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Premier League MatchDay 18 Preview

last updated Friday 21st December 2012, 11:39 PM

Premier League MatchDay 18 fixtures are the last before Christmas and although there aren't any derbies or 6 pointers between top or bottom teams but there are plenty of opportunities for teams to improve their situation.

Saturday in Premier League Match Day 18

Arsenal travel to Wigan Athletic on Saturday lunchtime when they will aim to continue their recovery in the Premier League. Wigan have their own problems and manager Roberto Martinez has been trying to underline the need to remain calm after slipping into the relegation zone.

Premiership Fixtures
Saturday 22nd December 2012
KO Home   Away Ref TV
12:45 Wigan v Arsenal J Moss Sky3
15:00 Man City v Reading M Dean  
15:00 Newcastle v QPR K Friend  
15:00 Southampton v Sunderland H Webb  
15:00 Tottenham v Stoke L Mason  
15:00 West Brom v Norwich M Atkinson  
15:00 West Ham v Everton A Taylor  
17:30 Liverpool v Fulham M Clattenburg ESPN
Sunday 23rd December 2012
13:30 Swansea v Man Utd M Oliver Sky1
16:00 Chelsea v Aston Villa P Dowd Sky1
Manchester City will bid to apply the pressure on cross-town rivals United when they host rock-bottom Reading on Saturday. City trail United by six points in the Barclays Premier League table.

Alan Pardew wants Newcastle to show they are better than the League table would suggest when they face QPR at St James' Park. A run of six defeats from seven league games has left the Magpies in 15th place and only two points above the relegation zone.

Premiership table - after 17th Dec 2012
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man Utd 17 7 0 1 22 10 7 0 2 21 14 19 42
2 Man City 17 6 2 1 21 9 4 4 0 12 6 18 36
3 Chelsea 16 4 3 1 14 7 4 2 2 14 10 11 29
4 Tottenham 17 5 2 2 14 10 4 0 4 16 15 5 29
5 Arsenal 17 4 2 2 18 10 3 4 2 13 8 13 27
6 Everton 17 4 4 0 14 9 2 5 2 14 12 7 27
7 West Brom 17 6 1 2 14 6 2 2 4 10 15 3 27
8 Norwich 17 5 2 1 10 8 1 5 3 9 17 -6 25
9 Stoke 17 4 4 0 8 3 1 5 3 7 10 2 24
10 Swansea 17 3 4 2 16 14 3 1 4 10 8 4 23
11 West Ham 17 4 3 2 16 10 2 2 4 5 10 1 23
12 Liverpool 17 3 3 3 10 10 2 4 2 13 13 0 22
13 Fulham 17 4 1 3 15 11 1 4 4 13 18 -1 20
14 Aston Villa 17 2 4 2 8 8 2 2 5 7 16 -9 18
15 Newcastle 17 4 1 4 11 12 0 4 4 8 14 -7 17
16 Sunderland 17 2 3 3 9 10 1 4 4 9 14 -6 16
17 Southampton 16 3 3 3 14 12 1 0 6 8 20 -10 15
18 Wigan 17 2 3 4 13 17 2 0 6 5 15 -14 15
19 QPR 17 1 4 3 7 14 0 3 6 8 16 -15 10
20 Reading 17 1 4 3 14 19 0 2 7 7 17 -15 9
Southampton, who are ahead of Wigan on goal difference only but do have a game in hand, host fellow strugglers Sunderland. Injuries have also been on the agenda at St Mary's, with captain Adam Lallana suffering a knee problem earlier this month.

Tottenham, who are level on points with Chelsea, welcome Stoke to White Hart Lane in a clash between two of the division's in-form teams. Andre Villas-Boas' side have won four of their past five league games while Stoke are unbeaten in seven.

West Brom look to end a run of four without a win when they host a Norwich side unbeaten in 10 Premier League games. But three consecutive defeats followed by a drab goalless draw at home to West Ham last weekend have brought the Baggies back down to earth.

Everton will look to continue their push for a top-four spot when they travel to West Ham on Saturday. The Toffees have lost just twice this season but nine draws have hampered their progress. West Ham have saved their best performances for their own supporters, winning four games and losing just twice at home.

Sunday in Premier League Match Day 18

Swansea City will be looking to return to winning ways on Sunday, but have their work cut out against table-topping Manchester United. United will arrive in South Wales this weekend six points clear at the Premier League summit and brimming with confidence. Sir Alex Ferguson's side have taken maximum points from their last five fixtures.

Third-placed Chelsea host Aston Villa on Sunday. The match is the Blues' first league encounter since their failed Club World Cup excursion. Chelsea could find themselves as low as seventh by the time they kick off with Tottenham, Everton, Arsenal and West Brom all able to climb above them on Saturday.

Saturday 22nd December 2012

12:45 - Wigan (18) v Arsenal (5) - Sky3

Monday's hammering of Reading continued Arsenal's recovery, which has seen them climb back up the table following back-to-back wins, including the victory over West Brom. Arsene Wenger can therefore be confident of building extra momentum when visiting an out-of-form Wigan, who have been sucked into the relegation zone after three defeats and a draw in their last four outings.

Arsenal will also be boosted by the midweek announcement of new contracts with Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez faces an injury headache. He will definitely be without four players after defender Adrian Lopez (hamstring) joined Ben Watson (broken leg), Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) and Albert Crusat (knee) on the long-term injury list.

Another four should feature over the festive period, with captain Gary Caldwell (hamstring) the most likely to make it for Arsenal ahead of fellow defenders Ivan Ramis (hamstring), Antolin Alcaraz (groin) and midfielder James McCarthy (ankle).

Arsenal report no fresh injury problems. England forward Theo Walcott could again be preferred in a central striker's role ahead of Olivier Giroud after scoring in the 5-2 win at Reading.

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

Last season: Arsenal 1 Wigan 2, Wigan 0 Arsenal 4

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Jordi Gomez (Wigan) 5; Theo Walcott (Arsenal) 11

Referee: Jon Moss

15:00 - Man City (2) v Reading (20)

Manchester City will want to have closed the gap, albeit possibly temporarily, on United with a win over Reading on Saturday. It will be the first time Roberto Mancini's reigning kings of England return to the Etihad since losing the derby, and their long unbeaten home record, to United.

They will therefore expect to get back on track against Brian McDermott's rock-bottom Reading, who have lost six games in a row.

City striker Mario Balotelli will miss out because of a virus. Captain and defender Vincent Kompany (groin) hopes to prove his fitness while midfielders James Milner (hamstring) and Gareth Barry (suspension) return.

Forward Samir Nasri (hamstring) will miss the game and the Boxing Day trip to Sunderland while defender Aleksandar Kolarov (knee) is also out this weekend.

Reading striker Jason Roberts will miss the game with a hip problem. Jem Karacan (knee), Jimmy Kebe (groin) and Danny Guthrie (thigh) should be available, but Sean Morrison (ankle) is still sidelined. Alex McCarthy is out long-term after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Sergio Aguero & Carlos Tevez (Man City) 8; Adam Le Fondre & Pavel Pogrebnyak (Reading) 5

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

15:00 - Newcastle (15) v QPR (19)

Newcastle have gone from being the surprise package of last season to the underachievers of the current campaign. Last weekend's home defeat by Manchester City leaves Alan Pardew's squad in 15th position with just 17 points from 17 games having suffered six losses in their last seven games.

Harry Redknapp's QPR will therefore arrive on Tyneside hoping to add to the misery on the back of their first win of the season against Fulham last week.

Utility man James Perch is Newcastle's only new concern. Perch has a minor neck problem, but is expected to be available, while midfielder Gabriel Obertan is fit after working his way back from toe surgery.

Winger Hatem Ben Arfa, central defender Steven Taylor (both hamstring) and midfielder Yohan Cabaye (groin) are still both out.

QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar and right-back Jose Bosingwa miss the match after both sustained back injuries, with midfielder Kieron Dyer also missing out through injury. Park Ji-sung (knee) is another player sidelined, while strikers Andrew Johnson (knee) and Bobby Zamora (hip) remain absent.

Last season: Newcastle 1 QPR 0, QPR 0 Newcastle 0

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Demba Ba (Newcastle) 11; Adel Taarabt & Bobby Zamora (QPR) 4

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

15:00 - Southampton (17) v Sunderland (16)

Southampton make the long trip to Sunderland in a game which looks like it could be of immense importance come the end of the season.

Both sides sit just outside the relegation zone and are separated by only one point.

Sunderland have a game in hand but Martin O'Neill's team have managed a meagre three wins in the Premier League this campaign.

Adam Lallana is Southampton's only absentee - the Saints captain suffered a knee injury in the defeat of Reading and, while coy on the severity of the complaint, manager Nigel Adkins confirmed he will not be available. Goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga is fit after a shoulder injury, while Frazer Richardson and Richard Chaplow are also back in contention.

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill will await fitness tests on a trio of key players before naming his team. Full-backs Phil Bardsley (knee), Danny Rose (ankle) and striker Steven Fletcher (back) have returned to light training, but are yet to prove they are ready to play.

Skipper Lee Cattermole remains on the long-term casualty list with a knee ligament injury, and David Meyler is set to be recalled from his loan spell at npower Championship Hull after tonight's game at Derby.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Southampton W W D L W; Sunderland D L L W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Rickie Lambert (Southampton) 6; Steven Fletcher (Sunderland) 7

Referee: Howard Webb

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

Tottenham remain in the top four after four wins from five and they look like they will remain contenders for UEFA Champions League qualification. Andre Villas-Boas' methods appear to be sinking in and Spurs are singing from the same hymn sheet.

But Stoke's notoriously tight defence will pose a difficult obstacle on Saturday, when Tony Pulis' team visit White Hart Lane on a seven-match unbeaten run.

Gareth Bale has recovered from his hamstring injury and is available for Spurs. Scott Parker could feature after an Achilles problem while fellow long-term injury victim Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee) was due to have a test today. Emmanuel Adebayor (hamstring) was also due to face a fitness test. Defender Younes Kaboul (knee) is out but Michael Dawson is fit after a hamstring injury.

Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam is set to miss out after being granted compassionate leave by the Potters following the death of his father this week. Defender Ryan Shotton is available for selection again having completed a one-match ban, but it is expected the game will come too soon for striker Michael Owen to make his first-team return.

Last season: Tottenham 1 Stoke 1, Stoke 2 Tottenham 1

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 13; Peter Crouch (Stoke) 5

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

15:00 - West Brom (7) v Norwich (8)

Reality is beginning to kick in for Steve Clarke's West Brom as, following an incredibly impressive start to the season, four games without a win has seen them fall to seventh place. West Brom stopped the rot of three defeats by drawing 0-0 with West Ham last Sunday.

But Norwich will not be an easy side to play when aiming to get back to winning ways. Chris Hughton's visitors will kick-off at The Hawthorns having not lost in the Premier League since October.

West Brom will be without Youssouf Mulumbu, who serves a one-game ban after incurring his fifth yellow card of the season. Fellow midfielder Claudio Yacob (hamstring) remains doubtful but goalkeeper Ben Foster is pushing for a recall after his return to training this week following two groin operations which sidelined him for six weeks.

Canaries captain Grant Holt is doubtful because of a hamstring injury. On-loan Tottenham forward Harry Kane could be back in contention after two months out with a broken metatarsal, while defender Ryan Bennett (knee) is also set to resume full training. Winger Andrew Surman (knee) and England goalkeeper John Ruddy (thigh) remain sidelined.

Last season: West Brom 1 Norwich 2, Norwich 0 West Brom 1

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Shane Long (West Brom) 7; Grant Holt (Norwich) 4

Referee: Martin Atkinson

15:00 - West Ham (11) v Everton (6)

Eight draws in 11 Premier League games have seen Everton slide out of the top four but David Moyes knows there is no need to panic when they still only trail Tottenham by two points. A win over an inconsistent West Ham at Upton Park, where they are unbeaten in their last four, would as a result be a good boost.

West Ham welcome midfielder Jack Collison back into their squad for the first time since the final game of last season after a knee injury. Manager Sam Allardyce is struggling with a long injury list with Mohamed Diame (hamstring), Andy Carroll (knee), Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder) and Alou Diarra (thigh) missing and Yossi Benayoun (knee) unlikely to feature.

Everton will be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini as the Belgium international begins a three-match suspension for headbutting Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross.

Boss David Moyes - who has had Kevin Mirallas, Victor Anichebe (both hamstring), Tony Hibbert (calf) and Phil Neville (knee) sidelined in recent weeks - said this morning there was "quite a lot" of injury news within his squad, but would not be drawn on any specifics.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Kevin Nolan (West Ham) 5; Marouane Fellaini (Everton) 8

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

17:30 - Liverpool (12) v Fulham (13)

Last weekend's shock defeat by Aston Villa gave Liverpool a reality check at Anfield. Brendan Rodgers has consequently spent the week speaking of his players' determination to atone for the defeat when they host Fulham.

Martin Jol's Fulham have won just once in their last nine games and they do not have a good record at Anfield. But the Dutchman is unbeaten in his last three encounters with Liverpool as a Premier League manager, including two 1-0 wins last season.

Reds defender Jose Enrique returned to training this week after a hamstring injury and comes back into contention. Midfielder Nuri Sahin is fit after surgery on a broken nose but winger Oussama Assaidi is out with a knee problem.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has spoken about the need to rest forward Raheem Sterling and if he does Suso would be his likely replacement.

Fulham boss Martin Jol has been forced to recall goalkeeper David Stockdale from his loan spell at Hull. Third-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge has been ruled out with a leg injury and Stockdale will now provide cover to Mark Schwarzer.

Midfielder Steve Sidwell is banned while Mahamadou Diarra (knee) and Bryan Ruiz (hamstring) are missing, although full-back Sascha Riether has recovered from a knee problem suffered last weekend.

Last season: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1, Fulham 1 Liverpool 0

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 13; Dimitar Berbatov & Mladen Petric (Fulham) 5

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

Sunday 16 December 2012

13:30 - Swansea (10) v Man Utd (1) - Sky1

Ferguson's Manchester United mean business this season after the pain of losing the title to Manchester City in such dramatic circumstances in the last campaign. They have moved to the top of the table with a run of 10 wins from their last 11 games and that does not bode well for Swansea.

Michael Laudrup's much-praised hosts and Capital One Cup semi-finalists have suffered a bit of a dip after back-to-back league defeats by Norwich and Tottenham. They will therefore hope for what would be a shock win over United at the Liberty Stadium Swans goalkeeper Michel Vorm is set to return from a groin injury.

The Dutchman has been out for eight weeks but is set to replace Gerhard Tremmel while Pablo Hernandez returns to the squad after a thigh injury. Angel Rangel is set to miss out again with the calf problem that kept him out of the defeat at Tottenham, with Dwight Tiendalli to continue at right-back.

United full-back Rafael has been ruled out - he missed the win over Sunderland with a hamstring injury and has still not recovered. Shinji Kagawa (knee) and Nani (hamstring) are still sidelined, but Jonny Evans (hamstring) is available.

Last season: Man Utd 2 Swansea 0, Swansea 0 Man Utd 1

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Michu (Swansea) 13; Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 15

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

16:00 - Chelsea (3) v Aston Villa (14) - Sky1

Chelsea will complete what has been an immensely hectic week when they return to Stamford Bridge to host Aston Villa. Having lost the Club World Cup final in Japan last weekend, Rafa Benitez's side shook off jet-lag to hammer Leeds United in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals in midweek.

There was little sign of fatigue at Elland Road but fellow League Cup semi-finalists Villa will aim to expose any tired legs. Paul Lambert's in-form men will kick-off in West London Blues boss Rafael Benitez cannot guarantee John Terry would be fit for Chelsea's Christmas fixtures.

Terry's recovery from knee surgery is proving more problematic than first thought and he will definitely miss this game. Ramires and Gary Cahill return from suspension but John Obi Mikel serves the final instalment of his three-match ban, Daniel Sturridge is available after his hamstring injury but Ryan Bertrand is doubtful after being forced off in the Capital One Cup win at Leeds.

Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland is available after the Republic of Ireland international missed the win over Liverpool at Anfield last weekend through illness. But skipper and central defender Ron Vlaar and striker Gabriel Agbonlahor remain major doubts with calf and thigh problems respectively.

Last season: Aston Villa 2 Chelsea 4, Chelsea 1 Aston Villa 3

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Fernando Torres (Chelsea) 13; Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 11

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Source Soccernet/SkySports/Sporting Life
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