Premier League, Week 24 preview and fixtures: A Northeast derby and a title decider

Richard Sellers

This round of the Premier League starts with one of its best local rivalries and ends with a match that could play a big part in deciding who will be crowned champion.

Newcastle vs. Sunderland

St James' Park; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

This season's second edition of the Tyne-Wear Derby has arrived, and Sunderland will look to build on their mid-week win over Stoke in order to do the double over their fierce rivals. In addition to the bragging rights, three points for the Black Cats would continue the positive momentum that's been a feature of 2014; Sunderland's unbeaten since a 1-0 New Year's Day loss to Aston Villa (assuming you're willing to overlook the fact that they were outscored 2-1 by Manchester United over 120 minutes before going on to clinch a place in the League Cup final on penalties, which seems like a reasonable thing to do) and have pulled themselves from dead last to outside of the relegation zone in that time.

There's clearly still a ways to go for Sunderland, but their performances over the past month have certainly been more confidence inspiring than what came before them. Be that as it may, they're still quite a ways behind Newcastle at the moment, and they'll need a pretty special performance to keep the momentum rolling.

West Ham United vs. Swansea City

The Boleyn Ground; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

Following West Ham's grinder of a 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Wednesday, Big Sam promptly won football by calling out Jose Mourinho on his whining about his side's tactics. Big Sam isn't going to apologize for the way his teams play, and though they're not anyone's idea of enjoyable to watch most of the time, Allardyce is an endearing enough character that it's almost enough to make you want to see them succeed. Of course, Mick McCarthy still manages to be entertaining in the Championship, so there's that.

Cardiff City vs. Norwich City

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

After a respectable start to the season, Cardiff's fallen off a cliff and is now without a Premier League win since December 14th, losing 4 in a row and 7 of their last 10. That's been enough to see them slide into the Premier League's basement, and it's beginning to appear as though their first trip to the top flight will be short lived. Norwich sit in the relatively comfortable environs of the upper-mid table, but things are so tight in the bottom half that any feeling of security is an illusion; Cardiff is a side the Canaries need to beat if they hope to have a comfortable finish to the year.

Everton vs. Aston Villa

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

Everton's 4-0 thumping at the hands of Liverpool during mid-week was a pretty emphatic reminder that as well as the first season of the Roberto Martinez era has gone, this club is still in need of some work if it's going to make the jump to the next level. It's difficult to see the Toffees continuing their Champions League push for too much longer, especially with injuries to Romelu Lukaku and other key players, but Aston Villa (improving as they may be) at home is a game that they should win handily. Villa's capable of bearing pretty much anyone on their day, but they're also capable of some shockingly bad performances and their weaknesses are exactly the things Everton are good at exploiting. Getting out of Goodison with a result would be the most compelling sign yet that Paul Lambert's side has turned the corner.

Fulham vs. Southampton

Craven Cottage; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Southampton showed the kind of spark they've been missing in recent weeks in their 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday, and with the mid-table pack beginning to creep up on them there are far worse times for them to rediscover their form. That last bit goes double for Fulham, who well and truly appear to be in serious danger of a return to the Championship. Things are so close in the bottom half that there's plenty of time for the Cottagers to get the ship righted, but it's been so long since they've put in a truly convincing performance that it's hard to be optimistic about their chances.

Hull City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

K.C. Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

One would assume that Spurs are going to be a wee bit annoyed after having their clocks cleaned by City on Wednesday, which probably isn't the best news for Hull. After spending much of the first half of the season as one of the Premier League surprising success stories, the Tigers have now lost four in a row and fallen back to the pack in a big way. Managing a result would be a major victory for Hull in a game from which they're likely not expecting anything, while a win for Spurs could potentially bring them even with Liverpool on points. Perhaps almost as importantly for Tottenham, it would help to put the City spanking behind them as quickly as possible.

Stoke City vs. Manchester United

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

Stoke's last win came on December 21st, and they're edging ever closer to the bottom three. For all of United's struggles, they should by all rights mop the floor with the Potters; if Stoke want to relieve some of the pressure on themselves, they're going to need to pick up points from unexpected games. This might be their best chance to do that this season, and that's probably not an especially encouraging thought.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool

The Hawthorns; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

When Liverpool are at their best as they were against Everton, they look unstoppable. They're not at their best as often as they'd like, but when things are clicking as they should they're as good as any team in the league.

When West Brom's defense is at its worst as it was against Aston Villa, it's an absolute horrorshow. It's at its worst far more often than they'd like.The Baggies should really hope Liverpool's form they showed in mid-week doesn't carry over into the weekend, because it could make the Hawthorns a very unpleasant place to be come Sunday.

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace

Emirates Stadium; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/9:00 AM ET

This just really doesn't seem fair. I feel like watching this game may very well indicate sociopathic tendencies.

Manchester City vs. Chelsea

Etihad Stadium; Monday, 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET

This is probably the biggest game so far this season, and anyone that watched these two sides play in mid-week will likely have City as the favorite. Chelsea clearly shouldn't be underestimated and are more than capable of going into the Etihad and winning, but City just appear to be on a different plane from the rest of the Premier League right now.

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