Happy 2011 everyone, hope you're having a good start to the year. As you may have noticed, I missed Match Day 21 due to still being intoxicated from New Years Eve. But I'm back - and sober - with another preview.
ARSENAL v MANCHESTER CITY Wednesday
Another impressive performance by Mr Wenger's men will have them raring to go against second placed Manchester City at the Emirates. Their 3 - 0 win at St. Andrew's took their tally to seven points out of nine and a win at home to City would see the clubs swap places, presuming Manchester United beat Stoke the day before. Samir Nasri continues to pull the strings in the Gunners midfield and it will be interesting to see how Nigel de Jong deals with his quick feet and silky moves. I think the City man could be a bet for the first yellow card.
Roberto Mancini's men weren't at their best the other day but they beat Blackpool and its the three points that matters come May. With continued speculation regarding Edin Dzeko's transfer to the club they will hope to welcome their new signing with a win. This match will be key for them if they are to show they have a real chance of winning the Premier League. Yaya Toure should be playing to show what Mr Wenger missed out on in the summer and it wouldn't pay to forget the impressive Adam Johnson should he start.
KEY MAN: Carlos Tevez - Loves the big games, perfect chance to show why City are so desperate to keep him.
ASTON VILLA v SUNDERLAND Wednesday
Gerard Houllier will still be smiling after picking up a point at Stamford Bridge and here's hoping his team can continue in that manner. The manager has said there is: 'No way.' Stewart Downing or Ashley Young will be leaving this month and appears sure he has Randy Lerner's backing. The club have lost four of their last six and are in desperate need for a win as they sit 15th, just three points off the bottom.
Sunderland are now seriously looking at a top half finish as they sit healthily in sixth. A +2 goal difference and only one loss at home this season has gviven Steve Bruce's men confidence since that derby defeat. Danny Welbeck, Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan made up for the previous match with a goal each against Blackburn and he will be looking for the same.
KEY MAN: Brad Frieldel - Will need to be on top of his game to cope with Sunderland's front three.
BLACKBURN ROVERS v LIVERPOOL Wednesday
Steve Kean's baptism of fire that is the Premier League continues after a heavy loss at the Stadium of Light last time out. Blackburn's owner have confirmed they made £6.2 Million bid for AC Milan's Ronaldinho. I would love to know whose idea that was. He will most likely return to Gremio in Brazil, but Rafael Van Der Vaart to Tottenham proves you never quite know what will happen.
Liverpool were saved by a last gasp Joe Cole goal to take three points against Bolton. And there were some improved performances, most notably Fernando Torres who reminded us what he can do when he wants to. Owen Coyle felt they were lucky to get the win but it gave his opposite number some respite and the team, a more respectable ninth place.
KEY MAN: Stevie G - He pulls Liverpool's strings.
BLACKPOOL v BIRMINGHAM CITY
The first match at home for Ian Holloway in a month and he will want to give the home fans something to smile about. Charlie Adam didn't deserve to be on the losing team at the weekend and you could well see him scoring first. David Carney is away with Australia for the Asia Cup.
Lee Bowyer hasn't yet been charged by the FA for his stamps on Bacary Sagna so Alex McLeish will bare this in mind when picking his team. He also needs Alexander Hleb to find his early Arsenal form as the club have slipped into the bottom three and have West Ham to play in the Carling Cup later this month.
KEY MAN: Charlie Adam - The home fans will be looking forward to seeing him back.
BOLTON WANDERERS v WIGAN ATHLETIC Wednesday
This season's most improved team will be looking for a home win after their trip to Anfield and will need to take their chances against what can be, an erratic Wigan side. There were some good defensive displays at Liverpool by Zat Knight and Gary Cahill; the latter is now subject to transfer rumours and a £20 Million valuing by boss, Owen Coyle.
Wigan are just one point above the drop zone; while Roberto Martinez has to worry about if and when, Tom Cleverley will be called back to Old Trafford. The youngster has given some classy performances and some much needed energy to the team.
KEY MAN: Hugo Rodellega - Was disappointing at the weekend, needs to step up.
EVERTON v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR Wenesday
David Moyes' and his men just can't seem to get the luck at the moment. Stories say they want Birmingham's Sebastian Larsson on a free a the end of the season, but they really need someone now. David Moyes is staying tight lipped about his targets but Landon Donovan has stated he will be saying in America this MLS close season.
Tottenham won after a Gareth Bale wonder goal at the weekend as they struggled against Fulham but will fancy taking the win at the stuttering Everton. Jermain Defoe is banned so Roman Pavlyuchenko should continue to start. Michael Dawson has also fit easily back into the side after his injury spell.
KEY MAN: Phil Jagielka - Needs a good game after two own goals in two matches.
FULHAM v WEST BROMWICH ALBION
David Stockdale will start as Mark Schwarzer is leaving on international duty. Sitting in the relegation zone is not a good look for Fulham but a win would see them jump up the table. There may be a recall for Moussa Dembele after his troublesome ankle kept him sidelined for seven weeks. Andy Johnson should continue his return to fitness by starting upfront.
Roberto di Matteo's promoted team deserved at least a point against leaders Manchester United at the weekend. They attacked well and he would have been happy with their overall performance. Jerome Thomas and Chris Brunt clearly enjoy playing together and will look to give the Fulhm defense major problems.
KEY MAN: Chris Brunt - A run of form will help his team climb the table.
MANCHESTER UNITED v STOKE CITY
Sir Alex will be waiting on the fitness of Patrice Evra, Darron Gibson and Wayne Rooney for this match. Nani being available should help the team who at times have not reached their best and another attacking option would help them out. If Rooney is out, then Javier Hernandez may partner Dimitar Berbatov after his injury-time goal.
Kenwyne Jones opened the scoring for Stoke at the weekend and Ricardo Fuller is fighting to partner him ahead of Jon Walters. Tony Pulis stated 'personal reasons' for Jones' recent lack of form and hopefully that goal will help his match mentality. In their last five league matches, United have scored 14 to Stoke's one; but much improved, the Potters may feel they have a chance to snatch a point.
KEY MAN: Nmanja Vidic - May have his wrk cut out with the solid Kenwyne Jones.
NEWCASTLE UNITED v WEST HAM UNITED Wednesday
With Andy Carroll missing Shola Ameobi's goal against Wigan couldn't have come at a better time. There isn't much difference to the Geordies now Alan Pardew is in charge and it still makes me wonder exactly why they sacked Chris Houghton. Both teams have won two of their last six although Newcastle sit in a far safer position up in tenth, while West Ham have left the relegation zone for the first time this season.
Winning the six-pointer at home to Wolves sent the Hammers into 16th, the highest they have been all season. Another win would put some breathing space between them and the bottom three, as they are only 5 points behind opponents Newcastle. They still have quite a large injury list and after the capture of Steve Sidwell I would expect more additions to the squad. I can see the winners being whichever side scores first
KEY MAN: Joey Barton - His team need another calm performance from him in midfield.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS v CHELSEA Wednesday
Two clubs whose results you just cannot predict. Wolves beat Liverpool at Anfield only to lose at Upton Park days later while Chelsea drew at home to Aston Villa. Mick Mac and co now sit at the bottom of the table, two points from safety and as they await the visit of Chelsea they won't be feeling terribly confident. If they've seen Arsenal and Villa put Chelsea to the sword, they will know that all out attack will be the way forward.
Chelsea are now sitting an unfamiliar 5th in the table, six points behind leaders Manchester United. Having picked up just four points over the festive period they will need to win here to take some pressure of boss, Carlo Ancelotti. It's hard to guess which version of the team will turn up but I doubt the match will be boring.
KEY MAN: Frank Lampard - This is an important game and Chelsea need their important players.