Premier League 2012, Week 20 Preview and Fixtures: Battle of the blues headlines big week

Chris Brunskill

Chelsea travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton in a game that could change the look of the top of the table, while Manchester United host West Brom and Manchester City hope to keep their title hopes alive against Norwich City.

Sunderland vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Stadium of Light; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 a.n. ET

After a fairly disastrous start that saw them flirting with the relegation zone, Sunderland have put up back-to-back wins (including a 1-0 over Manchester City on Boxing Day) and now find themselves in the relative comfort of 13th. That recent uptick in form is not enough in and of itself to cancel out a first half of the season that was quite dire on the balance of things, but if it's a sign that Martin O'Neill has things moving in the right direction then 2013 may well be a pretty good year on Wearside. Of course, Spurs are unbeaten in seven and they have a good bit of experience delivering reality checks to lower-table sides, so the last week could prove to be a very brief respite indeed.

Pick: Spurs, 3-1

Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic

Villa Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 a.m. ET

This time a week ago Aston Villa was flying high, fresh off a 3-1 win at Anfield that came on the heels of a 4-1 League Cup victory at Carrow Road. It looked as though Paul Lambert's strategy of relying on promising but inexperienced young players was beginning to pay off, and that Villa might be on the verge of turning the corner. In two games since, they've been outscored 12-0. A once unbreakable defense was shredded by both Chelsea and Spurs, and Villa's precocious striker Christian Benteke has looked completely lost in both games. With the worst goal difference in the league, Villa need to start winning games again if they hope to find their way to safety, but it's difficult to see how they could have possibly emerged mentally unscathed from such a difficult week. The Latics should be thrilled to be facing them right now, as they're in desperate need of a positive result and could move out of the bottom three with a win.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion

Old Trafford; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 a.m. ET

Manchester United's lead at the top is now seven points, and though there's still half a season to play they're very much in the driver's seat for the title race. In a normal year a visit from the Baggies would be a welcome sight for the current leaders but, despite continual predictions of their demise, West Brom continues to hang around in the Champions League race. It's fair to wonder if their pace is fully sustainable, but at this point wondering whether they're "for real" looks patently ridiculous; this is a very good team, and it would be little surprise to see them take something from Old Trafford.

Pick: United, 3-2

Norwich City vs. Manchester City

Carrow Road; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 a.m. ET

At this point, the end of Roberto Mancini at Manchester City seems an inevitability. That doesn't mean that it actually is and perhaps it's wishful thinking to see it that way, but it just doesn't seem like things can go on the way they are. With that being the case, each week feels like a test; if the Canaries manage to stun City at home, it certainly wouldn't feel like much of a passing grade.

Pick: Manchester City, 1-0

Fulham vs. Swansea City

Craven Cottage; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 a.m. ET

It's been a very difficult couple of months for the Cottagers, who have just one win (and five losses) from their last 10. And though the schedule hasn't been a peach, some of those losses have been pretty bad: 1-3 to Sunderland, 1-2 to QPR and 0-4 to Liverpool aren't the kind of results to inspire much confidence. This is probably not the worst time to face Swansea given their recent struggles, but it's still not likely to be an easy game for Fulham, and dropping points at home isn't really something they can afford to do at the moment.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Reading vs. West Ham United

Madejski Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

If not for the relative lack of quality in the lower half of the table, Reading's 10 points from 19 games would likely make their relegation a foregone conclusion. There's no way they're going to be able to stick around the Premier League if they repeat their first-half performance, but they're just six back of 17th; West Ham isn't an easy game for any team, but it's certainly a decent chance for the Royals to make a positive start to the second half of the year.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Stoke City vs. Southampton

Britannia Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 a.m. ET

Stoke City isn't the world's most popular team, and for good reason; they play a brand of football that does not endear them to opposing managers, players or fans, and no team has ever been so readily willing to bore paying spectators to death should it be judged to be the prudent decision. But that doesn't change the fact that what Stoke does works pretty well for them, and this is probably the best Potters side ever assembled by Tony Pulis. At the mid-way point of the season the club is just five points back from the top four. I know the "Could Messi do it on a cold Wednesday night at Stoke?" meme was pretty much dead more than a year ago, but there is not a fan of the game who has anything approaching a sense of humor that shouldn't be pulling for the Potters to qualify for the Champions League and get drawn into a group with Barcelona.

Pick: Stoke, 2-0

Arsenal vs. Newcastle

Emirates Stadium; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 p.m. ET

This game probably seemed like it would be a very crucial mid-season clash back when the schedule was being put together. Realistically it still is, I suppose. Just for completely different and somewhat unforeseeable reasons.

Pick: Arsenal, 3-1

Everton vs. Chelsea

Goodison Park; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

One of the better Everton teams in recent memory takes on a Chelsea team that looks to be finding its feet under the much maligned Rafa Benitez. Some pretty big implications on the top of the table in this one, and what looks like it should be an entertaining game to boot. Pretty clear choice for must-watch Premier League game of the week.

Pick: Everton, 2-1

Queens Park Rangers vs. Liverpool

Loftus Road; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 a.m. ET

And then you can follow up what will probably be the week's best game with this. Or you could just go outside or watch literally anything else in the world.

Pick: Liverpool, 2-0

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