Barclays Premier League: Previewing Round 21.
Another week has passed and it is time for another round of the Barclays Premier League. That means it’s time to preview the fixtures and have a look at which fans will go home happy this weekend.
Sunderland v Liverpool at the Stadium of Light
First up this weekend Sunderland host Liverpool who are still without Daniel Sturridge and will also be missing Raheem Sterling who is on holiday in Jamaica. Sunderland have almost all their players available with only Lee Cattermole an uncertainty for this match. Expect Gerrard to start for the Reds in the advanced midfield role he played against Wimbledon midweek in the FA Cup.
Liverpool need to find some form and points and a win here is imperative for them to stay within touching distance of the top four. Sunderland are said to have renewed their interest in Fabio Borini who is likely to be on the bench (again) and Simon Mignolet returns to his old club amid rumours of a move to bring Marc-André ter Stegen to Anfield on an initial 6 month loan.
Burnley v QPR at Turf Moor
Burnley could see their defensive woes eased this week as captain Jason Shackell is back in contention for selection after injuring his calf. QPR would have hoped to be in a better position than their opponents considering the money they have spent however a win here for Burnley would see them jump ahead of QPR on the ladder. Despite this, expect to see a debut for Mauro Zarate who is on loan at QPR from West Ham United.
After two hard fought draws against Manchester City expect to see Burnley show a bit more attacking intent against a QPR team that you can expect to pepper the Burnley area with crosses as they try and exploit the fact that Burnley have conceded more headed goals than any other team so far this season.
Chelsea v Newcastle at Stamford Bridge
A Chelsea side that suffered a humiliating loss to London rivals Tottenham to start 2015 will be looking to rediscover some form against a managerless Newcastle. José Mourinho will welcome back John Terry, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Thibaut Courtois who were rested for the FA Cup tie against Watford.
Newcastle’s Caretaker John Carver should field a full strength side including Tim Krul who should make his return from injury. The only players missing for Newcstle are Papiss Cisse and Cheick Tiote who are on African Cup of Nations duty.
Everton v Manchester City at Goodison Park
The Everton dressing room closely resembles a hospital ward at the moment such is the length of the injury list. They do however welcome back Leighton Baines and Antolin Alcarez however will still be missing James McCarthy who is still struggling with a hamstring complaint. Manchester City are boosted by the return of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko as well as Captain Vincent Kompany but will be without Yaya Toure who is away on African Cup of Nations duty.
Goodison Park has been a tough place for Manchester City to come to in recent years however Aguero and Dzeko will be looking to prove to Manuel Pellegrini that they deserve their place in the team with the confirmation that Wilfried Bony could be on his way to the Etihad.
Leicester v Aston Villa at King Power Stadium
Nigel Pearson will be missing a host of players which could see new signing Mark Schwarzer debut against an Aston Villa side that will be missing the highly sought after Ron Vlaar who has been ruled out for six weeks which is likely the best news for Villa this year as it means he probably won’t leave in January.
Paul Lambert is under a lot of pressure at Aston Villa who haven’t won in 5 games and haven’t scored in their last 3. Leicester may be bottom of the table but are riding a wave of positive form with 2 wins and a draw in the last 3 games.
Prediction: Leicester to continue their climb off the bottom with a 2-0 win.
Swansea v West Ham at Liberty Stadium
Swansea will name Ashley Williams in the starting line-up for what will be his 300th appearance for the club. They will however be without Wilfried Bony who is expected to join Manchester City soon and is away on international duty. West Ham are missing a few key players including Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate.
Kevin Nolan will be looking to score his 100th league goal whilst Swansea will be reliant on Bafétimbi Gomis to lead the line against a Hammers side that has defied expectations so far this season.
West Brom v Hull at The Hawthorns
Tony Pulis has almost a full complement of players to choose from as he takes charge of his face game at West Brom whilst Steve Bruce is missing a host of players he’d rather have available including striker Sone Aluka.
Having already lost to West Brom in the Capital One Cup, Hull are looking to build off their victory against Everton and hopefully spark life back in to their season.
Prediction: West Brom will benefit from the change in management and will take this game 1-0.
Crystal Palace v Spurs at Selhurst Park
It will be an emotional return to Selhurst Park for new manager Alan Pardew who will have to make do without Captain Mile Jedinak in his first game with the club. Tottenham travel to this match missing Erik Lamela and Ryan Mason but have the in-form Harry Kane to rely on up front.
Despite dismantling Chelsea to start of 2015, Tottenham looked nervy in the FA Cup midweek and Pardew will be hoping that the nerves continue in this match otherwise Palace fans could be in for a long game.
Arsenal v Stoke at Emirates Stadium
Wenger will be looking to get revenge for his side’s brutal treatment by Stoke last time around and will be boosted by the return of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud to the squad. Mark Hughes has his pick of the players for this match and can hopefully unsettle Arsenal and stop them from playing their natural game.
With the return of several players we could see Sanchez, Ozil, Walcott and Carzola for the top of Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 formation which could cause some problems for the Stoke defence. Hughes will need Ryan Shawcross to be on the top of his game to keep the lively Sanchez quiet and hope that his strikers can nab a goal or two away from home.
Manchester United v Southampton at Old Trafford
Louis Van Gaal will have every player except Ashley Young available for selection so it will a good insight to what he may think his best first team looks like. Southampton are missing Jay Rodriguez through injury but are in dangerous form under Ronald Koeman and will be looking to make an upset here.
The Saints will be going in backing themselves to take maximum points at the Theatre of Dreams for the first time since 1988 and open up a 5 way battle for 3 and fourth spot.