A dramatic weekend of FA Cup results left an indelible mark on the overall strength of some Premier League sides. Notably, Liverpool's rollercoaster season continued after an embarassing 3-2 loss to League One side Oldham. Such improbable results shape the tournament's excitement. 2012 Champions League holders Chelsea almost fell victim to Liverpool's fate. If it wasn't for a Fernando Torres equalizer, Chelsea's interim manager Rafa Benitez would probably have seen his last match in charge of the Blues.
Matches of the Week:
Arsenal vs. Liverpool: Wednesday, January 30, 11:45 a.m. PST, Emirates Stadium
Arsenal's title tilt may be finally turning in its favor. Sitting in sixth place, the Gunners put the finishing touches on London rivals West Ham last weekend with an emphatic 5-1 victory. French hitman Olivier Giroud's left-foot keeps on getting better. Giroud bagged a brace against West Ham and added another in this past week's FA Cup action.
Could Arsene Wenger finally have refined his team into that reminiscent of 2003 and 2004? Maybe. A lot of question marks still remain for an inconsistent, yet offensively appealing side. To the delight of the Arsenal faithful, Theo Walcott has re-signed and looks to maintain his scoring streak.
Liverpool's inconsistency, though, knows no bounds. The verdict is still out on Brendan Rodgers' philosopy and methodology to return the club back to prominence despite the Barcelona-esque soccer he employed at Swansea last year (often dubbed Swanselona). The mercurial Luis Suarez has been a seldom golden light for the Reds. Suarez has bagged 16 Premier League goals but the club still sits in seventh place on 34 points, three points behind Arsenal.
Liverpool has yet to beat a side above them in the 2012/13 Premier League season and this week's encounter at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium may not be the most welcoming place to start.
With both teams firing on all cylinders and managers preaching a free-flowing ideology, goals may come aplenty for both sides.
Fulham vs. West Ham: Wednesday, January 30, 12:00 p.m. PST, Craven Cottage
An appetizing London derby between Fulham and West Ham, sitting in the 14th and 12th positions respectively, may paint a better picture of the ominous relegation battle looming over both sides. A mere two points seperate Fulham and West Ham (25 and 27 respectively).
Fulham's 2012/13 form has yet to mirror that of the previous season. The loss of Clint Dempsey to Tottenham may be partially to blame but the paucity of goalscorers and creativity may be more at fault. The addition of Man United's want-away Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov would have been perceived to add a certain elegance to the Cottagers' goal-scoring chances. With only seven goals in the Premier League, Berbatov is still seeking the form that catapulted him to Man United. Fulham will introduce Emmanuel Frimpong, a young Arsenal midfielder now on-loan to the Cottagers, against West Ham. The move will be mutually beneficial for both parties; Frimpong will gain experience for Arsenal's sake, and Fulham should see heightened team performances.
Big Sam Allardyce holds the reigns for a gritty West Ham side looking to maintain their survival in the top-flight. Recent acquisition and former West Ham youth product Joe Cole will add his veteran abilities to a predominantly English side. The forecast appears bright for West Ham despite the 5-1 drubbing from Arsenal last week. At an enviable 12th place in the table, West Ham will continue to seek points in whatever way possible.
Man City vs. Liverpool: Sunday, February 3, 8:00 a.m. PST, Etihad Stadium
Liverpool's tough week will conclude at nearby Etihad Stadium. Two wins, against Arsenal and City, may be the catalyst that both the Kop and Brendan Rodgers need to not only surge players' confidence but to execute the team's vision.
City will also see their second match of the week. City travel to QPR on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to face a new-look side now under the guidance of relegation specialist Harry Redknapp. Considering City's depth, many would expect City to walk away with the three points. Manchester's "noisy neighbors" have won their past three Premier League matches including beating Arsenal 2-0 and a resolute Stoke City side 1-0.
Should Liverpool find a way to claim two wins over the week, Brendan Rodgers' efforts may have finally come to fruition. Based on past results for the Reds this year, City should be triumphant and Roberto Mancini's side will continue their focus on retaining the Premier League crown.