LONDON -- Usually Friday night is one the quietest times in the frenzied world of the English Premier League. Players can be found on gaming consoles in hotel rooms on the eve of games, or resting at home in anticipation of a Sunday game.
But the pre-game calm will be shattered by the closing of the winter transfer window on Friday, with clubs racing to sign reinforcements or offload rejects for the final time this season.
Here are five things to know about the transfer deadline-day and the weekend's Premier League matches:
CLASH OF THE CHALLENGERS
Manchester City and Chelsea will be relieved their fixture has been shunted back to Monday, minimizing any disruption for their top-of-the-table meeting. "It's the ultimate test," Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. "It's going to be a really, really tough game."
The City squad hardly needs much tinkering. Manuel Pellegrini's side took its goal tally this season to 115 in all competitions with a 5-1 thumping of Tottenham that took them back to the Premier League summit. At the same time, though, Chelsea was being frustrated by West Ham — drawing 0-0 — and travels to the Etihad three points behind City.
The game pits the stingiest defence — Chelsea has conceded 20 in 23 — against the league's most prolific attack — City has scored 68 in 23. "As a collective unit, as a whole team, we're working really hard defensively, not just at the back," Cahill said. Chelsea got the better of City in their last clash, winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in October.
Being knocked off the top has taken the wind out of Arsenal's title charge. And after being held at Southampton, the Gunners host a resurgent Crystal Palace on Sunday. "The kind of performance we delivered at Southampton will not move us forward, so let's focus to come back on Sunday and produce a good performance," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
By then will there be any new faces in an Arsenal side looking to produce a first trophy since 2005? It's unclear. "Are we active? Yes. Are we close to sign anybody? No," Wenger said on Thursday. "There is not long now, that is true." Top of the target list is Julian Draxler, but Schalke doesn't seem to be a willing seller. Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt said he was "very convinced" the 20-year-old attacking midfielder will remain at the German club for the rest of the season. Arsenal will be without midfielders Jack Wilshere, who has an ankle problem, and Aaron Ramsey, who faces several weeks out with a thigh injury.
Tottenham was brought down to earth with a bang by City on Wednesday as Tim Sherwood's unbeaten start as manager in the league ended. The north London club, which has conceded 11 goals to City this season, has what seems to be an easy trip to Hull on Saturday. "We have to be positive because we are still fifth, three points behind Liverpool," goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. "So it is open. We just need to be focused."
Newcastle is preparing for the derby against Sunderland on Saturday still trying to replace Yohan Cabaye, having received more than $27 million for the midfielder from Paris Saint-Germain this week. Manager Alan Pardew is waiting for a bid for Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier to be accepted. "He has tremendous creative technical ability," Pardew said.
Sunderland, which is out of the relegation zone for the first time since August, signed Argentina striker Ignacio Scocco on Thursday from Internacional.
MOYES EYES MOMENTUM
Manchester United is chasing its first back-to-back league wins in a month when the champions face Stoke on Saturday still in seventh place. David Moyes' push for the top four is being helped by how easily record-signing Juan Mata slotted into the team for a 2-0 win over Cardiff on Tuesday after joining from Chelsea. "Juan looked like he had been here for years," winger Ashley Young said. "He had only been training for two days and it was his first game but he has gelled straight away."