World Football

Premier League Week 31 Fixtures: Breaking Down the Best Matches of the Weekend

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23:  Gary Cahill of Chelsea and Olivier Giroud of Arsenal compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 23, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Simon PattersonContributor IMarch 20, 2014

Week 30 of the Premier League was one of those weekends which reminds you, if reminder is needed, of why football is so wonderful.

Upsets, dismissals, great goals and changes at both the bottom and top of the table featured over a joyous two days.

Whether it was Aston Villa's win against Chelsea, Fulham's surprise three points against Newcastle, Manchester City's resilience at Hull or Liverpool's steamrollering of Manchester United, there was something for everyone. 

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and City are all in with a realistic chance of winning the title, and there are too many teams to name in with a chance of being relegated. With eight or nine games to go, for most teams things are getting tight.

We take a look at three of the most tantalizing fixtures from Week 31 to see if there's any hope of similar chaos.

Week 31 Premier League Schedule
ChelseaArsenalSat 12:45
CardiffLiverpoolSat 15:00
EvertonSwanseaSat 15:00
HullWest BromSat 15:00
Manchester CityFulhamSat 15:00
NewcastleCrystal PalaceSat 15:00
NorwichSunderlandSat 15:00
West HamManchester UtdSat 15:00
TottenhamSouthamptonSun 13:30
Aston VillaStokeSun 16:00
BBC Sport


Chelsea vs. Arsenal

On paper, this is the most eye-catching fixture of the weekend. A win for Arsenal would move them just one point behind current leaders Chelsea. A home win for the Blues may be the beginning of the end for Arsenal's chances of lifting the trophy.

Arsenal have a small advantage in that, unlike Chelsea, they did not have a midweek game to contend.

However, this is easily tempered by the recent injury to Mesut Ozil, not to mention the ongoing problems for Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott to name but a few. For Chelsea, Ashley Cole is a doubt and they will be without the suspended Ramires and Willian who both received red cards last weekend. 

Whilst Arsenal will be buoyed by their recent away victory against Tottenham, Chelsea are likely to respond to their disappointing loss to Aston Villa with a strong performance. In recent games, Chelsea have had a considerable edge over the Gunners, winning three and drawing two of their last five meetings

 

Norwich vs. Sunderland

The prospect of Norwich playing Sunderland may not seem like the most glamorous of football matches, but as we reach the end of the season, it is one of the most important.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

Sunderland are currently three points adrift in the relegation zone but have two games in hand over their nearest rivals. Norwich, on the other hand, are four points clear of Sunderland but have already played three extra games.

Both teams have lost two and drawn one in their last three matches. A win for either team could provide the impetus needed to steer them away from spending next season in the Championship.

Both teams are struggling for goals this season so expect a gritty yet enthralling affair. Chris Hughton will be hoping that one of his misfiring strikes, probably Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, will hit the net or Robert Snodgrass will add to his respectable midfield tally of five goals this season.

Sunderland will be without Steven Fletcher who suffered an ankle injury last weekend, meaning Jozy Altidore is likely to lead the line for the Black Cats.

 

Tottenham vs. Southampton

We were tempted to pick the Everton vs. Swansea match on Saturday as our final pick. Both games are similar with all four teams capable of playing exciting, attacking football.

However, the extra pressure that has been heaped on Tim Sherwood in recent fixtures, and the revelation of Southampton's Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez just tips the balance in favour of this fixture.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Tottenham are by no means having a disastrous season. They currently lie fifth in the table, albeit with games in hand over Everton and Manchester United. In many ways they are victims of Liverpool's success. With Manchester United falling away from the so-called "top four," it was expected that Tottenham, on the back of the Bale-fuelled spending spree, would fill the void.

Unfortunately for Spurs fans, Champions League football looks set to evade them once again. But Sherwood will know that a strong end to the season and qualification for the Europa league is vital to his hopes of remaining manager next season.

Sherwood says he will be at Tottenham next year, but the rest of the season might say otherwise.

 

Premier League Table
PosTeamPGDPts
1Chelsea303366
2Liverpool294162
3Arsenal292562
4Manchester City274460
5Tottenham30-153
6Everton281251
7Manchester Utd291248
8Southampton30645
9Newcastle29-343
10Aston Villa29-634
11Stoke30-1234
12West Ham29-631
13Hull29-730
14Swansea29-529
15Norwich30-2429
16West Brom29-1028
17Crystal Palace29-1928
18Sunderland27-1625
19Cardiff30-2925
20Fulham30-3524
BBC Sport

 

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