Despite the "doom and gloom" surrounding Old Trafford this season, the record-breaking signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea this week seems to have brought a sense of renewed hope to the reigning champions. Although it is questionable how Mata will fit into the team when Rooney returns, there is no doubt this Spaniard has immense talent and will surely bring some creativity which united have lacked for so long. However, this creativity could possibly be put to waste until the likes of Van Persie return as it is easy to question the clinical ability of Welbeck.
After gaining a morale-boosting FA cup win at Bolton on the weekend as well as promising signings such as Fabio Da Silva, Kenwyne Jones and Wilfried Zaha, Cardiff will surely be smelling a possible upset at Old Trafford after seeing the likes of Newcastle, Everton and Spurs all claiming victory at United. However, rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, there is certainly a desperate need for points and I do feel the likes of Noone could pose some questions for the shaky United defense. An emotional return for Solskjaer after gaining so much success at Old Trafford and will surely a receive a very warm reception before the game.
Quick-fire prediction: 2-1
Norwich City vs Newcastle United
Lacking any consistency all season, the canaries will be looking for their first back-to-back wins against Newcastle tonight after snatching 3 points away from Hull in their last premier league outing. Norwich have been desperately lacking in goals this season. Despite this, Wolfswinkel has looked more and more impressive as he gets more games under his belt and it will be a great opportunity for him tonight to finally add some goals to his Norwich tally. The transfer window this month has turned out to be an unwanted distraction for the canaries with many of their midfielders such as Hoolahan, Snodgrass, Pilkington and the talented Nathan Redmond all being linked with moves to other clubs. However the club has remained defiant not to sell its best players and Hughton will be in desperate need of a crucial 3 points which could steer Norwich temporarily away from trouble.
A very impressive and ruthless display at West Ham United will certainly have given Newcastle fans every reason for optimism this season. This optimism though may have been dampened when waking up to the news this morning that a £20m bid from PSG has been accepted for Cabaye. Such an influential and talented player will be sorely missed by Newcastle and it is hard to see how they will replace him with only 3 days left in the transfer window. It's not all doom and gloom as it has also been revealed that Newcastle are in talks with Borussia Monchengladbach's De Jong. With all this attention on transfer's, you have to question how much the club is focused on the game tonight and could be an excellent chance for Norwich to seize on.
Quick-fire prediction: 1-1
Southampton vs Arsenal
A cloud of uncertainty and controversy has been swirling around St. Mary's recently. The departure of Nicola Cortese who has been at the heart of the club's success over the past few years was a massive blow for Southampton to take and the loyalty of Pochettino towards the former chairman has left his future in doubt also. On top of this, the club were forced to suspend Osvaldo for fighting with another player, which will give the impression to many that all is not well at Southampton. With the leaders Arsenal visiting this evening, it doesn't get any easier for the saints and there is the obvious concern of their season crumbling away.
Many expected the fantastic start to crumble away slowly after Christmas, but Arsenal still remain defiant at the top of the league. Man City and Chelsea have looked very strong in recent weeks and pressure will certainly be on the gunners tonight to continue to set the pace in the premier league.
Quick-fire prediction: 1-2
Swansea City vs Fulham
After such an impressive season last season, most people would be surprised to see Laudrup's team only 3 points off the relegation zone. Their possession stats are incredibly good in each game, but this is often been most leading this season as they often hold the ball in ineffective areas and have lacked any creativity and composure in the final third. However, with their style of football and their excellent manager, I could see Swansea clinch a few consecutive wins to take them away from trouble and feel at the Liberty Stadium they will be too hot for Fulham to cope with tonight.
Their were promising signs in their last away trip to Arsenal in the premier league as they defended well for the first hour against the league leaders. The FA cup fixture against Sheffield United on the weekend once again brought disappointment for Fulham fans and another replay will be most unwelcome when they are right in the thick of the relegation fight. I could see Fulham struggling to cope with Swansea tonight.
Quick-fire prediction: 3-0
Crystal Palace vs Hull City
The positive impact Tony Pulis has had since coming into Palace has been astounding so far. A fantastic win at home to his former club stoke was the "gritty" win which Palace liked the fight for near the beginning of the season. The performances feel more solid and with so many clubs in the relegation scrap, I could see Crystal Palace having a really good chance of survival. The lack of fire-power up front is the only concern for Pulis and he will certainly need that front line shooting on all cylinders tonight against Hull.
A last-gasp and heart-crushing defeat away to Norwich was a difficult pill to swallow for Hull City in their last premier league outing. Steve Bruce will be well aware of the importance to pick up points against teams around them, and facing another team only 3 points below them, tonight is another cup-final match for Hull City. Hull have invested heavily in this transfer window for their premier league survival in Long and Jelavic and tonight could be the perfect opportunity for these two strikers to gain their debut goals for their new club.
Quick-fire prediction: 1-1
Liverpool vs Everton
After a very disappointing first half against Aston Villa, many will be asking the question whether their champions league crusade is starting to wobble. However their fighting resolve to bring the game back to 2-2 has to be applauded and shows positive signs of a resilience in this Liverpool team. The game against Villa will be seen by many Liverpool fans as dropped points and against their local rivals who are flying at present, noting but 3 points will be accepted by the Liverpool faithful. I see lots of goals in this game and I can certainly see Suarez fired up and on-form for this game.
Everton have been the surprise team of the season for sure this season. Everton fans will have been gutted to only get a point away to West Brom, but their dreams of champions league are very much alive and with a liverpool defense which is looking more and more shaky as the weeks go by, I think there will be opportunities for Everton to give their fans something to cheer about against their local rivals.
Quick-fire predictions: 3-2