A quirk of the packed December fixture list has meant I have two rounds of matches to cover this week, but, because of Fulham's involvement in the Europa League, Stoke only played one, losing 1-0 away to Aston Villa on Saturday, John Carew netting the only goal of the game.
Villa are flying high in the Premier League's top three and also won in midweek, sinking Sunderland 2-0 at the stadium of Light with goals coming from Emile Heskey and James Milner. The Black Cats' fortunes have not been great recently, and they also lost on Saturday, 4-3 at Manchester City. The Blues had lost 3-0 at Tottenham on Wednesday, with two goals coming from Niko Kranjčar and one from Jermain Defoe, but the made the perfect start against Sunderland, going two up inside twelve minutes with Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez finding the net. The visitors quickly levelled through John Mensah and Jordan Henderson, before Craig Bellamy restored the hosts' supremacy before half time. Kenwyne Jones levelled again on the hour, but Santa Cruz's second of the afternoon minutes later proved decisive, while Albanian midfielder Lorik Cana saw red late on for the visitors.
Spurs also won on Saturday, a Peter Crouch double seeing off Blackburn, who had crashed to a 2-1 defeat at Birmingham in midweek. Two goals from Cameron Jerome put the hosts in front, while Ryan Nelsen's second-half strike proved a mere consolation for Rovers. Birmingham are flying high in their first season back in the top flight, and also gained a good away point on Sunday at Everton, Sebastian Larsson's strike cancelling out Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's opener, with the game finishing 1-1.
Mid-table Liverpool, closer to the bottom to the top, are a club in something of a crisis, though they did win at home to Wigan on Wednesday night. David Ngog and Fernando Torres put the hosts two to the good, while Charles N'Zogbia pulled one back late for the Latics. It was normal service resumed for Liverpool on Saturday though, as the lost 2-0 at bottom club Portsmouth on Saturday after fine goals from Nadir Belhadj and Frederic Piquionne.
Wigan's second match of the week, scheduled for Monday night against Bolton, fell afoul of the week's wintry weather. The pitch at the modern DW Stadium survived the cold and the snow, but the icy roads around the ground, causing widespread disruption in the area, led the authorities to take the decision to call the game off. This will have come as a blow for Gary Megson's Bolton men, who, after beating struggling West Ham 3-1 in midweek, with goals for Bolton coming from Lee Chung-Yong, Ivan Klasnić and Gary Cahill, while Alessandro Diamanti netted the Hammers' only strike.
Gianfranco Zola's men fared rather better on Sunday though, holding league leaders Chelsea to a 1-1 draw in a game of two penalties, the first for the Hammers scored by Diamanti, and the second for Chelsea scored by Frank Lampard. Chelsea had beaten Portsmouth 2-1, with goals from Nicolas Anelka, Lampard and Piquionne, in midweek to stay three points clear of Manchester United at the League's summit, but Alex Ferguson's men did have an enjoyable Tuesday night, beating Wolves 3-0 thanks to goals from Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidić and Luis Antonio Valencia, but they were on the wrong end of the same scoreline on Saturday at Fulham, with goals from Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff giving the Craven Cottage faithful an early Christmas present.
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy's decision to rest many key players at Old Trafford was criticised, but it seemed to pay off when strikes from Nenad Milijaš and Kevin Doyle helped his side to a 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. The Clarets' dire away form continues, but their home record remains good, and they earned a creditable 1-1 draw against Arsenal at Turf Moor in midweek, with a predictably well taken Graham Alexander penalty cancelling out Cesc Fabregas's early opener for the Gunners, who beat Hull 3-0 on Saturday evening, with Denilson, Eduardo and Abou Diaby finding the net.