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Title race hotting up in the new year


Manchester City v Blackpool
Saturday January 1 - 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 3-1
Key players:  Carlos Tevez & DJ Campbell

All conquering Blackpool head to title challengers Manchester City looking for another upset.
Ian Holloway’s side are thriving on their underdog status and even though their players don’t carry lofty price tags, they make up for it with guts and determination. If the Tangerines are to get anything out of this game they’ll need top scorer DJ Campbell to continue his fine form.
City are starting to look like real contenders and as long as they can keep their cool they should have too much ammunition for Blackpool. After being rested on Tuesday, a refreshed Carlos Tevez should return to the side and fire City to another vital three points.

Tottenham Hotspur v Fulham
Saturday January 1 - 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-0
Key players:  Luka Modric & David Stockdale

Fulham make the short trip across London to play an in form Tottenham.
Fulham’s victory over Stoke has given Mark Hughes some breathing space, but unless the Welshman can help his team find some consistency they are set to struggle for the remainder of the season. With Mark Schwarzer unavailable, backup keeper David Stockdale will be thrown into centre stage.
Tottenham should have too much class and pace for an ordinary Fulham outfit. As long as they can play with a high tempo, Fulham should be chasing shadows. Luka Modric has become Spurs’ Cesc Fabregas and he should orchestrate another Tottenham win.

West Brom v Manchester United
Saturday January 1 - 7:45pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-2
Key players:  Peter Odemwingie & Nani

West Brom host Manchester United keen to distance themselves from the relegation zone.
The Baggies are in danger of losing three on the trot and they know United will be an almighty test. They’ve been playing some decent stuff but they’ve been wasteful in front of goal and need Peter Odemwingie to rediscover his touch..
Sir Alex’s team continue to draw too many games on the road and after United threw away two points on Tuesday night, the boss will demand a victory. United will be boosted by the return of Nani whose lightening pace on the break should tip the tie towards a Manchester victory

Stoke City v Everton
Saturday January 1 - 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-1
Key players:  Matthew Etherington & Mikel Arteta

Stoke entertain Everton looking to find some consistency.
Tony Pulis’ side were humbled at home by Fulham last time out and they’ll want to prove that they can rise above mid-table mediocrity. As usual, Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant will be Stoke’s main weapons from out on the flanks.
Everton have been struggling to find goals and with Tim Cahill away on international duty, their woes in the box are set to continue. They’ll need their playmaker supreme Mikel Arteta to step up and galvanise another battling performance.

Sunderland v Blackburn Rovers
Saturday January 1 - 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-1
Key players:  Darren Bent & Mame Diouf

Blackburn travel to Sunderland hoping for a second win on the road in a week.
Rovers fought hard to overcome the Baggies on Tuesday and caretaker boss Steve Kean will be determined that his side keep improving. With Nikola Kalinic suspended, Blackburn’s goal scoring duties will be firmly placed on the talented Mame Diouf.
Sunderland need to banish the bad memories of Blackpool and get back to winning ways quickly. Darren Bent has been unusually quiet lately and I predict Steve Bruce’s goal machine will rediscover his form and send the Stadium of Light faithful home with three points.

Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers
Saturday January 1 - 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-1
Key players:  Steven Gerrard & Martin Petrov

Bolton head to Anfield to play a Liverpool team eager to get themselves back into European contention.
Bolton are certainly no pushovers and Owen Coyle has assembled a decent footballing side. With Lee Chung-Yong playing in the Asian Cup, Bolton will look to Martin Petrov to be their creative inspiration.
Liverpool have badly missed their captain Steven Gerrard and his inclusion should be a huge lift for a side still finding its feet under the guidance of Roy Hodgson. The Red’s won’t have this match all their own way, but with home advantage and a greater cutting edge, they should bring some New Year cheer to their disheartened supporters.

West Ham United  v Wolves
Saturday January 1 - 10pm
Dring’s prediction: 3-2
Key players:  Charlton Cole & Matthew Jarvis

West Ham v Wolves is this weekend’s six pointer as the two chief relegation candidates go head to head.
Wolves’ away form is shocking and Mick McCarthy knows his side need to get something out of this match. They’ll need to tighten things up at the back and hope star player Matthew Jarvis can do some damage on the counter attack.
West Ham have started picking up points, but they still don’t look convincing. The Hammers will need the Upton Park masses to be their twelfth man and pray Charlton Cole can add the finishing gloss to their game, which should yield a priceless win to take them out of the relegation zone

Birmingham City v Arsenal
Sunday January 2 - 12:30am
Dring’s prediction: 3-1
Key players:  Ben Foster & Samri Nasri

Title contenders Arsenal head to Birmingham ready to prove their credentials.
Birmingham’s last gasp equaliser against Manchester United proved that  they have real fighting qualities, but it only painted over their frailties going forwards. Ben Foster will be the Blue’s key man as the England keeper will need to be at this best to keep out a ferocious Arsenal.
The Gunners must win to keep pace with Manchester United and as long as they stay patient, they should pick apart a rigid Birmingham line up. When games are tight, the Gunners have the luxury of match winners such as Samri Nasri in their ranks who create moments of brilliance out of nothing.

Chelsea v Aston Villa
Sunday January 2 - 8:30pm
Dring’s prediction: 3-0
Key players:  Frank Lampard & Stiliyan Petrov

A free falling Aston Villa team have the daunting task of playing the champions at Stamford Bridge.
Gerard Houiller is a man under immense pressure and his side need to start showing they have the stomach for battle. Captain Stiliyan Petrov might just be back from injury but the experienced playmaker needs to rally his younger teammates.
Chelsea can’t afford anymore slip ups and I don’t expect Ancolotti’s men to drop points against a poor Villa side. Frank Lampard’s return from the treatment room is like a new star signing, and the goal scoring midfielder’s runs should be too much for Aston Villa.

Wigan Athletic v Newcastle United
Sunday January 2 - 11pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-1
Key players:  Hugo Rodallega & Andy Carroll

Wigan welcome a Newcastle looking to bounce back after successive defeats. Newcastle have started to rely heavily on striker Andy Carroll and their attacking play has become very one dimensional. With Charles N’Zogbia needlessly suspended, top scorer Hugo Rodallega will be Wigan’s main threat in a game that looks evenly balanced.



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