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Football News: Premier League Match Previews

Saturday 12:30pm
Manchester City v Chelsea

Sterling (doubt)
Kompany (out)
Delph (doubt)

Terry (out)
Obi Mikel (doubt)
Kane (out)
Loftus-Cheek (doubt)

An early chance for Man City to return to the top of the table, with Liverpool not playing until the following day. Pep Guardiola's star has lost a little of its lustre in recent weeks, this is a good chance for him to get it back. Pep will be looking for his side to assert their dominance from the kick off, to get the ball and ensure Chelsea are forced back, in the same way Spurs did for most of the first half last weekend. Except that Citeh will be looking to take better advantage of the situation, to build a lead and put the game to bed nice and early, to ensure Chelsea are unable to take advantage of their defensive frailties.

Table-toppers Chelsea are currently flying high at the top of the table, with a mere one point lead over 3rd placed City. This is a chance for Antonio Conte to finally show his tactical mettle by getting one over on Guardiola, the darling of the media. After the way his players struggled to get to grips with Spurs last weekend, Conte will be looking for more this weekend. He will want his players to impose themselves on the game and to not let Pep's possession-oriented system get the ball and keep it. Conte will want his players to show they are good enough to win the league.

 

Saturday 3pm
Crystal Palace v Southampton

Wickham (out)
Remy (out)
Mandanda (out)
J. Benteke (out)
Souare (out)
Cabaye (suspended)

Tadic (doubt)
McCarthy (doubt)
Targett (doubt)
Pied (out)
Gardos (doubt)
Olomola (doubt)

Palace are in desperate need of something to stop the rot, six defeats in a row have left them in serious trouble of being relegated. Last weekend was particularly demoralising for the Eagles as they lost a crazy game to the Swans 5-4. Alan Pardew will need to show he is a better manager than most believe, if he is to rescue the club, and keep his job. Without Connor Wickham and Loic Remy to call on, he will be highly reliant on Christian Benteke to get some goals, but he will have to do so without service from Yohan Cabaye. A lot will be heaped on the shoulders of Jason Puncheon, who will need to be at his best if Palace are to get anything from the match.

Saints are coming into the match on the back of two morale-boosting wins. The midweek EFL Cup win comes straight after getting Claude Puel got one over previous manager Ronald Koeman's Everton team in the Prem. Soton will go into this game filled with confidence and feeling that they are fully capable of beating Palace. Puel's usage of the academy prospects has created a good feeling around the club, once more. Players that were overlooked and felt undervalued, under the previous regime, feel like they have a future and that has seen their performances improve. Saints once more feel like a club on the up.

Saturday 3pm
Stoke City v Burnley

Shawcross (out)
Whelan (doubt)
Bardsley (out)
Cameron (doubt)
Butland (doubt)
Ireland (out)
Afellay (out)

Marney (doubt)
Gudmundsson (doubt)
Heaton (doubt)

 

Stoke's recent form has been excellent, and seen them climb out of a relegation battle to the cusp of the top half. Mark Hughes will be looking for his charges to continue the good form, and not let any more blips, such as the recent defeat to Bournemouth. The Potters will need to be at their best, as Burnley are a stubborn opponent and will fight from the kick off until the final whistle. The Hughes version of Stoke is not as combative as it was when he took charge, so he will have to ensure his charges are up for the inevitable battle his opponents will look to turn the game into.

Sean Dyche has mostly invested the money received for Premier League participation on improving the club's infrastructure, in particular a new training ground is being built. As such, he has had to be very careful in terms of player recruitment, stingy even. The infrastructure investment will pay off in the long term, but, in the meantime, Dyche has no option but to build a side to scrap and fight like the old Everton 'Dogs of War' that Joe Royle had. Luckily for the Clarets, their recruitment has unearthed the club some real gems, especially in the striking department, which has meant they always have the potential to sneak wins. Dyche will want that fight and firepower at its best to break a run of two defeats before it turns into a slide down the table into the relegation places.

Saturday 3pm
Sunderland v Leicester City

Gooch (doubt)
Kirchhoff (doubt)
McNair (out)
Cattermole (out)
Rodwell (doubt)
Borini (out)

Schmeichel (out)
Mendy (doubt)
Chilwell (doubt)
Ulloa (doubt)
Drinkwater (suspended)

Sunderland are currently rock-bottom of the league table, but have shown signs recently that they actually have some fight in them and a chance of rescuing the situation. That has been the most surprising thing about David Moyes time in charge of the Mackems, the lack of fire in the bellies of the players. That seems to have come back since the battering at the hands of Arsenal and recent wins over Bournemouth and fellow struggles Hull have given the players and fans some hope. Unfortunately, they followed it up with a turgid display of defending against Liverpool, and this week owner Ellis Short has publicly put the club up for sale. That was just what Moyes did not need. His job is now to focus the players' minds on the game with last season's champions Leicester, who are eminently beatable this season, unlike last year.

What can be said about this season's Foxes side that has not been said already? They are so far removed from the side that took the world's attention last season that it is difficult to understand how that has happened. It is almost exactly the same eleven running out onto the pitch each week, but they look a ghost of the team that is lighting up the Champions League. Claudio Ranieri will be working hard to transfer focus back to the Prem now that qualification to the next phase of the Champions League has been achieved. He will not want to hear any more boos from the Leicester fans, directed at his team.

 

Saturday 3pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City

Davies (doubt)
Lamela (doubt)
Alderweireld (doubt)

Sung-Yeung (out)
Britton (doubt)

There must be a feeling of deja vu around White Hart Lane as they were in this exact position this time last year. They were again unconvincing and overly reliant on Harry Kane to score goals. How long can they carry on before they get caught out, as Mauricio Pochettino seems unable to get more out of his squad on a regular basis. If anything, there seems to have been a backward step this season, as the inclusion of Victor Wanyama has stifled the midfield and the expensive acquisition of Moussa Sissoko has so far been spectacularly unsuccessful. This will be a real test of Pochettino's mettle as a manager, getting this team firing again, and turning the draws into wins. He will need to lift his players following their failure to make early dominance count against Chelsea last weekend. How much more can he do without more firepower to help out Kane?

Having got a crazy win last time out, this weekend is a very different prospect for the Swans. Spurs are nothing like as beatable as Palace, with a strong defence, unlike the wide open Palace side. It is unlikely a few penalty box scrambles will lead to the goals needed to win the match this time out. Bob Bradley will probably have to accept his best chance is to use pace on the break to hit Spurs when they go forward. This Swansea City team has a lot of pace on the flanks to get at Spurs, and to supply the ammunition for the Spanish striking duo.

Saturday 3pm
West Bromwich Albion v Watford

Myhill (out)
Berahino (out)

Holebas (doubt)
Kaboul (doubt)
Success (doubt)
Kenedy (doubt)
Cathcart (doubt)
Dja Djedje (out)
Britos (suspended)
Behrami (suspended)

The Baggies were struggling but a run of two wins and a draw has lifted them into the top half of the table, ahead of this match up with the Hornets, who are still a place above them. Tony Pulis will not be able to beat Watford the way he did Burnley, by just bullying them out of their stride and winning the battle. Watford have more quality than Burnley, so Pulis will need his side to be at their best. West Brom will look to use Salomon Rondon to bully the defenders, then pick up the scraps.

The Hornets mostly play with a back 3/5, which gives them much needed extra height and strength at the back, which will be especially useful against the Baggies. Having been beaten by Stoke last time out, Watford need to bounce back with a positive result, or they risk losing their way and falling out of the top half. First they need to be up for a fight and not allow West Brom to bully them out of their stride, then they need to use pace and movement to get at the Baggies extremely ponderous backline.

 

Saturday 5:30pm
West Ham United v Arsenal

Sakho (out)
Oxford (doubt)
Tore (doubt)
Byram (doubt)
Carroll (doubt)
Cresswell (doubt)
Antonio (doubt)

Debuchy (out)
Giroud (doubt)
Bellerin (out)
Cazorla (out)
Akpom (out)
Mertesacker (out)
Welbeck (out)
Sanogo (doubt)
Elneny (doubt)
Perez (doubt)

The Hammers season has been little short of unmitigated disaster, which has kept them in serious danger of relegation even now, after a third of the season has gone. Slaven Bilic has to stop the rot quickly, or he knows his job is in jeopardy. Bilic has seemingly been left foundering by the inability of his players to recover the form they showed last season. A large part of the problem seems to stem from his opponents simply having figured out Bilic's system and tactics. The weakness down the right is being exploited constantly and the defence is being exposed. This is not a time for him to face an Arsenal side in dire need of a win.

Arsenal are still unbeaten in the Premier League since the opening game, but they are not currently playing well, culminating in a poor defeat, with a weakened side, by Southampton in the EFL Cup midweek. Without Santi Cazorla in the midfield, Arsene Wenger's men look half the team, with a real lack of creativity, so it will be a big blow that he has been ruled out for an extended period. Wenger will be relieved that Lucas Perez could potentially play, as it then gives him someone to play on the left when Alexis Sanchez is up front or someone to play up front when Sanchez is on the left wing. That has been a real weakness for the Gunners, not having another option for either position, and an attempt to shoehorn Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Aaron Ramsey in on the left has not worked well. With the right flank massively weakened by injuries to first choice right back Hector Bellerin and back up Mathieu Debuchy, Arsenal really need at one flank they can rely on.

Sunday 1:30pm
Bournemouth v Liverpool

Stanislas (doubt)
Daniels (doubt)
Boruc (doubt)
Surman (doubt)
Cook (out)

Coutinho (out)
Firmino (doubt)
Lallana (doubt)
Ings (out)
Ojo (doubt)
Sturridge (doubt)

Eddie Howe's Cherries' side have a tendency to be outplayed by the better teams when they face them. He will be looking to change that in the early Sunday kick off, no doubt looking to fire his men up and using players with something to prove against the Reds, such as Brad Smith and Jordon Ibe. One thing he has does have at his disposal is an abundance of pace, so he can afford to play on the break if they do end up giving up the initiative to their opponents. That is not really the way Howe likes his team to play, but sometimes needs must.

Liverpool have to hope that this first game without Coutinho does not spell the start of a sticky patch, or heads could drop due to his absence. They need to show that they can win without him. With that in mind, Jurgen Klopp will be desperately hoping his other Brazilian magician, Roberto Firmino, is fit to face the Cherries. Without his workrate and skill, there could be a real lack of creativity at the top end, especially if Adam Lallana is still not ready to return from his injury lay off. Klopp is unlikely to be able to turn to England striker Daniel Sturridge, but he is lucky to have Divock Origi in reserve, who has showed he can step in and be a real threat with pace, power, skill and he scores goals as well. This could be the moment for him to cement a first team spot in Coutinho's absence.

Sunday 4pm
Everton v Manchester United

McCarthy (doubt)
Besic (out)
Pennington (doubt)
Kone (doubt)

Bailly (doubt)
Smalling (out)
Wilson (out)
Rooney (suspended)

Everton will desperately want to arrest what is turning into a worrying slump on Sunday. A hammering at the hands of Chelsea, an outplaying by lowly Swansea and then another defeat at Ronald Koeman's former club Southampton has seen the Toffees slip down the table. With their opponents only being a point above them in the table, Sunday is a real opportunity for the blue half of Merseyside to stop the rot and climb back up the table. It does look like Koeman has a real shortage of talent at his disposal to rescue things, after a summer transfer window that did not go to plan and years of calamitous transfer dealings under Roberto Martinez, the squad is weak and ageing. Added to the dip in confidence, Everton desperately need a boost before things get any worse.

Man Utd are starting to perform better, though results have yet to reflect that improvement, much to Jose Mourinho's chagrin. He still needs to see a return in the huge investment made on Paul Pogba, who has been nothing short of a major disappointment so far, especially at a world record fee. With Wayne Rooney missing through suspension, that will mean the entire spotlight will fall on Pogba, it is time for him to respond and show why so much money was paid for the French midfielder.

Monday 8pm
Middlesbrough v Hull City

Friend (out)
Ayala (doubt)
Husband (doubt)

Mason (doubt)
Hernandez (doubt)
Keane (out)
Odubajo (out)
Luer (out)
Bruce (out)
Maloney (doubt)
Clucas (suspended)

This season is all about finishing above 18th for Boro, that is all they are targeting. To do that they need to beat teams like Hull, this is a truly vital game for them. Aitor Karanka has a lot more quality at his disposal than opposite number Mike Phelan, he will be looking to take advantage of that on Monday night. The injury to George Friend is a real problem for Karanka, as he provides a large portion of Boro's attacking threat with his raids down the left. If they can continue to keep Adama Traore on track, and trying, and fit, his pace, power and skill will be a huge helping hand in keeping them clear of the drop zone.

The Tigers are struggling badly, sliding down the table rapidly with many signs that they are a team completely out of their depth in the Premier League. There seems little Mike Phelan can do to arrest the slide, as his team does not look to have the fight or the ability to pick up enough points to survive. They look like a team already resigned to relegation. There are many times, however, that a team that looks to be done gets a result that revives them and sees them hang on to their place in the top flight. Phelan will be hoping Monday night sees Hull get a result that can act as such a catalyst.

Written by Tris Burke December 03 2016 05:31:05