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Football News: Weekend Premier League Preview

Saturday 12:30pm
Watford v Everton

Mariappa (doubt)
Janmaat (out)
Kaboul (doubt)
Kenedy (doubt)
Cathcart (out)
Dja Djedje (out)
Pereyra (suspended)

Bolasie (out)
Coleman (doubt)
Besic (out)
Pennington (doubt)
Kone (doubt)

Three defeats in the last four matches has seen Watford slip out of the top half of the league. This season has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the Hornets, a slow start, with no win in the first three games, seeing them in the relegation places and looking like a side in trouble. Since then, results improved and they put themselves firmly in the top half before the 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool and they have not looked the same since. The constant changes in formation, which seemed to help initially, are now making the players look uncomfortable and unsure. They are in desperate need of a confidence boosting win against the Toffees to get themselves back on track.

Everton were flying high early on in the season, with fans having high hopes, but just one win in the last 9 games, and that five matches ago, has seen them slowly slip down the table. The 1-1 draw in the last match, against Man Utd, showed signs of a return to form. Ronald Koeman will be looking to his players to make another step forward against the Hornets. He will have to do it without Yannick Bolasie, who will miss the rest of the season. That is a big blow to the Toffees' hopes of a decent finish to the season. Without him, they will really need Romelu Lukaku to step up and put a bit more effort in, to provide more than just goals. This could be a chance for Ross Barkley to return to the side and show he really has got the talent he has been hyped to have.

Saturday 3pm
Arsenal v Stoke City

Debuchy (out)
Bellerin (out)
Cazorla (out)
Akpom (out)
Mertesacker (out)
Welbeck (out)
Sanogo (doubt)

Arnautovic (doubt)
Martins Indi (doubt)
Shawcross (doubt)
Bardsley (out)
Cameron (doubt)
Butland (out)
Ireland (out)
Afellay (doubt)

Arsenal have been in good form this season, looking like a genuine title threat, rather than just a top four chaser. For once, they will approach a match up with Stoke full of confidence in their ability to take them on, even in the kind of battling game that usually seems them struggle. This season is different, with Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin in the centre of midfield there is a real bite about the Gunners. Added to the stunning form of Alexis Sanchez and the Champions League being put to bed until after the new year, Arsenal can now concentrate on making a push for the title.

The Potters are in good form at the moment, after their terrible start left them rooted to the bottom of the Prem, they have since clambered up to sit just inside the top half. Usually they would be looking forward to a game like Arsenal with expectation of a good result, as they usually manage to bully the Gunners. This year is different and Mark Hughes might well need to do something different to get the win. Either way, a third clean sheet in row would certainly be enough to make the manager happy.

Saturday 3pm
Burnley v Bournemouth

Gudmundsson (out)
Heaton (doubt)

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

The Clarets really need to put a stop to their poor run, with three losses in a row, a fourth would put them in real jeopardy of heads dropping, as well as being likely to put them into the relegation places. With their usually strong defence being unusually leaky this season, Sean Dyche will be looking to tighten things up at the back and try to give his attack a chance to win a few matches by the odd goal.

Following on from that excellent comeback win against Liverpool, Eddie Howe's men will be flying high on confidence, but he will need to keep their feet on the ground and ensure the players are ready for the different challenges Burnley will pose. Burnley will be a lot more physical and direct, which should suit the Cherries and allow them to play their football. Though Howe will be hoping his team do not need to fall two goals behind this weekend, before they start playing.

Saturday 3pm
Hull City v Crystal Palace

Hernandez (out)
Keane (out)
Maloney (doubt)
Odubajo (out)
Luer (out)
Bruce (out)

Wickham (out)
Remy (out)
Mandanda (out)
J Benteke (out)
Souare (out)

Hull have the appearance of a side going only one way, down. It is not just performances that are the issue, injuries are a major problem too, leaving Mike Phelan with little in the way of options to turn the Tigers season around. He has tried a number of different systems, a back 3, a back 4 and a back 5, none of which have really worked for him. Things are really beginning to look hopeless for them, and they need to pick up a confidence boosting result sooner rather than later. This game against Palace is vitally important, as Palace are not entirely clear of relegation trouble themselves, so it is a chance to drag them down amongst it, as well as pulling Hull towards safety.

Having finally broken their run of defeats with a good win over Southampton last weekend, Alan Pardew will be looking to build on that result to lift Palace clear of the relegation battle. This will be a game he will have targeted as a chance to pick up three points, with Hull in real trouble right now. The Eagles really need to get the points now, as they have Man Utd and Chelsea to play in their next couple of games.

Saturday 3pm
Swansea City v Sunderland

Fernandez (doubt)
Sung-Yeung (doubt)

Watmore (out)
Pienaar (doubt)
Denayer (doubt)
Gooch (out)
McNair (out)
Cattermole (out)
Rodwell (doubt)
Borini (doubt)

It seemed like there were a few glimmers of hope for Swans fans after the 5-4 win over Palace, only for Spurs to humiliate them 5-0 last weekend and dump them back to the bottom of the table. This game against fellow struggles Sunderland is a vital one, if the South Wales side are to have any hope of staying up at the end of the season. The arrival of new manager Bob Bradley has so far failed to really ignite a revival and they remain rooted to the foot of the table, three points off safety. They are fast running out of games to save themselves.

Suddenly Sunderland have discovered some fight, after months of abject, pathetic, lifeless displays, they have picked themselves up, got themselves together as a unit, and now the results are coming to. Three wins in the last four matches, after ten games without a win, tells its own story. They are still in the drop zone, but they have the look of a side destined to survive. The big worry for Mackems' manager David Moyes is what he will do if Jermaine Defoe picks up an injury. They are very over-reliant on the former England striker.

Saturday 5:30pm
Leicester City v Manchester City

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

Sterling (doubt)
Kompany (out)
Delph (doubt)
Fernandinho (suspended)
Otamendi (suspended)
Aguero (suspended)

What on earth can you say about Leicester this season? From the highs of champions, to the lows of what is rapidly becoming a relegation battle. They are only going one way at the moment, down, and Claudio Ranieri will be glad to be able to put the Champions League aside for a while so he can concentrate on reviving their Premier League season. Whether he can get the Foxes' players to do the same is a different matter. With Man City missing Sergio Aguero through suspension, this could be a good time to play them for Leicester. They really need the players to respond and pick up their game, or the boos will once more ring out around the stadium.

So it turns out that Pep Guardiola is human after all. Guardiola really needs to get his team back to winning ways fast, before the players start to lose faith in his methods, which are showing some serious flaws right now. Without the talents of Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho, all suspended, this is going to be a difficult game for the man that many in the media were awarding the league title to before the league even started. A good solid win here will stop the rot and restore everyone's faith in the legend of Pep, which is really looking tarnished right now.

Sunday 12pm
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion

Costa (doubt)
Pedro (doubt)
Matic (doubt)
Terry (doubt)
Kane (out)
Loftus-Cheek (doubt)
Obi Mikel (doubt)

Myhill (out)
Berahino (doubt)

Chelsea are flying right now, this is a good chance for them to make it nine wins in a row. Their counter attacks have been deadly this season, so they will be hoping to draw the Baggies out by scoring an early goal, or they are likely to find few chances against a team that will probably sit deep and look to set pieces to sneak a win. If Chelsea can draw West Brom out, they have the pace to hurt the Midlands club. There are only two real worries for Chelsea in this match. The possibility of Diego Costa not being fit enough to play and complacency.

You could not really find a worse time to face Chelsea in the Premier League this season. High on confidence after a vital win over Man City, flying high at the top of the league, everything is going their way. It is up to Tony Pulis to find a way to change that. Confidence will be high in the West Brom camp as well, with three wins in four games lifting them into the top half, just a point behind Man Utd. In this match, however, it is likely Pulis's pragmatism will win out and he will look to settle for a point, or a snatched victory. A good result here could have a galvanising effect on the whole club.

Sunday 2:15pm
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Shaw (doubt)
Smalling (out)
Wilson (out)

Janssen (doubt)
Davies (doubt)
Lamela (doubt)

One win in eight has left Man Utd six points behind their opponents Spurs. Jose Mourinho really needs to get his season kick started this weekend, or the gap could become too large for even his powers to close it. The stroll into the next round of the Europa League has shown there is a lot more to come from his team, if they can just find a way to get the best out of the enigmatic talents of Paul Pogba. Now is the perfect time for the Red Devils to find their feet under Mourinho and finally start picking up the results the fans demand of the team.

Spurs followed up their first defeat by thrashing a Swansea side that was just beginning to show signs of a revival, but Sunday's match is a much bigger task. While United have yet to live up to expectations following the arrival of Mourinho and world record signing Pogba, they are improving week by week. With the possibility of putting nine points between them, Mauricio Pochettino will be desperate to get the three points and keep Spurs in the title race. This season has shown a lot of similar signs from last season, where they also had a slow start to sit in 5th about this time of the season. This time around, they will be looking to ensure their title chances do not implode in big games, such as this one.

Sunday 2:15pm
Southampton v Middlesbrough

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

Ramirez (doubt)
Friend (out)
Husband (out)

There have been signs that Saints have peaked, that the constant sales of their better players each season has finally caught up with them. However a lot of the problem is down to the form of the captain, Jose Fonte, who has been unable to return to the form that he showed last season and in Portugal's Euro winning campaign. With an unsigned new contract and the potential of a big money move on the cards, Claude Puel is struggling to get Fonte's mind fully focused. Added to that the lack of goals, following the sale of the main goalscorer, Graziano Pelle, and a winger who made and scored goals, Sadio Mane, in the summer. Charlie Austin has been unable to find the net on a regular basis, Shane Long is back to his normal hard working non-scoring game, Jay Rodriguez is struggling to get back to his best after a long time out and Nathan Redmond is showing a lack of a killer touch. Puel has his work cut out to fix the issues at Southampton. However, they have been written off many times before, so it is certainly not hopeless for the South Coast club.

Boro are currently in a midtable position, but far from comfortable and safe from relegation. Their habit of drawing away from home is helping keep them afloat, but they need to turn some of those draws into wins, as their home form has been terrible so far. With Saints just one place, and two points, ahead of them in the table, this is a big chance to climb away from the relegation battle and put a safety net behind them. With Gaston Ramirez having a point to prove against his former club, Aitor Karanka will be hoping the Uruguayan is fit to start and drive his charges to a win.

Sunday 4:30pm
Liverpool v West Ham United

Mane (doubt)
Coutinho (out)
Matip (doubt)
Sturridge (doubt)
Ings (out)

Collins (doubt)
Cresswell (out)
Antonio (out)
Kouyate (out)
Sakho (out)
Oxford (out)
Tore (doubt)
Byram (doubt)

Following last week's debacle of allowing a 3-1 lead with quarter of an hour to go slip, Jurgen Klopp will be looking to ensure his team do not drop their intensity levels against the Hammers, even if they do manage to build a decent lead. Klopp will be hoping that the defeat against Bournemouth will have killed off any chance of complacency rearing its head this weekend. He will also be looking to ensure that Chelsea cannot open up that 4 point gap at the top any further. There will be fingers crossed over the fitness of Sadio Mane and, particularly, Joel Matip, two players who are essential to the system that Klopp employs. Without Matip, it could be an uncomfortable afternoon for those watching at Anfield, as Liverpool's defence looks shaky without his calming presence.

The Hammers are perched perilously just above the drop zone, and are a team in real disarray right now, with excuses from Slaven Bilic about the players struggling to judge distances at the new stadium not ringing true. After all, if depth perception was the issue, it would affect the away team as well. The problem is a lot more serious than that. This is not just about a home stadium that is yet to feel like home, this is a problem extending throughout the club. Starting right at the top with meddling owners who feel they have all the answers with regards to player recruitment, which is sadly being shown to be untrue this season. Bilic needs their full backing, if he is to have any chance of stopping the rot and saving the club from relegation. Right now though, being away from the Olympic Stadium might well be a relief, as this is a game that they can just relax and enjoy, with no pressure on them.

Written by Tris Burke December 10 2016 06:14:26