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Premier League MatchDay 20 -- Preview

last updated Tuesday 31st December 2013, 9:33 PM

MatchDay 20 Saturday, January 1, 2013
Time Home   Away TV Referee
12:45 Swansea v Man City Sky1 P Dowd
15:00 Arsenal v Cardiff   J Moss
15:00 C.Palace v Norwich   M Dean
15:00 Fulham v West Ham   M Clattenburg
15:00 Liverpool v Hull   C Pawson
15:00 Southampton v Chelsea BT1 M Atkinson
15:00 Stoke v Everton   A Marriner
15:00 Sunderland v Aston Villa   M Jones
15:00 West Brom v Newcastle   L Mason
17:30 Man Utd v Tottenham BT1 H Webb
There is a full round of matches in the Premier League MatchDay 20 on New Year's Day as 2014 kicking off with a host of teams in hot pursuit of leaders Arsenal.

The title has been won by the team in first place at the turn of the year in seven of the past 10 seasons, and Arsenal stayed ahead of the pack at the halfway point thanks to a victory at Newcastle United on Sunday.

But this time around the contest is so tight that Liverpool have dropped from being No.1 at Christmas to fifth, and with everyone now preparing for their fourth match of a gruelling festive schedule there could be more twists and turns ahead on Wednesday.

Premiership table - after 29th Dec 2012
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 19 6 2 1 16 6 7 1 2 21 12 19 42
2 Man City 19 10 0 0 38 6 3 2 4 16 15 33 41
3 Chelsea 19 9 1 0 22 8 3 3 3 13 11 16 40
4 Everton 19 6 3 1 19 9 4 4 1 12 9 13 37
5 Liverpool 19 8 0 1 25 6 3 3 4 19 17 21 36
6 Man Utd 19 4 2 3 11 8 6 2 2 21 14 10 34
7 Tottenham 19 4 3 3 11 13 6 1 2 11 11 -2 34
8 Newcastle 19 5 3 2 17 10 5 0 4 12 14 5 33
9 Southampton 19 4 3 2 16 9 3 3 4 10 11 6 27
10 Hull 19 5 3 2 15 6 1 2 6 7 17 -1 23
11 Swansea 19 2 4 3 16 14 3 2 5 8 11 -1 21
12 Stoke 19 4 4 1 10 6 1 2 7 8 23 -11 21
13 Aston Villa 19 2 2 6 7 14 3 3 3 11 11 -7 20
14 Norwich 19 3 3 4 10 11 2 1 6 6 21 -16 19
15 West Brom 19 2 3 4 11 12 1 6 3 11 15 -5 18
16 Cardiff 19 3 3 4 10 15 1 3 5 5 15 -15 18
17 C. Palace 19 3 1 5 7 13 2 0 8 5 15 -16 16
18 Fulham 19 2 1 6 11 17 3 0 7 8 24 -22 16
19 West Ham 19 2 3 5 12 16 1 3 5 6 12 -10 15
20 Sunderland 19 2 1 6 10 16 1 4 5 5 16 -17 14
Manchester City are among the contenders and get the action started with a lunchtime clash at Swansea City with the hosts looking to end their run of five league games without a win.

Table toppers Arsenal will look to extend their advantage at the summit on New Year's Day as managerless Cardiff City visit the Emirates Stadium. Arsene Wenger will be hoping his side can continue their two-match winning streak and prove their three-game winless run in December was a mere blip.

Crystal Palace welcome Norwich City to Selhurst Park as both teams look to distance themselves from the relegation zone. Just three points separate the two sides in the table as Norwich occupy 14th and Palace 17th, with the virtue of goal difference keeping the Eagles out of the bottom three.

Fulham will look to bounce back from their 6-0 thrashing by Hull City when they welcome fellow strugglers West Ham United. With the season having reached the half-way mark, both currently occupy the bottom three, but victory against the Hammers could elevate Fulham as high as 14th depending on other results.

Liverpool play host to Hull City on New Year's Day aiming to get their top four challenge back on track. Brendan Rodgers' side were top of the Premier League table on Christmas Day, but go into the game with Hull in fifth spot after two defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea over the festive period.

Third-placed Chelsea look to maintain their title push as they travel to St Mary's to face Southampton. Jose Mourinho's side have lost just once in their last nine games and are just two points off the top of the table.

Everton will look to carry their title challenge into 2014 with a New Year's Day trip to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City. Roberto Martinez's side ended the calendar year inside the top four after a 2-1 victory over Southampton, while the Potters enter the New Year on the back of successive defeats.

The relegation battle is shaping up to be equally tense as bottom of the table Sunderland host Aston Villa in another crunch game at the wrong end of the Premier League. Villa are in a sorry run of form having won just one in seven, and their draw with Swansea last time out ended a run of four successive league defeats.

West Brom play host to Newcastle at The Hawthorns on New Year's Day looking for their first win in 10 games. Newcastle saw their good run of form come to an end when they went down to a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday. The Toon are unbeaten in their last four meetings with the Baggies.

Manchester United welcome Tottenham to Old Trafford aiming to close the gap on the leading pack in the Premier League. United have got their season back on track after winning their last six games in all competitions.

Tottenham are level on points with United as they have bounced back from the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas with seven points from their last three games and new boss Tim Sherwood has gone with a more attacking line-up.

Wednesday 1st January 2014

12:45 Swansea (11) v Manchester City (2) ~ Sky Sports 1

Manchester City are ominously poised just a point off top spot after extending their perfect home record this season to 10 matches with back-to-back wins at the Etihad Stadium after Christmas, although they were made to work hard by both Liverpool and Crystal Palace.

If they are to reclaim the title a lot will therefore depend on their away form during the second half of the campaign, and Manuel Pellegrini's men have a chance to climb to the summit, at least for a couple of hours, by beating Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans are without a win in five games and a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Saturday left them in the bottom half of the table.

Michu, Michel Vorm and Nathan Dyer remain sidelined for Swansea ahead of the visit of Manchester City. Michu and Vorm are recovering after undergoing ankle and knee surgery respectively, while Dyer is facing a long spell out after suffering ankle ligament damage at Norwich.

City playmaker David Silva is suspended after accumulating five bookings while top scorer Sergio Aguero (calf) remains on the sidelines along with fellow striker Stevan Jovetic and defenders Martin Demichelis and Micah Richards (all hamstring). Goalkeeper Joe Hart will play despite five stitches in a wound under his left eye and right-back Pablo Zabaleta, rested against Crystal Palace on Saturday after a recent injury, is fit.

Last season: Swansea 0 Man City 0, Man City 1 Swansea 0

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Wilfried Bony (Swansea) 9; Sergio Aguero (Man City) 19

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

Verdict: Swansea 1 Manchester City 3

15:00 Arsenal (1) v Cardiff (16)

Arsene Wenger has admitted there is a long way for Arsenal to go if they are to end a nine-year trophy drought come May, but the character they displayed in away victories against West Ham and Newcastle further underlined their credentials. The Gunners are back at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday against Cardiff, who were denied a much-needed victory at the weekend when Sunderland struck two late goals to salvage a draw.

The Bluebirds are two points clear of the bottom three and, following the sacking of Malky Mackay, face another difficult month with a daunting set of fixtures ahead.

Arsenal will be without Olivier Giroud (ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (calf) for the visit of Cardiff. Tomas Rosicky (calf), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Theo Walcott (shoulder), Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen (both illness) were all question marks but they should be involved in the squad. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey (thigh) will be out for around three weeks though, while the extent of German playmaker Mesut Ozil's shoulder problem is still being assessed. Yaya Sanogo (back), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby (both knee) all remain sidelined.

Craig Bellamy will again miss out for Cardiff with the knee injury he has been struggling with while left-back Andrew Taylor is also set to sit the game out with a knock. That means teenager Declan John should continue in defence, while caretaker boss David Kerslake may decide to recall Aron Gunnarsson and Peter Odemwingie to his side.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) 13; Fraizer Campbell & Jordon Mutch (Cardiff) 4

Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire).

Verdict: Arsenal 2 Cardiff 0

15:00 Crystal Palace (17) v Norwich (14) 

Crystal Palace have defied the odds to rise out of the drop zone and there were plenty of reasons for encouragement even in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City, but Tony Pulis will know the job is only half done ahead of another important fixture against Norwich.

The Canaries only have a three-point cushion at present, having lost successive home games to Fulham and Manchester United after Christmas.

Cameron Jerome faces a late fitness test on a knee injury for Palace after being forced off during Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Manchester City but Eagles boss Tony Pulis is hopeful of having him available. Midfield duo Stuart O'Keefe and Kagisho Dikgacoi have returned to training following minor muscular injuries but Jack Hunt, Glenn Murray, Jerome Thomas and Adlene Guedioura remain out.

Norwich hope to have forward Gary Hooper fit after he was troubled by a tight muscle in his leg against Manchester United while centre-half Michael Turner returns from suspension. Jonny Howson remains doubtful again following his back problem, though, while his fellow midfielders Anthony Pilkington (hamstring) and Alexander Tettey (ankle) plus winger Elliott Bennett (knee) are all absent.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Crystal Palace W L L W L; Norwich W D D L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Marouane Chamakh (Crystal Palace) 4; Gary Hooper (Norwich) 7

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Verdict: Crystal Palace 1 Norwich 0

15:00 Fulham (18) v West Ham (19) 

The scrap for Premier League survival is already starting to intensify and there is a vital game at Craven Cottage as Fulham meet West Ham, with both sides currently languishing in the bottom three. Rene Meulensteen admitted he was stunned by the six-goal drubbing at Hull and has told his Fulham players not to let their heads drop ahead of the visit of West Ham, who played out a thrilling 3-3 draw with West Brom on Saturday but are now without a victory in six games.

Dimitar Berbatov (groin) and Adel Taarabt (ankle) face late fitness tests ahead of the clash with West Ham but defender Philippe Senderos and midfielder Scott Parker are both fit to play. Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen is expected to continue with Hugo Rodallega up front should Berbatov and Taarabt both miss out. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is also still missing, meaning David Stockdale continues after leaking six goals in defeat at Hull last weekend.

West Ham will be without any recognised central defenders for the fixture after James Tomkins was forced off early in the 3-3 draw against West Brom with a groin injury to join James Collins (groin) and Winston Reid (ankle) on the sidelines. Midfielder Ravel Morrison could return but Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder), Stewart Downing (calf) and Mladen Petric (thigh) all miss out. Andy Carroll is not in contention either, although he is back in training following a long-term heel injury.

Last season: Fulham 3 West Ham 1, West Ham 3 Fulham 0

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) 4; Ravel Morrison (West Ham) 5

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Verdict: Fulham 1 West Ham 1

15:00 Liverpool (5) v Hull (10) 

Liverpool's title hopes have been dented by narrow losses to Manchester City and Chelsea since Christmas, leaving them with a five-point gap to make up on Arsenal. Brendan Rodgers, who had to defend Luis Suarez against accusations of diving after the clash with Chelsea, could be boosted by the return to fitness of Steven Gerrard for the match with Hull City.

The Tigers beat Liverpool in the reverse fixture at the start of December and finished 2013 on a high after thumping Fulham 6-0, with Tom Huddlestone scoring a goal which will allow him to take to the field at Anfield with a new haircut.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard could be ready to return after missing the last four games with a hamstring problem and will be assessed ahead of the match. Jordan Henderson is also expected to be fit and on-loan Victor Moses is available again after being ineligible for the meeting with his parent club Chelsea. However, Joe Allen (abductor) and Mamadou Sakho (hamstring) are both sidelined.

Midfielder David Meyler (knee) and defender Alex Bruce (calf) could be in contention for Hull. The pair had both been doubtful for Saturday's clash against Fulham but were unused substitutes as their team won 6-0 at the KC Stadium. Midfielder Stephen Quinn (hamstring) and striker Sone Aluko (Achilles) have both been long-term casualties.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 19; Matt Fryatt (Hull) 5

Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire).

Verdict: Liverpool 2 Hull 1

15:00 Southampton (9) v Chelsea (3) ~BTSports 1

If Arsenal and Man City both slip up, then Chelsea could move top with a win at Southampton. Jose Mourinho's Blues are just two points adrift of the leaders after defeating Liverpool in a heavyweight showdown on Sunday, but they will be wary of the threat posed by a Southampton side still occupying a top-half spot. Saints took the lead inside the first minute when the teams met at Stamford Bridge just a month ago but ultimately went down 3-1 and have managed just one win in six since, culminating in a 2-1 loss to Everton on Sunday.

Southampton will assess the fitness of club-record signing Dani Osvaldo, who suffered a knock in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle and, having recovered from that, was then struck down by illness. Morgan Schneiderlin returns from suspension while Nathaniel Clyne will be hoping to start as he steps up his return from a hamstring complaint. Artur Boruc (hand), Victor Wanyama (shin) and Guly do Prado (knee) remain missing.

Chelsea are without Frank Lampard (undisclosed muscular injury), Branislav Ivanovic (knee) and David Luiz (suspended) for the trip to the south coast. Ivanovic's injury means Ashley Cole is set to return at left-back with Cesar Azpilicueta switching to the right, while midfielder Ramires is back from a one-game ban.

Last season: Southampton 2 Chelsea 1, Chelsea 2 Southampton 2

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) 9; Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 10

Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

Verdict: Southampton 1 Chelsea 1

15:00 Stoke (12) v Everton (4)

Everton's victory kept them just five points off the title pace in fourth place, and was the ideal response to a surprise 1-0 home defeat by Sunderland on Boxing Day. Next up for the Toffees is a trip to the Britannia Stadium to play Stoke, who had been heading in the right direction until suffering heavy losses against Newcastle and Tottenham and are now back down to 12th place.

Stoke defender Marc Wilson and midfielder Glenn Whelan are available again after suspension while forward Marko Arnautovic could also return after missing Sunday's defeat at Tottenham through illness. Defender Andy Wilkinson faces a spell on the sidelines with a foot injury while goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is still missing with a broken finger.

Everton defender Sylvain Distin is expected to recover from a minor hamstring problem but fellow centre-back Phil Jagielka will be sidelined for a few weeks with a similar injury. Midfielder Gareth Barry returns from a one-match suspension while goalkeeper Tim Howard is likely to regain his place at the expense of Joel Robles after also serving a one-game suspension.

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

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Peter Crouch (Stoke) 5; Romelu Lukaku (Everton) 9

Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).

Verdict: Stoke 1 Everton 1

15:00 Sunderland (20) v Aston Villa (13)

Sunderland are currently at the foot of the table but are closing in on their fellow strugglers after a four-match unbeaten run, and if they can build on their dramatic late comeback in the draw with Cardiff by beating Aston Villa, the Black Cats may find themselves out of the relegation places at last. Paul Lambert's Villa are just four points clear of the bottom three, but did at least manage to halt a four-game losing sequence by holding Swansea 1-1.

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet will take late decisions over John O'Shea, Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson. O'Shea has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, but is close to a return, while Borini is undergoing tests after recovering from the illness which saw him taken to hospital during Saturday's 2-2 at Cardiff, a game midfielder Johnson missed because of a virus. Wes Brown completes his three-match ban and loan signing Marcos Alonso will not be available until the weekend, while goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) and defender Carlos Cuellar (hip) are still out.

Villa manager Paul Lambert will monitor the fitness of Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar ahead of the clash. Striker Benteke has missed the last three games with a knee problem, while defender Vlaar is on his way back from a calf injury. Ciaran Clark is suspended, while the game is likely to come too soon for Joe Bennett as he recovers from his back injury.

Last season: Aston Villa 6 Sunderland 1, Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 1

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Emanuele Giaccherini, Steven Fletcher & Phil Bardsley (Sunderland) 3; Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 5

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire).

Verdict: Sunderland 1 Aston Villa 1

15:00 West Brom (15) v Newcastle (8)

West Brom are a point below Norwich after seeing their wait for a league win stretch to nine games as they drew with West Ham. The fallout from Nicolas Anelka's controversial goal celebration has overshadowed preparations for a crucial home game against Newcastle, who slipped to eighth at the weekend after losing to Arsenal but remain in the hunt for European qualification.

West Brom caretaker boss Keith Downing must decide whether to stick with striker Nicolas Anelka for the visit of Newcastle. The Frenchman is being investigated by the Football Association following his controversial 'quenelle' goal celebration in the 3-3 draw against West Ham, but remains free to play for now. Striker Shane Long is expected to be fit after missing the last two games with a calf strain, while Downing is also confident over winger Chris Brunt (back), but striker Victor Anichebe (groin) remains a big doubt.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has no injury problems ahead of the match and is unlikely to make changes as the Magpies attempt to bounce back from Sunday's 1-0 defeat by leaders Arsenal, which was just their second defeat in 10 league games.

Last season: West Brom 1 Newcastle 1, Newcastle 2 West Brom 1

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Saido Berahino (West Brom) 7; Loic Remy (Newcastle) 10

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

Verdict: West Brom 1 Newcastle 2

17:30 Manchester United (6) v Tottenham (7) ~ BTSports1

Manchester United and Tottenham have both had difficult seasons but are still within striking distance of the leading pack ahead of their midweek meeting. The Red Devils are on a four-match winning streak in the league and will be desperate to start 2014 on a positive note, although Spurs are also performing well under new boss Tim Sherwood and will be spurred on by memories of a 3-2 victory at Old Trafford last term.

Manchester United are sweating on the fitness of Wayne Rooney. The England striker missed Saturday's win at Norwich with a groin injury and will be assessed on the day of the match. Robin van Persie (thigh) and Phil Jones (knee) are unlikely to be involved while Marouane Fellaini (wrist) is definitely out.

Spurs midfielder Paulinho will miss the next four weeks after suffering an ankle ligament injury during Sunday's 3-0 defeat of Stoke - his return after a three-match ban. Kyle Walker will return from suspension at Old Trafford, although Sandro (calf), Younes Kaboul (thigh), Andros Townsend (hamstring) and Jan Vertonghen (ankle) remain sidelined. Jermain Defoe (hamstring) and Danny Rose (fatigue) are doubts.

Last season: Tottenham 1 Man Utd 1, Man Utd 2 Tottenham 3

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 11; Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) 10

Referee: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).

Verdict: Manchester United 3 Tottenham 2

Source Sky/ Sporting Life
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