There are some big matches in the Premier League this weekend as Man City host Chelsea at the Etihad, Liverpool host Brentford and Manchester United travel to Aston Villa.
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Paul Merson backed his former club Arsenal to beat Sunday’s north London derby against arch-rivals Tottenham.
Arsenal sit one place and two points ahead of Tottenham heading into the encounter, with both sides given just a few days to prepare after the Carabao Cup midweek.
Mikel Arteta is facing a minor midfield crisis after Granit Xhaka was sent off in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Thursday, leaving the Arsenal boss without many options in midfield – and the match could be called off.
Meanwhile, Antonio Conte will want to see better performances from his side after two defeats to Chelsea, which shattered a poor first-league performance against Morecambe in the FA Cup.
But with everything he plays for, Merson still feels Arsenal will have enough to earn the three points and widen the gap.
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“This is a huge game, I’ve played enough of it to know that,” the expert told Subway. “I think the tide has shifted a little bit this season, so I would imagine Arsenal winning this season.”
Merson cited Son Heung-min’s absence as one of the reasons for his confidence in playing the match, and he predicted a 2-1 score.
There is also a major title fight in store this weekend as Manchester City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad in a game the Blues must win.
City are currently 10 points ahead of the table and showing few signs of slowing down.
“If Chelsea don’t win, they will be out of the Premier League title race,” Merson claimed. “To say that mid-January is not good for them, but it is the reality of the situation,” he added.
He believes that will be a possibility on Saturday, as he led City to a 2-1 draw.
Liverpool also need to collect three points if they are to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s men, but they face a tough showdown at home with Brentford.
The Reds were also in the Carabao Cup on Thursday and struggled to break Arsenal without key duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, both away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
But the Bees were in a patchy state and Mers thought it could be a “wake-up call” for Thomas Frank’s men as they head to Anfield, where he backed the hosts to a 3-0 win.
Manchester United face another big test amid their ongoing crisis and meet Aston Villa for the second time in a week after beating Steven Gerrard’s side 1-0 in the FA Cup third round meeting on Monday.
Merson does not envision United’s chances on the pitch, and admitted he was “worried” about the Red Devils’ chances of fourth.
Predicting Saturday’s game, he guided Villa to a 3-1 win and said: “Manchester United are currently all over the place and I’ve been calling this for a long time.
“I know they’ve won some games under Ralf Rangnick but they’ve been poor, so I don’t see them beating Aston Villa in the Premier League this weekend.”
Paul Merson predictions for the Premier League
Aston Villa 3-1 Man United
Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal
West Ham 3-1 Leeds United
Liverpool 3-0 Brentford
Newcastle 1-1 Watford
Man City 2-1 Chelsea
Norwich 2-1 Everton
Wolverhampton 2-1 Southampton
Brighton 2-2 Crystal Palace