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Premier League preview 02nd and 03rd February 2013

Chris Samba could make his QPR debut in their crucial home game against Norwich on Saturday

Chris Samba could make his QPR debut in their crucial home game against Norwich on Saturday

This weekend’s Premier League programme kick-offs on Saturday lunchtime at Loftus Road, where rock-bottom QPR host Norwich.

Rangers were one of the busiest clubs on transfer deadline day, bringing in Christopher Samba, Jermaine Jenas and Andros Townsend to reinforce their squad.

The Hoops are in desperate need of points, as they are now four points away from Premier League safety.

The visitors are just seven points clear of the relegation zone, after a run of seven games without a top flight victory. The Canaries will be hoping that run ends at Loftus Road.

The late kick-off sees Manchester United visiting Fulham’s Craven Cottage. The league leaders have the chance to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to ten points. United scraped a 2-1 victory against Southampton in their last Premier League outing, but it was an unconvincing victory.

Fulham’s form has improved slightly in recent games, and the Cottagers defeated West Ham 3-1 on Wednesday night to move Fulham eight points clear of the drop zone. Fulham know that they are up against it though, as Manchester United have beaten Fulham in five out of the last six encounters between the two sides.

Chelsea managed to blow a two goal lead at Reading in midweek to draw 2-2. The Blues now face a trip to Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’s team have been inconsistent in recent games, but will be hoping that they can hit top form again in the north east.

The home side clinched a vital 2-1 victory at fellow strugglers Aston Villa on Tuesday night. The victory moved the Magpies four points clear of the drop zone, but more importantly the win may give the home side a vital injection of confidence.

Arsenal host Stoke at the Emirates Stadium looking to gain ground on fourth place Tottenham, who are four points ahead of the Gunners. The home side came back from two goals down to draw with Liverpool 2-2 on Wednesday, but need to start to find consistency in their performances.

Full-back Kieran Gibbs is out for up to six weeks after coming off against Liverpool and maybe replaced by new signing Nacho Monreal at left-back.

The visitors are on a terrible run of form and haven’t claimed a victory for five games. However, Tony Pulis’ side have a habit of upsetting the big boys and the Potters will hope to do so again at the Emirates.

Stoke completed the double signing of Jack Butland and Brek Shea on transfer deadline day, but neither will be available for this clash.

Everton will be looking to move into the top four with a win over out-of-form Aston Villa at Goodison Park. The Toffee’s defeated West Brom 2-1 in their last Premier League outing, with full-back Leighton Baines scoring a brace.

David Moyes side are currently three points clear of sixth place Arsenal and six points clear of seventh place Liverpool.

The visitors are another top flight side on a poor run of form. Villa lost their crucial bottom of the table clash with Newcastle 2-1 on Tuesday night and have dropped down to second from bottom in the Premier League table.

Aston Villa have brought in two midfielders in the shape of Yacouba Sylla and Simon Hawkins, who according to boss Paul Lambert will be thrown straight into action and could make their debut in this clash.

Elsewhere, there is a relegation six-pointer at the DW Stadium, where Wigan host Southampton. The hosts go into the game third from bottom in the Premier League, after drawing 2-2 at Stoke on Tuesday night. Roberto Martinez’s side are only in the relegation zone on goal difference though.

Wigan still have a number of games left to play against their relegation rivals starting with the visit of the Saints on Saturday.

Southampton are just three points clear of the drop zone, after losing 2-1 rather unluckily at Manchester United on Wednesday night. That loss at the league leaders was their only defeat in seven games.

Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping his side puts in a similar performance to the one at Old Trafford on Wednesday, as defeat could pull the Saints back into the drop zone.

Reading host Sunderland at the Madejski Stadium looking to move further clear of the relegation zone. The Royals moved out of the bottom three with that 2-2 draw against Chelsea in midweek and are unbeaten in five matches all competitions, claiming four victories and one draw.

Super-sub Adam Le Fondre will be hoping to start this one, but will face competition for his place from new signing Nick Blackman for that lone striking berth.

Sunderland meanwhile drew 0-0 with Swansea on Tuesday night and are sitting comfortably in midtable after a decent run of form. Martin O’Neill completed the signing of striker Danny Graham from Swansea on Thursday and the former-Middlesbrough star could make his debut in this clash.

West Ham host Swansea at the Boleyn Ground hoping to halt their current slump in form. The Irons have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 games and may now be looking nervously over their shoulders. Sam Allardyce’s men are still seven points clear of the drop zone, but a win could lift the Hammers back into the top half of the table.

The Swans meanwhile have been on a good run of form recently and are unbeaten his year in the top flight. Michael Laudrup’s team are sitting eighth in the Premier League table and could still realistically challenge for the top six spots.

On Sunday, Tottenham visit out-of-form West Brom in the early kick-off. The home side have picked up just a solidary point from their last five Premier League outings and have dropped down the table to ninth.

The Baggies are still comfortably in midtable, but if they are to challenge for the European spots they need to start winning games again and Tottenham won’t be an easy team to beat.

The visitors have drawn their last three Premier League games and could start this game in fifth position, should Everton defeat Villa at Goodison Park. Spurs are in desperate need of a victory in that chase for the Champions League spots.

Spurs didn’t sign a striker on deadline day, but at least have the boost of striker Jermain Defoe’s return to fitness.

In the other game of the day Manchester City host Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in a must win game for the Citizens. City drew 0-0 at bottom of the table QPR last time, but need a victory in this one to keep pace with arch-rivals Manchester United in the title race.

City sold mercurial striker Mario Balotelli on transfer deadline day, but boss Roberto Mancini has already stated that he is happy with his attacking options.

Liverpool have been on a decent run of form of late and have given themselves a chance of making those European places with a surge up the table in recent months. They will see their 2-2 draw as a missed opportunity, as the Reds were two goals up at one point.

Liverpool could give a debut to Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who joined from Italian giants Inter earlier this week.

Can Manchester United extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table this weekend?

Sat 2 February, 2013
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