There are some big clashes in the Premier League this weekend as Man City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad, while Liverpool host Brentford and Man Utd travel to Aston Villa
Paul Merson has backed his former club Arsenal to edge Sunday’s North London Derby against bitter rivals Tottenham.
The Gunners sit one place and two points ahead of Spurs heading into the meeting, with both sides given just a few days to prepare after Carabao Cup action midweek.
Mikel Arteta is facing a mini 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 the middle of the park – and the game could yet be called off.
Meanwhile Antonio Conte will want to see an improved performance from his side after two defeats to Chelsea, which sandwiched a poor performance against League One Morecambe in the FA Cup.
But with all to play for, Merson still feels Arsenal will have enough to earn all three points and stretch the gap.
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“This is a massive game, I’ve played in enough of these to know that,” the pundit told Metro. “I think the tide has changed a little bit this season, so I fancy Arsenal to win this one.”
Merson cited the absence of Son Heung-min as one of the reasons he is confident going into the fixture, and predicted a 2-1 scoreline.
There is also a huge title clash in store this weekend as Manchester City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad in what is a must-win game for the Blues.
City are currently 10 points clear at the top of the table and have shown little signs of slowing down.
“If Chelsea don’t win, they are out of the Premier League title race,” Merson claimed. “Saying that in mid-January is not a good thing for them, but it’s the reality of the situation.”
And he believes that will be the eventuality on Saturday, as he tipped City to win the tie 2-1.
Liverpool also need to collect three points if they are to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s men, but face a potentially tricky tie at home to Brentford.
The Reds were also in Carabao Cup action on Thursday and struggled to break down Arsenal without key duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are both away on AFCON duty.
But the Bees have been in patchy form and Merse reckons it could be a “wake-up call” for Thomas Frank’s men when they head to Anfield, as he backed the hosts to run out 3-0 winners.
Manchester United face another big test amidst their ongoing crisis and meet Aston Villa for the second time in a week after beating Steven Gerrard’s side 1-0 in Monday’s FA Cup Third Round meeting.
Merson doesn’t fancy United’s chances on away soil though, and admitted he was “worried” for the Red Devils’ chances of a top four finish.
Forecasting Saturday’s match-up, he tipped Villa to earn a 3-1 win and said: “Manchester United are currently all over the place and I called this a long time ago.
“I know they’ve won a few games under Ralf Rangnick but their performances have been terrible, so I don’t see them beating Aston Villa in the Premier League this weekend.”
Paul Merson’s Premier League predictions
Aston Villa 3-1 Man Utd
Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal
West Ham 3-1 Leeds Utd
Liverpool 3-0 Brentford
Newcastle 1-1 Watford
Man City 2-1 Chelsea
Norwich 2-1 Everton
Wolves 2-1 Southampton
Brighton 2-2 Crystal Palace