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Week 16: Top Premier League Storylines -- Chelsea to play Leicester with roles reversed


during the UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and FC Porto at Stamford Bridge on December 9, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.

Clive Mason

With January closing fast and the clogged fixture schedule of the holiday season around the corner, teams are making moves across the Premier League table both up and down.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Can Manchester United rebound from Champions League exit?

The Red Devils suffered an embarrassing departure from the Champions League group stage with a 3-2 loss to Wolfsburg that saw them drop into the Europa League knockout stages, but now they must shift their focus to a return to European play. Sitting fourth in the Premier League table, they must hold off those surging below them such as Tottenham and Liverpool.

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Manchester United visits a revived Bournemouth side that has not lost in three and has pulled itself out of the bottom three despite heavy losses due to injury. It will be a tough test for Louis van Gaal and company who need to regroup fast or feel the breath of Spurs, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Everton, West Ham, and others on the back of their necks.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Marouane Fellaini has full confidence in Van Gaal ]

Chelsea and Leicester face off

A title challenger takes on a relegation candidate in a prime-time Monday matchup. Except this one is backwards. Leicester City sits atop the Premier League table, while Chelsea rots in 14th, just two points off the drop zone.

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So who will grab a hold of the chance they have? The Foxes can slowly tighten the vicegrip on the rest of the league with a win over the defending champions, while the Blues have another opportunity to begin their rise back up the table while dealing a blow to the shock league leaders.

Who is for real, Stoke City or West Ham?

These two clubs are just a point apart, but as they meet at Upton Park, the two sides are on very different paths. Stoke City comes into this game with three wins in their last four, the most recent a galvanizing 2-0 win over Manchester City that has pumped Mark Hughes’ side up to 22 points. West Ham, meanwhile, has just three points in their last five matches - without a win over that span - missing playmaker Dimitri Payet for the forseeable future. So what team is the true Europa League contender?

Clogged middle of the table

Just two points separates 12th position - Southampton - from sixth position - Crystal Palace - as the two square off at Selhurst Park. The middle of the Premier League table is jam-packed with teams rising and falling all mired together. The top four seem established for now, but can anyone from the middle pack stake a claim to the Europa League positions, and will any drop out of contention?

Can Newcastle put together a winning streak?

The Magpies have three wins this season, and they lost the follow-up to their first two. Having shockingly topped Liverpool last week to reinvigorate their charge out of the relegation zone, can they build on this step forward? They get another in-form side in Spurs, which won big on Thursday in Europa League play with its B squad. Newcastle can move out of the relegation zone should things fall correctly.

Follow @the_bonnfire