This weekend’s Premier League fixtures list includes two vital games at the Emirates and the Etihad, where the four title contenders will face off. Mark Young’s tipping draws all round but do you agree?
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Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City
A wounded Stoke City have a trip to the South Coast to contend with Bournemouth on Valentine’s weekend but there will be no love lost between the two sides. The Potters have been defeated by three goals in the same number of league games by Everton, Manchester United, and Leicester City.
Things got worse for Mark Hughes’ men when they lost captain Ryan Shawcross to injury against the Foxes. Stoke have struggled to find an adequate replacement for him since, so they look like they could be in trouble at the Cherries on Saturday.
But Bournemouth’s defeat by Arsenal was only their second of the calendar year, which has included a shut out of league leaders Leicester and an away win at Crystal Palace. Benik Afobe has started brilliantly with three goals since his move from Wolves and I expect him to take full advantage of an underperforming Stoke.
Chelsea 2-2 Newcastle United
Chelsea will try to extend the club’s unbeaten run under Guus Hiddink in Saturday’s evening kick-off at Stamford Bridge. A last-minute Diego Costa equaliser rescued a point against Manchester United last weekend to make it 11 games in all competitions without defeat for the Blues.
The hosts will be without crocked Kurt Zouma for six months after he picked up an ACL injury against the Red Devils, so Gary Cahill should be partnering John Terry in the centre of defence.
Newcastle have recruited well in January, and showed early signs of clicking as Jonjo Shelvey set up Aleksandar Mitrovic’s winner against West Brom. With the attacking presence that the Magpies now possess, they should be able to give draw specialists Chelsea a good game, so I’m tipping a fifth straight home league draw here.
Arsenal 2-2 Leicester City
Leicester City face another tough challenge this weekend as they look to follow up their win at the Etihad Stadium against Arsenal. The Foxes were sensational as they made City look like a poor side, taking a three-goal lead before Manuel Pellegrini’s men pulled one back.
Sunday’s clash will be the first time that Claudio Ranieri’s side go into a top-of-the-table game as favourites to win the league. The Foxes have performed miracles so far, and a win at the Emirates will see them close in on the crown.
The Gunners will have something to say about it, though, and, as one of only two teams to beat the Foxes this term, they will be up for the challenge. Alexis Sanchez stole the show at the King Power Stadium in their last encounter and with the Chilean slowly regaining full fitness, I think he’ll prove a huge thorn in Leicester’s side.
Aston Villa 1-3 Liverpool
Aston Villa welcome Liverpool on Sunday afternoon as they look to scrap further away from the bottom of the Premier League table. With an encouraging 2-0 win over Norwich at home last weekend, Villa may be down but are not completely out just yet.
The hosts sit eight points back from 17th-placed Newcastle and saw Gabby Agbonlahor return to goalscoring form last week, but I don’t think it will be enough to take anything from Liverpool.
Jürgen Klopp rested the majority of his first team for their 120-minute midweek loss to West Ham, so former Villa star Christian Benteke could start on the bench. The Reds’ main men should return to the fold, and, despite a few recent slip-ups, should be able to see out a victory over the basement boys.
Manchester City 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday’s triple-header ends at the Etihad as second-placed Tottenham go to fourth-placed Manchester City in another titanic battle at the top of the table.
City were humbled by Leicester last weekend, but even without as much of a sniff at goal, Sergio Agüero was still on the score sheet. That is the only positive that City can take from last week as they look to cut down the best defence in the Premier League.
Tottenham have conceded seven less than City so far this term, and with Harry Kane in superb form and Dele Alli in contention for England at the Euros, they are dangerous in attack. Aguero used to score goals for fun against Spurs, but Mauricio Pochettino’s men are a different animal this season and I predict they’ll walk away with a point.
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