Football News: Premier League Match Preview Wednesday 29th November 2017

 

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Premier League Match Preview Wednesday 29th November 2017
Image from: pitchero.com

Wednesday 29th November 2017



Arsenal v Huddersfield Town 7:45pm kick off


Ozil (illness expected return 2nd December) slight doubt
Cazorla (plantaris injury) out


At home Arsenal have been excellent, still possessing a 100% record. Following on the back of a lucky(?) late winner against high-flying Burnley, at Burnley, their confidence will be extremely high right now. However this is the kind of game that Arsenal often stumble in, the match they are expected to win but the opposition fly into a few tackles and they retreat into their shell. Is this season really different or is it the same old Gunners? Certainly things are beginning to change behind the scenes, with a few crucial appointments, such as a fitness coach that has immediately fixed the injury issues behind the club.
Most important player: Sead Kolasinac. Provides the strength and bite often lacking in an Arsenal side in recent years.


Billing (ankle injury 13th January 2018) out
Hefele (achilles injury expected return 16th December) out
Stankovic (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out
Van La Parra (suspended) out

While they are currently in a dodgy run, 2 defeats in a row, the Terriers will take a lot of heart from their performance against Man City, where they came the closest to exposing the defensive weaknesses that still exist there. However going to Arsenal is totally different from playing at home with the extremely vocal backing from their fans to lift them and drive them on. First thing they need to do is to figure out how to score goals away, with just 3 goals in 6 away games this season.
Most important player: Tom Ince. Ince has been massively disappointing this season, offering very little other than wasted possession in game after game. It is time he repaid Wagner's faith in him.


Defining Battle: will Huddersfield sit deep and look to hold out in their own half or will they apply the high press throughout the pitch? I believe the effort put into the City game will ensure Wagner goes with a low block and tries to break from deep against Arsenal. The key to beating the low block is quick ball movement centrally and/or getting around the sides and playing good balls into the box. In Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud, Arsenal have the perfect players to take advantage of good balls played in from wide areas.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 3-0
Ed004 - 3-1
Ed007 - 3-1
Ed018 - 2-0
Ed025 - 3-1
Ed033 - 2-0



Bournemouth v Burnley 7:45pm kick off


Defoe (calf strain expected return 3rd December) major doubt
Stanislas (groin strain expected return 3rd December) major doubt
B. Smith (hip injury) out
Mings (back injury) out
Federici (knee injury expected return 16th December) out

Suddenly the Cherries have woken up, lifted themselves out of the relegation zone and are on a run of 3 games unbeaten. However they were surprisingly held to a draw by the toothless Swans at the weekend, which shows they still have a long way to go to sort themselves out this season. Their home form is not the best, with 3 defeats and a draw in the 6 games there, scoring just 7 and conceding 6. It does not suggest this will be an open game, as they notched 4 of those 7 in just one game v Huddersfield. That is their big weakness, they struggle for goals, though it has improved since Defoe has been out of the side.
Most important player: Callum Wilson. They need goals and he is the best chance they have of getting them with King struggling this season.


Marney (fitness) major doubt
Walters (knee injury) out
Heaton (dislocated shoulder) out

Burnley have been at their best on the road this season, with 3 wins out of 6 games and just one defeat and they will be keen to get back to winning ways following their last-gasp defeat against Arsenal breaking up a 3 game winning streak. Like Bournemouth, their big problem is scoring goals, just 12 in 13 matches is stopping them from really pushing on. Having said that, how much further could Sean Dyche possibly take Burnley than a top 7 position in the Premier League?
Most important player: Robbie Brady. In recent games he has been targeted by opponents who see him as a weakness due to his tendency to wander out of position.


Defining Battle: can the centre back pairing of the Clarets cope with the pace Bournemouth up front? Their bodies on the line approach might not be enough to stop the power and pace of Wilson and King, a lot will rely on the midfield blocking runs and ensuring the forwards do not get a free run at them.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-2
Ed003 - 0-0
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 0-1



Chelsea v Swansea City 7:45pm kick off


Batshuayi (ankle injury) out
Musonda (knee injury) out
Kenedy (muscle injury) major doubt

Despite all the media talk of crisis, Chelsea are 3rd and on a run of 5 games without a defeat, 4 of them wins. Antonio Conte's talk about strange schedules notwithstanding, the London side have positioned themselves in a strong position in the Premier League. Morata and Hazard are showing signs of building a good partnership up front, but they are still lacking options to allow them to rest or to cover for any injuries up front, for now anyway, as Batshuayi has still not proven himself capable of being the answer. They should have more than enough to deal with a struggling Swans side under former Blue Paul Clement though.

Most important player: Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spanish defender has been excellent since arriving at Chelsea, though you have to wonder just what more he can do to hold down a regular Spain place.


Bartley (MCL injury expected return 18th December) out
Abraham (ineligible to face parent club) out
Fernandez (compassionate leave after death of his father) out

Swansea have all the air of a team going down, with no sign of anything being turned around at all. 5 matches have gone by since they last won or even looked like winning. They look utterly devoid of any hope or chance of scoring, other than Abraham, who is missing for this game. Clement has to find something else from his team than sitting back and passing it around aimlessly.
Most important player: Wilfried Bony. Someone has to score with Abraham missing!


Defining Battle: this looks like a simple case of attack against defence, can the Swans hold out against the Chelsea attack? The width from Chelsea can be devastating to a team like the Swans, who are weak down the flanks. It comes down to the full backs desperately needing help from the midfield.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 5-0
Ed003 - 5-1
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 4-0
Ed018 - 3-0
Ed025 - 4-0
Ed033 - 2-0



Everton v West Ham United 8pm kick off


Baines (calf muscle strain) doubt
Keane (head injury) doubt
Holgate (groin strain) slight doubt
McCarthy (hamstring injury expected return 7th December) out
Stekelenburg (groin strain expected return 18th December) out
Barkley (hamstring injury expected return 10th December) out
Funes Mori (ACL injury expected return 1st April 2018) out
Coleman (broken leg expected return 13th January 2018) out
Bolasie (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out
Niasse (suspended) out

Each performance is getting gradually worse since Unsworth took over, the arm round his shoulder from Joe Royle looked like that of a grieving father seeing his daughter being buried and telling his son-in-law it is not his fault. The only thing clear is that, unfortunately, Unsworth is out of his depth and Royle needs to take a bigger hand in things if Everton are not to drop into the relegation zone.
Most important player: Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelander has had experience of this kind of position from his time at Swansea. The players can look to him for leadership to get them out of it.


Arnautovic (knee injury) late fitness test
Chicharito (hamstring injury expected return 3rd December) out
Byram (thigh strain expected return 3rd December) out
Fonte (ankle injury expected return 20th January 2018) out
Antonio (rib injury) late fitness test
Collins (ankle injury expected return 3rd December) major doubt

It has now been six games since West Ham picked up 3 points in the Premier League, despite the managerial change seeing David Moyes come in. It has been a long time since the Scotsman led a team into a relegation battle and it was a much better equipped Everton side that he took charge of then. That was the 'Dogs of War' Everton, a team of fighters, used to scrapping for every point and surviving. This Hammers side he has inherited does not have the same battling qualities, though it does have much more quality on paper, it lacks the heart to earn the right to play their football at the moment. Moyes will have to do the opposite to the job he did at Everton, where he was adding the quality to the fight, now he has to add fight to the quality. With West Ham yet to win away from home this season, despite all the moaning about the London Stadium, there will be probably not be a better chance for them to break their away day duck than against a Toffees side in total disarray and crumbling apart day by day.
Most important player: Manuel Lanzini. There is a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to be the creative hub of the side.


Defining Battle: it is very difficult to know where the battle will be as Unsworth has tried so many different formations and combinations of players now that it is difficult to keep track! With Moyes' returning to Goodison Park, the crowd are certainly going to be up for this match, so the most important battle might be the one to quieten the crowd and turn them on the Everton players.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-3
Ed003 - 2-0
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 1-1
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 0-1



Manchester City v Southampton 8pm kick off


Stones (hamstring injury) major doubt
Mendy (ACL injury expected return 18th April 2018) out

Lately some cracks have started to show in the Citeh facade, with a few performances where they have had to struggle to get the wins, but they still got the wins. Last season they probably would have failed to get at least one of those wins. What will happen when they do eventually lose will decide if they win the title this season or not.
Most important player: Ederson. The main thing that has improved their defensive resilience is the keeper and his sweeping up behind the backline. It has meant that teams can no longer just punt the ball in behind the high line of the defence as he is always quickly out to smother danger. Any balls in behind now have to be precise, to avoid simply being swept up by him.


Targett (knock) out

Having to go to Manchester to face City on their own patch is not what Pellegrino would have wanted after his team gave Everton a pasting at the weekend. The Argentine would have liked a team that enabled him to build on that performance. Someone he could take the game to and dominate possession the way he likes to play, to continue working on the things that earned them victory. Instead Pellegrino will have had to spend a couple of days working on a totally new game plan for the visit to Manchester.
Most important player: Sofiane Boufal. His ability and creativity are key to Saints play now. At his best he is unstoppable.


Defining Battle: the key for Soton is to ensure they get enough control over the ball that they are not overwhelmed by the waves of City attacks. They have quality of their own, but they need to get hold of the ball and keep it away from the Man City press long enough to use it.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 5-2
Ed003 - 5-0
Ed004 - 4-1
Ed007 - 4-1
Ed018 - 3-1
Ed025 - 3-0
Ed033 - 3-0



Stoke City v Liverpool 8pm kick off


Butland (broken finger expected return 12th December) out
Cameron (concussion expected return 2nd December) out
Ireland (broken leg) out

Stoke are in a terrible run of form right now, the only surprise is that 3 games without a win has not seen them drop into the bottom 3. It just shows how bad things have been around the rest of the Premier League that so little has been made of just how dreadful the Potters have been under Mark Hughes. They are slightly better at home than away, but still their record is not particularly good, with 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats. Unless they learn how to defend, which is something they have shown no signs of doing under Hughes, in fact quite the opposite, they are going to be in genuine danger of a relegation battle this season. They can not even rely on their attack to rescue games as that is no better than their defence and mostly relies on the woefully inconsistent Shaqiri to produce a piece of magic.
Most important player: Xherdan Shaqiri. The whole attacking plan seems to revolve around giving the ball to the Swiss international and keeping their fingers crossed he can create something.


Lovren (back injury) late fitness test
Can (muscular injury) doubt
Clyne (back injury expected return 10th February 2018) out
Bogdan (ACL injury) out

At home Liverpool have an excellent record defensively, conceding just 2 goals, on the road though, their defence is horrible and has conceded 16 goals in 1 less game! Their last two games away from home have seen them lose 4-1 then win 4-1, so it is difficult to know which Liverpool will turn up. They are in good form, on a run of 4 Premier League games without defeat, 3 of which were wins, but there are still always the issues defensively. It is not just the silly individual errors of the backline that plague them, it is the open midfield, as it provides very little protection to the defence.
Most important player: Jordan Henderson. The captain is the only midfielder trying to help out defensively for the Reds at the moment. If he has a good game then the team tends to play well too.


Defining Battle: Stoke have to put pressure on the Liverpool backline and force it into the errors it is prone to. The key is to not allow them any easy out balls as the centre backs are prone to panicking under pressure and slicing clearances or playing it back to a keeper who is hopeless with his feet and tends to turn over possession. While doing so, they have to ensure they are not caught too far upfield and hit with a ball over the top.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-2
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed018 - 2-3
Ed025 - 1-2
Ed033 - 1-2



Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed018 - 79 points
2. Ed033 - 78 points
3. Ed025 - 74 points
4. Ed002 - 72 points
5. Ed004 - 71 points
6. Ed003 - 70 points
7. Ed007 - 62 points


*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 27th November 2017

Written by Tris Burke



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