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Manchester United travel to Wigan and Manchester City entertain Stoke City, after West Brom and Fulham kick off the 2013 action.

Last Updated: 01/01/13 at 13:13

Wigan's home win over Man Utd last season proved crucial in the title race

Wigan's home win over Man Utd last season proved crucial in the title race

Man Utd head into 2013 with seven-point lead; Saints face Arsenal

West Bromwich Albion and Fulham kick off the Premier League action in 2013, before focus turns to the title race in the afternoon as Manchester United travel to Wigan Athletic and Manchester City entertain Stoke City.

The battle for survival is also intensifying and Southampton face a tough game at home to in-form Arsenal, while Reading travel to Tottenham Hotspur and under-pressure Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert must take his side to Swansea.

It has often been said over the past few years that Manchester United get stronger after the turn of the year, so it is an ominous sign for their rivals that Sir Alex Ferguson's men already hold a seven-point advantage at the top of the table. The Red Devils appear to be marching towards a 20th title after winning seven of their past eight games, but a trip to the DW Stadium derailed their charge last season and Wigan will be looking for a repeat performance after climbing out of the relegation zone with a win over Aston Villa at the weekend.

Manchester City kept in touch with their local rivals after edging out Norwich City 4-3 in a thriller on Saturday and will be happy to be back at the Etihad Stadium on New Year's Day, but it will be a difficult clash against Stoke. The eighth-placed Potters are on a ten-match unbeaten run and infuriated Man City when they met at the Britannia Stadium in September as Roberto Mancini described Peter Crouch's goal as 'basketball not football'.

Arsenal thrashed Southampton 6-1 earlier in the season and went goal crazy again in their final match of 2012 as they demolished Newcastle United 7-3 to win a fourth straight game. Theo Walcott showed his class with a hat-trick and will be excited about making a return to the club where he started his professional career. Southampton dropped into the bottom three after being pegged back to 3-3 by Stoke City on Saturday, although they are just a point behind Wigan and Villa.

Aston Villa's 3-0 defeat at home to Wigan last time out made it 15 goals conceded in three games and none scored, heaping the pressure on manager Paul Lambert ahead of their trip to the Liberty Stadium to play Swansea City. The Welsh side ended a sequence of four matches without a victory and consolidated their position in mid-table as they overcame Fulham 2-1 on Saturday.

Wrong direction

Reading also got back to winning ways at the weekend as Pavel Pogrebnyak's goal against West Ham United clinched three crucial points, although they remain second from bottom in the standings and next travel to White Hart Lane. Tottenham are in great form after winning six of their last eight matches and will move up to third if they can beat the Royals, although they will be without the suspended Gareth Bale following his yellow card for diving against Sunderland.

West Brom take on Fulham in the first game of 2013, which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1HD at lunchtime. The Baggies remain level on points with Arsenal and Everton despite losing 2-0 to Manchester United on Saturday and will be determined to get back on track against a Fulham team sliding in the wrong direction. The Cottagers are now just four points clear of the drop zone, having claimed just one win in their past 12 matches.

Tuesday's final match pits together two teams who have not enjoyed the best of festive periods, as West Ham strive to end a run of four matches without a win against a Norwich side on a three-game losing streak. A home win for the Hammers would lift them above the Canaries in mid-table.

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Readers' Comments

S

terling needs to be told though that upon entering the Arsenal squad he will re-enact the final scene from Highlander where he will be thrown around a warehouse by cartoon dragons and then be a mere mortal that will only ever spend three to four weeks a season playing football and the rest on the physio's bed. There can be only one.....player available at The Emirates.

rodger's gusset
Arsenal interest in Sterling

T

he game changed in our favour when Carrick came on. We were able to play further up the pitch due to having a player who can give and go with the ball and keep possession. Yet barkley made some runs and Townsend scored a good goal but carrick's inclusion and chiellini's withdrawal made the biggest difference to the flow of the game

ricky villa
Hodgson: Barkley was brilliant

N

o, you've not silenced anyone Andros, i'm afraid. We know you can score a great goal, and it's really handy to have your direct running and willingness to shoot on the bench. But until you can do the other things expected of a winger (beat the man, put a decent cross in, stay wide etc) then you can't expect more than a regular cameo. Wonderful goal though, what a hit! No wonder Buffon wanted the shirt.

badwolf
Townsend: I've silenced critics

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