Premier League 2012, Week 23 Preview And Fixtures: Trap Games For Big Sides Highlight Mid-Week Slate

Kenwyne Jones of Stoke City celebrates after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at Britannia Stadium in Stoke on Trent England. Stoke plays Manchester United on January 31, 2012. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Manchester City and Chelsea travel to face Everton and Swansea respectively, while Manchester United host Stoke and Spurs welcome Wigan to White Hart Lane.

Tuesday January 31st

Swansea vs. Chelsea

19:45 GMT (2:45 ET); Liberty Stadium

With Arsenal and now Tottenham slipping a bit, Chelsea are reasonably well positioned to comfortably secure Champions League qualification, averting what could be a miniature financial disaster with UEFA Fair Play regulations looming. One problem; Chelsea haven't exactly been inspiring as of late in their own right, and despite drubbing Swansea 4-1 earlier in the season the newly-promoted side's home record makes this look a lot tougher than the club's respective place in the table would indicate. Swansea's stalemate-by-a-thousand-cuts style has been effective for them on many occasions this season, and with their primary goal this season being survival it's likely they'd be more than happy with a point from this one, an outcome that would be less than ideal from Chelsea's standpoint.

Luckily for the Blues, a poor result would still give Roman Abramovich ample time to spend a few extra tens of millions of pounds before the window closes; it's his version of stress eating.

Pick: Chelsea, 2-1

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Wigan Athletic

19:45 GMT (2:45 ET); White Hart Lane

It wasn't so long ago that I was proclaiming Spurs to be legitimate title contenders, and then what do they go and do? Draw Wolves and drop a six-pointer to City, effectively ending any of that kind of talk. Personally I choose to place all of the blame on Harry Redknapp, if for no other reason than I am confident he will be unable to lodge a formal complaint in writing.

Pick: Spurs, 3-1

Wolverhampton vs. Liverpool

19:45 GMT (2:45 ET); Molineux Stadium

Last time Wolves were at home, they booed a prone Marc Albrighton for getting his ribcage in the way of Karl Henry's boot. How will they follow up that inspiring display? My guess is throwing garbage at Pepe Reina for handling the ball in the box.

Pick: Liverpool, 2-0

Everton vs. Manchester City

20:00 GMT (3:00 ET); Goodison Park

The hacks like me that write these previews LOVE games like this, because we can make pronouncements about the underdog being a threat to the superior team in terms so vague as to be completely worthless. Than if an upset (or even a draw) does occur, we can point to the preview as proof of our tremendous prognosticating abilities while avoiding looking like fools when the better team wins because, well of course they did. I was only pointing out that hypothetical scenarios were in fact possible before the game, not saying I expected the underdog to win. It's a no-lose situation! Except for Everton, that is.

Pick: City, 3-1

Manchester United vs. Stoke City

See above, only this time I kind of believe it.

20:00 GMT (3:00 ET); Old Trafford

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Wednesday February 1st

Aston Villa vs. Queens Park Rangers

19:45 GMT (2:45 ET); Villa Park

The last time we heard from Aston Villa, they were seen running from the Emirates, quite literally on fire. Alan Hutton suffered horrific, disfiguring burns to his face; fortunately, no one can really tell the difference. Barry Bannan escaped any major harm by virtue of being below the level where the smoke settled. Darren Bent was also safe, as he was in Harrod's at the time. Gabby Agbonlahor didn't actually know he was consumed by flame until Robbie Keane pointed it out.

Alex McLeish expects to field a full strength side against QPR however, saying he's "not got time for any candy-arses while he's in charge."

Pick: Villa, 2-1

Blackburn vs. Newcastle

20:00 GMT (3:00 ET); Ewood Park

Rarely will you see a game featuring the 6th place team in the league facing arguably the worst defense in the league and see a 0-0 draw as a legitimate possibility.

Pick: Newcastle, 1-0

Bolton vs. Arsenal

20:00 GMT (3:00 ET); Reebok Stadium

If such a thing as momentum in sports exist (in terms of having a noticeable impact on a team's performance) then Arsenal will win this game by 73 goals.

Pick: Arsenal, 3-2

Fulham vs. West Bromwich Albion

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

Word has it Pavel Pogrebnyak has undergone a medical and is close to signing with Fulham. In case you weren't keeping track, that's Pogrebnyak, Clint Dempsey, Bryan Ruiz, Bobby Zamora, Moussa Dembélé and Orlando Sá. I can't wait until Jol busts out the pyramid, yells "invert this" and gives Johnathan Wilson the finger.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Sunderland vs. Norwich City

20:00 GMT (3:00 ET); Stadium of Light

A win for either of these teams would all but guarantee their safety in the Premier League next season. That's cool if you're a Norwich fan; the Canaries are a good side and look like they could stick around for a little while. For Sunerland, while it's still welcome news, it's at least vaguely annoying because it's a reminder that Steve Bruce was in charge until December.

Pick: Sunderland, 2-1

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