Premier League Preview: Gameweek 21
Watford vs Swansea (30/12/2017, 15:00 hours, Vicarage Road)
Watford ended their run of four games without a Premier League point on Boxing day as they overcame Leicester in a 2-1 victory at Vicarage Road. As for their counterparts, they are coming off of a Boxing Day hammering as they suffered a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool and are still situated at rock bottom of the Premier League table.
Watford’s injury list is one of substantial size currently as Cathcart, Chalobah, Femina, Hoban, Kaboul and Zarate are all unfit for the visit of the Swans. Deeney remains banned as he served out the second of his four-match ban against Leicester on Tuesday. Will Hughes, Miguel Britos and Issac Success all could face Swansea come Saturday but will likely face late fitness tests.Embed from Getty Images
The significance of this game is the first appearance of Carlos Carvalhal in the Swansea dug-out as he was appointed earlier in the week. Leon Britton, who took charge of games against Liverpool and Crystal Palace, could have found himself on the other side of the touchline come Saturday yet is unavailable due to a calf strain. Swansea could be graced with the return of striker Wilfred Bony however his fitness is still questionable and he may face another fixture away from action. Ki Sung-yueng and Kyle Bartley both remain side-lined.
Score Prediction – Watford 1 Swansea 1
Bournemouth vs Everton (30/12/2017, 15:00 hours, Vitality Stadium)
Everton are the visitors to the Vitality this Saturday as Bournemouth play their final game of 2017 in front of their own fans. Yet, the game is going to be difficult to live up to the thrilling encounter witnessed at the Vitality on Boxing day as Bournemouth grabbed a point late on in a 3-3 draw with West Ham. Meanwhile the visitors were held to a second consecutive 0-0 draw on Tuesday as they picked up a point away to West Brom.
Eddie Howe is another with a frustrating injury list with Defoe, Federici, Mings, Smith and Stanislas all unavailable for the contest. Harry Arter, Charlie Daniels and Andrew Surman all missed the West Ham encounter due to injury however are all possible returners and will be assessed ahead of the fixture.Embed from Getty Images
Sam Allardyce and Everton face similar injury concerns ahead of Saturdays game and Baines, Barkley, Coleman and Funes Mori all remain side-lined. It was clear in their last two fixtures that Everton were without Wayne Rooney as he suffered an illness which kept him out. He has since recovered and is in contention to start the game come Saturday. Idrissa Gueye who also missed the match against West Brom is close to a return yet the trip to Bournemouth maybe too soon for the Senegalese international. Everton were boosted with the return of Yannick Bolasie on Boxing Day as he made he first start of the year and it will be interesting to see whether he retains his place.
Score Prediction – Bournemouth 1 Everton 2
Huddersfield vs Burnley (30/12/2017, 15:00 hours, John Smith Stadium)
Burnley have not won a game in three Premier League outings which is their longest run without a win this campaign. As for their hosts this Saturday, Huddersfield have not lost in three Premier League fixtures. Both have been impressive this season and are sitting in positions which most would not expect.
For Huddersfield, Billing, Hefele, Kachunga and Stankovic remain the only absentees for Wagner. After Steve Mounie was handed a start against Stoke on Boxing Day, it is likely Laurent Depoitre will be leading the line on Saturday. As for other changes, they will be minimal as far as Huddersfield are concerned.Embed from Getty Images
Burnley will be frustrated that they didn’t manage to see out the victory when 2-0 up at Old Trafford on Boxing Day yet to obtain a point against Manchester United in impressive fashion, really shows where their season is going. Stephen Ward is still tackling a knee injury and will probably not be ready for the trip to Huddersfield and Chris Wood will most likely be assessed before the match to determine his fitness. James Tarkowski, who has attracted attention from top six clubs this season, still remains banned. Tom Heaton and Robbie Brady remain missing for the Clarets.
Score Prediction – Huddersfield 0 Burnley 0
Newcastle vs Brighton (30/12/2017, 15:00 hours, Sports Direct Arena)
After the first forty-five minutes of Newcastle’s game vs Manchester City, there were a lot questioning Rafa Benitez’s tactics and the style of Newcastle’s play, yet with 20 minutes to go on Wednesday, Newcastle found themselves in a good position and were unfortunate to not gain a point from the fixture. Benitez will be looking to put an end to his critics come Saturday in Newcastle as they face the visit of Brighton. The visitors have only won one game in nine matches and are not in the best of form currently.
This is a crucial fixture for both sides as they both find themselves not far off the dreaded bottom three. For Newcastle, Jesus Gamaz and Mitrovic remain side-lined and will not appear against the Seagulls. Lejeune and Hayden have both missed the last two outings for the Magpies yet are in contention to return for the clash. Joselu or Gayle is the main question for Benitez.Embed from Getty Images
Brighton are certainly one of the fitness clubs currently and only have one injury worry in Steve Sidwell who will miss out. Gross and Knockaert were both on the bench at Chelsea, as Chris Hughton was most likely looking forward to this fixture. They are both likely to gain recalls. Tomer Hemed has stated the last two fixtures yet Glenn Murray will provide a further option for Brighton.
Score Prediction – Newcastle 1 Brighton 0
Liverpool vs Leicester City (30/12/2017, 15:00 hours, Anfield)
Certainly, the most eagerly anticipated fixture this game week is happening at Anfield with Liverpool hosting Leicester. The last 5 fixtures between the two, in all competitions, have resulted in 19 goals scored, with Leicester victorious twice and Liverpool on three occasions. In Liverpool’s last three fixtures, they have scored 12 goals and for Leicester, who’s defensive problems have been highlighted recently, this devastating attack will be difficult to contain.
Liverpool have not lost since late October where they were brushed aside 4-1 by Tottenham. It was confirmed earlier this week too that Virgil van Dijk will join Liverpool come 1st January for £75million, a colossal price but a very much needed player for Klopp. In terms of injuries for the reds, Grujic and Sturridge may face late fitness tests for the trip of Leicester but Henderson, Moreno, Clyne, Ojo and Origi remain absent. With Coutinho playing 90 minutes on Boxing Day he may be rested by Klopp, who may hand a recall to Sadio Mane.Embed from Getty Images
As for Leicester, right back Danny Simpson maybe out for four to five weeks with a hamstring injury, as confirmed by Puel this week. He joins Robert Huth on the side-lines for City. Dragovic filled in at right back for the trip to Watford yet Daniel Amartey maybe preferred as he returns from a one match ban. Matty James returned to the bench against the Hornets after a long time off competitive action but will unlikely start against Liverpool, with Iborra looking to gain a recall in place of King.
Score Prediction – Liverpool 3 Leicester 2
Chelsea vs Stoke (30/12/2017, 15:00 hours, Stamford Bridge)
Stoke City visit Stamford Bridge this weekend to a side who have only lost 1 game in 13 Premier League outings and who are unbeaten at home since the loss to Manchester City back in September. Stoke City on the other hand are a side who have been flirting with relegation this season yet with four points from their last possible six, they currently sit in 13th, but importantly only 3 points of the relegation zone.
Chelsea welcomed the return of Alvaro Morata against Brighton and he will once again lead the line for Conte’s side with Hazard playing the number 10 role which he does so well. David Luiz remains absent alongside youngster Charly Musonda who’s struggling with a groin strain. Andreas Christensen missed the 2-0 success over the Seagulls due to illness and he will be assessed early Saturday morning.Embed from Getty Images
Hughes and Stoke will have to play without central defender Kurt Zouma on Saturday as he is ineligible to face his parent club. He joins a long list of absentees for Stoke with Imbula, Ireland, Johnson, Krkic, Martins Indi, Muniesa, Jese Rodriguez and Shawcross all on the list of injured. Significantly, Ryan Shawcross is out with a calf injury leaving Hughes very limited with defensive options. Erik Pieters who has picked up a knock has a chance of being fit according to the Stoke manager but may miss out once more.
Score Prediction – Chelsea 3 Stoke 0
Manchester United vs Southampton (30/12/2017, 17:30 hours, Old Trafford)
Manchester United are coming off of two consecutive 2-2 draws with Leicester and Burnley respectively. Although in contrasting circumstances, United have now not won in three games in all competitions and will be looking to bounce back with victory come Saturday evening. Southampton have not won in 7 Premier League games and are a side struggling for form.
For Mourinho, Bailly, Carrick, Fellaini and Valencia all remain absentees. Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian and Anthony Martial all remain doubts for the fixture but will continue to be assessed. With Jesse Lingard the hero against Burnley on Boxing Day, he will certainly be looking to be pushed into the starting XI come Saturday.Embed from Getty Images
As for the visitors, they still remain without Charlie Austin due to suspension, although the injury he received late in the game against Huddersfield, is likely to keep him side-lined for several months. Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand are still missing for the trip.
Score Prediction – Manchester United 2 Southampton 1
Crystal Palace vs Manchester City (31/12/2017, 12:00 hours, Selhurst Park)
Manchester City come into this game, yet to lose a game this campaign and the trip to Selhurst Park will be no push over. Arsenal ended Palace’s 8 game streak without a loss on Thursday night but were certainly tough competition for Arsene Wenger’s side.
For Hodgeson and Palace, Anderson, Delaney, Sakho, Ward and Wickham all remain absentees. For palace, it is unlikely that changes will occur and vital for them is the performance of Wilfred Zaha, who in recent weeks has been showing signs of his best football. Palace have had a day’s less rest then their counterparts come Sunday but this can’t be used an excuse come the visit of the title topers.Embed from Getty Images
As for City, John Stones is still unlikely to return for the trip to London as he still struggles to recover from a hamstring problem. Phil Foden alongside Benjamin Mendy remain the long-term absentees for Guardiola. A typical story emerged 5 minutes into the trip to Newcastle last Wednesday as Vincent Kompany limped off with a calf problem and will probably miss the trip to Palace. David Silva missed the game vs Newcastle and may miss out again, with the main question being who will lead the line for City with both Aguero and Jesus enjoying 70 minutes against the Magpies.
Score Prediction – Crystal Palace 1 Manchester City 2
West Brom vs Arsenal (31/12/2017, 16:30 hours, The Hawthorns)
It was certainly an improved display from a desperate West Bromwich Albion side, but Pardew’s team still find themselves situated in the bottom three, 3 points off of safety. As for Arsenal, it will be a special game for manager and legend, Arsene Wenger, as he celebrates breaking the record of most managed games in the Premier League, surpassing the great Sir Alex Ferguson with 810.
The newest injury concern for the Baggies is that of Salomon Rondon who suffered a hamstring niggle in the fixture against Everton. He is likely to miss the encounter vs Arsenal. James Morrison alongside Nacer Chadli are the two other absentees for Pardew, who is still looking for his first win as Baggies manager.Embed from Getty Images
For the record breaker, he will be without Cazorla, Giroud, Perez and Ramsey for the trip to the Midlands. Also, Nacho Monreal is again likely to miss out on the fixture. Calum Chambers was handed a start against Palace and will likely fill in again in the absence of the Spaniard.
Score Prediction – West Brom 0 Arsenal 2
Written by Eamon Kitching.