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Premier League Preview - 10th - 12th December 2011

last updated Friday 09th December 2011, 9:22 PM

It was midweek misery for both Manchester clubs in the Champions League but the bread and butter of the Premier League returns on Saturday.

United are renowned for vicious responses after rare calamitous results so beware Wolves, who visit Old Trafford on the back of an impressive victory over Sunderland.

Martin O'Neill was in the stands for that game, and he will take charge of his new side for the first time when Blackburn visit the Stadium of Light on Sunday.

In-form Tottenham go to Stoke, while Arsenal and Liverpool both have home fixtures they will want to take maximum points from.

Following a stand out win over Liverpool Fulham go on the road to Swansea hoping to extend their improved away form.

Saturday 10th December

15.00 - Arsenal (5) v Everton (10)

Defeat to Olympiakos in the Champions League on Tuesday meant little to Arsenal as they had already topped their group, and Arsene Wenger will revert to his strongest line-up for their home meeting with Everton.

They are unbeaten in the league since early October and got back to winning ways with a 4-0 romp at Wigan.

David Moyes has seen his side struggle for consistency this year and last weekend's home reverse to Stoke was another disappointing display.

On the road they have won three and lost three but given Arsenal's, and Robin van Persie's, recent form then a point would be a good result here.

Arsenal will be without Andre Santos after the Brazil full-back suffered an ankle injury in the midweek Champions League defeat at Olympiacos.

Goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski (knee) and Vito Mannone (shoulder) also picked up injuries in Greece, so veteran Manuel Almunia will make a rare return to the first-team squad.

Midfielders Abou Diaby (hamstring) and Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) are still out, along with defenders Carl Jenkinson (back), Kieran Gibbs (hernia) and Bacary Sagna (ankle), while midfielder Jack Wilshere (ankle) is not expected back until the new year.

Everton boss David Moyes will be without midfielder Jack Rodwell.

The England midfielder, who only made his comeback from a rib injury last weekend as a substitute in the 1-0 loss to Stoke, will not feature due to a hamstring problem he picked up in training on Thursday.

Fellow midfield men Leon Osman (hamstring) and Royston Drenthe (foot) will be assessed ahead of kick-off, while Moyes is hopeful that striker Louis Saha will be able to return to action after a thigh complaint.

Last season: Arsenal 2 Everton 1, Everton 1 Arsenal 2.

Last five league matches: Arsenal W W W D W; Everton L L W W L.

Top scorers: Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 18; Apostolos Vellios (Everton) 3.

Referee: Howard Webb.

15.00 - Bolton (19) v Aston Villa (9)

Two managers under pressure are Aston Villa's Alex McLeish and Bolton's Owen Coyle.

McLeish was never the fans' choice to take over at Villa following his cross-city switch from Birmingham, and a difficult start to the campaign has not made things any easier.

His style of football has also not won him any plaudits with Darren Bent often cutting a lonely figure up front.

Villa are well positioned in the top half though, while Bolton are in the doldrums.

Coyle came out fighting following the defeat at Tottenham but it has been a year to forget for Wanderers.

This clash at the Reebok is a big one for both bosses.

Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill is available after his red card in the 3-0 defeat against Tottenham was rescinded.

Fellow defender David Wheater misses out again as he serves the second game of a four-match ban for his sending off in the previous fixture, a 2-0 loss to Everton.

Midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker is a doubt due to a hamstring problem.

Villa keeper Brad Guzan will make his first Barclays Premier League start of the season in place of Shay Given, who is sidelined for a month with a hamstring injury.

Captain Stiliyan Petrov and Stephen Ireland will be in contention to replace on-loan Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas, who has been ruled out for the season after surgery to his Achilles.

Last season: Bolton 3 Aston Villa 2, Aston Villa 1 Bolton 1.

Last five league matches: Bolton L W L L L; Aston Villa D W L D L.

Top scorers: Ivan Klasnic (Bolton) 6; Darren Bent & Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) 5.

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

15.00 - Liverpool (7) v QPR (12)

Luis Suarez is never far from the headlines at the moment and was the centre of a storm following Liverpool's 1-0 defeat to Fulham on Monday night.

Kenny Dalglish has also been outspoken about the Uruguayan's treatment this week as the Reds manager has backed his player to the hilt.

A meeting with Queens Park Rangers at Anfield is a good opportunity for Liverpool to get back in touch with the top four, with the gap currently five points.

Rangers are steadily going about their business although a defeat and a draw in their last two matches has pegged them back slightly.

Central midfield is once again a concern for Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish.

Jay Spearing, who was expected to provide the long-term replacement for Lucas Leiva after the Brazilian's season was ended by a cruciate knee ligament, begins a three-match suspension after his red card at Fulham on Monday.

Captain Steven Gerrard is still recovering from an ankle infection so Jordan Henderson could start in his favoured central position, although the in-form Jonjo Shelvey has continued to impress following his recall from a loan spell at Blackpool.

QPR playmaker Adel Taarabt will undergo a fitness test on a thigh strain and is a doubt for Neil Warnock's men.

Matt Connolly (ankle), Kieron Dyer (foot) and DJ Campbell (foot) returned to training this week and have an outside chance of being involved.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

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

Top scorers: Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 7; Heidar Helguson (QPR) 6.

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

15.00 - Man Utd (2) v Wolves (16)

Defeat in Basel on Wednesday night was a disaster for Manchester United - indeed, just a few weeks back Sir Alex Ferguson walked out of a press conference when asked why his side were struggling in Europe.

That has now come back to haunt him following a limp display that sees the Premier League champions fall into the Europa League for the first time in their history.

With Champions League silverware now out of the equation, the league takes centre stage.

United currently trail Manchester City by five points and with Roberto Mancini's men not playing until Monday, when they take on Chelsea, it is an opportunity to gain some ground and restore a bit of pride.

But they were dealt a major blow when Nemanja Vidic was forced off injured in Switzerland - and the commanding centre-half will now be out for the season with a serious knee problem.

Wolves had been struggling before last weekend's win over Sunderland, but that comeback success will have restored some spirit in the camp.

Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping Dimitar Berbatov recovers from an ankle injury to give Manchester United a much-needed lift.

Skipper Nemanja Vidic (knee) has been ruled out for the rest of the season and other long-term casualties include Javier Hernandez and Tom Cleverley (both ankle), Michael Owen (thigh), Anderson (knee) and Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio, who were both hurt in the Carling Cup defeat to Crystal Palace.

Michael Carrick returns from suspension and should start in midfield, with Phil Jones reverting to a defensive position.

Wolves have Karl Henry available after serving a one-match suspension.

Henry was unavailable for the 2-1 home success over Sunderland last weekend after incurring five bookings this season.

Central defender Jody Craddock is rated doubtful to overcome a hamstring injury suffered against the Black Cats.

His likely absence could mean a recall for skipper Roger Johnson.

Last season: Wolverhampton 2 Man Utd 1, Man Utd 2 Wolverhampton 1.

Last five league matches: Man Utd W W W D W; Wolverhampton L W L L W.

Top scorers: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 12; Steven Fletcher (Wolverhampton) 5.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

15.00 - Norwich (11) v Newcastle (6)

Newcastle were beaten 3-0 by Chelsea last weekend but the scoreline was certainly harsh on Alan Pardew's team.

A controversial decision not to send off David Luiz and pushing for the equaliser were the undoing of the Magpies, but they are still sitting pretty in sixth.

Norwich, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their 5-1 defeat at Manchester City.

That result aside, the Canaries have been impressive on their return to the top flight and will be difficult to beat at Carrow Road - having only lost twice there in the league this term.

Centre-half Zak Whitbread is in contention to return to Norwich's starting XI having recovered from a hamstring problem.

On-loan Manchester United defender Ritchie de Laet (back) remains sidelined.

Striker James Vaughan is on course for a return in the new year from his knee problem, along with centre-back Elliott Ward (knee).

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has defensive problems.

Steven Taylor (Achilles) and Mike Williamson (broken arm and ankle) are definitely out while Fabricio Coloccini (thigh) is very doubtful, meaning 21-year-old Hungarian Tamas Kadar could make his first appearance of the season.

Midfielders Danny Guthrie (groin) and Cheik Tiote (knee) are also sidelined but winger Jonas Gutierrez is available again after suspension.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

Last five league matches: Norwich D L L W L; Newcastle W W L D L.

Top scorers: Steve Morison (Norwich) 5; Demba Ba (Newcastle) 9.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

15.00 - Swansea (15) v Fulham (13)

Swansea City and Fulham lock horns at the Liberty Stadium.

Martin Jol saw his side edge past Liverpool on Monday night and that could be a springboard after a difficult start to his tenure at Craven Cottage, where a run of good performances has yet to come.

The Swans fell to Blackburn last time out but Danny Graham should return to the starting line-up for this one.

Swansea are without midfielder Joe Allen, who is suspended after being sent off in last weekend's 4-2 defeat at Blackburn.

Manager Brendan Rodgers must decide whether to replace him with Luke Moore, Wayne Routledge or Kemy Agustien.

Striker Danny Graham is available again after an Achilles problem kept him out at Ewood Park and defender Steven Caulker is back in contention but Angel Rangel (ankle) remains sidelined.

Danny Murphy and Simon Davies could be surprise inclusions for Fulham.

Skipper Murphy looked set to miss out after picking up an ankle knock against former club Liverpool on Monday, but is in contention after making a rapid recovery.

Davies could make his first league appearance of the season after a long-term knee complaint.

Winger Damien Duff (calf) and defender Chris Baird (personal reasons) are out.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

Last five league matches: Swansea W D L D L; Fulham W L D D W.

Top scorers: Danny Graham (Swansea) 4; Andrew Johnson (Fulham) 11.

Referee: Jon Moss.

15.00 - West Brom (14) v Wigan (20)

Wigan are rooted to the bottom of the division after their home humbling by Arsenal and despite two decent performances beforehand, are well and truly in the mire.

Roberto Martinez remains positive and his relationship with Dave Whelan may be the reason that the pressure is not straining the Spaniard too much at this stage.

Having said that, nine points from a possible 42 is a woeful start to the season and their away record reads won one, drawn one and lost five.

The Latics go to West Brom on Saturday to face a Baggies outfit that has certainly been inconsistent - Roy Hodgson will want three points from this one.

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson has no fresh injury concerns.

Midfield playmaker Zoltan Gera is the only major casualty with the knee injury which will sideline him for the remainder of the season.

Hodgson will be hoping five-goal top scorer Shane Long, who netted in last weekend's 1-1 draw at QPR, can continue to play and defy his current groin problem.

Wigan defender Antolin Alcaraz returns after serving a three-match ban for spitting at Wolves' Richard Stearman and his availability means Latics are back at full strength.

Fellow defender Emmerson Boyce will again push for inclusion following injury while manager Roberto Martinez must decide whether to restore striker Hugo Rodallega to the side.

Last season: West Brom 2 Wigan 2, Wigan 1 West Brom 0.

Last five league matches: West Brom L L W L D; Wigan L L D W L.

Top scorers: Shane Long (West Brom) 5; Franco Di Santo (Wigan) 4.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Sunday 11th December

13. 30 - Sunderland (17) v Blackburn (18) Sky1

Martin O'Neill is back in the dugout for the first time since his departure from Aston Villa in August 2010.

Sunderland recently parted company with Steve Bruce and the Wearsiders are currently 17th in the table.

One place below them are Blackburn Rovers, who are their opponents on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1 from 1.30pm.

Yakubu was the hero against Swansea as a four-goal salvo earned Steve Kean's men a much-needed victory, and they now have a mini-run of three fixtures that they will hope can pull them away from the relegation zone.

But if the results do not come their way, then the Ewood dissenters will find their voice once more.

New Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has several injury concerns ahead of his opening game.

Striker Nicklas Bendtner has not trained all week because of a groin problem while defender Phil Bardsley has suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury, but O'Neill is hopeful both will be available.

Midfielder Lee Cattermole misses out through suspension after picking up five yellow cards along with striker Connor Wickham (knee) and goalkeepers Simon Mignolet (fractured nose and eye socket) and Craig Gordon (knee).

Blackburn will give a fitness test to Martin Olsson (hamstring) and Ruben Rochina is also doubtful.

He suffered a muscle injury and has been recovering this week after having his wisdom teeth removed.

Steven Nzonzi serves the final game of his three-match suspension while Ryan Nelsen is still short of match fitness.

Last season: Sunderland 3 Blackburn 0, Blackburn 0 Sunderland 0.

Last five league matches: Sunderland D L D L L; Blackburn D L D L W.

Top scorers: Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) 4; Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 10.

Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

16.00 - Stoke (8) v Tottenham (3) Sky1

Tottenham sit third in the table with a game in hand over the teams around them, following their comfortable 3-0 victory over Bolton.

Stoke are the opposition for Harry Redknapp and co on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1 from 4pm.

Last weekend Redknapp quashed suggestions of winning the league, but Spurs fans are beginning to believe they can mount a serious challenge after some fine recent results.

If they do have a vulnerability it is away from White Hart Lane, and a trip to the Britannia is always tricky.

Stoke have been a bit patchy so far this season but come into this one on the back of successive league wins.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis could welcome back midfielders Jermaine Pennant and Rory Delap.

The pair missed last weekend's win at Everton with minor knocks but are in contention.

Andy Wilkinson injured his back in training yesterday and a late decision will be made over his participation, while goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen is fine after sustaining mild concussion at Goodison Park.

Tottenham will gave fitness tests to Jermain Defoe (hamstring) and Gareth Bale (foot).

Rafael van der Vaart has recovered from his hamstring injury but Ledley King is a doubt with the knee problem that ruled him out of last weekend's win against Bolton.

Sandro is struggling with a groin problem while long-term absentees Michael Dawson (Achilles), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) Niko Kranjcar (thigh) remain sidelined.

Last season: Tottenham 3 Stoke 2, Stoke 1 Tottenham 2.

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

Top scorers: Kenwyne Jones & Jonathan Walters (Stoke) 6; Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 8.

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

Monday 12th December

20.00 - Chelsea (4) v Man City (1) Sky1

Chelsea will be without the suspended David Luiz, who picked up his fifth domestic yellow card of the season in Saturday's 3-0 win at Newcastle and serves a one-match ban.

Right-back Jose Bosingwa has therefore made a timely recovery from the adductor strain that caused him to miss Tuesday's Champions League success against Valencia.

Josh McEachran is back in training after an ankle knock, while fellow midfielder Michael Essien is expected to return from knee surgery early next year.

Manchester City right-back Micah Richards looks set to miss out.

Richards was ruled out of Wednesday's Champions League win over Bayern Munich with a calf injury and may not shake off the problem in time.

Central defender Stefan Savic played in his position in midweek but Pablo Zabaleta is now fit and could slot back in, but left-back Aleksandar Kolarov (groin) remains out.

Last season: Chelsea 2 Man City 0, Man City 1 Chelsea 0.

Last five league matches: Chelsea L W L W W; Man City W W W D W.

Top scorers: Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) 8; Edin Dzeko & Sergio Aguero (Man City) 13.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Source Sporting Life/SkySports
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