Premier League, Week 25 preview and fixtures: First and fourth both on the line this weekend

Laurence Griffiths

Arsenal and Liverpool square off with first and fourth places in the balance, while Tottenham and Everton clash as they try to make up ground on the Reds.

Liverpool vs. Arsenal

Anfield; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

Arsenal and Liverpool are both having seasons they'd likely be thrilled with were they to end today, but unfortunately they do not. The league-leading Gunners have both Manchester City and Chelsea nipping at their heels, while Liverpool are anything but concrete in their Champions League position. The eight points that separate these two sides likely seem a bigger gap than their actual talent, but Arsenal's tremendous defense has been their driving force this season; it should be an interesting contrast against Liverpool's prolific attack, and it's not as though the other side of the game is anything approaching a weakness for either side. Not a bad way to start the weekend.

Aston Villa vs. West Ham United

Villa Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/7:00 AM ET

As opposed to this, which would have been a very bad way to start the weekend. Nicely done, schedule makers.

Chelsea vs. Newcastle

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

It is an interesting time at Newcastle, to say the least; they're a club with some obvious holes and they just lost their best player, but they've performed well enough this season to stay well above the chaotic relegation-fodder mess that is the bottom half of the table. That wasn't good enough to save Joe Kinnear, apparently, which is likely quite fan with most Newcastle fans. Still, it's interesting to see a club that was an unmitigated disaster last season and apparently still at least mildly dysfunctional manage to turn themselves around so quickly. I guess that means Alan Pardew is due some credit, but instead I'm just going to point out that Newcastle will probably get rolled by Chelsea, because I am a petty, petty man.

Crystal Palace vs. West Bromwich Albion

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

Crystal Palace are currently averaging 0.625 goals per game, and they're doing so with a defense that could only charitably be described as mediocre. And yet, somehow, they're out of the relegation zone (for the time being.) Palace is a shining example of the mediocrity of this year's Premier League, and in some ways West Brom is even moreso; there's no reason the Baggies should be struggling so mightily given the amount of time they've had to establish themselves at the top-flight level and the talent they have at hand, and yet with 24 of 38 games played they find themselves level on points with a side that is the very definition of relegation fodder. And it isn't as though West Brom is really any worse than any of the sides ahead of them; the stretch run this season is likely going to be quite exciting, but the entirety of the bottom half of the Premier League table is composed of pretty bad Premier League teams.

Norwich City vs. Manchester City

Carrow Road; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Of course at the top of the table, you have teams like Manchester City. Arsenal are the league leaders, they deserve the distinction, and they're every bit good enough to go on and win the title. But there is no team in the Premier League-and very few teams in the world-that are as absurd as City. They've had their struggles away from home this season and they're just vulnerable enough that it wouldn't be a surprise if they're unable to overtake the Gunners (or possibly Chelsea) but when they're at their best they're an almost impossibly cruel, blunt instrument of footballing madness. They're not the best team in the world by any stretch and they may not even be the best team in England, but the fact that you could make a pretty compelling case that Norwich would be better off forfeiting this game is pretty impressive.

Southampton vs. Stoke City

St Mary's Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

It's been a rough few months for Southampton, who once looked capable of mounting a real challenge for Europe but now look as though they will have to be content with finishing the season without ever coming near a relegation battle. That's still impressive growth for the Saints, and though the season hasn't been without it's turmoil, it's clear things are moving in the right direction. It's a different story with Stoke, who haven't exactly regressed under Mark Hughes, but who have become significantly less interesting than they were under Tony Pulis. I mean, it's probably better to be hated than to be ignored, right? Along with Aston Villa, Swansea, Sunderland, Norwich and West Brom, Stoke are in the not-so-dignified zone of "teams that will probably be okay, but aren't out of the woods yet," and that's not a great place to be. They're likely going to be geared up for a grinder at St. Mary's, because we've reached the stage of the season where Every Point Counts.

Sunderland vs. Hull City

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

The problem with having so many mediocre-at-best teams in the Premier League is that you're pretty likely to end up with a game such as this one; it would be too kind to Sunderland and too harsh on Hull City to say that these two sides are headed in opposite directions, when in reality a lot of Sunderland's poor luck early on has begun to even out while the Tigers have endured the same fate with less favorable results. In the end, however, these are two pretty bad teams that aren't going to be much fun to watch play one another, but given the state of the table's bottom half that should be much of a surprise to anyone.

Swansea City vs. Cardiff City

Liberty; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET

Ordinarily all of the same cynical whining on display above would apply to these two sides, but they are rivals! Which in practice likely means even more conservative, physical play, but the crowd will be much louder and more ornery, so this is a must-watch.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

White Hart Lane; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

Spurs are going to need all the help they can get in order to push their way into the top four, and this is an increasingly rare opportunity to help themselves; their negative goal difference means there's still work to do in order to crack the Champions League places, but with a win and a favorable outcome (which in this case means an Arsenal win, and fans having to root for a win for their most bitter rivals is one of the absolute greatest things in sports) Spurs could be level on points with 4th-placed Liverpool. Everton could actually go ahead of Liverpool with three points, but that would involve their greatest rivals losing, and that's not nearly as funny in terms of narrative.

Manchester United vs. Fulham

Old Trafford; Monday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Fulham is the worst team in the Premier League by some margin, and it honestly wouldn't be that much of a shock if they were able to pick up a result against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Patience is all well and good, but sometimes you've just got to admit that you've picked the wrong stock and get out while you still can.

(This is a David Moyes joke, but it also works because that's the same advice I'd give to anyone that's purchased actual stock in Manchester United.)

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