Premier League 2012, Week 24 Preview And Fixtures: Big Clubs, Big Games, Big Implications

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is challenged by Vincent Kompany of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on October 23, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Chelsea hosts Manchester United in Sunday's late game, while Liverpool and Tottenham do battle Monday night at Anfield.

Arsenal fans may find themselves in the unfamiliar position of cheering on Spurs Monday night, while Manchester City have a golden opportunity to move ahead of United on points once again. There's plenty of intrigue at the other end of the table as well, with Wigan hoping to avoid falling deeper into the hole, Wolves looking to stop the bleeding against a rejuvenated QPR and Bolton poised to continue their run towards safety.

Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers

Saturday February 4th
13:00 GMT (8:00 AM ET)
Emirates Stadium

After what looked to be a genuine resurgence after a terrible start by the Gunners, it's all gone wrong once again. In fact, this CRISIS! may be even CRISIS!-ier than the first CRISIS! When things aren't going well early, you've still got a whole lot of time to get things back on track. But with only 15 games remaining, they're running out of time to get their house in order (especially if the clubs above them don't stop winning.) It's true, the seven points that separate Arsenal from the Champions League aren't all that many. But with the way they've been playing as of late, spirits can't be especially high.

In other "spirits can't be incredibly high" news, Steve Kean is still Blackburn's manager.

Pick: Arsenal, 3-1

Norwich City vs. Bolton Wanderers

Saturday February 4th
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET)
Carrow Road

Things are finally going a but right for Bolton, and though their position is still tenuous relegation looks far less threatening now that it did a few weeks ago. But when you've put yourself in as big a hole as Bolton did earlier in the season, you can't really afford to drop points against beatable teams. Despite the Canaries' higher place in the table, Norwich is a beatable team, especially seeing as how this one is being held at the Reebok. The important thing for Bolton is to continue to remember how to not give up 28 goals a game.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Queens Park Rangers vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Saturday February 4th
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET)
Loftus Road

QPR has a new look under Mark Hughes, and the general consensus seems to be that their dealings in January killed off the last doubts about their survival. Still, though they're definitely headed in the right direction it's a bit of a stretch to call them "good" just yet. But if anything can help them along that path, it's facing Wolves.

Pick: QPR, 3-1

Stoke City vs. Sunderland

Saturday February 4th
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET)
Britannia Stadium

Since Martin O'Neill took charge at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland has been the best team in the Premier League. That's certainly not sustainable, and it probably says just as much about Steve Bruce as it does about MON, but that's impressive no matter how you slice it. That Sunderland is involved in a game that may end up having Europa League implications is fairly stunning, considering how bad things were just a few months back.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

West Bromwich Albion vs. Swansea City

Saturday February 4th
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET)
The Hawthorns

This is the most mid-tabley mid-table matchup of the week. But while this game may not be especially important in terms of the league, it's impossible to argue that this will not definitively answer the question of whether a short-passing, high-possession game is inherently superior to....whatever the hell it is Roy Hodgson's teams do.

Pick: Swansea, 1-0

Wigan Athletic vs. Everton

Saturday February 4th
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET)
DW Stadium

I've been saying for quite some time that I believed Wigan would manage to pull themselves to safety at some point this season. It's getting harder and harder to continue believing that. They're going to have to start winning games at some point soon, and the next two months are comparatively easy when contrasted with a brutal run of games in April and May. Still, when you've played like the worst team in the league for nearly two-thirds of the season "comparatively easy" doesn't mean a whole lot.

Pick: Everton, 4-1

Manchester City vs. Fulham

Saturday February 4th
17:30 GMT (12:30 PM ET)
Etihad Stadium

Only three teams in the league are legitimately within reach of the title, and two of them have very tough games coming up this weekend. This is an opportunity to create separation that City absolutely must take advantage of, as a failure to win the league this season could mean a very uncertain summer for Roberto Mancini. Clearly Fulham is outmatched on raw talent here, but City hasn't looked invincible for a few months now and the Cottagers gave them a decent game last time out. Could be an interesting twist thrown into the title race. Or it could be an absolute hammering. That second actually seems more likely.

Pick: City, 3-0

Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa

Sunday February 5th
13:30 GMT (8:30 AM ET)
Sports Direct Arena

Yes, Alex McLeish's Villa have been playing pretty entertaining football these past few weeks, and yes, Alan Pardew's Newcastle seem to have remembered that scoring goals is in fact an important part of being a good football team. But does anyone want to take any bets on this game being anything other than borderline unwatchable? Progress has been made on both ends, sure, but this is is like having an Over-eaters Anonymous meeting at the Claim Jumper.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Chelsea vs. Manchester United

Sunday February 5th
16:00 GMT (11:00 AM ET)
Stamford Bridge

Fox television is airing this game live as part of the lead in to the Super Bowl, and there's been a whole lot of talk about it being the BIGGEST GAME EVER to be broadcast live over network television in the States. It's also the second game ever to be broadcast live over network television in the States, but we soccer-loving Americans like to get all excited about really, really stupid things.

Pick: Chelsea, 3-2

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