Arsenal vs Everton
Arsenal play host to an Everton side in a match that is crucial at both ends of the table. Arsenal will be looking to close the five-point gap over Manchester United, while Everton will be looking to get into the top half of the table. Even though Everton are currently lying in 14th place, they could climb into the top half with a victory. Such is the tight nature of the Premier League table down at the bottom.
While Arsenal had a relatively easy feature in the FA Cup’s fourth round against Huddersfield, Everton had to combat against Chelsea. So Everton are bound to be tired from such an exhaustive fixture, and Arsenal will be looking to make the most out of it.
Both sides have been unlucky in terms of injury in the last week, with Arsenal losing Samir Nasri to a hamstring injury, while Everton have already lost Victor Anichebe. Louis Saha returned to the side with a goal against Chelsea, and he will be looking to continue the same against Arsenal. Sebastien Squillaci’s suspension means that Arsene Wenger will have to draft in another centre back for the match.
Sunderland vs Chelsea
Sunderland have been doing well on the road in the past few matches, with victories over Aston Villa and Blackpool. However, Steve Bruce will be looking to transform that form to their home match against the Premier League champions.
Sunderland have been busy in the past few days in the transfer window, signing Stephane Sessegnon and Sulley Muntari. They are expected to be included in the squad, but whether they will be taking part from the start is up to Bruce, who has been watching a lot of Chelsea matches in person recently.
Chelsea, meanwhile, had a tough match against Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Carlo Ancelotti will be pleased that his side could at least take the match to a replay. Salomon Kalou scored the goal that saved the game for Chelsea, and there is every chance that he will get a starting place for the match.
Chelsea are involved in negotiations with Liverpool regarding the transfer of Fernando Torres, but even if his signing goes through, he is not expected to take part in the match. Frank Lampard looks set to continue at his position, despite being withdrawn in the Everton match.
Man Utd vs Aston Villa
Manchester United have been extremely quiet in the January transfer window so far, but Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping that his squad will be strong enough to take on the second half of the season, starting with the game against Aston Villa. There are plenty of rumours regarding the possible departure of Ashley Young to Liverpool, but Gerard Houllier will be no doubt trying to hang on to his star midfielder. It is still touch and go regarding the participation of Young in the match.
Manchester United fielded a weakened team against Southampton in the FA Cup recently, which would have given the first team a much needed break. Hence, Aston Villa have all to do against a Man United side that is going to be fresh.
Villa, on the other hand, played a full-strength team against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. It is United, though, who suffer in the injury count after players like Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick are struggling to be match-fit. Houllier will welcome back Darren Bent into the team once again after he was ineligible to play against Blackburn Rovers.
West Brom vs Wigan
Even though the victory against Blackpool looked to start a revival at the Hawthorns, their last match defeat against Blackburn Rovers has put Roberto di Matteo’s team back into the relegation mix.
Wigan, meanwhile, have been even poorer to say the least. They have not managed a victory in their last five Premier League games, and as a result of it, they are now in the relegation zone. Roberto di Matteo will be pleased to know that his team are once again back on home turf, which should provide some advantage in their efforts to avoid relegation.
Wigan Athletic do not have such comforts, and the last time Wigan managed to win a game away from home was in the FA Cup against Hull. West Bromwich were boosted by the signing of Carlos Vela from Arsenal. He is somebody who can put the ball into the back of the net if given a chance, and he is expected to play a part in the match.
Wigan, meanwhile, do not have any new signings of such calibre to boast about, but they do have a number of players returning from injury.
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