Another Premier League weekend filled with exciting games arrives just two days after Boxing Day. It is the last game week in 2013 and it is set up for a few surprises.
Soccer-Laduma previews the main match between Chelsea v Liverpool at Stamford Bridge and also has an eye on the other Champions League and title contenders.
Match of the Week
Chelsea v Liverpool
When the Blues host the Reds on Sunday afternoon, both sides will want to finish the year with a big statement.
Chelsea come into the match on the back of a hard fought 0-0 at the Emirates and 1-0 victory against Swansea. Liverpool, meanwhile, have lost their first spot in the table after the 2-1 defeat in an exciting encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
Brendan Rodgers was not happy with the officials in the main match on Boxing Day, but the performance of his players proved they can be real title contenders this season. However, the loss also means Liverpool have now only won one of their past six away games – the 5-0 at White Hart Lane.
The victory against Swansea was Chelsea’s ninth home victory this season and Jose Mourinho will want to extend his unbeaten home record at Stamford Bridge to 70 games. For the eye-to-eye encounter against the Reds, Mourinho only has to replace the suspended Ramirez and is likely to start Fernando Torres against his former club.
Brendan Rodgers is likely to feature the same starting XI which impressed at the Etihad Stadium and will hope his on-form striker, Luis Suarez, can score his 20th goal of this campaign. Liverpool has won three out of their last five games at Stamford Bridge and only lost one.
Which of the two sides’ can keep pace with Man City and Arsenal in the title race when Suarez meets Ivanovic at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon?
The other ‘big guns’
Manchester City are next welcoming Crystal Palace at their home fortress on Saturday. The Citizens enter the match on the back of a hard fought victory over Liverpool on Boxing Day and Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping his side can add the 10th victory to their unbeaten run at the Etihad Stadium.
Despite having scored 41 goals less than Man City, Cardiff won three of their last five games and have left the relegation zone through their late victory at Villa Park on Boxing Day. Hoever, Cardiff lost their past four matches against Man City and the hosts are definite favourites in this match.
When Manchester United travel to Norwich on Saturday, David Moyes will be hoping his side can continue their recent uphill form. The Red Devils have won their last five games in all competitions and are closing the gap to the Champions League spots.
The crucial figure in this run has been Wayne Rooney, who scored nine and assisted nine in the league so far. Moyes will trust his on-form striker when his squad depth is tested at Carrow Road, where the Red Devils lost last season. United have to replace their complete right side, with Rafael being injured and Valencia being suspended.
In the early Sunday game, log leaders Arsenal travel to Newcastle and will be hoping to finish the year in pole position. However, the Magpies are in great form and have only lost one of their last nine games. But Arsene Wenger will be warned, because Newcastle already won against Chelsea and Man United this season.
The Gunners will enter the game without their midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who will be side-lined for at least two weeks. Laurent Koscielny will have a late fitness test, but Wenger is unlikely to make too many changes to the side who beat West Ham 3-1.
Arsenal have only lost one of their past 12 games at St. James Park and are undefeated in 14 of their past 15 matches against the Magpies.
Also on Sunday, Tottenham host Stoke and Tim Sherwood will be hoping to celebrate his first home victory as head coach of the Spurs. With Stoke there couldn’t be any better opponent arriving at White Hart Lane.
The Potters’ have to replace their two red-carded players from Boxing Day and only won two of their previous 38 games at White Hart Lane. This season Stoke have just won five points on the road, but Tottenham will need to find a way to make their chances count.
The other matches
West Ham – West Brom
Aston Villa – Swansea
Hull City – Fulham
Cardiff – Sunderland
Everton – Southampton
Who will lead the Premier League table at the end of 2013? Can City extend their brilliant home form? Can Arsenal and Man United get important away victories and will Tottenham celebrate their first home victory under Tim Sherwood?
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