Premier League, Week 16 preview: Crucial battles in the top half

Clive Brunskill

England's two big title favorites, Arsenal and Manchester City, face off in the week's early game. On Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur try to keep their run towards the top four going against Liverpool.

Manchester City vs. Arsenal

Etihad Stadium; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

This is is the weekend's biggest game, and for once it might actually be a decent one. City at home is an absolute bear of a team to face, winners of all seven at the Etihad with a goal difference of plus-27, which is absurd. Arsenal losing this game wouldn't be proof that they're incapable of taking home the title, but if they manage to win? Well, it would be food for thought, to their say the least.

Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace

Stamford Bridge; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10 AM ET

Palace have managed to look better than horrible against fellow relegation battlers since Tony Pulis took over, but going to Stamford Bridge and getting something is a tough ask. So we're not going to ask them to do that.

Cardiff City vs. West Bromwich Albion

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

Cardiff's start to the season was rather encouraging, and it was reasonable to wonder whether they might be the next perpetual Championship side to become a Premier League fixture. Now they're in 16th. Womp womp.

Everton vs. Fulham

Goodison Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Fulham's looking quite a bit better these days, despite still residing in the relegation zone. They broke a six-game losing streak against a decent Villa side last weekend, following up a solid performance in a losing effort against Spurs three days prior. René Meulensteen is off to a good start at the Cottage, but whether the horrendous start can be overcome remains to be seen; with the way Everton's playing as of late, any result at Goodison would be a tangible sign that things are headed in the right direction.

Newcastle vs. Southampton

St. James' Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Last season, these two sides were battling it out to avoid relegation. This season, they're on roughly equal footing but instead chasing European qualification. They've gone about things in a different manner, but the turnaround for both has been similarly impressive; the Saints are on a bit of a skid being winless in four and a draw removed from a three-game losing spell, but their quality of play has remained roughly consistent; this is a game between two similarly matched sides than may not be especially explosive, but the football should be quite good and the stakes are as high as they can get for two mid-table sides in the middle of December.

West Ham United vs. Sunderland

The Boleyn Ground; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Alternatively, you could watch this pile of garbage.

Hull City vs. Stoke City

The K.C. Stadium; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET

Or this one!

Aston Villa vs. Manchester United

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

The last time Aston Villa beat Manchester United in a Premier League game at Villa Park, Alen Hansen summed up the home side's 3-1 win by saying "You can't win anything with kids." The kids in question? David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Roy Keane, and Paul Scholes, among others. David Beckham is retired and apparently moving to Florida. Ryan Giggs didn't play in that game for whatever reason, which would have made it even funnier.

Anywho, that doesn't really have any bearing on this game because nearly everyone that played that day is busy knitting sweaters and complaining about the price of a gallon of milk, but what is important is that Villa will never beat United at home so long as there is life on Earth.

Norwich City vs. Swansea City

Carrow Road; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

This seems like it would be a good game, but then you remember that everyone interesting in Swansea's team has regressed and Norwich is managed by Chris Hughton and you realize it's just gonna be disappointing.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool

White Hart Lane; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Here's game of the week part two, pitting two sides that prior to the season likely saw themselves as being outside Champions League contenders and have likely swapped places relative to expectation. Things are still tight enough in the top seven that this result could swing the race to a measurable extent, especially if Spurs take three points, but perhaps more interesting for the circling vultures of the world is what this game will mean for Andre Villas-Boas' job security; his sacking would be a big story, after all, and it's not like there is anything else at all happening in the Premier League right now.

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