Football News: Premier League Preview Sunday 10th December 2017

 

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Premier League Preview Sunday 10th December 2017
Image from: jumpstreet.org

Sunday 10th December 2017



Southampton v Arsenal 12:00pm kick off


Soares (hamstring injury expected return 16th December) major doubt
Long (calf injury) doubt

It has been a rollercoaster season for Saints, though it now seems the Everton hammering was a false dawn as they have failed to win in the two matches since. With 3 wins and 3 losses from their 8 home matches, inconsistency seems to be very much a problem for Mauricio Pellegrino to fix. The lack of attacking intent that frustrated fans under previous incumbent Claude Puel seems to have grown under Pellegrino, as well as the quality of the play dipping. While they look to have more than enough to avoid being dragged into the relegation battle, they need to be careful not to get into a bad run or they could end up being another of this teams that are too good to go down but goes down anyway.
Most important player: Charlie Austin. The team are not creating a lot of chances for him, so he has to be clinical.


Mustafi (thigh strain expected return 13th December) out
Cazorla (plantaris injury) out
Walcott (calf injury) slight doubt

Arsenal come into this game on the back of a damaging home defeat against Man Utd which ended their perfect home record and made it 5 defeats already this season, 4 of them coming on the road. Their away record is as poor as their home record is excellent, as they have just 2 wins and have only scored 8 goals in 7 away games. After getting Gooners' hopes up that they were a genuine challenger after 3 wins in a row, Gunners are back on planet earth as the team sat in 5th before the weekend begun, a long way off the title pace being set by Man City. Once again, Arsenal flatter to deceive, putting themselves into a strong position, only to throw it away.
Most important player: Alexandre Lacazette. The only question about the French striker is why Wenger has not used him more often.


Defining Battle: the little area in and around the edge of the Southampton penalty box is the key to this game. Arsenal love to attack this area, with the wide players cutting in from the flanks especially and closing them down efficiently there is vital. Saints need to avoid being caught on their heels as the short, quick passes that the Gunners look to play will leave them stranded. They have to try and avoid committing themselves and being left behind as Arsenal players make runs.


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



Liverpool v Everton 2:15pm kick off


Moreno (ankle injury) major doubt
Grujic (fractured finger) doubt
Matip (muscle injury) out
Clyne (back injury) out
Bogdan (ACL injury) out

The red half of Merseyside have been moving in the right direction recently, quietly racking up the results and climbing the table. They are now unbeaten in 6 league games in a row and have yet to taste defeat at Anfield this season, conceding just 2 goals so far. While the gap to Man City, at 14 points, looks insurmountable, they are at least moving into the top 4 and applying pressure on those above them. Their main job is to ensure the form book does not go out the window in this derby match.
Most important player: Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian forward has been the key cog in the Liverpool attacking machine this season.


Baines (calf strain) out
Jagielka (knock) doubt
Stekelenburg (groin strain expected return 18th December) out
Barkley (hamstring injury expected return 26th December) out
Funes Mori (ACL injury expected 1st April 2018) out
Coleman (broken leg expected return 13th January 2018) out
Bolasie (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out

It is not just the red half of Merseyside that are moving in the right direction, the blue half have found form at last, moving into the top half with 2 wins in a row in the Premier League. Both wins have come at home, which leaves their away form still, currently at least, woeful and they have yet to win on the road, scoring just 5 goals in 7 games, while conceding 16. That is Sam Allardyce's first big test, improving the away form and getting the team scoring away from Goodison Park, though Allardyce will no doubt see tightening the defence up as the number one priority, as the team have shipped 16 goals on the road.
Most important player: Gylfi Sigurdsson. Finally Sigurdsson has begun to look like the player he was at Swansea.


Defining Battle: it's a derby so form goes out the window, you have to fight for your right to party etc etc. If there is one thing we have learnt from history in recent years, form does not really go out of the window and the battling aspect has largely disappeared from the game. The key is in that creaky, slow, ageing Everton defence's ability to deal with Liverpool's attacking pace, interchanging movement and ability. Before Allardyce arrived the whole defence looked finished, like a bunch of over the hill players whose legs have all suddenly gone at once, even Michael Keane. With a few weeks of drilling behind them, he will hope they will look a lot more sharp and will not allow themselves to get caught by balls in behind them, as that is where Liverpool are at their best. If there are any gaps at all behind the Everton backline, they can exploit it.


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



Manchester United v Manchester City 4:30pm kick off


Matic (muscle injury) slight doubt
Ibrahimovic (fatigue) slight doubt
Fellaini (knee injury) late fitness test
Bailly (groin strain expected return 17th December) out
Jones (calf injury) doubt
Carrick (heart condition) out
Pogba (suspended) out

It is hard to believe that a team with a 100% record at home, that have won their last 4 Premier League games on the bounce and are recording such excellent results have ended up 8 points behind in the title chase. It has almost turned the Manchester derby into a must win game for the Red Devils, at the very least they cannot afford to lose if they have genuine ambitions of winning the league this season. At least Jose Mourinho's side will be high in confidence at Old Trafford, having won all 7 games there, scoring 20 goals and conceding just 1 this season. With City having shown signs of stuttering over the last few weeks, this could just be the right time to play them, though the absence of Paul Pogba will hit them hard.
Most important player: Romelu Lukaku. There would be no better time to refind his scoring touch than the Manchester derby. With Ederson starting to make mistakes when rushing out, his runs in behind could be key to the chances of a win.


Delph (illness) late fitness test
Kompany (muscle injury) late fitness test
D. Silva (muscle injury) slight doubt
Stones (hamstring injury expected return 6th December 2018) out
Mendy (ACL injury expected return 18th April 2018) out

Citeh are running away with the Premier League, with win after win being ground out late in games time after time, but that is not what Pep Guardiola was brought into the club to achieve. City's owners are not aiming for the Premier League, they want the Champions League and the club is focused around achieving that aim. Could that be a problem later on, will they be distracted by focusing too much on that trophy that has almost become an obsession? If not, then there is little hope for other teams, as they have got themselves into a position where the trophy is almost theirs to lose, rather than to win now.
Most important player: Ederson. The sweeper keeper has been largely excellent since joining City, but there have been the odd signs of weaknesses in his game. He cannot afford to allow those weaknesses to show against a Jose Mourinho team.


Defining Battle: City are excellent going forward but their defence is still focused around keeping possession of the ball, with little thought to what happens when they do not have possession, other than in winning it back immediately. Defensively they are still positionally poor, disorganised and heavily reliant on Ederson to sweep up behind them when they are caught out by simple balls over the top. Even slow strikers have been able to get in behind them at times. How they deal with the likes of Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial will decide this game. There is a big grey area between the defenders and keeper that can be used for pacey forwards to get onto the ball before Ederson can hope to come out and clear. If anyone will have worked out a plan to exploit that weakness it is Jose.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-2
Ed003 - 1-4
Ed004 - 1-2 (referee Oliver giving City a dodgy decision or 2)
Ed007 - 4-2
Ed018 - ?
Ed025 - 0-0
Ed033 - ?



Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed033 - 93 points
1= Ed018 - 93 points
3. Ed002 - 89 points
4. Ed025 - 88 points
5. Ed004 - 85 points
6. Ed003 - 83 points
7. Ed007 - 79 points


*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 7th December 2017

Written by Tris Burke



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