Premier League 2011, Week 14: Newcastle And Chelsea Do Battle For The Inside Track To Europe

As the league's leading sides look ahead to easily winnable contests, the week's biggest match takes place on the bubble of the European places as Chelsea travel Tyneside.

The opportunities for some separation in the lower half of the table are ample this week, while the top three settle in for what should be comfortable contests.

Saturday December 3rd

Newcastle United vs. Chelsea

12:45 GMT (7:45 AM ET); St. James' Park Sports Direct Arena

This will mark the end of a very difficult three-match run for Newcastle, and if the Magpies manage to take a point (or more) from this one it's going to be quite difficult to argue that their strong showing in the league so far has been down to an easy run of things. Chelsea is struggling (relative to Chelsea at least) and at this juncture a competently gained point away against a quality Newcastle team would likely be considered a decent result and oh my god that is a sentence I just wrote what is going on.

Pick: Chelsea, 2-1

Blackburn Rovers vs. Swansea City

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Ewood Park

Swansea play really attractive football and are in so many ways a joy to watch, but it's easy to forget that they're currently scoring at a pace of less than a goal per match while only five Premier League teams have allowed fewer goals so far this season. Swansea will dominate possession against almost anyone and they'll look good doing it, but they've found it more difficult to score than anyone and their greatest strength is in their ability to frustrate the opposition into being reckless on the rare occasion they manage to get hold of the ball. They're a very weird, very interesting team. In contrast, Blackburn's greatest strength lies in the fact that we won't have to watch them next season.

Pick: Swansea, 1-0

Manchester City vs. Norwich City

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Etihad Stadium

Someone at the FA really needs to sit down and have a chat with Roberto Mancini. Any time you try something new and different, you'll want to get acclimated before you really throw yourself in to things and start playing for real. But it's been long enough. It's really time he raises the difficult slider from 'Professional' to 'World Class'. Especially since he never seemed to have a whole lot of trouble with the Tactical Defending system from the get-go.

Pick: Manchester City, 3-0

Queens Park Rangers vs. West Bromwich Albion

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Loftus Road

In this week's installment of "teams that are way more boring than you remember them being," Neil Warnock and Roy Hodgson compare the broken capillary patterns on their respective noses, Peter Odemingie and Adel Taarabt will discuss how much they cannot wait to go somewhere else for the love of god and Armand Traore will do something incredibly dumb.

Pick: QPR, 2-1

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bolton Wanderers

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); White Hart Lane

So at a certain point we'll probably have to acknowledge that Spurs have been arguably the second most impressive team in the league so far this season, right? And that for all the talk of Arsenal/Chelsea/United/Liverpool In Crisis they're in the Champions League places because they've been a really, really good team, yes? That they're probably the most enjoyable to watch team in England? Just checking.

Pick: Spurs, 4-1

Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); DW Stadium

If you're a Wigan fan, you're probably thinking to yourself "boy, Arsenal sure did pick an inopportune time to stop crisis-ing all over the place" to which I say to you: you don't exist.

Pick: Arsenal, 3-1

Aston Villa vs. Manchester United

17:30 GMT (12:30 PM ET); Villa Park

In the midst of the controversy and uproar surrounding Alex McLeish's appointment as Aston Villa manager, one of his most strident defenders was Sir Alex Ferguson. In this game, McLeish will have a chance to return the favor to the legendary United manager by continuing to be Alex McLeish and doing the exact same things he always does.

Pick: United, 3-0

Sunday December 4th

Everton vs. Stoke City

15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Goodison Park

Well, Stoke have advanced to the group stage of Europa. Good for them, well done Potters, etc etc etc. In domestic play they still leak goals like crazy, can't score by any way other than having a balsa tree leading the line and no one likes them. Meanwhile, Everton continue to do the same thing they always do which is quite stubbornly refuse to be a bad team despite all of the "Evidence" to the contrary. How inconsiderate.

Pick: Everton, 2-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Sunderland

16:00 GMT (11:00 AM ET); Molineaux Stadium

If you are thankful for anything this holiday season, let it be this; Nicklas Bendtner is going to be managed by Martin O'Neill. That's going to be like the Backyard Wrestling version of Zlatan vs. Pep.

Pick: Wolves, 1-0

Monday December 5th

Fulham vs. Liverpool

20:00 GMT (3:00 AM ET); Craven Cottage

Has anyone pointed out that, despite their being 6th in the table, Liverpool are about as much fun as listening to James Joyce books on tape as read by Ben Stein?

Pick: Liverpool, 2-0

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