Paul Merson has delivered his predictions for this weekend’s Premier League fixtures as Manchester City face title rivals Chelsea and Arsenal visit north London rivals Tottenham.
Pep Guardiola’s side could move 13 points clear of European champions Chelsea as they look to win back-to-back league titles.
The Premier League giants meet at the Etihad on Saturday afternoon, before Newcastle United face fellow relegation-battlers Watford and Manchester United visit Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa.
On Sunday, Arsenal’s trip to arch-rivals Spurs is the pick of the games, while top-four contenders West Ham and Liverpool are also in action.
But who will enjoy productive weekends and who will be in a worse position come Monday morning? Former Arsenal and England star Merson has made his predictions to Sportskeeda.
Brighton vs Crystal Palace
‘This is an interesting game and I’ve liked watching both of them in the Premier League this season.
‘I’ve said plenty of times that Crystal Palace should be a lot further up the table – they’ve been desperately unlucky at times.
‘They have some fantastic attacking players and Conor Gallagher is obviously having a brilliant season, so they will look to threaten in the final third.
‘I see a few goals being scored in this one so I’m going with an entertaining 2-2 draw.’
Prediction: Brighton 2-2 Crystal Palace
Wolves vs Southampton
‘Southampton got a great result against Brentford the other day, as was the case with Wolves against Manchester United.
‘Wolves don’t score enough goals and that’s the only issue for me, but if they manage to solve this issue, they’d be absolutely phenomenal.
‘Despite their lack of goals this season, I think they’ve played some brilliant football this season and should have enough to beat Southampton at home.
‘Armando Broja is a player who has caught my eye – this kid looks really good. He’s big, strong and knows where the goal is, so I’m sure Chelsea will be keeping a keen eye on his development.’
Prediction: Wolves 2-1 Southampton
Norwich City vs Everton
‘This is Norwich City’s cup final. If they don’t win this game, it’s curtains for them in the Premier League this season.
‘Both teams are all over the place at the moment, but there’s more at stake for Norwich than Everton.
‘I watched Everton against Hull City and they weren’t good at all, so I think this could emerge as a winnable game for the home side.’
Prediction: Norwich City 2-1 Everton
Manchester City vs Chelsea
‘If Chelsea don’t win, they are out of the Premier League title race. Saying that in mid-January is not a good thing for them, but it’s the reality of the situation.
‘This is a massive game, but if you look at the table, Manchester City could probably lose this one and still go on to win the title.
‘Pep Guardiola’s side blew Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge even though the scoreline was only 1-0. That just goes to show how good Manchester City have been this season and I think they will get another victory this weekend.
‘I fancy these two teams to meet each other in the UEFA Champions League once again, so it’ll be a big psychological battle.
‘Chelsea had a game on Wednesday night as well and that will play its part. In terms of their attacking options, it’ll be interesting to see who Thomas Tuchel decides to go with.
‘Kai Havertz was outstanding in the first leg and played arguably his best football in a Chelsea shirt, but there’s also Timo Werner, whose pace could be a huge asset.
‘That said, if Werner plays, he’ll have to come up against the pace of Kyle Walker, so they could well end up cancelling each other out!
‘Havertz, on the other hand, has got the brain and the intelligence to open up teams and make clever runs into the box, so this will be a big call for Tuchel.’
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
Newcastle United vs Watford
‘The next three weeks will determine if Newcastle United stay up this season. I know they’ve signed Chris Wood and Kieran Trippier – two good pros who will roll up their sleeves and fight for the team – but I worry for them.
‘Who else could they get? You have to go for the players who want to come to Newcastle and it has to be said that there are a few who don’t want to, as was the case with Lucas Digne, who moved to Aston Villa from Everton.
‘They’ve won just one Premier League game this season and lost to Cambridge United despite fielding their strongest XI, which is just not good enough.
‘A draw would do no favours for Newcastle, but that’s my prediction for this relegation six-pointer this week.
‘Watford have to come away without getting beat and I think they have the quality to do that as they are more of a threat up front than Newcastle.
‘It’s an absolute miracle that each of the bottom four have a chance of staying up – a win or two can change the landscape completely.’
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-1 Watford
Burnley vs Leicester City
‘I feel for Burnley because they’ve had to sell Chris Wood, who was seen as someone who could score them goals to help them avoid the drop.
‘They’ve sold him to another side battling relegation in Newcastle United, which is just an extraordinary situation.
‘Much like Newcastle United, Burnley played their best team but got beaten by Huddersfield Town. They wanted a confidence boost, but it has seemingly gotten worse after a damaging defeat in the FA Cup.
‘Defensively, Leicester City are missing a few key players, but I fancy them to win because they’ll definitely outscore Burnley.’
Prediction: Burnley 1-3 Leicester City
Aston Villa vs Manchester United
‘Manchester United are currently all over the place and I called this a long time ago.
‘I know they’ve won a few games under Ralf Rangnick but their performances have been terrible, so I don’t see them beating Aston Villa in the Premier League this weekend.
‘Villa are 14th in the table but I can’t see Manchester United winning – that tells you everything you need to know.
‘A good team always beats a bunch of individuals, and that’s what Manchester United are at the moment – a bunch of individuals.
‘Look at their last two Premier League away games – a late penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Norwich City and a draw against Newcastle!
‘As for the recently concluded FA Cup tie, Villa were much better in that game despite losing and I expect them to take Manchester United to the cleaners this time around.
‘I’m worried for Manchester United, I really am and it’ll be unbelievable if they secure a top-four finish. There’s been lots said about them, particularly about Cristiano Ronaldo, but I still think he should still start.
‘He didn’t play in the FA Cup and they weren’t any better. Manchester United don’t create too many chances and Ronaldo is one of the best finishers in world football, so they need him on the pitch to score goals.
‘As for Marcus Rashford, people seem to forget that he’s still a young kid because he’s played a lot of football. Inconsistency is always a problem with youngsters, so I’d give him a bit more time to prove his worth.’
Prediction: Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United
West Ham vs Leeds United
‘West Ham are in the top four again and are coming on the back of impressive victories against Leeds United in the FA Cup and Norwich City in the Premier League.
‘More than half the season is over now and they’re in the UEFA Champions League spots, so it’s definitely not a fluke or a false position.
‘Leeds have no chance of being dragged into a relegation battle because I think they have enough quality to win a handful of games along the way, but I expect West Ham to win this one and cement fourth place.’
Prediction: West Ham 3-1 Leeds United
Liverpool vs Brentford
‘It was a bad result for Brentford against Southampton as they were well-beaten at the St. Mary’s Stadium.
‘Before that, they lost a few games here and there, but they were never on the end of a hammering, so this could well turn out to be a wake-up call for them.
‘Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will be unavailable for Liverpool due to their involvement in the 2022 AFCON, but they should still have miles too much for Brentford, so I expect them to win this one comfortably.’
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Brentford
Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal
‘This is a massive game, I’ve played in enough of these to know that. I think the tide has changed a little bit this season, so I fancy Arsenal to win this one.
‘They are a better team than Tottenham at the moment and Son Heung-Min’s absence is a huge problem for Antonio Conte.
‘Spurs have a few games in hand and if they manage to win them, they could break into the top four and cause a bit of trouble for Arsenal.
‘They had the upper hand in this fixture a couple of years ago, but going by what I’ve seen in recent weeks, I’d be shocked if Arsenal lost.’
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Arsenal
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