Following the stunning early exists of Manchesters United and City from the Champions League, the question becomes whether the ability to put more focus on domestic competition will turn the Premier League into a two-horse race.
Ahahahahaha. Hahaha. Ohohoho. Aheeeheeehee. Ahahaha. Ha. Ahem. Ahahahahahah. Ha.
Okay. Okay. I think I'm okay now. Phew. It's just, you know, ahahahahahahahahahahaha. Boy, I'm sorry. I don't mean to make fun. It's really not classy. I mean I could try to justify it and to a lot of people it would make sense, but it's just not acceptable given my position and all. So, many apologies. I promise it won't happen again.
Saturday December 10th
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Emirates Stadium
Arsenal has somehow managed to shake off the immense disappointment of losing a couple of games and then qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League before any other English clubs to find themselves in a European place. It's not as though the Gunners' problems have disappeared into thin air, but man do the first three months of the season look totally pointless. Everton is just good enough to not look ridiculous in the top half.
Pick: Arsenal, 4-2
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Reebok Stadium
Speaking of teams just good enough to not look ridiculous in the top half, Aston Villa is not one of them. Remember when people used to talk about Stoke and get slightly annoyed at their place in the table? Well, Villa is worse to watch and has more talent. Also, they're more cynical and less interested in trying to attack. With a game against Spurs on Monday night and a late Saturday "clash" against Manchester United, the majority of Premier League fans have now seen what Villa "has to offer." And to think people made fun of this team under Gerard Houllier. Bolton is an unlucky mess and can be beaten by any team on any given day, but given their ability to pull a silly amount of goals out of nowhere and Villa's complete lack of interest in going forward, this game has a pretty high variability of outcomes.
Pick: Villa, 3-1
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Anfield
Liverpool is now 7th, behind the usual suspects, the nouveau riche and Spurs. Does anyone think they don't deserve to be any higher? Or that they will finish any higher? This club just isn't all that good (10th in goals scored!) Why are we pretending otherwise? They are better than QPR though.
Pick: Liverpool. 2-1
Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Old Trafford
Manchester United is one of the best clubs in England, and not even the complete lack of a midfield and collapsing defense can detract from reality. And that reality is that United is a far, far better side than Wolves. I mean United might as well be playing the best team in some sort of totally crap league like the Swiss first division or something.
Pick: United, 1-0
Norwich City vs Newcastle United
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Carrow Road
Newcastle has been playing excellent football this season, with a resilient defense and hard-nosed midfield. Goals have been the biggest problem, the Toon scoring just 19 so far this year. It's a shame really, because just imagine how good they'd be if they hadn't sold Andy Carroll. I mean, they might have score 21 or even 22.
Pick: Newcastle, 2-1
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Liberty Stadium
Swansea manages to hold onto the ball as well as any team in the Premier League. It's a shame they have no idea what to do with it once they have it. Fulham bypass that whole issue by never hanging onto the ball. Horses for courses.
Pick: Fulham, 1-0
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); The Hawthorns
Despite the fact that it's looking like the relegation battle is going to be yet another tight one, there aren't many people that seem to think Wigan are going to manage to escape the drop. They still play the same football they've always played under Roberto Martinez, they're just not as good at it anymore. If the Latics are to be saved these are the games they'll need to win, but they've done little to convince anyone they're capable. Sad time to be a Wigan fan. Luckily that doesn't effect a lot of people.
Pick: West Brom, 2-0
Sunday December 11th
13:30 GMT (8:30 AM ET); Stadium of Light
Martin O'Neill will be making his official debut as manager of Sunderland for this game. I hope the club plans to literally unveil him; what an adorable little curtain that would be!
Pick: Sunderland, 2-1
16:00 GMT (11:00 AM ET); Britannia Stadium
Stoke have had a better run of things in recent weeks and they didn't have a midweek Europa League fixture this go-round, so expect them to be at the top of their horrible, horrible game. They'll need to be, because Spurs may very well be the second best team in England at the moment. This is an intriguing matchup between two sides that have enjoyed the greatest success in their recent history of late, but unfortunately it also involves Stoke which makes it awful.
Pick: Spurs, 2-0
Monday December 12th
20:00 GMT (3:00 PM ET); Stamford Bridge
The biggest game of the week obviously; City remain the only team in the Premier League without a defeat and have been phenomenal in league play while Chelsea have endured some well-publicized struggles. Things have gone a bit differently in Europe; City were bounced from the Champions League after to failing to advance from their (absolutely brutal, to be fair) group while Chelsea moved into the knockout stage and prompted Andre Villas-Boas to say hilarious things. If City are suffering from any sort of hangover effect it should be evident in this game as Chelsea have been quite good over the course of the past few weeks. The Monday night games have been more than a bit lacking as of late but this one should be quite excellent, assuming you are capable of enjoying a game between two teams you hate.
Pick: Draw, 2-2