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Reds capable of upsetting Balotelli-less City

Sturridge and Ba hope to sink former clubs this weekend

Gulf News

Match to catch

So after a transfer deadline day that saw only a handful of major deals go through and the bizarre ordeal of West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie, who drove all the way to QPR only to be told he wouldn’t be allowed to join the R’s, it’s back to the action on the pitch. This weekend’s big game sees Manchester City host Liverpool on Sunday — the Blues were weakened in January (if only marginally) by the departure of the troublesome Mario Balotelli to AC Milan, while the Reds were undoubtedly strengthened by the signing of City old boy Daniel Sturridge. Roberto Mancini’s side can ill afford to lose any more ground in the title race, but Liverpool appear to be building momentum and will be tricky opposition. Prediction: Draw.

Keep an eye on

Striker Demba Ba makes his first return to Newcastle since his January switch to Chelsea on Saturday, giving this St James’s Park fixture an added edge. Toon fans will be excited to see their plethora of new French signings in action, as Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko all joined from Ligue 1 in the transfer window, with Sissoko in particular impressing in their crucial midweek win over Aston Villa. Chelsea are stuttering under Rafa Benitez and need to get back to winning ways after throwing away a two-goal lead at Reading on Wednesday. Prediction: Chelsea.

For the purists

Struggling Wigan meet struggling Southampton at the DW Stadium on Saturday. Neither side were active in the transfer market in January so it looks like being a long, hard grind to the end of the season, when relegation must surely await for at least one of these sides. Prediction: Draw.

Showing form

Olivier Giroud has divided opinion at the Emirates stadium since his move from Montpellier in the summer. The 6ft 4in (1.93m) striker isn’t in the typical Arsene Wenger mould, with his game largely based on his physical presence and heading ability, and he struggled to win over the Arsenal fans in the first half of the season. But the Frenchman has five goals in his last three games and could be finding his niche in a free-scoring, but inconsistent, Gunners side, who host tough nuts Stoke City on Saturday. Prediction: Arsenal.

Need a win

West Ham’s mid-season struggles continued in midweek with a disappointing 3-1 loss at Fulham, which followed hot on the heels of a five-goal defeat by Arsenal. Early-season optimism has evaporated and the Upton Park faithful are beginning to look nervously at the form of some of the clubs below them in the table. The Hammers need to stop the rot against Swansea, who allowed striker Danny Graham to join Sunderland on deadline day despite not having a replacement lined up. Prediction: Swansea.

Last week’s predictions

Premier Picks is coming back to you refreshed after a two-week break, during which the Gulf News crystal ball was successfully recalibrated to include all of the Premier League’s January transfers — so be sure to expect plenty of flawless predictions between now and the end of the season… Or not as the case may very well be.