After a brief hiatus for the Third Round of the FA Cup last week the Premier League returns with five top-flight matches taking place across Saturday.
There’s plenty at stake at the top and bottom of the table as the action gets underway with the first Black Country derby for almost nine years as struggling West Brom visit Molineux to face a Wolves side without a win in five.
The two 3pm games see in-form West Ham host a resurgent Burnley while Leeds will be looking to put their FA Cup humiliation against Crawley Town behind them when they face Brighton at Elland Road.
Chelsea will be desperate for all three points when they host West London neighbours Fulham in order to keep their slim title hopes alive while Scott Parker will be looking to build on four draws in his last four Premier League outings.
Finally, the late game sees Southampton, who toppled Liverpool last time out, travel to Leicester City, who are quietly going about mounting their own challenge knowing that victory will keep them on the heels of the leaders.
Wolves v West Brom 12:30
For the first time in almost nine years, Wolverhampton Wanderers will play West Bromwich Albion in the Black Country derby when the two meet on Saturday.
Nuno Espírito Santo’s side head to Molineux looking to get back to winning ways having not tasted victory in five games since they beat Chelsea back on December 15.
Since then they have lost to Burnley and Spurs while suffering defeats to Manchester United and Everton in their last fixture – winning just three of their eight home games this season.
Sam Allardyce’s reign at West Brom showed early promise with a brave 1-1 draw at Liverpool, but things have gone badly wrong since then Albion were crushed 5-0 on home turf by Leeds before than being thumped 4-0 by Arsenal at The Hawthorns before being dumped-out by Blackpool in the FA Cup.
If the Baggies are looking for positives though, they will be encouraged by the fact that the last time these two met in the Premier League, they hammered their near rivals 5-1 at this very ground.
West Ham v Burnley 15:00
David Moyes’ West Ham have been another of the Premier League’s surprise packages this season with the Hammers only tasting defeat to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in their last 15 top-flight fixtures.
Just one defeat in their last five has seen the Irons establish themselves in the top-10 of the Premier League while their win over Stockport in the FA Cup on Monday set-up a meeting with Liverpool or Manchester United in the next round.
As for hosts Burnley, they might not have been able to stop Manchester United from going top of the table at Turf Moor on Tuesday but were competitive throughout that 1-0 defeat.
Prior to that loss, Sean Dyche’s side had picked up four wins and three draws from their previous nine league games, only losing away to Manchester City and Leeds.
What’s more, striker Chris Wood has haunted West Ham in the past, scoring in five of the last six meetings between these two sides.
Leeds v Brighton 15:00
Leeds United return to top-flight action against Brighton & Hove Albion this weekend, following a shock 3-0 defeat in the FA Cup third round against Crawley Town on Sunday.
Billed as the entertainers before the season, Marcelo Bielsa’s side haven’t disappointed, scoring 13 and conceding 11 in their last five Premier League matches.
But despite this somewhat erratic form, three wins from their last five matches has seen Leeds avoid the relegation problems which were predicted by many and now have 23 points from 17 fixtures meaning they are currently in 12th position.
Brighton’s defeat to Manchester City in midweek leaves them in a perilous position and now just four points off the relegation places with their last Premier League win coming back on November 21 against Aston Villa.
Since then they have suffered an alarming slump in form with four defeats and five draws in their subsequent nine fixtures and will be looking over their shoulders anxiously withFulham having played two games fewer.
Fulham v Chelsea 17:30
Talk of Chelsea challenging for the title has faded somewhat following a run of four defeats in six league games but, to be fair, the first three came away at Everton, Wolves and Arsenal, while losing at home to Manchester City is no disgrace.
In between, the Blues secured a convincing 3-0 success versus West Ham and drew 1-1 with Aston Villa and Frank Lampard will be keen to cling onto the coat-tails of the leaders with a win over West London neighbours Fulham.
But the Cottagers have enjoyed something of a revival in the Premier League of late having once looked a certainty for relegation.
Fulham are unbeaten in their last five games having drawn five in a row, including a 1-1 stalemate with Liverpool at this venue and another 1-1 at Spurs on Wednesday.
However, Scott Parker’s worries might just be in the goalscoring department as, despite avoiding defeat in their last five league outings, Fulham have only found the net twice in 450 minutes of football.
Leicester v Southampton 20:00
Just one defeat in their last five Premier League games has seen Leicester City cement their place in the Champions League qualifaction picture as they look to improve on their fifth-place finish last season.
A home defeat to Everton looked to have derailed their title hopes back in December, but since then Brendan Rodgers’ side have bounced back to win two and draw two of their last four, including a victory at Newcastle in their last fixture.
As for Southampton, after an emotional 1-0 home win over Liverpool, hanging on bravely after a second-minute strike by Danny Ings, they enjoyed a week off following the postponement of their FA Cup Third Round tie with Shrewsbury.
A home loss to Manchester City is the only defeat in their last five Premier League games and when these two last met at the King Power Stadium almost exactly a year to the day, the Saints came away with all three points with goals from Armstrong and ings securing a 2-1 win.
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