Kieran Davies looks at the January sales and a weekend ahead that will make things clearer at the top and bottom.
While thousands of little girls across the country will have asked Santa for a pony for Christmas, Pellegrini has gone and got himself a Bony in the January sales. ‘Sales’ being the loosest use of the word as we all know the January window sees prices fly through the roof like the pound has crashed. Kudos to the teams who take advantage of this time, Newcastle are always known to make some money this time of year. Swansea have stepped up to the plate on this occasion though and made a pretty penny from the striker’s sale. Talk of them filling the void with Papiss Cisse could see them doing some really good business as the Newcastle frontman could flourish with the Welsh side and we have all seen what he is capable of in his early part to his Newcastle career. Bony was there for the signing in the summer with Liverpool sniffing around as he had a £17m release clause in his contract (which the club bought back off him for the princely sum of £1m) but they did not take advantage and now City have added the top scorer in the calendar year to their ranks. City fans won’t see him in action for a while though with the player currently at the Africa Cup of Nations. Aguero has returned from injury however as they entertain Arsenal and will be tasked in making sure he grabs the headlines off Alexis Sanchez while Swansea will face Chelsea at home without their Ivory Coast talisman.
Ronald Koeman got one over his Dutch compatriot with an impressive win at Old Trafford. After a mini blip in a difficult fixture schedule which led to many saying their bubble had burst, Southampton have answered their critics and returned to form avenging United for a defeat they inflicted at St Mary’s with deadly finishing and probably not deserving the result. Will we see Van Gaal strengthen their defensive line and take some of the pressure off De Gea winning so many games for them single handedly. Koeman will take his side to what will no doubt be a cold North East to face managerless Newcastle, a game they have got to be looking to win. Staying in the region Sunderland will be hoping to turn in a better performance than last week having added Jemain Defoe to their ranks which should help their goal return and how apt they clinch this deal with their next fixture being a trip to White Hart Lane, a game for the real football romantics and surely an away win?
Liverpool travel to Villa Park where they face Paul Lambert’s low scoring side. Rodgers may feel his side have turned the corner of late but personally I just think they are facing teams who are poorer at finishing than them. There is still no flow to their game and they look impressive in fits and starts. This is a must win game as they cannot afford to fall behind the clubs sitting in Champions League spots if they are to continue pursuing this qualification. No movement in the transfer window makes me wonder whether the owners are telling Rodgers he has to stick by the signings he made in the summer as is he doesn’t perform he will be replaced in the summer and they don’t want him wasting anymore of the club’s money. Getting Origi back from his loan spell will take some of the pressure off the returning Daniel Sturridge after a lengthy injury. They have also recalled Jordan Ibe from his loan spell at Derby, having seen this player in pre season, he seems to be a carbon copy of Raheem Sterling minus the ego so it will be nice to see a winger running at defenders again.
QPR’s woeful away form has left Harry Redknapp worrying about his job and left his team needing a near 100% home record to have any hope of staying up. With Man Utd visiting this weekend some are saying that he could lose his job after this game should they taste defeat. Having only won two games on the road this season, maybe Charlie Austin and his mates can keep the hoops impressive home record going.
In form Burnley meanwhile will know a crunch game lies ahead as they face Alan Pardew’s Palace side at home this weekend. After an impressive win over QPR they will be confident of another three points with their hitman Danny Ings bang in form. Their relegation rivals Leicester have splashed out £9m on a new striker and turned his head from the attentions of Chelsea no less in doing so. With Mark Hughes’ Stoke City to face at home this week Leicester need three points before they find themselves slipping away from the pack above them. Having added Mark Schwarzer to their ranks also with Schmeichel’s injury, Pearson knows this is a critical time of the season to be winning home games against teams outside of the top eight.
Sam Allardyce will be looking to get his side back to winning ways at the Boleyn ground after a moral boosting FA Cup win in a dramatic penalty shootout against Everton in the week. They face Hull City who are really finding things difficult this season and not challenging too many teams when on the road. With Andy Carroll showing some form of late, he will be keen to impress and help Big Sam to three points. The man with the midas touch, Tony Pullis, has a tough test this weekend as he will take his West Brom side to Goodison Park to face Martinez’s Everton. They haven’t put in the sort season most of their fans were expecting after last season but Everton are known to have a good second half to the season in previous campaigns. With Mirallas in good form at the moment, Roberto will hope the misfiring Lukaku hits a patch of form in front of goal so they can start living up to their tag. With things so tight at both ends of the table (I can’t believe Liverpool are only five points off a Champions League spot, having been that bad this season) things can change quite considerably with just a couple of results with the league at its entertaining best that is for sure.