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Premier League MatchDay 17 Preview

last updated Saturday 15th December 2012, 9:39 AM

Manchester City suffered their first defeat of the season at home to rivals United last weekend and Roberto Mancini has demanded a response from his squad against a Newcastle side who have lost five of their last six.

Premiership Fixtures
Saturday 15th December 2012
KO Home   Away Ref TV
12:45 Newcastle v Man City A Marriner Sky2
15:00 Liverpool v Aston Villa N Swarbrink  
15:00 Man Utd v Sunderland C Foy  
15:00 Norwich v Wigan L Probert  
15:00 QPR v Fulham M Atkinson  
15:00 Stoke v Everton M Halsey  
Sunday 16th December 2012
13:30 Tottenham v Swansea M Dean Sky1
16:00 West Brom v West Ham P Dowd Sky1
Monday 17th December 2012
20:00 Reading v Arsenal A Taylor Sky1
Regardless of the result in the North East, Sir Alex Ferguson will have told his Manchester United side to press home their advantage against a Sunderland team who halted a run of just one point from four games with their win over Reading in midweek.

QPR are unbeaten under new boss Redknapp, but all three of his matches at the helm have ended in deadlock, with draw specialists Fulham visiting on Saturday. The Cottagers defeated Newcastle on Monday but have drawn four and lost one of their last five away games.

Premiership table - after 11th Dec 2012
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man Utd 16 6 0 1 19 9 7 0 2 21 14 17 39
2 Man City 16 6 2 1 21 9 3 4 0 9 5 16 33
3 Chelsea 16 4 3 1 14 7 4 2 2 14 10 11 29
4 Everton 16 4 4 0 14 9 2 4 2 13 11 7 26
5 Tottenham 16 4 2 2 13 10 4 0 4 16 15 4 26
6 West Brom 16 6 0 2 14 6 2 2 4 10 15 3 26
7 Arsenal 16 4 2 2 18 10 2 4 2 8 6 10 24
8 Swansea 16 3 4 2 16 14 3 1 3 10 7 5 23
9 Stoke 16 4 3 0 7 2 1 5 3 7 10 2 23
10 Liverpool 16 3 3 2 9 7 2 4 2 13 13 2 22
11 West Ham 16 4 3 2 16 10 2 1 4 5 10 1 22
12 Norwich 16 4 2 1 8 7 1 5 3 9 17 -7 22
13 Fulham 16 4 1 3 15 11 1 4 3 12 16 0 20
14 Newcastle 16 4 1 3 10 9 0 4 4 8 14 -5 17
15 Sunderland 16 2 3 3 9 10 1 4 3 8 11 -4 16
16 Southampton 16 3 3 3 14 12 1 0 6 8 20 -10 15
17 Aston Villa 16 2 4 2 8 8 1 2 5 4 15 -11 15
18 Wigan 16 2 3 4 13 17 2 0 5 4 13 -13 15
19 Reading 16 1 4 2 12 14 0 2 7 7 17 -12 9
20 QPR 16 0 4 3 5 13 0 3 6 8 16 -16 7
Aston Villa are only out of the bottom three on goal difference and face a significant test on Saturday as they travel to Liverpool. Liverpool are in good form on home turf, with three wins and two draws in their last five.

Norwich have enjoyed a four-game winning run in front of the home fans in the League and will be looking to extend their run when relegation-threatened Wigan comes visiting.

Stoke are second only to Manchester United in the Premier League form table and are again proving a tough nut to crack on home turf. Everton are Stokes next opponents, with Blues snapping a four-game winless run with their 2-1 win over Tottenham last weekend.

Being beaten by Everton last weekend halted a three-game winning run for Tottenham ahead of Sunday's home clash with Swansea. The Swans can return their focus to Premier League matters having now reached the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup.

Sunday concludes with West Brom welcoming West Ham to the Hawthorns. Steve Clarke's men are behind Everton and Tottenham on goal difference alone. The Hammers have lost three of their last four - against Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool .

Saturday 15th December 2012

15:00 - (14) Newcastle v Manchester City (2) - Sky2

Manchester City travel to struggling Newcastle this weekend aiming to cut Manchester United's six-point lead at the top of the Premier League. Reigning champions City slipped further behind their title rivals after being beaten 3-2 by United at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

City have an impressive record over the Tyneside club and are looking to stretch their unbeaten run against them to a 12th game.

Newcastle have failed to hit the same heights as last season and are just two points above the relegation zone after losing five of their last six matches. Scoring has been a problem for the Magpies, who have netted just 18 times this season and relied heavily on 10-goal striker Demba Ba as their main supply.

Magpies boss Alan Pardew could be without midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, who aggravated a hamstring injury in his goalscoring return against Fulham on Monday. Defender Steven Taylor (hamstring) and midfielder Yohan Cabaye (groin surgery) remain long-term casualties.

City skipper Vincent Kompany is struggling with a hamstring injury and has only a "two per cent" chance of being fit, according to manager Roberto Mancini. Gareth Barry serves a one-match ban, whilst Jack Rodwell and James Milner (both hamstring) and Micah Richards (knee) are also missing.

Last season: Newcastle 0 Man City 2, Man City 3 Newcastle 1

Last five league matches: Newcastle L L L W L; Man City W D W D L

Top scorers (all competitions): Demba Ba (Newcastle) 10; Carlos Tevez (Man City) 8

Referee: Andre Marriner

15:00 - (10) Liverpool v Aston Villa (17)

Bendan Rodgers feels that his Liverpool side have recovered well from what he calls a 'disastrous' start to the season as they prepare to host Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday. Liverpool sit in 10th place, but Reds fans will be looking for their team to build upon solid recent form and make strides up the table.

Despite his impressive contribution at Upton Park, Cole's future at Anfield is still uncertain, and it would be a surprise if he started against Villa.

Only goal difference keeps Paul Lambert's side out of the drop zone, but Wednesday night's Capital One Cup win at Norwich should have lifted spirits at Villa Park. Goals have been hard to come by this season in the league, with just 12 in 16 games, and Darren Bent will not be adding to that total in the near future.

A thigh injury sustained at Carrow Road has sidelined the striker, but given his manager's reluctance to pick him of late, it is questionable whether he would have featured at Anfield. Villa have a poor record at Anfield, with their victory on Merseyside in 2009 the only one in their last 16 visits.

Jose Enrique is Liverpool's main injury doubt - the defender was forced off with a hamstring injury in the first half of last weekend's victory at West Ham but will be given as long as possible to prove his fitness. Leading scorer Luis Suarez returns from a one-match suspension.

Villa striker Darren Bent has been ruled out with a hamstring injury but midfielder Ashley Westwood is available after being cup-tied for the Capital One Cup quarter-final win at Norwich while defenders Joe Bennett and Enda Stevens are in contention after recovering from knee and ankle injuries respectively.

Last season: Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 1, Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 2

Last five league matches: Liverpool W D L W W; Aston Villa L D W D D

Top scorers (all competitions): Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 13; Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 9

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

15:00 - (1) Manchester United v Sunderland (15)

Sunderland will be aiming to turn history on its head when Martin O'Neill takes his team to Premier League leaders Manchester United on Saturday. The Black Cats have not won at Old Trafford since 1968 and have a terrible recent record against United, having failed to win in the last 20 league meetings and not scoring in the past five.

United, though, will perhaps be in an even more buoyant mood after last Sunday's dramatic derby triumph at Manchester City where Robin van Persie's deflected free-kick sent his team six points clear at the top of the table. The Red Devils have kept only three clean sheets in the league this season, so Sunderland may not have a better chance to end their goal drought against Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Nemanja Vidic returns to United's squad after two months out following knee surgery, which itself came just five games into the defender's comeback after a ruptured cruciate.

Fellow defender Jonny Evans (hamstring) is out and midfielder Shinji Kagawa (knee) returns to training next week.

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson (dead leg) and defender Danny Rose (ankle) could join defender Phil Bardsley and captain Lee Cattermole (both knee ligaments) on the sidelines, while boss Martin O'Neill hopes frontman Steven Fletcher shakes off an ankle niggle.

Last season: Sunderland 0 Man Utd 1, Man Utd 1 Sunderland 0

Last five league matches: Man Utd L W W W W; Sunderland L D L L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 14; Steven Fletcher (Sunderland) 7

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

15:00 - (12) Norwich v Wigan (18)

Norwich City entertain Wigan Athletic knowing they could move up to seventh in the Premier League table with victory. Norwich are unbeaten in their last nine league games - their best run in the top-flight since 1987.

The Latics have faltered in recent weeks and they are now in the bottom three. However, the bottom of the Premier League is becoming increasingly tight and they are just two points off Newcastle in 14th.

Norwich hope to have midfielders Wes Hoolahan (groin) and Alex Tettey (thigh) back, while defender Steven Whittaker (hip) will be assessed.

On-loan Tottenham forward Harry Kane is back in training after his broken metatarsal, while defender Ryan Bennett and winger Andrew Surman (both knee) also continue their rehabilitation and England goalkeeper John Ruddy (thigh) remains sidelined until the new year.

Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa will be available but the Latics are still struggling with injuries. Both Figueroa and skipper Gary Caldwell have completed one-match suspensions, but while the former is now ready, the latter looks unlikely to feature due to a hamstring problem.

Caldwell's fellow centre-back Ivan Ramis is also set to miss out due to a hamstring complaint, and Antolin Alcaraz (groin), Albert Crusat (knee), Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) and Ben Watson (broken leg) are definite absentees.

Last season: Norwich 1 Wigan 1, Wigan 1 Norwich 1

Last five league matches: Norwich W D D W W; Wigan L W L L D

Top scorers (all competitions): Grant Holt (Norwich) 4; Jordi Gomez (Wigan) 5

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

15:00 - (20) QPR v Fulham (13)

Queens Park Rangers are hoping Saturday's west London derby against Fulham can provide the spark to kickstart their troubled season. The Hoops set an unwanted record following last weekend's 2-2 draw at Wigan as their 16th match without victory became the longest winless start to a Premier League season.

And if they fail to beat Fulham they will become the first top-flight team to fail to win any of their opening 17 games since Bolton in 1902-03.

Fulham started this campaign brightly, with star signing Dimitar Berbatov taking centre stage, before going on a worrying seven-match winless streak which was ended by Monday's morale-boosting home win against Newcastle.

The absence of Bryan Ruiz through injury has been a devastating blow for the Cottagers and seems to have robbed them of creative spark.

QPR will be without Park Ji-sung, who has suffered a knee injury and faces a few weeks on the sidelines.

Bobby Zamora (hip) and Andrew Johnson (knee) remain long-term absentees but goalkeeper Julio Cesar is available after a groin injury, meaning manager Harry Redknapp has to decide whether to stick with Robert Green or recall the Brazilian.

Mahamadou Diarra is a major doubt for Fulham - the 31-year-old is struggling with a knock picked up against Tottenham and had two injections on Tuesday so is unlikely to be involved. Midfielder Simon Davies is training again but is some way off a first-team return from a hip injury, while striker Bryan Ruiz (hamstring) faces a further month on the sidelines.

Last season: QPR 0 Fulham 1, Fulham 6 QPR 0

Last five league matches: QPR L L D D D; Fulham L L D L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Bobby Zamora (QPR) 4; Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) 5

Referee: Martin Atkinson

15:00 - (9) Stoke v Everton (4)

Everton will be trying end Stoke City's unbeaten record at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Everton will be wary of a Stoke side who have lost only one of the last six meetings between the two clubs and can join their opponents on 26 points if they win.

Stoke are unbeaten at home in seven games this term and that run stretches to 14 games in total - the club's best in the top flight since 1974. Goals could be scarce, though, as only once in Stoke's last eight matches has a team scored more than one goal and that came when the Potters overcame Newcastle 2-1 last month.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis is pondering his options for the right-back slot with Ryan Shotton serving a one-match ban - Andy Wilkinson, Dean Whitehead and Matthew Upson are in line to replace him. Midfielder Charlie Adam returns from suspension but there is still no room for Michael Owen as the striker remains short of fitness following groin and hamstring niggles.

Forward Kevin Mirallas and defender Tony Hibbert are both unavailable for Everton as injury has sidelined them for several weeks. Mirallas' first match in a month last weekend ended after just 45 minutes with a recurrence of a hamstring injury while Hibbert is set to have surgery on a calf problem which has dogged him all season.

Manager David Moyes also reported a few knocks and niggles at today's pre-match press conference, while captain Phil Neville is still recovering from a knee operation last month.

Last season: Stoke 1 Everton 1, Everton 0 Stoke 1

Last five league matches: Stoke D W W W D; Everton L D D D W

Top scorers (all competitions): Peter Crouch (Stoke) 5; Marouane Fellaini (Everton) 8

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Sunday 16 December 2012

13:30 - (5) Tottenham v Swansea (8) - Sky1

Tottenham and Swansea are both looking to bounce back from defeats when they square off at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Spurs looked to be heading for a fifth consecutive victory at Everton last weekend but two late goals from the Toffees consigned Andre Villas-Boas' side to a shock defeat.

Swansea became Norwich's latest victims in a 4-3 thriller at the Liberty Stadium last time out in the Premier League but did reach the Capital One Cup semi-final by beating Middlesbrough in midweek.

While Tottenham are eyeing the top four, a win here would take Swansea above their hosts in the table.

Scott Parker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have returned to first-team training and could feature for Tottenham. Manager Andre Villas-Boas said Parker, who has not played this season due to an Achilles injury, and Assou-Ekotto, who has been out for three months with a knee problem, could feature this weekend but hinted that they are more likely to be on the bench than in the starting XI.

Winger Gareth Bale (hamstring) will train tomorrow, but is unlikely to feature, and Younes Kaboul (knee) is out, but captain Michael Dawson is likely to feature after overcoming his hamstring injury.

Captain Ashley Williams returns to the Swansea defence after suspension but Gerhard Tremmel is set to continue in goal with Michel Vorm still sidelined by a groin problem. Thigh trouble means Pablo Hernandez remains absent this weekend although it appears likely that both injured players will be back in action during Swansea's busy period of Christmas and New Year fixtures.

Last season: Tottenham 3 Swansea 1, Swansea 1 Tottenham 1

Last five league matches: Tottenham L W W W L; Swansea W D W W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 13; Michu (Swansea) 13

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

16:00 - (6) West Brom v West Ham (11) - Sky1

West Brom and West Ham will both be keen to put last weekend's defeats behind them when they meet at the Hawthorns. Three straight defeats have taken the gloss off West Brom's eye-catching start to the season after four wins on the bounce had seen the Baggies reach the giddy heights of third place, before a disastrous first half at Swansea heralded a change in fortunes.

West Ham will be keen to earn their third away win of the season following on from their home defeat by Liverpool. James Collins' own goal sent West Ham to defeat when hopes had been high of following up the stirring win over Chelsea a week earlier with another three points.

Their last visit to the Hawthorns, in February 2011, saw the Hammers claim a point despite conceding three goals before half-time.

West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster (groin), midfielder Claudio Yacob (hamstring) and left-back Liam Ridgewell (ankle) are all battling to be fit. Boss Steve Clarke has other injury concerns but would not reveal them as Albion bid to end a run of three successive defeats.

West Ham's injury worries have deepened with defender George McCartney a major doubt with a knee injury sustained in training. Mohamed Diame (hamstring), Yossi Benayoun, Andy Carroll and Jack Collison (all knee), Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder) and Alou Diarra (thigh) are also out.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: West Brom W W L L L; West Ham D L L W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Shane Long (West Brom) 7; Kevin Nolan (West Ham) 5

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Monday 17th December 2012

20:00 - (19) Reading v Arsenal (7) - Sky1

Royals strikers Jason Roberts hip) and Pavel Pogrebnyak (unspecified) are doubtful but may play some part.

Jimmy Kebe (groin) and Jem Karacan (knee) have returned to training but will not play, while Sean Morrison (ankle) is still sidelined and Alex McCarthy is out long term.

Arsenal should have striker Olivier Giroud in contention following a back problem.

Defender Laurent Koscielny has resumed training after his thigh injury, but England winger Theo Walcott (calf) will be assessed.

Full-back Andre Santos (stomach muscle) and midfielder Abou Diaby (thigh) continue their rehabilitation.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Reading L L L L L; Arsenal W D D L W

Top scorers (all competitions): Pavel Pogrebnyak (Reading) 5; Theo Walcott (Arsenal) 10

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

Source Soccernet/SkySports/Sporting Life
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