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Premier League MatchDay 20 Preview

last updated Saturday 29th December 2012, 1:17 PM

Premiership Fixtures
Saturday 29th December 2012
KO Home   Away Ref TV
12:45 Sunderland v Tottenham M Dean Sky2
15:00 Aston Villa v Wigan K Friend  
15:00 Fulham v Swansea A Marriner  
15:00 Man Utd v West Brom J Moss  
15:00 Norwich v Man City M Jones  
15:00 Reading v West Ham M Oliver  
15:00 Stoke v Southampton M Clattenburg  
17:30 Arsenal v Newcastle C Foy ESPN
Sunday 30th December 2012
13:30 Everton v Chelsea H Webb Sky1
16:00 QPR v Liverpool A Taylor Sky1
Premier League MatchDay 20 kicks off with Tottenham aiming to maintain their top four place when they travel to Sunderland on Saturday. Spurs eased past hapless Aston Villa on Boxing Day to move back into fourth spot. But they travel to Wearside to face a home side which has started to show signs of improvement.

Aston Villa host Wigan on Saturday in a meeting of two of the most battered and bruised teams in the Premier League right now. Villa had been unbeaten in five games before last Sunday, but have since shipped 12 goals in two Christmas demolitions. Wigan, meanwhile, have free-fallen into the relegation zone in recent weeks after losing five of their last six matches.

Fulham and Swansea will both be aiming to address dips in form when they meet at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Martin Jol's hosts have worryingly won just once in 11 Premier League games which has seen them slip to 14th in the table.
Michael Laudrup's Swansea, meanwhile, have enjoyed a good season and sit in the top half of the table but they have failed to win in their past four matches.

Premiership table - after 26th Dec 2012
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man Utd 19 8 0 1 26 13 7 1 2 22 15 20 46
2 Man City 19 7 2 1 22 9 4 4 1 12 7 18 39
3 Chelsea 18 5 3 1 22 7 5 2 2 15 10 20 35
4 Tottenham 19 5 3 2 14 10 5 0 4 20 15 9 33
5 Everton 19 5 4 0 16 10 3 5 2 16 13 9 33
6 West Brom 19 7 1 2 16 7 3 2 4 12 16 5 33
7 Arsenal 18 4 2 2 18 10 4 4 2 14 8 14 30
8 Stoke 19 5 4 0 11 4 1 6 3 7 10 4 28
9 Swansea 19 3 5 2 17 15 3 2 4 10 8 4 25
10 Liverpool 19 4 3 3 14 10 2 4 3 14 16 2 25
11 Norwich 19 5 2 2 10 9 1 5 4 10 19 -8 25
12 West Ham 18 4 3 3 17 12 2 2 4 5 10 0 23
13 Sunderland 19 3 3 3 10 10 2 4 4 10 14 -4 22
14 Fulham 19 4 2 3 16 12 1 4 5 13 22 -5 21
15 Newcastle 19 5 1 4 12 12 0 4 5 11 18 -7 20
16 Aston Villa 19 2 4 3 8 12 2 2 6 7 24 -21 18
17 Southampton 18 3 3 4 14 13 1 1 6 9 21 -11 16
18 Wigan 19 2 3 5 13 18 2 0 7 6 17 -16 15
19 Reading 19 1 5 3 14 19 0 2 8 7 18 -16 10
20 QPR 19 1 4 4 8 16 0 3 7 8 17 -17 10
Man Utd will hope to build on their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League when they host high-flying West Brom at Old Trafford. The Red Devils will be keen to maintain their seven win run against the Baggies, who are one of the surprise packages of the season. Steve Clarke's side sit sixth after recovering from a four-game winless streak with back-to-back successes over Norwich and QPR.

Norwich and Man City will be keen to bounce back from defeats on Boxing Day at Carrow Road. Norwich were one of the Premier League's form sides until a week ago, but two defeats have taken the gloss off a good run that had pushed them close to the European places. Manchester City fans hit the road in the hope of seeing an improvement on the performance that saw their side slip to defeat at Sunderland.

Reading will be aiming to build on the draw with Swansea that ended their losing streak, while West Ham are looking to a first win in four games.

Newcastle are still seeking their first Premier League away win of the season as they travel to Arsenal on Saturday looking to put their Boxing Day defeat at Manchester United behind them. Arsene Wenger's men will be well-rested after their scheduled Boxing Day clash with West Ham was called off due to a planned London Underground strike.

Rafa Benitez will be reunited with old rivals Everton when Chelsea visit Goodison Park on Sunday lunchtime. The interim Chelsea boss knows all about David Moyes' side from the Spaniard's days as manager of Liverpool in Merseyside derbies. Fifth-placed Everton could overtake their visitors with a win and they have lost just one of their last eight Premier League games against Chelsea.

QPR are looking to end a turbulent 2012 on a high by earning a much-needed Premier League victory against visitors Liverpool. Rangers are rooted to the bottom of the table after just one win in their opening 19 matches of the season. The Reds have shown glimpses of progress under Brendan Rodgers, but the statistics show the 10th-placed club have never accumulated fewer points at the halfway stage of the season since 1981.

Saturday 29th December 2012

12:45 - (13) Sunderland v Tottenham (04)

The action kicks off on Saturday lunchtime with Sunderland welcoming Tottenham Hotspur to the Stadium of Light.

Martin O'Neill's Black Cats continued to pull clear of the relegation zone on Wednesday thanks to a surprise 1-0 victory over Manchester City, and will be looking to pick up a third straight win.

It will be another tough game against Spurs, though, with Gareth Bale in irresistible form after starring in a 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa which kept their push for UEFA Champions League qualification on track.

Manager Martin O'Neill will be without full-back Danny Rose as he is ineligible to face his parent club under the terms of his loan. John O'Shea could return to the back four after missing the Boxing Day victory over Manchester City through illness. O'Neill has also recalled midfielder David Meyler from his loan spell at Hull after he completed a one-match ban.

Forward Clint Dempsey and midfielder Tom Huddlestone have a chance of returning from their respective groin and knee injuries. Defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto may make his long-awaited comeback from a knee injury while midfielder Scott Parker could also make his first start of the season after coming off the bench in the last three games following his recovery from an Achilles injury. Midfielder Mousa Dembele should be fit despite coming off against Aston Villa with his niggling hip injury, but defender Younes Kaboul (knee) remains out.

Last season: Sunderland 0 Tottenham 0, Tottenham 1 Sunderland 0

Last five league matches: Sunderland L W L W W; Tottenham W L W D W Top scorers (all competitions): Steven Fletcher (Sunderland) 8; Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 14

Referee: Martin Atkinson

15:00 - (13) Aston Villa v Wigan (18)

Two out-of-form sides will lock horns in the Midlands as Aston Villa entertain Wigan.

The Latics have fallen into the bottom three after collecting just one point from their past six games, while Villa have conceded 12 goals in two matches since beating Liverpool at Anfield a fortnight ago.

Defender Nathan Baker is the latest Villa player to sustain injury after he picked up a hamstring problem on Boxing Day. Baker joins captain Ron Vlaar (calf), Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh), Charles N'Zogbia (knee), Darren Bent (hamstring), Richard Dunne (groin) and Andreas Weimann (calf) on the sidelines.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is considering making changes at Villa Park, with Franco di Santo among those angling for a recall. The game might is likely to come too soon for defender Ivan Ramis, who is still to make an appearance after suffering a hamstring injury at the end of last month.

Last season: Wigan 0 Aston Villa 0, Aston Villa 2 Wigan 0

Last five league matches: Aston Villa D D W L L; Wigan L D L L L Top scorers (all competitions): Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 11; Arouna Kone & Jordi Gomez (Wigan) 5

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

15:00 - (14) Fulham v Swansea (09)

Fulham welcome Swansea to Craven Cottage for a clash between two sides eager to return to winning ways.

The Cottagers have slowly been dropping down the table over the past couple of months after taking just one victory from their past 11 games, while Swansea have picked up just two points from four matches since beating Arsenal.

Fulham's Bryan Ruiz has been passed fit to start against the Swans. The Costa Rica international made his return from a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Southampton, playing the second half on Boxing Day. Mahamadou Diarra and Mladen Petric are doubts, while Damien Duff could miss out again.

Top scorer Michu will miss the journey due to the ankle injury he suffered in the Boxing Day draw at Reading. Danny Graham, Itay Shechter and Luke Moore will compete for his place in attack. Winger Pablo Hernandez and full-back Angel Rangel are set to return from thigh and ankle problems respectively.

Last season: Fulham 0 Swansea 3, Swansea 2 Fulham 0

Last five league matches: Fulham L W L L D; Swansea W L L D D Top scorers (all competitions): Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) 6; Michu (Swansea) 14

Referee: Andre Marriner

15:00 - (01) Man Utd v West Brom (06)

Manchester United will head into 2013 in a commanding position after opening up a seven-point lead at the summit on Boxing Day, but they will be keen to tighten their grip on top spot further by defeating West Bromwich Albion on Saturday afternoon.

Sir Alex Ferguson reiterated after the thrilling 4-3 triumph over Newcastle United that his side could not afford to keep going behind, and they will need to keep their focus against a Baggies team occupying sixth spot.

Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck could both be back to bolster Manchester United's attacking options after the pair missed the Boxing Day win over Newcastle with minor ailments. Shinji Kagawa (knee) may also be involved for the first time since October, but Wayne Rooney (knee) and Phil Jones miss out and veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are expected to be rested.

West Brom have doubts over defenders Jonas Olsson (groin) and Goran Popov (hamstring) as well as midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu (hamstring) after a bruising Boxing Day win at QPR. Claudio Yacob (hamstring) remains sidelined and as a result Albion have recalled George Thorne from a loan spell at Peterborough.

Last season: Man Utd 2 West Brom 0, West Brom 1 Man Utd 2

Last five league matches: Man Utd W W W D W; West Brom L L D W W Top scorers (all competitions): Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 16; Shane Long (West Brom) 7

Referee: Jon Moss

15:00 - (11) Norwich v Man City (02)

Having lost ground on their rivals at the weekend, Roberto Mancini will be aware of how important it is to bounce back immediately when he takes his Manchester City troops to Carrow Road to tackle Norwich City.

The Canaries were also beaten last time out, 1-0 at home against Chelsea, but they have claimed the scalps of Arsenal and Manchester United already this season and will fancy causing another upset.

Norwich manager Chris Hughton has no new injury concerns as he welcomes the Barclays Premier League champions to Carrow Road. Defender Steven Whittaker will miss out with an ongoing hip injury, with Andrew Surman also unlikely to feature as he continues his recovery from a knee problem. Ryan Bennett is back in contention after returning to the bench against Chelsea on Boxing Day, while John Ruddy (thigh) is the only long-term absentee for the Canaries.

Midfielder Samir Nasri (hamstring) could return for City and defender Gael Clichy has also recovered from a knock. Striker Carlos Tevez is available after taking a day off training due to illness and right-back Pablo Zabaleta's cut head is not a problem, but forward Mario Balotelli (virus) remains a doubt. Full-backs Aleksandar Kolarov and Maicon (both knee) are still out along with the long-term casualties of defender Micah Richards (knee) and midfielder Jack Rodwell (hamstring).

Last season: Norwich 1 Man City 6, Man City 5 Norwich 1

Last five league matches: Norwich W W W L L; Man City D L W W L Top scorers (all competitions): Robert Snodgrass & Grant Holt (Norwich) 4; Carlos Tevez & Sergio Aguero (Man City) 8

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

15:00 - (19) Reading v West Ham (12)

QPR could find themselves three points behind Reading by the time they take to the field, if the Royals can grab a vital victory of their own at home to West Ham United on Saturday.

Reading managed to end a run of seven straight losses by holding Swansea City to a goalless draw, but they will now be determined to pick up all three points against a Hammers side refreshed from having Boxing Day off.

Midfielder Danny Guthrie could make his second appearance inside a week after he impressed manager Brian McDermott on his comeback to the side in the Royals' Boxing Day draw with Swansea. Veteran striker Jason Roberts has missed the last four matches with a hip injury. Defender Sean Morrison is still sidelined with ankle injury and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is out long term with a shoulder problem.

West Ham have striker Carlton Cole available after his red card against Everton last weekend was rescinded. Otherwise, Sam Allardyce is short of attackers, with Andy Carroll out with a knee problem, Ricardo Vaz Te recovering from a dislocated shoulder, Mohamed Diame dealing with a hamstring strain and Yossi Benayoun back at parent club Chelsea.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Adam Le Fondre & Pavel Pogrebnyak (Reading) 5; Kevin Nolan (West Ham) 5

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

15:00 - (08) Stoke v Southampton (17)

Southampton, who are sandwiched between Wigan and Villa, continue their fight for Premier League survival with a difficult journey to the Britannia Stadium.

Stoke City have the best defensive record in the league and are unbeaten in nine matches, prompting Tony Pulis to declare that this is the strongest Potters side he has worked with.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis will be forced into a defensive reshuffle as captain Ryan Shawcross and right-back Geoff Cameron both serve one-match bans. Matthew Upton and Ryan Shotton are the two most likely deputies.

Southampton captain Adam Lallana will be on the sidelines once again as his persistent knee problem keeps him out if the reckoning. Manager Nigel Adkins revealed one or two unnamed players picked up knocks in the 1-1 draw with Fulham on Boxing Day, but expects them to be available at the Britannia Stadium.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Stoke W D D D W; Southampton D L W L D Top scorers (all competitions): Jonathan Walters (Stoke) 6; Rickie Lambert (Southampton) 7

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

17:30 - (07) Arsenal v Newcastle (15)

West Ham's game against Arsenal was called off due to a London Underground tube strike, but the Emirates Stadium faithful will get the chance to see their team at home before New Year as Newcastle United make the long trip to the capital.

The Gunners will be searching for a fourth consecutive win to boost their top-four hopes, while Alan Pardew's Magpies remain perilously close to the drop zone following their agonising defeat at Old Trafford.

Striker Olivier Giroud and midfielder Tomas Rosicky have both recovered from illness and are available for the Gunners. Defender Andre Santos (stomach muscle) and midfielder Abou Diaby (thigh) are expected to return to training next week, while back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is out with a foot injury.

Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote returns from a one-match ban and should come straight in for Vurnon Anita, who suffered an ankle injury in the 4-3 defeat to Manchester United. Centre-half Mike Williamson is suspended after collecting his fifth booking of the season and Jonas Gutierrez (knee) misses out.

Last season: Arsenal 2 Newcastle 1, Newcastle 0 Arsenal 0

Last five league matches: Arsenal D L W W W; Newcastle W L L W L Top scorers (all competitions): Theo Walcott (Arsenal) 11; Demba Ba (Newcastle) 11

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Sunday 30th December 2012

13:30 - (05) Everton v Chelsea (03)

Chelsea are now just four points adrift of Man City, with a game in hand, and they have appeared rejuvenated rather than fatigued since returning home from the Club World Cup.

Rafa Benitez faces a stern test in Sunday's early kick-off, however, as he takes his Blues to Goodison Park.

Everton are on a seven-match unbeaten run and, fresh from overcoming Wigan Athletic 2-1, they will sense an opportunity to leapfrog Chelsea in the standings.

Everton midfielder Darron Gibson is hoping to prove his fitness in order to feature against Chelsea after his red card in last week's win at West Ham was overturned . Right-back Seamus Coleman could return after a knock but midfielder Marouane Fellaini completes a three-match ban. Defender Tony Hibbert has a hamstring problem and striker Kevin Mirallas has a calf injury.

John Obi Mikel has emerged as an injury doubt for Chelsea's Barclays Premier League game at Everton on Sunday. Midfielder Mikel will have a fitness test on a knee injury ahead of the trip to Goodison Park, along with left-back Ryan Bertrand (groin). Ramires is expected to return from a knee knock after training on Friday, but Sunday's game comes too soon for John Terry (knee) while Daniel Sturridge could be omitted from the squad again ahead of his proposed move to Liverpool.

Last season: Everton 2 Chelsea 0, Chelsea 3 Everton 1

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

Top scorers: Marouane Fellaini (Everton) 8; Fernando Torres (Chelsea) 14

Referee: Howard Webb

16:00 - (20) QPR v Liverpool (10)

Sunday's second match pits together Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool in a crucial contest at Loftus Road.

Harry Redknapp's men have slipped back to the bottom of the table after suffering back-to-back defeats and will be seeking only their second victory of the campaign against Liverpool, who lost 3-1 at Stoke City on Boxing Day.

QPR defender Ryan Nelsen is a doubt due to a virus. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar with a back injury, full-back Nedum Onuoha and midfielder Park Ji-sung who has a knee problem are also doubts. Strikers Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora are sidelined with long-term injuries.

Striker Luis Suarez has been playing with a swollen ankle in recent weeks but is expected to play, while Raheem Sterling could be rested and Joe Allen could be recalled.

Last season: QPR 3 Liverpool 2, Liverpool 1 QPR 0

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

Top scorers: Djibril Cisse, Bobby Zamora & Adel Taarabt (QPR) 4; Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 14

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

Source Soccernet/SkySports/Sporting Life
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