -- Alex Crook.
WEST BROM: Tony Pulis' men are full of confidence, having gained seven points from their last three fixtures. The midfield battle will be crucial at St Mary's, and Darren Fletcher's tireless running and coolness on the ball could give West Brom the advantage.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 West Brom -- Matthew Evans.
ASTON VILLA vs. LEICESTER
ASTON VILLA: Villa's long winless streak ended with Tuesday's 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace, so Remi Garde's team should host Leicester with renewed belief. If Villa can start stringing consecutive wins together, a miracle escape might just be on. Success against high-flying Leicester seems unlikely though.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Leicester -- Kevin Hughes.
LEICESTER: The Foxes will be favourites to cruise past Villa, but sadly the Premier League doesn't work that way. City must score early to silence the home crowd and if they do that, they can expect a routine win -- with Jamie Vardy getting his first 2016 goal.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Leicester -- Ben Jacobs.
BOURNEMOUTH vs. NORWICH
BOURNEMOUTH: Without a win in the league since Dec. 19, Bournemouth desperately need three points against relegation rivals Norwich. Eddie Howe's side were easily beaten 3-1 at Carrow Road in September and struggled against the same opponents in the Championship last season. Record signing Benik Afobe needs to prove his worth.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-1 Norwich -- Steve Menary.
NORWICH: The stakes could not be higher when Norwich visit Bournemouth. Three festive wins in four raised spirits but a 3-1 defeat at Stoke City in midweek was a reality check. Lewis Grabban's swift reunion with the club he left for £8 million provides an intriguing plot line.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Norwich -- Paddy Davitt.
SWANSEA vs. WATFORD
SWANSEA: A Swansea side thatch has shipped seven goals in its last two games will be looking to tighten up defensively when Watford come to town Monday night. Perhaps the presence of one of the league's top scorers -- Watford's Odion Ighalo -- will help focus their efforts.
Prediction: Swansea 1-1 Watford -- Max Hicks.
WATFORD: The midweek defeat at Southampton was Watford's worst performance of the season. The usually reliable defence was a shambles and several key players looked tired. Thankfully, the next game is against a demoralised Swansea, but it will be vital they start well and deny the home team an opportunity to get their hopes up.
Prediction: Swansea 1-2 Watford -- Michael Moruzzi