Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool 2.45pm
Liverpool pinned The Black Cats in their half for the entire game but failed to find the net in a game where Raheem Sterling played as the false number nine. That was at Anfield. Now the Reds visit the Stadium of Light looking to infect further misery on a Sunderland side that continues to play like Gus Poyet wants to eventually prove that he is a survivor. In 51 Premier League games, Sunderland have only ever managed to come from behind and win once. That has left Poyet always playing defensively until they score first. That means they will be a hard one to open, giving Brendan Rodgers’ side headache with counter attacks. Still, Liverpool are fancied to come through with a win.
Swansea 0-2 West Ham 5pm
Gary Monk and his Swans side could not believe the big man that hit them so hard on December 7 in this reverse fixture at Boleyn Ground. On the day, English big striker Andy Carroll was returning from a long injury lay off and his impact was immense, scoring twice and helping Diafra Sakho to a third. Wilfried Bony was the man consoling the visitors, but the Manchester City target is away in Equatorial Guinea for Africa Cup of Nations. Swansea could as well start life without him. Back-up striker Bafatemi Gomis knows this is his chance to prove to Gary Monk that he can find the back of the net more times that he is so maligned for.
Everton 1-4 Man City 5pm
The Toffees were lucky Romelu Lukaku is still the ever-green gangly forward when at the last minute, the Belgian scored to force a replay with West Ham in the Cup third round last week. The lifeline was good enough, but it is being followed by the visit of the champions who are eager not to drop points and fall back away from leaders Chelsea again after leveling matters on New Year’s Day. City’s talismanic Argentinian forward Sergio Aguero returned to training and could be thrown straight into the Goodison Park frying pan. Roberto Martinez is coming under pressure having only won once in the last ten games. The Toffees cannot score, they cannot defend and they cannot even say what is happening to the side that fought for fourth place last season. In the reverse fixture, Yaya Toure’s 24th minute penalty sealed the one-nil win for the champions. But the Ivorian, named African Play of the Year for the fourth year running on Thursday, is away on Caf duty. Last season, when City visited Goodison Park, a host of Everton fans were eager to lose so that Merseyside rivals Liverpool would not pip City to the title. Times have changed and now Everton is in dire need of all the three points, but can they get it? I see a one-way big win.
Chelsea 2-2 Newcastle 5pm
Jose Mourinho claims Newcastle United only play football when they are hosting Chelsea. The Portuguese manager has never won at St James’ Park. Having gone without a loss since April last year ahead of their first round tie on December 6, Mour was trying hard to avenge the loss to Newcastle, but his Blues saw mist and faded away in a very odd fashion. Their first league defeat of the season. However, this time round, Mourinho, whose side has been clear at the top for the better part of the season, is under pressure to keep winning and keep City at bay having seen the champions get level with them at the top. However, the Blues are coming from the back of a humiliating 5-3 thrashing at the hands of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, which should give manager-less Magpies the courage to push for a draw. I am giving caretaker manager John Carver the benefit of the doubt.
Burnley 0-1 QPR 5pm
The relegation fight gets interesting when Burnley seeks revenge against fellow newcomers, QPR. The Rangers were 2-0 winners, thanks to Leroy Fei and Charlie Austin goals at Loftus Road and will want to build on that win to push clear of the relegation zone. But QPR are so shambolic on the road that they have not even picked a single point in all the nine games away. This should give Burnley, a side that has recently showed survival instincts, the urge to draw some blood. However, I will give QPR a win.
Palace v 1-3 Spurs 7.30pm
The bad thing with failing to win when all the chances were upon you is that given a second chance, you tend to lose miserably. That could be the story for Crystal Palace and their new manager Alan Pardew when Tottenhm Hotspur touch home. Palace outplayed Spurs at White Hart Lane in December, but the two sides still shared spoils. Now Spurs are that side boosted by the rise of young England striker Harry ‘Hurricane’ Kane, whose demolition effect should still be felt by Mourinho. Kane will be leading the line at Palace again and Pardew should be ready for a wake-up call.
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke 5.30pm
Stoke City just do not like Arsena. And it gets even worse when Potters fans see that Aaron Ramsey, the midfielder whose leg their skipper Shawcross broke years ago, is returning from injury. Stoke took Arsenal to their academy, dominating the Gunners in a 3-2 win at the Britannia, a game in which they first ran out 3-0 with a legitimate would-be fourth goal disallowed. But it is one thing for them to beat Arsenal at the Britannia and another to even manage a decent ball possession at The Emirates. Arsenal’s returning Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil could both feature, while Stoke will look to former Barcelona striker Bojan Krkic and Bean Pole Peter Crouch for the same attacking effect as in December. But it will be in vain.
Man United 3-1 Southampton 6pm
At the start of the season, Louis van Gaal became just another laughing stock as his Manchester United side picked up from where David Moyes had left off. Comparisons were made between the two managers as even MK Dons overtuned United around in a cup game. But Van Gaal has since fashioned eleven games without a loss, pushing United to third place, nine points adrift of the table leaders. United are even daring to dream of the title now. In the corresponding fixture in December, Robin van Persie found the target twice to condemn the Saints to defeat at Saint Mary’s Stadium. Playmaker Angel Di Maria is back from injury, and could displace Mata in the starting lineup as United seek a cutting edge to their attack. I am backing United for a clean win.