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Premier League Preview - 26th - 27th December 2011

last updated Sunday 25th December 2011, 12:07 PM

Premiership table
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man City 17 9 0 0 28 4 5 2 1 25 11 38 44
2 Man Utd 17 6 1 1 23 11 7 2 0 19 3 28 42
3 Tottenham 16 6 1 1 17 8 5 1 2 15 11 13 35
4 Chelsea 17 6 0 2 21 12 4 3 2 14 8 15 33
5 Arsenal 17 6 1 1 14 5 4 1 4 19 20 8 32
6 Liverpool 17 3 5 0 10 6 5 1 3 10 7 7 30
7 Newcastle 17 4 3 2 12 11 3 3 2 11 11 1 27
8 Stoke 17 4 2 2 12 9 3 1 5 6 19 -10 24
9 Norwich 17 4 2 2 16 12 1 4 4 11 19 -4 21
10 West Brom 17 2 1 5 7 11 4 2 3 12 15 -7 21
11 Everton 16 3 2 4 9 10 3 0 4 8 9 -2 20
12 Aston Villa 17 3 2 4 11 11 1 5 2 8 12 -4 19
13 Fulham 17 3 3 3 14 14 1 3 4 4 9 -5 18
14 Swansea 17 4 3 1 10 2 0 3 6 6 19 -5 18
15 Sunderland 17 2 3 3 12 10 2 2 5 9 11 0 17
16 QPR 17 1 4 4 8 15 3 0 5 9 16 -14 16
17 Wolves 17 3 2 4 13 15 1 1 6 6 17 -13 15
18 Wigan 17 1 4 4 9 16 2 1 5 6 14 -15 14
19 Bolton 17 1 0 7 10 21 3 0 6 12 18 -17 12
20 Blackburn 17 2 0 7 12 19 0 4 4 12 19 -14 10
Premiership Games
Monday 26th December
13:00 Chelsea v Fulham
15:00 Bolton v Newcastle
15:00 Liverpool v Blackburn
15:00 Man Utd v Wigan
15:00 Sunderland v Everton
15:00 West Brom v Man City
19:45 Stoke v Aston Villa Sky1
Tuesday 27th December
15:00 Arsenal v Wolves
17:00 Swansea v QQPR Sky1
19:30 Norwich v Tottenham Sky1

Santa Claus will have finished his rounds by the time Premier League action resumes, but there are 20 clubs hoping for a late delivery of three points.

The presents will have been unwrapped, family feuds will have reached boiling point and turkey sandwiches will be the order of the day when the top-flight returns to centre stage on Boxing Day.

Monday brings seven festive treats for football followers of all ages, with a further three helpings heading your way on Tuesday - with Arsenal having taken the decision not to risk staging a game in the middle of a Tube strike.

By Tuesday you will probably be desperate to venture outside and reacquaint yourself with fresh air, but with three crucial fixtures you may have to delay those plans for 24 hours.

Monday 26th December

13:00 - Chelsea (4) v Fulham (13)

Chelsea have decided to stick with the schedule and keep their clash with local rivals Fulham on Monday lunchtime, with the Blues prepared to risk playing in front of a deserted stadium as followers of both sides attempt to make their way to Stamford Bridge overground.

Those that are able to beat the travel chaos and make it to the game are likely to see a full-blooded all-West London encounter.

Chelsea are refusing to give up on their title dream, despite 11 points now separating them from the summit, while Fulham are still searching for consistency and would like nothing more than to head back down the King's Road in the knowledge that they have put a sizeable dent in the Blues' lofty aspirations.

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas is hopeful David Luiz will spare him a defensive crisis for the west London derby.

Villas-Boas found himself down to just one centre-half in the 1-1 draw at Tottenham on Thursday night after Branislav Ivanovic limped off injured, along with midfielder John Obi Mikel.

Both look set to miss Monday's match, but Villas-Boas is optimistic Luiz will return from a knee problem, while he may recall Frank Lampard with Ramires suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season.

Fulham have no fresh injury concerns following their 5-0 defeat against Manchester United.

The Cottagers have been boosted by Steve Sidwell's return to training after a hernia operation although he is unlikely to feature against his former club.

He will be joined on the sidelines by fellow midfielder Simon Davies (back), goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer (spine) and defender Zdenek Grygera (knee).

Last season: Fulham 0 Chelsea 0, Chelsea 1 Fulham 0

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

Top scorers: Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) 10; Andrew Johnson (Fulham) 11

Referee: Andre Marriner.

15:00 - Bolton (19) v Newcastle (7)

Bolton's victory over Blackburn in a crucial bottom-of-the-table clash at Ewood Park will help their Christmas dinner to slip down a little easier, but Owen Coyle will be aware that the Trotters have a long way to go if they are to ensure that they are still feasting at the top table next term.

Three points separate them from safety, meaning they could edge closer to escaping the drop zone with victory over Newcastle.

Bolton will feel Boxing Day is an ideal time to face the out-of-sorts Magpies, with Coyle's men looking to lace up their gloves and land another crushing blow on a side that have gone six matches without a win.

Bolton defender Marcos Alonso has been ruled out for four to six weeks to undergo surgery to replace a pin in his foot.

Defender David Wheater is back in contention after serving the final game of a four-match suspension.

Midfielder Sean Davis and defender Sam Ricketts stepped up their bids for a first-team comeback with a game for the reserves against Oldham this week.

Yohan Cabaye will return to the Newcastle squad after he missed the 3-2 home defeat by West Brom on Wednesday evening through suspension.

Full-back Davide Santon (knee) is being assessed after limping out of the Baggies game and midfielder Danny Guthrie (groin) is still a doubt, while striker Peter Lovenkrands could be sidelined for up to three weeks by a calf injury.

Central defender Steven Taylor (Achilles) is expected to sit out the rest of the season and midfielder Dan Gosling completes his three-match ban.

Last season: Newcastle 1 Bolton 1, Bolton 5 Newcastle 1

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

Top scorers: Ivan Klasnic (Bolton) 7; Demba Ba (Newcastle) 13

Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

15:00 - Liverpool (6) v Blackburn (20)

With the Luis Suarez saga seemingly set to rumble on well into the New Year, the Anfield faithful will get their first chance to offer their support to their Uruguayan striker when Liverpool face rock-bottom Blackburn.

Suarez's eight-match ban for allegedly racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra will not start until his window for appeal has closed, so he is likely to be on show against Rovers - although pre-match T-shirts bearing his face are expected to be put to the back of the kit cupboard.

Liverpool will want to get their top-four push back on track on home soil, while Blackburn are in desperate need of points.

Pressure continues to mount on the shoulders of their under-fire boss Steve Kean and defeat on Merseyside could hammer the final nail into his coffin.

Midfielder Jay Spearing returns to Liverpool's squad after serving a three-match suspension.

The 23-year-old provides the defensive option in central midfield but the Reds' problems lie further upfield, which may mean forward Craig Bellamy earns a recall against his former club having been left out against Wigan on Wednesday.

Captain Steven Gerrard is training and is edging closer to a first-team return after two months out.

Beleaguered Blackburn manager Steve Kean is hoping his defence will not be further weakened by the absence of goalkeeper Paul Robinson who has a small tear in his calf muscle.

Robinson is, however, going to attempt to play through the problem by having it strapped up.

Martin Olsson (hamstring) and Ryan Nelsen (knee) are out while Gael Givet, who had a successful operation on his heart yesterday, could be back in training next week.

Last season: Blackburn 3 Liverpool 1, Liverpool 2 Blackburn 1

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

Top scorers: Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 8; Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 11

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire).

15:00 - Man Utd (2) v Wigan (18)

Manchester United will be hoping to pounce should City suffer an untimely slip-up, with a crushing win at Fulham keeping them within touching distance of their noisy neighbours.

The Red Devils are old hands when it comes to piecing together a title tilt and will have their sights firmly locked on another three points when Wigan arrive at Old Trafford.

The Latics have enjoyed a merry Christmas so far, though, and have suffered only one defeat in their last six.

Roberto Martinez's side have also taken points off Chelsea and Liverpool in December and will not be overawed by a derby date at the Theatre of Dreams.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson expects defender Phil Jones to be available after scans showed he did not suffer a broken cheekbone at Fulham on Wednesday.

However, Ashley Young (knee) is out for a few weeks, joining Tom Cleverley (ankle), Michael Owen (thigh) and Anderson (knee) on the sidelines, along with long-term casualties Nemanja Vidic (knee) and Darren Fletcher (bowel condition).

Wigan will assess defender Steve Gohouri (flu) and striker Hugo Rodallega before the short trip to Old Trafford.

Rodallega picked up a heavy knock during Saturday's 1-1 draw with Chelsea, but played against Liverpool in midweek and he will be checked again.

James McCarthy is also expected to be available despite also suffering a knock against Liverpool.

Last season: Wigan 0 Man Utd 4, Man Utd 2 Wigan 0

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

Top scorers: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 16; Franco Di Santo & Jordi Gomez (Wigan)

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

15:00 - Sunderland (15) v Everton (11)

Sunderland are even closer to the top-flight trapdoor, but the arrival of Martin O'Neill at the Stadium of Light appears to have had the desired effect on the Black Cats.

They have bared their teeth against Blackburn and Queens Park Rangers in recent weeks, with a 3-2 victory at Loftus Road secured in dramatic circumstances.

O'Neill will be hoping the stress levels drop a little when Sunderland play host to Everton, but he will be happy to see his side do whatever it takes to hand him a second home success.

The Toffees will not want to roll over, though, with a place inside the top 10 well within their reach.

Sunderland striker Connor Wickham is unlikely to make the Boxing Day clash with Everton despite receiving better news of his injured knee.

The teenager missed the 3-2 win at QPR and, while encouraged by what he was told by his specialist, he may not be ready for Monday's game.

Striker Fraizer Campbell (knee) played 75 minutes of a practice match on Friday morning, but is still short of match fitness, as is goalkeeper Craig Gordon (knee).

Everton are without winger Seamus Coleman who could be out for two weeks after suffering a recurrence of a groin injury in Wednesday's 1-0 win over Swansea.

Midfielder Jack Rodwell and forward Conor McAleny (both hamstring) are battling to prove their fitness.

Last season: Everton 2 Sunderland 0, Sunderland 2 Everton 2

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

Top scorers: Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) 5; Leon Osman & Apostolos Vellios (Everton) 3

Referee: Howard Webb.

15:00 - West Brom (10) v Man City (1)

Manchester City sit proudly atop of the top-flight tree at Christmas, with the Blues having waited 82 long years to occupy such a perch.

The Blues will head out on the road on Boxing Day, with a trip to West Brom awaiting Roberto Mancini's side.

City picked up their 14th win of the campaign against Stoke last time out, helping them to keep their noses in front, and they have now plundered 53 goals in 17 outings.

The Baggies will be next in the firing line, but Roy Hodgson's side will be in buoyant mood following their thrilling 3-2 victory over Newcastle at St James' Park.

That success helped to lift them into the top half of the table.

West Brom head coach Roy Hodgson expects midfielder James Morrison will have recovered from the hamstring injury which forced him to miss the 3-2 win at Newcastle in midweek.

But doubts surround full-back Steven Reid (ankle), midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu (groin) and winger Jerome Thomas (ankle) after all three suffered knocks at St James' Park.

Edin Dzeko is Manchester City's main injury concern after the Bosnian striker was forced to miss the midweek win over Stoke with an ankle knock.

Manager Roberto Mancini does not believe the damage is too extensive though and also thinks defender Micah Richards will shake off a calf injury.

Last season: Man City 3 West Brom 0, West Brom 0 Man City 2

Last five league matches: West Brom L D L W W; Man City D W L W W

Top scorers: Shane Long (West Brom) 5; Sergio Aguero (Man City) 15

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

19:45 - Stoke (8) v Aston Villa (12) - Sky1

Stoke and Aston Villa both came unstuck in their final fixture before Christmas and will be determined to make amends on Monday, offering their respective supporters some festive cheer.

The Potters have won five and lost five of their last 10 fixtures, with it all or nothing for Tony Pulis' side at the moment.

Villa, meanwhile, have only picked up one win in their last six and, despite occupying a standing just below mid-table, will not need telling that only five points now separate them from the relegation zone.

All of the action from the Britannia Stadium will be screened live on Sky Sports HD1.

Striker Peter Crouch is expected to be back in contention for Stoke after he missed the defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday through illness.

Glenn Whelan (calf) is again doubtful but his fellow midfielder Matthew Etherington could return after a slight strain and defender Ryan Shawcross is back from suspension.

Aston Villa are optimistic joint top-scorer Darren Bent will be available having returned to training after being ruled out of the previous two games with a thigh injury.

Fellow striker Emile Heskey (Achilles) and central defender James Collins (knee) are also expected to be in contention after missing the midweek home defeat against Arsenal but full-back Alan Hutton will be suspended after his sending-off against the Gunners.

Last season: Aston Villa 1 Stoke 1, Stoke 2 Aston Villa 1

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

Top scorers: Kenwyne Jones, Peter Crouch & Jonathan Walters (Stoke) 6; Darren Bent & Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) 5

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Tuesday 27th December

15:00 - Arsenal (5) v Wolverhampton (17)

Arsenal have taken the decision to knock their home date with Wolves back by a day in order to try and avoid the pandemonium which is expected to accompany a strike by London Underground drivers on Monday.

An extra day of preparation and recovery may not be the worst thing for both sides, as they attempt to make inroads at opposite ends of the table.

Arsenal are right back in the hunt for a UEFA Champions League spot, with 25 points taken from the last 30 on offer.

What Wolves would give right now to embark on a run like that.

Mick McCarthy's men have won just two of their last 15 games and are sat just one place and a solitary point above the bottom three.

Arsenal defender Johan Djourou is ahead of schedule in his return from a groin injury and could play against Wolves.

Kieran Gibbs (groin), Andre Santos (ankle), Carl Jenkinson (back) and Bacary Sagna (ankle) are unavailable, meaning Francis Coquelin, Ignasi Miquel or Sebastien Squillaci could make a rare start in defence.

Alex Song returns from suspension, but Jack Wilshere (ankle), Lukasz Fabianski (knee), Vito Mannone (shoulder), Abou Diaby (hamstring) and Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) are out.

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy will check on the availability of midfielder David Edwards and defender Jody Craddock.

Edwards has missed the past two games with a groin injury while Craddock played in a behind closed doors friendly against Crewe in midweek after a three-match absence with a hamstring problem.

Full-back Kevin Foley also appeared against Crewe - his first action since ankle surgery in October - but he is unlikely to be involved against the Gunners.

Last season: Arsenal 2 Wolverhampton 0, Wolverhampton 0 Arsenal 2

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

Top scorers: Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 20; Steven Fletcher (Wolverhampton) 6

Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).

17:00 - Swansea (14) v QPR (16)

Swansea have also found victories difficult to come by of late and need to start piecing together a sequence of positive results if they are to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.

While they are yet to fully acclimatise themselves with the top-flight, Brendan Rodgers' side remain a tough nut to crack on home soil.

The Liberty Stadium has become something of a fortress in recent seasons and Queens Park Rangers will not be relishing a trip to South Wales - especially as they have tumbled into trouble themselves on the back of three straight defeats.

You can catch all of the action live on Sky Sports HD1.

Left-back Neil Taylor is Swansea's only major fitness doubt after he suffered a knee injury in the 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.

Scans revealed there is no ligament damage, however, and he still has a chance of featuring against QPR.

Winger Nathan Dyer is also set to be available, after missing out with a foot problem against the Toffees.

QPR will again be without Anton Ferdinand despite the defender returning to light training on Friday after a hamstring injury.

Shaun Wright-Phillips went for a precautionary scan on a knee complaint on Friday morning, while fellow midfielder Kieron Dyer is out for the season after undergoing foot surgery.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Danny Graham (Swansea) 5; Heidar Helguson (QPR) 7

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

19:30 - Norwich (9) v Tottenham (3) - Sky1

An action-packed 48 hours of Premier League action will come to an end at Carrow Road on Tuesday evening as Norwich entertain Tottenham.

The Canaries continue to impress upon their return to the big time and are currently perched inside the top half of the table.

They have given a good account of themselves against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, but have taken just a point from those outings.

Tottenham will be aware that they cannot afford to take their foot off the gas in Norfolk, but Harry Redknapp's side will be firm favourites to take the spoils having cemented themselves within the title-chasing pack.

Norwich have no fresh injury concerns although defender Kyle Naughton, on loan from Spurs, will miss the match through suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Wolves in midweek.

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

On-loan Manchester United defender Ritchie de Laet (back) could return against Spurs.

Tottenham forward Rafael van der Vaart is likely to miss Tuesday's trip to Norwich after suffering a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Thursday.

Spurs will give tests to Jermain Defoe and Younes Kaboul (both hamstring) while Ledley King is unlikely to play having completed two games in five days while Aaron Lennon (hamstring), Michael Dawson (Achilles) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) are out.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers: Grant Holt (Norwich) 7; Emmanuel Adebayor & Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 9

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

Source Chris Burton at skysports/sporting life
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