The Gunners face Newcastle in the evening hoping to continue their recent bright form, while the Hammers travel to the Madejski Stadium hoping to avenge last season’s 3-0 defeat which ended with the visitors down to ten men.
The action on Saturday kicks off at lunchtime when Sunderland host a Tottenham side that are warm favourites to claim the points at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland v Tottenham 12.45
Things are finally starting to look up for Sunderland this season after landing three wins from their last four games, something which has propelled the Black Cats well away from the relegation zone and actually above arch-rivals Newcastle United.
Martin O’Neill was under real pressure a few weeks ago although the Boxing Day win over Manchester City was a real confidence-booster and the manager would love to go into the New Year off the back of another win against high-flying opponents.
Sunderland are a 13/5 chance (Blue Square free bets) to win this game and they are looking for a consecutive hat-trick of home victories after beating Reading and Sunderland. It certainly looks a meaty price considering O’Neill is making his team hard to beat at the Stadium of Light.
Nevertheless, Spurs are enjoying a rich vein of form and claimed an important win at Villa Park on Boxing Day which saw the defence once again impress and keep the home team quiet for most of the game.
Andre Villas-Boas is slowly working his magic at White Hart Lane and odds of 6/5 (BetVictor free bets) are on offer that the visitors collect another win in their quest for a top four place in the Premier League.
That man Gareth Bale is back doing what he does best, namely tormenting opposition defences and scoring plenty of goals. He’s an 8/1 chance to score the first goal of this game and his trickery could be the difference between the two teams.
Aston Villa v Wigan 15.00
This very much looks like a relegation six-pointer between teams that both lost on Boxing Day, with Wigan sitting 18th in the table and that is largely down to the lack of points accrued by basement boys Reading and QPR.
At least Roberto Martinez can be confident that finishing above one other team in the Premier League might keep them safe for another season and that side could be the Villans, who were whipped 8-0 at Stamford Bridge before a heavy home defeat at the hands of Tottenham.
Wigan are a 14/5 (Stan James free bets) to claim an important win and they actually deserved a draw at Goodison Park in their last game, with a clear penalty not being awarded when losing 1-0 before Athletic scored a late goal to make things interesting against the Toffees.
As for Villa, it did appear that they had turned a corner when winning 3-1 at Anfield although eleven goals have now been shipped in two games and Paul Lambert’s young team are struggling to keep things together at a critical stage of the season.
Even so, this is an attractive fixture for them after being mauled by two London heavyweights and the bookies offer no bigger than 11/10 about the Villans who did actually look threatening against Tottenham before the wheels started to come off.
Christian Benteke is a master marksman and will look to make amends for that misplaced pass which led to Spurs’ second on Boxing Day, with the Belgian an 11/2 chance to score the first goal of this contest.
Fulham v Swansea 15.00
Martin Jol is having a difficult time at Craven Cottage, with his team failing to become the seventh side to beat Southampton at home on Boxing Day after Dimitar Berbatov’s opener had been cancelled out by Rickie Lambert’s penalty.
After a bright start to the campaign, Fulham are stuttering at exactly the wrong time and the presence of Reading and QPR at the foot of the table with ten points apiece is the only reason why the Cottagers aren’t yet immersed in a relegation battle.
Jol knows the importance of Saturday’s fixture against an unpredictable Swansea team who recently won at the Emirates and odds of 6/5 (Blue Square bookmaker) are available that the Dutchman is smiling after his team collect all three points.
Berbatov finally ended a mini-drought by breaking the deadlock against the Saints and he is the 6/1 favourite to score first with Coral, even if his manager wants more from the Bulgarian. The forward’s lazy style often sees him come in for criticism although he could also be the difference between the two sides.
The same applies to Michu, City’s £2m man who could potentially miss this game with a knock although the Spaniard has been a revelation since arriving at the Liberty Stadium. The Welsh side are an attractive bet at 11/4 to win this game considering the home side are stuttering at the moment.
Manchester United v West Brom 15.00
The Red Devils are now seven points clear at the top of the Premier League despite the fact they have conceded 28 goals during their 19 matches played. Their latest defensive abomination was against Newcastle where United went behind on three occasions before winning by a 4-3 scoreline.
Quite whether Sir Alex Ferguson will sort the defence any time soon remains to be seen, although Manchester United have successfully outscored the opposition for half the season and established a sizeable gap at the top of the table.
The Premier League leaders are no bigger than 3/10 (BetVictor free bets) to torment the bookies again by obliging with a win and a victory could well be achieved after falling behind which has become something of a habit for United.
Robin van Persie is one reason why the team are able to score goals at such a high ratio and the Dutchman has helped his team find the net on 48 occasions this season and might well start this encounter despite Ferguson looking to give his master marksman a rest at some stage.
RVP is a 3/1 chance to score first, with Wayne Rooney’s absence meaning that Javier Hernandez is likely to continue in attack and the Mexican rarely lets Ferguson down. Chicharito always seems to take the chance that comes his way and he’s 4/1 to break the deadlock.
West Brom have recovered from a three-match losing run to register victories against Norwich City and QPR, with the Baggies having now reached the end of 2012 with enough points not to care about the possibility of a relegation battle.
The visitors are an 11/1 chance (Sportingbet) to claim the points from this match and they will fancy getting at a United defence which seems to be leaking goals on a regular basis, having won three times on the road this season.
Despite a glut of recent goals, the bookies offer 33/1 about Patrice Evra scoring the first goal of the game and that’s an interesting price considering he has scored in both of his last games.
Norwich v Manchester City 15.00
Things are starting to look a bit grim for Roberto Mancini, whose Manchester City team are out of the Champions League and continue to fall further behind rivals United at the top of the Premier League.
A last-gasp winner against Reading masked over the fact that the Citizens were short of scoring ideas against the Royals and that was borne out after a 1-0 reverse at the Stadium of Light which means that the champions really need to go and win at Carrow Road.
The bookies make City a best price 3/5 (BetVictor free bets) to claim victory in this match, with Mancini potentially on borrowed time unless his team can string some results together. Scoring goals shouldn’t really be a problem for a team blessed with quality attacking players but Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez aren’t doing the business.
Perhaps Edin Dzeko is the man to be entrusted with the goals for this match and the Bosnian is a 5/1 chance (Coral bookmaker) to break the deadlock against a Canaries side that were enjoying a long unbeaten run before losing at The Hawthorns and then being turned over at home to Chelsea.
Chris Hughton’s side might still draw confidence from the fact that they have beaten Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham at home this term, as well as the fact that Sunderland and Reading have kept City at bay in the last two matches.
Paddy Power offer 11/2 about a Norwich win and they do boast an impressive ratio of victories at Carrow Road, having triumphed in five of their nine games on home soil. Robert Snodgrass has shown recently how lethal he can be from set pieces and Ladbrokes are 12/1 about the winger scoring first in this match.
Reading v West Ham 15.00
The Royals have suddenly discovered how to defend. After shipping 36 goals in their first 17 Premier League matches of the season, Brian McDermott’s team have battened down the hatches and nearly claimed a point at the Etihad Stadium before drawing 0-0 with Swansea on Boxing Day.
While goalless draws are not going to help Reading escape relegation this season, they are a defensive platform upon which to build and they might have claimed all three points against the Swans after Adam Le Fondre nearly scored towards the end of the game.
They now face opponents that they beat home and away last term, with the bookies offering a tempting 7/4 (BetVictor bookmaker) that the Berkshire side can enjoy their second win of the season in the Premier League, even if West Ham have had more preparation for the match.
Indeed, there’s a danger that missing the Boxing Day fixture at the Emirates thanks to industrial action might have allowed the Hammers players to have put their feet up and eaten too many chocolates, although Sam Allardyce will hope they are nice and fresh for the battle ahead.
The visitors know that a victory in this game would provide a big points cushion away from the relegation zone, especially with Reading and QPR on ten points, and you can get odds of 7/4 (Betfred) that West Ham are seeing in the New Year with a maximum haul.
Stoke City v Southampton 15.00
The Potters continue to deceive the odds and demonstrate that they are a permanent fixture in the top half of the Premier League who are never over-awed by their opponents, irrespective of where they are in the table.
Against Liverpool on Boxing Day, Stoke demonstrated their ability to recover from an early setback to compete against a team with lots of international players and that experience should stand them well against a Southampton side who have been weak on the road this term.
Tony Pulis’ side look a very decent bet at 5/6 to claim victory in this match considering they are unbeaten at the Britannia Stadium all season, while they also boast a mean defensive record which might have looked even better if Ryan Shawcross hadn’t hauled down Luis Suarez at the start of the Boxing Day clash.
Kenwyne Jones is keeping Peter Crouch out of the team at the moment and the former Sunderland man is starting to show signs of his best form, having scored against Liverpool and proving a handful for Messrs Skrtel and Agger.
The striker is a 6/1 chance to score first and 7/1 is available that Jon Walters breaks the deadlock, with the midfielder always looking to bustle forward and get amongst the goals. Shawcross is suspended for the game, although Robert Huth always offers scoring chances.
As for the Saints, they will consider a point from this fixture as a great result, having managed the same outcome at Craven Cottage in their last game thanks to a Rickie Lambert penalty.
Could they become the first team to win at the Brit this season? Blue Square go 15/4 about an away win and stranger things have happened, although you have to wonder how Southampton can stand up defensively and be counted against a Stoke team who are very streetwise in the Premier League and more than capable of downing their opponents.
Arsenal v Newcastle United 17.30
Crestfallen is one way of describing the Newcastle side who went and took the game to Manchester United on Boxing Day only to be beaten 4-3 at Old Trafford having three times gone into the lead.
The Magpies produced a quite magnificent attacking performance which saw them create numerous scoring chances before being pegged back and eventually overhauled by the final whistle.
It means that the Tyneside club are just five points above the relegation zone at the halfway stage of the season and Alan Pardew will hope his team can defend better against an Arsenal side that had a timely rest on Boxing Day and will be looking to continue some strong recent form which sees them matching Everton and Tottenham stride-for-stride.
Newcastle are a 13/2 chance (bet365 £200 free bets) to win at the Emirates, with the manager having witnessed Papiss Cisse get back on the scoresheet on Boxing Day and the hope will now be that the Senegal striker embarks on the sort of run that helped United to such a lofty position last season.
The Gunners are a stand-out 4/7 (Stan James) to win this Saturday evening match after enjoying a Christmas break of sorts, although it took a Mikel Arteta penalty to settle the difference between themselves and Wigan at the DW Stadium.
On the basis of how many penalties Arsenal are enjoying, Mikel Arteta might not be a bad bet to score first at 11/1 considering the Spaniard seems to stroke home most spot kicks with consummate ease.
The bookies are anticipating plenty of goals being scored and this definitely looks like a match to add to the Both Teams to Score coupon, while Over 2.5 Goals can be backed at 4/6.