Week 22: Top PL storylines — Liverpool vs. United, Stoke host Arsenal

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Week 22 of the Premier League season kicks off this weekend, with Liverpool and Manchester United’s clash at Anfield headlining the action.

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With teams still in the midst of a hectic winter schedule, points are at a premium in what has been a wild and unpredictable Premier League season.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United

The first time these two teams met this season, Anthony Martial scored on his debut as Manchester United rolled to a 3-1 win at Old Trafford. Sunday’s clash at Anfield will be Jurgen Klopp‘s first taste of the rivalry, and more than just bragging rights are one the line.

[ MORE: Klopp era threatens Manchester United’s dominance over Liverpool ]

Liverpool sit three points behind United on the table, as both sides look to find some momentum for a top-four push. Neither team has lived up to expectations this year, but a win on Sunday will certainly give some life for a winter run. Wayne Rooney has four goals in his last three appearances, while Roberto Firmino will hope to build on a two-goal performance against Arsenal.

Stoke pushes for the top-five against Arsenal

The Britannia hosts a huge matchup on Sunday as Stoke City hosts Arsenal. Arsenal sits atop the table while Stoke is seventh and trending upwards. The Potters have won three of four in the Premier League, and the duo of Bojan and Marko Arnautovic has been a handful for defenses. Arsenal will feel they let points slip away in a 3-3 draw against Liverpool on Wednesday, and with co-leaders Leicester facing last-place Villa, a win for the Gunners is crucial.

Manchester City must keep pace with the leaders

Manchester City currently sits third on the table, three points behind Arsenal and Leicester City. Pellegrini’s men were held scoreless at home for the first time in a year against Everton, so Aguero & Co. will be looking to get back on the scoresheet against Crystal Palace this weekend. Palace haven’t scored a goal in four Premier League matches as Alan Pardew‘s side has hit a bit of a rut, so three points is a must for City if they want to keep pace towards the top of the table.

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Can Aston Villa win two in a row?

Aston Villa won just their second game of the season midweek, and the Villans will look to make it a miraculous two wins on the spin on Saturday. Unfortunately, they host joint-leaders Leicester City who are coming off of a big win at Tottenham. Leicester will be the heavy favorites, but if Villa could somehow pull out a result, their slim hopes of survival would get a big boost.

Red-hot Defoe looks to keep scoring for Sunderland

Sunderland have won two straight matches to climb just a point below safety, with 33-year-old striker Jermain Defoe leading the way. The reigning Premier League Player of the Week, Defoe has five goals in those wins, and with a hat-trick against Swansea over the weekend, Sunderland supporters will be expecting another big performance on Saturday. However, a tough trip to Tottenham awaits, as Defoe must try and break down the Premier League’s stingiest defense.