BPL Preview, Predictions: United look to continue climb, Liverpool host Arsenal, more

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Don’t look now, but Manchester United are making their long-awaited comeback.

Louis van Gaal finally seems to have a rhythm going, leading the Red Devils towards a dominating six-match winning streak heading into this weekend’s encounter against Aston Villa.

Paul Lambert’s men will be looking to straighten the ship and reclaim the form that led them towards a five match unbeaten streak; a run that was ruined by West Brom on the road last week.  Recent history won’t be the only prevailing concern as Villa face an opponent they have only beaten once in 37 Premier League encounters.

As if that wasn’t enough , health is also an issue for Villa, with eight players out including former United midfielder Tom Cleverley, Allan Hutton, Kieran Richardson, Joe Cole and more.

On the other end, United will be bolstered by the returning Argentines Angel Di Maria and Marcos Rojo, but continue to miss Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling.

A positive result won’t cause United to jump past Manchester City.  The gap stands at five points. However, with each of the top three teams playing mid-to-lower level sides, the Red Devils will look to keep pace and boost their campaign with a seventh straight victory.

Prediction: 2-1 United

AROUND THE PREM

City, Chelsea vie for first: With Chelsea taking on Stoke this Monday, Manchester City have the chance to take a stake of the top of the table — at least for two days.

Their opponents, Crystal Palace, open the weekend of BPL fixtures at the Etihad.  City have suffered all of one defeat at home this season while Palace has achieved only one victory in eight road encounters.

Neil Warnock’s men sit just one point outside of the relegation zone, riding a single win over their past ten Premier League matches.  That win, however, came against Liverpool, proving the minnow’s might when it comes to facing large scale opponents (the other two wins came against floundering Everton and bottom dweller Leicester).

Jose Angel Pozo will be asked to carry the strikers for a second straight match as City continues to deal with the losses of Sergio Aguero (knee), Edin Dzeko (calf) and Stevan Jovetic (hamstring).  Vincent Kompany will be another key loss for City as well.  Marouane Chamakh and Joe Ledley continue to be out of the Palace lineup, evening out losses for both sides.

Stoke managed a draw against Palace last week, building a modest two match unbeaten streak that has landed them 12th in the table.  Chelsea answered their embarrassing loss to Newcastle with a decisive win over Hull at Stamford Bridge.  The Britannia has not been kind to Stoke, suffering three losses in seven home matches.  It won’t get any easier with Chelsea in town.

Predictions: City 1-0 Palace, Chelsea 1-1 Stoke

Burnley Revival?  After succumbing towards relegation for the majority of the season, Burnley find themselves just outside of the zone, quietly putting together a run up the table.

That can quickly change as they face Tottenham at White Hart Lane.  Mauricio Pochettino’s men are seventh in the table, but have not been as strong at home.  Meanwhile, Burnley have put their slow start in the past with an impressive six match run including three wins, two draws and a single loss.

Danny Ings has propelled much of the team’s revival, picking up his Championship form on the Premiership platform.  His output will be vital for this road encounter, but perhaps too little to hold back a strong, healthy Spurs side.

Prediction: 2-0 Tottenham

Where Will The Saints Settle?  Once the Cinderella story of the Premier League, Southampton have succumbed to a four-match losing streak, putting them in dangerous position to lose a top five spot.

Their opponents are an equally confounding bunch.  A floundering Everton have struggled all season long to string together positive results, landing them tenth in the table.

St. Mary’s has been good to the Saints this season, and it will have to be again.  Southampton are wrought with injuries, forcing boss Ronald Koeman to consider youth options ahead of the match.  Everton will be boosted by the return of Gareth Barry, but are still without Leon Osman, Kevin Mirallas and Tony Hibbert.

Prediction: Everton 1-0 Southampton

Match of the Week – Liverpool host Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers and his Reds continue to struggle to answer for goals in the wake of Luis Suarez departure. Those scoring woes culminated in a disastrous 3-0 loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford last week.  

Arsenal, meanwhile, enter the fray after a convincing win over Newcastle.

Both teams are heading in opposite directions and will be equally motivated to find the right result.  For Liverpool, that will be a heavy ask, even as they play to the home crowd.  The Merseysiders have historically been weak against the Gunners, barring a 5-1 result earlier this year.  Arsenal, meanwhile, seek consistency, and perhaps the beginning of a true unbeaten run.

To do that, the Gunners will have to find answers from their bench to compensate for a hobbled roster, while leaning heavily on the work of Alexis Sanchez to expose a historically weak Liverpool back line.

Prediction: 1-1