Mark Young gives his thoughts on five stand-out games coming up in a packed weekend of domestic action.
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Southampton 1-0 Chelsea
Southampton welcome a rejuvenated Chelsea to St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, with both clubs both fancying themselves for three points.
The Saints haven’t conceded since the first game of January in the Premier League – when they lost away at Norwich City – but since then Watford, West Brom, Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham and Swansea have all tried and failed to breach the Saints’ defence.
After an indifferent winter the Saints are coming up roses, but Saturday will be a very difficult contest as Chelsea and their attacking stars seem to be hitting some form.
Willian has continued to be impressive, but Diego Costa, Pedro, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas have all welcomed back a rich vein of form.
Despite those encouraging signs, this may still be a bridge too far for the boys in blue and after almost two weeks off Ronald Koeman and his Saints can go marching on with a slender victory.
Watford 1-1 Bournemouth
Two promoted teams meet at Vicarage Road on Saturday in what could be seen as a bigger game for the visitors than the home side.
Bournemouth have lost three games on the bounce – all at home in two different competitions – and with Premier League survival the main aim for the remainder of the season, Eddie Howe and his side can look forward to starting that battle in north London.
Watford have acquitted themselves fantastically on their return to Premier League football and are also looking forward to an FA Cup quarter-final.
It’s been quite the season so far for a club that underwent so many changes in the summer. An own goal did for Leeds United at Vicarage Road last weekend, but the momentum continues.
Quique Sanchez Flores and Eddie Howe is an intriguing clash of styles in the dugout and the Spaniard will have to deal with picking up just a point against the Cherries.
Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal
Manchester United and Arsenal come out of contrasting European weeks to lock horns at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.
United have struggled all season, but nevertheless find themselves within six points of fourth place and one game from Wembley in the FA Cup.
There isn’t a day that goes by without people questioning the future of Louis van Gaal, but he may see Arsenal as a team in a position of weakness after a poor week.
The Gunners followed their last-minute win at home against Leicester by drawing with Hull City in the FA Cup and losing 2-0 to Barcelona on Tuesday.
Arsenal tend to go through spells like this at this time of the season and this could be another dent to their season expectations as United may just edge it… despite all their shortcomings.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Swansea City
Tottenham impressed again in the last round of Premier League fixtures, but face an improving Swansea side at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Spurs were knocked out of the FA Cup last week, but a victory at the Etihad stadium just seven days earlier means that there are plenty of reasons for Tottenham fans to still feel optimistic.
Harry Kane could be a doubt for this contest after breaking his nose against Crystal Palace, but Tottenham should still have enough to break down a relegation-threatened Swansea.
The Swans lost their first game in five on Valentine’s weekend when they were beaten at home by a stubborn Southampton, but Spurs are even more solid than the Saints.
Swansea may have enough to stay up, but the Tottenham title tilt should continue this weekend.
Capital One Cup Final: Manchester City 3-1 Liverpool
The main event of the weekend is at Wembley Stadium as Manchester City and Liverpool face off in what should be one for the purists.
City were impressive winners in Kiev on Wednesday night as they beat Dynamo 3-1 in what is a really tough place to go to. David Silva and Sergio Aguero looked superb and Vincent Kompany just radiates confidence to his team-mates when he is in the team… and, thankfully for Pellegrini, all three of those players love a big game.
Liverpool have had two Europa League matches in the last two fortnight to test their squad depth, but will still be confident of beating City after Jurgen Klopp’s side put City to the sword in a 4-1 win at the Etihad back in November.
Liverpool have failed to push on since then and Klopp’s previous adversary in Pep Guardiola has been announced as City’s new manager in the summer.
Despite Klopp’s tactical style being well-suited to exploiting City’s weakness, it could be outgoing City boss Manuel Pellegrini who heads up the Wembley steps on Sunday, thanks to City’s fully fit world-class spine.
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