Advantage Costa-less Chelsea against City but can Mour 'strangle' Pellegrini?

The Tigers have been struggling a lot but had started picking shape after scenting the Championship. With the possible return of Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez after suffering injuries in the defeat to West Ham on January 10, Steve Bruce is no longer scenting relegation but a Magpy blood.

Saturday

Hull       3-1          Newcastle           2.45pm

The Tigers have been struggling a lot but had started picking shape after scenting the Championship. With the possible return of Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez after suffering injuries in the defeat to West Ham on January 10, Steve Bruce is no longer scenting relegation but a Magpy blood. Newcastle will be without Papiss Cisse whose Senegal was showed the exit at Africa Cup of Nations this week, but at least they now have a coach. John Carver, who has been standing in the dugout since Alan Pardew’s departure, was given the job until end of the season, but this sounds more like the start of Newcastle’s real trouble.

Man Utd                 2 - 0         leicester             5pm

The BBC’s prediction expert Mark Lawrenson does not see Leicester City repeating the feat they did in September when they ran riot, putting five past a hapless United defence. See, United have the attack to reckon with in Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao and the creative force of Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata to back them up. After struggling with defensive problems, the Red Devils finally paid attention to defending, and with the assured gloves of David De Gea between the sticks, Louis van Gaal’s side currently boast of the third best defence after Chelsea and Southampton. However, I won’t buy into Lawrenson’s reasons because once a side bites you that deep, they gain the confidence and will want to do it again. United can now only hope that what Leicester is carrying to Old Trafford is false confidence. Without this, the goal-shy tendencies of Falcao, Van Persie and Rooney could see the two sides settle for a draw.

Liverpool 2-1 West Ham  5pm

I have given the Kop a win but the question is, who will score the goals? Steven Gerrard from the spot or dead balls? Own goals? Whatever comes of it, Liverpool cannot afford to lose this game. This is why. West Ham United sit in seventh position, a point ahead of their host. Liverpool are fighting for Champions League while the visitors are just out to make for a good finish and justify the board’s decision to keep faith in Sam Allardyce after last season’s wobbles and troubles. Boosting the hosts today is that they are finally playing like they did last season, only that they have been doing so without Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. The team need a SAS again and with Sturridge poised to feature after more than five months out, confidence will be overflowing at Anfield. The problem is that Brendan Rodgers might again decide to kill the game by playing without a striker because of his allergy for both Fabio Borini and Rick Lambert.

Palace 3-2 everton           5pm

It is not wise to bet against Crystal Palace at the moment. No, not with the way Alan Pardew has quickly fashioned the side from relegation zone to solid competitors. On the other hand, Everton are playing like the players have not been paid for the last four months while the manager has been sleeping at an undertaker’s home. Everton have won only one of their last 13 games in all competitions, while Crystal Palace are on a roll with four wins out of four since Pardew took charge. Yaya Sanogo was on target in FA Cup last week, and his loan move from Arsenal could prove the most decisive factor in Palace’s rise to midtable.

SUNDERLAND 2-4 BURNLEY 5pm

A strange hunch tells me Gus Poyet’s sacking text message could be typed in someone smartphone this weekend after Burnley do the ‘inevitable’ in their quest to stay in top flight. Sunderland have been out of ideas, playing like Everton. Burnley’s last game was a farce as they went in sleep mode to allow the newly-fashioned Palace to hit them for dead. Lesson learnt? Against a Sunderland side that has lost four of their last five league games, they can compensate. 

Man city  1 - 0 chelsea                      7.30pm

One man who probably wished Cote d’Ivoire should have been knocked out the Africa Cup of Nations is Manuel Pellegrini. With the Elephants still involved, Yaya Toure is absent from a side that has gone down to two straight embarrassing defeats. Losing to Arsenal was pegged down to Wenger’s change in tactic, but losing to Middlesborough in FA Cup last weekend was embarrassing seeing as Pellegrini had fielded his best stars. With City now five points adrift of Chelsea, the top of the table clash will look interesting. Chelsea have dispatched the last two sides to pretend to challenge them at the top – Swansea and Southampton – in clinical fashion but can they strangle Pellegrini without the suspended Diego Costa?

Worse for Mourinho is the anticipated bitter taste in the mouth as former darling Frank Lampard will turn up in sky-blue and try to cause more misery for the Blues. Lampard was the man on song after his cameo appearance in the reverse fixture earned City a dramatic draw. Robbie Savage is of the view that City will have no business at the Bridge, but any side that can play the way Liverpool drove Chelsea in midweek can beat them if they have strikers. And striker is not a word City have ever been short of. Sergio Aguero has no challenger this afternoon as Costa watches from the stands.

Other fixtures

Marseille        3-1     Evian

Lens             2-1     Bastia

Nantes          1-1      Lille             

Toulouse        1-0     Reims          

Freiburg                  2-4     Frankfurt         

Schalke                   3-1     Hannover      

Stuttgart                  2-2     Gladbach      

Leverkusen    3-2          Dortmund

Arsenal                   3-0     Aston Villa     

Southampton  2-0     Swansea       

Bordeaux       1-1      Guingamp         

Monaco                   2-2     Lyon            

Sassuolo        1-3     Inter            

Cesena                   1-2          Lazio           

Chievo          1-1      Napoli          

Udinese                  1-3     Juventus

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