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Arsenal must prove they have what it takes

For once, Super Sunday is in danger of living up to its billing.

Cue broadcasters salivating openly on air at a group of fixtures they can — justifiably, for a change — describe as meaningful.

Player-turned-pundit Andy Townsend may combust with excitement at the prospect of delivering pointless, trite nuggets like, “this could go either way”.

And Alan Curbishley will probably be wheeled out — he usually is, isn't he — in the off chance he might actually look pleased to be there, although the chances of that happening remain slim.

Memo to Aston Villa and Liverpool fans: you aren't involved.

No, this weekend is about the top four and, in particular, Leicester City. The past week has seen writers and pundits queue up to declare that now, right NOW, is the point at which Claudio Ranieri's side can be heralded as realistic title contenders.

They are no longer upstarts who have fluked their way to the top despite the “experts” predictions. All of sudden, they are now there on merit.

The question is, of course, can they carry it on? Why not? Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are playing as well as they did at the start of the season, Robert Huth and Wes Morgan keep getting better, Kasper Schmeichel is making everyone forget who his father is and N'Golo Kante is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League.

Arsenal, for one, should realise they are dealing with the real deal.

11am kick offs unless stated
Tomorrow's games
Sunderland v Man United
(8.45am)

Ed Woodward's slightly befuddled quotes to United investors explained, basically, how the club would continue to pay big money for players and yet also give youth a chance. Not impossible but not clear, either — a little like the future of Louis van Gaal.

That said, United look better recently and Wayne Rooney is in his best form for a while. Sunderland are without the sacked Adam Johnson, although his abhorrent behaviour does not deserve mention.

Prediction: 0-1

Bournemouth v Stoke City

Three straight defeats and Stoke have fallen off the map. Their much-lauded attacking verve now reduced to a whimper.

Bournemouth appear able to put defeats behind them quickly and Eddie Howe's team will back themselves here.

Prediction: 2-1

Crystal Palace v Watford

Palace are bottom of the form table but the good news, for them, is that Watford are just three places above them.

This could be stodgy. A score draw, if you're lucky.

Prediction: 1-1

Everton v West Brom

Tony Pulis's side have won only one of their six league games in 2016 and they have now slipped to within six points of the bottom three. Their rigid style of football is also not endearing them to fans.

Discontent is in the air. Everton dropped John Stones and won games. Coincidence? Probably, but they appear to have found a way to close out games.

Prediction: 2-0

Norwich City v West Ham

Norwich are in freefall: five straight league defeats and 16 goals conceded. Dimitri Payet should have a field day.

Prediction: 1-3

Swansea City v Southampton

Fraser Forster is the greatest advert for how to recover from a knee ligament injury — the giant England goalkeeper has not conceded since getting back in the team five games ago. He'll go up against Gylfi Sigurdsson who is on a superb goalscoring run.

Prediction: 0-1

Chelsea v Newcastle United (1.30pm)

Newcastle are woeful on the road so, despite the new blood in their ranks, an away win (or even draw) is highly unlikely.

Chelsea's climb up the table is laborious and surely their attention is fixed on the Champions League tie with PSG. Nevertheless, there'll be too good for the visitors.

Prediction: 3-1

Sunday's games
Arsenal v Leicester City
(8am)

Big, big, big. The away win at Bournemouth put Arsenal back on track but expectation is overbearing in North London to end their title drought. So far, Arsène Wenger's side are failing to convince many that they have the minerals to get the job done. Leicester, though, as Vardy said, are just “enjoying the ride” and they'll be happy to cede possession and counter-attack. Whether Per Mertesacker can cope could determine this one.

Prediction: 1-2

Aston Villa v Liverpool (10.05am)

Like an overly thin slice of ham between two pieces of bread, this is a largely pointless sandwich-filler. Villa look more organised than they did but remain a terrible team, while Liverpool's mish-mash of “stars” continue to emphasise the size of the job ahead for Jürgen Klopp. Liverpool striker Christian Benteke, a man who looks like he's turned up the wrong party, is at least among familiar surroundings.

Prediction: 0-2

Man City v Tottenham (12.15am)

Big, big, big. While most neutrals will be cheering on Leicester, this game could have just as much significance. Spurs have been a well-oiled machine so far and this is a test of how serious their challenge will be.

City have the quality to beat anyone but the shadow of Pep Guardiola now looms large and managerial instability often wreaks havoc.

Prediction: 1-1

No fluke: Vardy, left, scores against Liverpool at the King Power Stadium. Leicester are favourites on Sunday (Photograph by Rui Vieira/AP)

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Published February 12, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 11, 2016 at 10:09 pm)

Arsenal must prove they have what it takes

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