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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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C

lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

hump3.
Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'

H

e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

london saint
Shaw: Criticism spot on

P

urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

bale doubt
Saints' Schneiderlin stalemate

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