On one hand, they are just six points adrift of third-place Manchester United — something that nobody would have expected. On the other hand, they are just six points clear of the relegation zone, an almost impossible feat for a fifth-place team.
The situation is no different for seventh-place Tottenham — except for that they have to head to The Emirates to face an in-form Arsenal squad on Saturday. It'll be a tough task for Harry Redknapp's bunch, but as they face the prospect of drifting farther from defending their top-four position, expect Spurs to make a statement.
Further to the North, Liverpool will be looking for a season-changing win of its own. While beating West Ham at home usually wouldn't be such, doing so without their captain makes it a totally different story. Even without Steven Gerrard, the Reds should have too much for the Hammers. The only question that remains is who will step up in his place to be the hero at Anfield.
Look for Liverpool to be back in the top half of the table after the weekend.
Tottenham Hotspur over Arsenal at The Emirates
Though Spurs haven't been poor of late, they've managed to slip all the way down to seventh in the table and have lost their first-choice defensive midfielder to boot. Top-four teams seize opportunities for statement wins. They need to do so at the Emirates — which hasn't been an impossible place to win in 2010.
Chelsea over Birmingham at St. Andrews
Birmingham may have held Chelsea 0-0 at St. Andrews last December, but you wouldn't want to be Barcelona at Nou Camp playing Chelsea after a 3-0 home loss — terrible timing for a team falling into the relegation battle. Even so, Chelsea's title worries are in legitimate jeopardy given their current form and dire injury situation.
Blackpool and Wolves draw at Bloomfield Road
The Seasiders are in the midst of their expected descent down the league table and are now without their first-choice keeper until 2011. Wolves have played positive football in November for the first time in a long time, but haven't been rewarded for it. Add up Wolves' karmic right to points for attacking football and Blackpool's desperation and home fans, and this one looks like a draw.
Bolton over Newcastle at The Reebok
Andy Carroll was one of the few players who looked decent in France's domination of England on Wednesday. It's sort of amazing that this is a matchup of two top-eight sides after 13 matches, but of the two, Bolton looks to have far more depth in quality — particularly in midfield. If the Wanderers can beat Tottenham with ease, Newcastle can't be too much trouble at the Reebok.
Manchester United over Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford
The Latics are known for their surprising wins against top teams — except for Manchester United. Expect the Red Devils to pad their goal differential in this one. Wigan is surely also known for helping teams do that.
Stoke over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns
It's true that Stoke's three away points equals West Ham's number and bests only that of Wolves (2), but the Potters have looked like a different team since Tony Pulis went on his referee tirade, and if they're going to get an away win, why not against a reeling West Brom side?
Liverpool over West Ham at Anfield
Sure, Liverpool won't have Steven Gerrard, and West Ham looks like it is slowly turning the corner, but there are a handfull of midfielders with a lot to prove at Anfield. Without the captain, Saturday would be a big day to start making that case, and it's hard to believe they won't against the Hammers.
Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa draw at EWood park
Aston Villa played inspired football for 75 minutes against Manchester United and maintained their undefeated home mark, but every time that it looks like the Villa kids are about to turn the corner and become one of the league's better teams, they underwhelm. Playing at EWood park tends to historically bring that out in opponents, and though Blackburn is weaker than it has been in years past, this one has draw written all over it.
Fulham and Manchester City draw at Craven Cottage
Picking Fulham to do anything but draw would simply be insane at this point — given they've done that in eight of 13 matches. The Mark Hughes derby features two teams whose defenses and goalkeepers are simply outplaying their attacking players. Look for the Roberto Mancini discontent to continue to grow after this one.
Everton over Sunderland at The Stadium of Light
The Toffees' terrible first two months seem like a distant memory, yet the team is still just 13th in the table despite seeming to be playing good football. That has to be less likely to hold up than Sunderland sitting in sixth. This has let-down game written all over it for Steve Bruce's gang — even if Darren Bent is back in action.
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