Top Three: Premier League matches of the weekend

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With the FA Cup done and dusted for another few weeks, and the Capital One Cup settled and sent over the border, the Barclays Premier League is back up to full strength - and in some style. 

With the league leaders kicking off at 3pm on Saturday, a North London Derby on Sunday afternoon, and a relegation battling team hosting the champions on Monday, us football fans will never be far away from a great game this weekend. I've picked out three of the tastiest fixtures this matchweek to preview and predict, so here they are in ascending order.

Let the down-scrolling begin...

3: Wigan Athletic vs Liverpool - K.O Saturday 17:30.

After Wigan's dismantling of Reading away from home last week, Roberto Martinez's side are putting together an all-too-familiar late push towards Premier League survival. 

Out of the relegation zone on goal-difference, the Latics have found a solid shape and formation, with 3 centre backs and forward-thinking wing-backs, and a starting eleven that is beginning to pick itself. 

The return of loanee Paul Scharner brings experience and potential leadership, and both regular strikers Aruna Kone and Franco Di Santo are hitting form at the right time.

Liverpool, on the other hand, are currently puzzling to say the least. 

Their recent from has shown glimpses of a team really gelling and pushing in the same direction under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers; Two 5-0 victories in their last 3 home games, and draws away to Arsenal and Manchester City show real progress, but those draws at the Emirates and Etihad could easily have been victories, and a 2-0 defeat to West Brom at Anfield smacked of a team that runs out of ideas very quickly. 

The Reds are more than capable of running over Wigan here, but they're also capable of letting the home team control proceedings and risk another disappointing defeat.

Prediction: If Daniel Sturridge plays, Liverpool win, but he's highly doubtful, and Wigan can often play well beyond what their league position suggests. Probably the toughest fixture this week to put a result on, but I’ll say 1-1.

2: Chelsea vs West Brom - K.O Saturday 15:00.

Well, if a fire wasn't already lit underneath the backsides of Chelsea it is now, and  Rafael Benitez's post-match interview after their FA Cup win against Middlesbrough would've only served to throw petrol all over that fire. 

Whether you think his supposed 'rant' was justified or not, it almost certainly won't help the feeling around Stamford Bridge when the Baggies come to visit. 

As the latest chapter of this un-writable script plays out, Chelsea risk not only losing touch of Manchester City in 2nd, but falling out of the top four altogether.

This weekend's fixture suddenly seems like a must-win, and it's in front of a crowd who, by and large, are not at all happy with the situation their football club finds itself in. The Blues should easily brush aside West Brom, but at Stamford Bridge in recent times, we've seen that anything can happen (See Chelsea 0-1 QPR).

The visitors West Brom have just bucked a trend of bad results with two victories over Liverpool and Sunderland. 

Although last week's win over The Black Cats wasn't entirely convincing, it would've certainly eased the pressure off of them as they moved back into an impressive 7th in the table - only 9 points behind their hosts this weekend.

Romelu Lukaku has been a revelation at the Hawthorns, and his second goal against Sunderland showed some of the outstanding talent he has to offer - Pace, strength, perseverance and confidence. 

Only problem is, being on loan from Chelsea, he's ineligible to play on Saturday, and strike partner Shane Long is also struggling with an ankle injury. If Long missed out, manager Steve Clarke would be left with only two options up front: Mark-Antoine Fortune, and the recent headline-grabber Peter Odemwingie. 

The want-away striker has still signalled his intention to win the fans back over and give his all for the club until the end of the season, so what better way to do it than to help them shock the European Champions?

Prediction: With no Lukaku, West Brom might be forced to play quite negatively, which often plays into Chelsea's hands. if Demba Ba gets at least an hour of football, The Blues will win 2-0, prompting a quietly defiant post-match interview from Benitez.

1: Tottenham vs Arsenal - K.O Sunday 16:00.

In recent years, this North London Derby has experienced quite a renaissance in drama and quality, thanks mostly to both teams becoming more and more equal in talent and form. So many of the recent fixtures between these two rivals has served up a brilliant contest, such as Spurs' 3-2 win at the Emirates in 2010, and Arsenal's two 5-2 victories in 2012.

Despite Arsenal's recent woes in cup competitions, their league form has been fairly strong as of late; the Gunners are coming off three straight wins, and in their shakier moments, has shown a steely resilience to grind out three points from a game. Santi Cazorla continues to go from strength to strength, and the return of Jack Wilshere is the leading reason for optimism around the Emirates.

Spurs however are on a brilliant run of form, unbeaten in 11 games and sitting pretty in 3rd place after their thrilling 3-2 win at West Ham United in midweek. Andre Villas-Boas has slowly but surely silenced the doubters and quietly got in with his work at White Hart Lane, but of course, it does help when you have possibly the third best player in the world right now in your squad...

Gareth Bale has been simply on another level recently, netting his 14th and 15th goals of the season in his last game, including a stoppage time 30-yarder to win the game. Bale has scored 8 of Spurs' last 10 goals in all competitions, and is proving to be simply impossible to defend against on regular occasions.

Prediction: For Arsenal to take anything from this match, they need to somehow stop Bale from leaving his mark on the game. That being said, when these two face off, recent form tends to go out the window, as both sides bring their A-game and create a cup tie atmosphere. 

Arsenal will threaten, but I think they'll focus too much on stopping Bale and other Spurs players will step up to the mark and deliver. 3-1 to Tottenham.

That's just three brilliant fixtures that Matchweek 28 has served up for us, and there's still other great games, like the six-pointer between Southampton and QPR, and a Monday night gut-check for Manchester City away to Aston Villa. So as the season slowly begins to build towards it's conclusion, this weekend promises to be as good as any so far.

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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