The English Premier League kicks off a full set of fixtures this weekend and coincides with the start of the African Cup of Nations. With many EPL stars featuring, could their respective teams suffer or could they benefit from fresh faces. Departures could pave the way for potential upsets or highlight a squads depth. Let the games begin.

The actions kicks off at Carrow road in the early kickoff, where a Norwich side currently on 3 game win streak are full of confidence and sit 9th in the league. Paul Lambert’s side have relied on the goals of Grant Holt and Wales striker, Steve Morison this season, and will hope both are on fine form against an organised Chelsea side. Lambert faces no major injury concerns and might hope to snatch all three points. Chelsea recently welcomed Gary Cahill to London, though Villas-Boas may be reluctant to hand the defender a start. With both Drogba and Kalou carrying out international duties, the focus again will once be upon Fernando Torres, who must step up if Chelsea are to maintain a title challenge. Daniel Sturridge could be given a chance to prove his worth yet again. A fortunate win against Sunderland and with the team really struggling for form, a tough encounter could be on the cards for London side.

Prediction        Norwich 0 – 1 Chelsea

Everton host Blackburn in what could prove a crucial result for both teams. Everton are struggling for goals with Saha failing to find the net since the 26th of October and also face defensive issues with both Rodwell and Jagielka abscent and Distin a major doubt. Blackburn continue to fight the relegation battle, and Kean appears to be pulling the Lancashire club from the bottom of the table following two wins from the last three games in the EPL. However, Blackburn will have to face Everton without the goals of top scorer, Yakubu who received a red card against Fulham last week. Though new signing Anthony Modeste could rescue the club in his debut, should international clearance be approved.

Prediction        Blackburn 1 – 1 Everton

Craven Cottage provides the entertainment between Fulham and Newcastle. Both teams are struggling with attacking options with Dembele and Sa missing out for the home side while Newcastle are without Ba, Tiote and new signing Cisse. Martin Jol is struggling to find consistency and it is unknown what Fulham side will show up. Following defeat to 10 man Blackburn, Fulham will look to bounce back or face slipping down the table. Pardew will have to rely on Leon Best to fill gap left by the free scoring Demba Ba. The forward showed he can offer goals following his strike that took all three points against QPR. Midfielder Cabaye is a doubt and his absence could prove crucial

Prediction        Fulham 1 – 2 Newcastle

Mark Hughes is given a tough test in his league home debut following the win over MK Dons midweek. QPR have failed to record a win in nine games and will have to cope with the absence of talisman Taarbat and Traore who have departed for the African Cup of Nations. Joey Barton returns to take the arm band and could spur on Hughes’s men. Wigan under Martinez have seen highs and lows, though its very low at this point as Wigan sit bottom of the league. No win in seven games and a recent loss to lowly Swindon could leave a dent in their confidence. Added with the fact Diame is unavailable and a loss to QPR would see them slip 5 points behind their rivals, Martinez must hope Wigan show up on the day.

Prediction        QPR 1 – 0 Wigan

It will be exactly one month when these sides kickoff from the last time Stoke suffered a defeat. Tony Pulis will be looking to take advantage of playing at home and attempt to dominate a WBA side. Both Shotton and Delap face fitness test, and it is paramount that 1 of these players is passed fit. Stoke rely on the long throw ability of both of these players and Pulis will be hoping one is fit to appear. WBA are struggling for points within the league and could be without midfielder Paul Scharner but could welcome Olsson back to the starting eleven. The midlands side will be looking to win to ensure they are not dragged into a relegation battle with only 4 points separating them from QPR.

Prediction        Stoke 2 – 0 WBA

Martin O’Neil’s start to life at Sunderland has seen him be named Manager for the Month and see Sunderland climb up the table. A win on his debut and a win against league leaders Man City has transformed the side and confidence is high. The side is unbeaten at home under O’Neil and will hope to add another three points with a win over Swansea. Following Swanseas emphatic win over Arsenal, the need for Brendan Rogers’s side to further improve their away form is key. The Swans home form this season has been excellent and their passing is a joy to watch and who knows where they could be with a decent away form. An impressive away win against Villa is something to build upon and with recent signing Josh McEachran, there are many options for the side.

Prediction        Sunderland 1 – 1 Swansea

Wolves will be desperate to ensure three points at home as they look to climb the table. Mick McCarthy’s side is without a win in nine games and following a loss to Birmingham in the FA cup, a return to winning ways is on his mind. Roger Johnson’s return will bolster the defence and Matt Jarvis could also return. Wolves sit dangerously close to the drop zone and a win is crucial. Alex McLeish could hand Robbie Keane a place in the starting eleven following his move. His side sit mid table and following a cup win and a point at home to Everton there is room for improvement.

Prediction        Wolves 1 – 0 Aston Villa

Strugglers Bolton host Liverpool in what could prove to be an interesting game. David N’Gog could face his old side and with Bolton in their best form this season in the last 5 games they could feel as if they could snatch something from this game. Liverpool are without striker Suarez who is still suspended, however the return of Steven Gerrard has lifted the confidence of the side. Kenny Dagleish’s men will need all three points if they are to keep in the hunt of a champions league spot while Owen Coyle will be hoping for a point which could go towards maintaining Boltons premier league status

Prediction        Bolton 0 – 2 Liverpool

Its Ford Super Sunday time and the first fixture of this glorious invention is current league leaders, Man City against Harry’s boys, Tottenham. Mancini has had a lot of media attention following the imaginary card debate, though the attention will be solely fixed on this game. Man City have taken the league by storm with the likes of Aguero, Silva, Toure and Kompany and have relied on these men throughout. So how will Man City cope without Yaya Toure for the first time and Kompany’s suspension still in affect. Micah Richards and Balotelli are both expected to return but will Man City be back to their best. Harry Redknapp will hope not but will be without Adebayor when his side make the trip to Manchester. The Togo striker is ineligible due to his loan from Man City, and Defoe is expected to fill the gap. The spurs side is full of confidence and fully deserve 3rd place within the league and a mouth watering game could be on the cards.

Prediction        Man City 0 – 1 Tottenham

Arsenal will be looking to seek revenge against their old rivals following the embarrassing defeat last August which saw the London side lose 8-2. Off the back of a 3-2 loss to Swansea, which saw the Welsh club dominate possession, Wenger will be hoping for a win to maintain his sides push for a champions league place. His side will have to cope without defender Vermaelen and playmaker Arteta aswell as club legend Henry. These sides have faced each other over 214 times and one person who knows what it means to beat Arsenal is Alex Ferguson. He has beaten Arsenal on 21 separate occasions and is hoping to maintain his charge for first place. Man Utd could welcome back both Smalling and Jones and will be looking to build upon recent wins over Bolton and rivals Man City. This is really a game that both teams cannot afford to lose and could suffer if other results do not go their way so its all to play for at the Emirates stadium.

Prediction        Arsenal 0 – 1 Man Utd

By Gavin Knox, you can follow him on twitter @gav_42

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