Seven matches take place on Saturday 4 February with teams boosted by their deadline day arrivals. Arsenal and Manchester City will be keen to get back to winning ways with home fixtures against Blackburn Rovers and Fulham, while there is a relegation six pointer happening at Loftus Road when Queens Park Rangers take on Wolves.
Arsenal vs Blackburn Rovers
This could be a potential banana skin for Arsenal who are yet to win in 2012. However, a goalless draw at Bolton midweek stopped the rot to some degree and at the very least, prevented their first four-match losing streak under Arsene Wenger.
Even though Blackburn are a tough side to beat on their travels – they have only lost five of their last 15 on the road – Wenger will no doubt see this fixture as a means to get back to winning ways.
The Gunners have an excellent record against Rovers – prior to last season’s goalless draw, they had won seven successive home league matches.
Robin Van Persie has scored 10 goals in 12 matches against Blackburn and with Chris Samba not playing, Rovers defence is not as strong as it could be.
Verdict: Arsenal @ 1.3 (Betfred)
Norwich City vs Bolton Wanderers
The statistics suggest this will be a goalfest due to the dire defensive records of both teams. Norwich have kept one clean sheet this season while Bolton have managed just one match in their last 37 on the road where they haven’t conceded a goal.
The Canaries have struggled in front of goal in recent matches. While Chelsea and Spurs can be forgiven, Paul Lambert’s side could only muster a last minute goal against poor travellers Fulham.
Bolton have boosted their attacking options with Watford striker Marvin Sordell and managed to keep hold of Kevin Davies but I think the home side will edge this one.
Verdict: Norwich City @ 2.1 (Betfred)
Queens Park Rangers vs Wolves
There will be huge expectation on QPR to win this match despite struggling at the wrong end of the table themselves. Mark Hughes will be optimistic in that his side lead at Aston Villa 2-0 before drawing the game 2-2, but a leaky defence is a major cause for concern.
Even with the arrivals of Taye Taiwo and Nedum Onuoha, Rangers’ back line still looked shaky and Wolves will feel they can get something from this game. Steven Fletcher is in form and has scored in each of his last four on the road while the arrival of Sebastien Bassong from Spurs will bolster their defence.
But, let’s not pretend Wolves are something special. They are second from bottom for a reason and have won just once away from home. With new signing Djibril Cisse up front, Rangers for once look like they have a dangerous striker on their books.
Verdict: Queens Park Rangers @ 1.62 (Ladbrokes)
Stoke City vs Sunderland
In recent seasons this fixture would have been marked down as a home win but things are a little more complicated this term. Stoke have been relatively poor at the Britannia Stadium this season, winning just four of their 11 home matches.
Four draws and three defeats suggest they are tough to beat which is why I am not going to rave about Sunderland’s chances here, despite their remarkable turnaround in form since Martin O’Neill took over.
In 11 matches since O’Neill took over, the Black Cats have won seven, drawn two and lost two, but they could get a reality check against a physical Tony Pulis side.
Verdict: Draw @ 3.4 (Sky Bet)
West Bromwich Albion vs Swansea City
West Brom have tumbled down the table and Norwich City were correctly predicted to beat them at the Hawthorns last weekend. Just two home victories in 11, scoring eight goals in the process is the form of a team battling against the drop.
Much has been said about Swansea’s passing game and quite frankly, the comparisons with Barcelona are ridiculous. For a start, Barcelona win away from home, something that the Swans struggle to do.
One victory, three draws and seven defeats on the road is the reason Swansea are still not out of relegation danger but taking into consideration West Brom’s wretched home form, they cannot be backed with any confidence either. Bore draw, anyone?
Verdict: Draw @ 3.4 (Bet Victor)
Wigan Athletic vs Everton
I have tried to view Wigan positively in the last few weeks, giving credibility to their fighting spirit but the fact is, for all their bluster, they are a poor side.
Roberto Martinez’s side have been beaten six times at home already this season and face an Everton side full of confidence. The Toffees beat high-flying Manchester City midweek and have a good away record against the Premier League’s strugglers this season – beating West Brom, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham and Blackburn Rovers.
Manager David Moyes also has some depth in the squad following the arrivals of Steven Pienaar, Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson – scorer of the winning goal against Manchester City.
Verdict: Everton @ 2.2 (Boylesports)
Manchester City vs Fulham
January has been a poor month by City’s standards. Even though they won three of their five Premier League fixtures, two defeats at Sunderland and Everton mean their lead at the top of the table has been reduced to goal difference.
However, City are perfect at the Etihad – winning 11 out of 11, scoring 34 goals and conceding just six in the process. They will be expected to continue this sequence against Fulham, who are notoriously poor on the road. Just one win in 11 and scoring seven goals in the process does not bode well against a side abundant in attacking options.
City are boosted by the return of Vincent Kompany in defence and they have added to their midfield options with the loan arrival of David Pizarro. Fulham sold Bobby Zamora to QPR on deadline day but brought in striker Pavel Pogrebnyak from Stuttgart.
Verdict: Manchester City @ 1.3 (Paddy Power)