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Premier League Preview - 26th - 27th Nov 2011

last updated Saturday 26th November 2011, 12:03 AM

Manchester City are the only unbeaten team remaining in the Premier League this season but they face a tough test against Liverpool this weekend.

Newcastle surrendered their run against City last time out and the Magpies are in Manchester once again - United their opponents on Saturday.

Chelsea will be looking to bounce back from their recent defeats against Wolves while Arsenal's fine form continued in midweek - they take on Fulham .

Stoke face struggling Blackburn while Swansea host Aston Villa.

Saturday 26th November

12.45 - Stoke (14) v Blackburn (19) (Sky2)

Steve Kean is still the Blackburn manager, Paul Robinson's heroics and a dodgy corner earning him another reprieve last weekend. Rovers go to Stoke who are out of sorts after conceding eight goals in their last two games. Such a statistic would have been unheard of for Tony Pulis' side last season but combining European and domestic action seems to have taken its toll on the Potters. You would expect them to dispatch of Blackburn but with both sides in poor form, you never know, there could be goals galore.

Stoke striker Peter Crouch is an injury doubt because of a groin complaint. Along with midfield pair Matthew Etherington and Rory Delap (both back problems), Crouch will undergo a late fitness test. Potters boss Tony Pulis has confirmed that goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, who was picked ahead of Asmir Begovic for last week's defeat against QPR, will keep his place in the starting XI.

Blackburn are likely to be without Chris Samba and Martin Olsson who are struggling with hamstring injuries. Ryan Nelsen is back in training but not match-fit while David Dunn is suspended. Jason Lowe is back from his ban, Michel Salgado is expected to have shaken off a knock picked up last weekend while keeper Paul Robinson is available despite receiving a gashed head against Wigan.

Last season: Blackburn 0 Stoke 2, Stoke 1 Blackburn 0.

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

Top scorers: Jonathan Walters (Stoke) 6; Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 6.

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).

15.00 - Bolton (18) v Everton (12)

Everton had to dig deep to earn a comeback win against Wolves and David Moyes will be hoping for similar heart and fight at Bolton. It was this fixture last season, at the Reebok Stadium, which resulted in a 2-0 victory for Wanderers and who could forget Moyes' face of thunder at a woeful display from his side? "That performance was as bad as I can remember since I've been in charge," said Moyes at the time. This season has seen little, if any, progression from the Toffees and both these sides have been poor since August.

Owen Coyle is hoping to welcome back on-loan defender Dedryck Boyata who has been out for a month since injuring his ankle against Sunderland. With Joe Riley (hamstring) ruled out Boyata would be a welcome addition to Coyle's injury-ravaged squad. If the Belgium international does not make it, Gretar Steinsson may be recalled.

Everton manager David Moyes is waiting on fitness updates for midfielder Jack Rodwell and defenders Phil Neville and Sylvain Distin. Rodwell missed last week's win at home to Wolves with a rib injury sustained on duty with the England senior side. Neville (hamstring) and Distin (groin) were also not available a week ago.

Last season: Bolton 2 Everton 0, Everton 1 Bolton 1.

Last five league matches: Bolton W L L W L; Everton L W L L W.

Top scorers: Ivan Klasnic (Bolton) 6; Louis Saha, Royston Drenthe, Apostolos Vellios, Jack Rodwell, Leighton Baines & Phil Jagielka (Everton) 2.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

15.00 - Chelsea (5) v Wolverhampton (17)

Andre Villas-Boas called his players in for extra training on Thursday after their defeat by Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, and anything less than a Chelsea victory over Wolves on Saturday will further turn the heat up on the Portuguese coach. The Blues have lost four of their last seven games in all competitions but Villas-Boas insists there is no need to panic, as he continues his attempted tactical changes at the Bridge. Wolves and Mick McCarthy can smell blood, but have not kept a Premier League clean sheet since August.

Ashley Cole has been passed fit for Chelsea. The England left-back missed Wednesday night's Champions League defeat at Bayer Leverkusen with an inflamed ankle but has shaken off the problem. Long-term knee injury victim Michael Essien is therefore Chelsea's only absentee.

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy will be forced into making three changes through injury and suspension. Midfielders Jamie O'Hara and Stephen Hunt are serving one-match bans for incurring five bookings this season while right-back Richard Stearman is ruled out with a broken wrist. Matt Jarvis and Adlene Guedioura are the natural replacements for O'Hara and Hunt while Ronald Zubar is poised to make his first appearance for nine months after injury in place of Stearman.

Last season: Wolverhampton 1 Chelsea 0, Chelsea 2 Wolverhampton 0.

Last five league matches: Chelsea W L L W L; Wolverhampton L D L W L.

Top scorers: Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 7; Steven Fletcher & Jamie O'Hara (Wolverhampton) 3.

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

15.00 - Man Utd (2) v Newcastle (4)

Five points off the leaders, Manchester United also struggled in Europe in midweek, drawing at home to Benfica leaving them needing a draw in their final game to ensure qualification. While their two rivals lock horns at Anfield on Sunday, Sir Alex Ferguson's men host Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday. The Magpies have enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign and while they lost at City last weekend, Alan Pardew's side are still fourth - three points above Chelsea. They are in the middle of a tough run of fixtures and anything from this game will further help their cause.

Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic are set to return for United. Rooney missed Tuesday night's draw with Benfica with a hip injury sustained last week at Swansea whilst Vidic was ruled out through suspension. However, both are included in a squad missing Anderson (knee), Michael Owen (thigh) and Tom Cleverley (ankle).

Gabriel Obertan returns to the Newcastle squad after missing the last two games with a toe infection. Fellow midfielder Danny Guthrie should also be available despite missing training this week because of a hip injury. However, Ivory Coast international Cheik Tiote (knee) and Republic of Ireland striker Leon Best (groin) remain doubts, while Sylvain Marveaux is expected to be sidelined for up to four months after undergoing groin surgery.

Last season: Newcastle 0 Man Utd 0, Man Utd 3 Newcastle 0.

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

Top scorers: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 12; Demba Ba (Newcastle) 8.

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

15.00 - Norwich (11) v QPR (9)

Norwich and QPR lock horns at Carrow Road for the first time since they clinched promotion from the Championship. Both Paul Lambert and Neil Warnock can be proud of their respective starts to the top-flight season as they sit comfortably in mid-table. There is still a lot of hard work to be done though, and while this is not the glamour tie of the weekend, it could be an entertaining one.

Russell Martin will continue in central defence for Norwich but the club's injury problems at the back look to be easing. Central defenders Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala came through reserve matches and could be in contention to come off the substitutes' bench. Ritchie de Laet is also training again after recovering from a back injury. Striker James Vaughan is still sidelined with a long-term knee injury, as is centre-back Elliott Ward.

QPR are without suspended captain Joey Barton. Heidar Helguson is a doubt after playing only a limited part in training because of his eye injury, but Fitz Hall, Jay Bothroyd, Jason Puncheon and Adel Taarabt are back. Matt Connolly (ankle), Kieron Dyer (foot), DJ Campbell (foot) and Brian Murphy (calf) are definitely out.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

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

Top scorers: Steve Morison & Anthony Pilkington (Norwich) 4; Heidar Helguson (QPR) 5.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

15.00 - Sunderland (15) v Wigan (20)

Rock-bottom Wigan can feel hard done by following that controversial draw against Blackburn, but Roberto Martinez continues to remain remarkably positive despite the fact that his team have only managed to accrue six points from 12 games. While his relationship with Dave Whelan means the sack is extremely unlikely, if Wigan keep this disastrous run going then the Spaniard's constant optimism will be tested by the stark reality of the league table. The Latics go to the Stadium of Light to play Sunderland, where Steve Bruce will face his former club.

Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson returns after suspension. Defender Titus Bramble continues to work on his fitness after shaking off a knee problem following his return from a club ban and striker Fraizer Campbell (knee ligaments) is on course to play a game of some form within the next fortnight. Connor Wickham (also knee ligaments) could start running next week.

Wigan have a doubt over midfielder James McCarthy who has a groin problem and will be assessed ahead of the match along with striker Franco Di Santo, who missed the 3-3 draw with Blackburn last weekend after suffering a minor tear in his quad. Fellow frontman Hugo Rodallega only featured as a substitute against Rovers having had a virus and could return to the starting line-up.Defender Antolin Alcaraz is serving the second game of his three-match ban for spitting at Wolves' Richard Stearman.

Last season: Sunderland 4 Wigan 2, Wigan 1 Sunderland 1.

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

Top scorers: Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) 3; Ben Watson & Franco Di Santo (Wigan) 3.

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).

15.00 - West Brom (10) v Tottenham (3)

It seems there is something in the North London water at the moment as, like Arsenal, Tottenham appear untouchable. Harry Redknapp returned to the touchline for Spurs' home success against Aston Villa on Monday night following his heart surgery, and he will have been mightily pleased with the performance. Tottenham won at a canter, and after a slow start to the campaign, are now flying. They have not lost in the league since August and face West Brom at the Hawthorns this weekend, who are looking for consistency after their victory over Bolton.

West Brom have received a treble fitness boost. Manager Roy Hodgson expects four goal leading scorer Shane Long (leg) and fellow striker Peter Odemwingie (knee) to be fit and midfielder Paul Scharner is also winning his race to be available after a three-week lay-off with a knee setback.

Roman Pavlyuchenko could start his first league game of the season for Spurs after manager Harry Redknapp revealed Jermain Defoe and Rafael van der Vaart could miss out against Albion through injury. Van der Vaart came off in the second half of Monday's 2-0 win over Aston Villa with a long-standing hamstring complaint while Defoe is struggling with a groin injury he suffered in training. Michael Dawson (Achilles), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) Niko Kranjcar (thigh) and Danny Rose (ankle) are unavailable.

Last season: Tottenham 2 West Brom 2, West Brom 1 Tottenham 1.

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

Top scorers: Shane Long (West Brom) 4; Rafael Van der Vaart (Tottenham) 7.

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

17.30 - Arsenal (7) v Fulham (16) (ESPN)

Arsenal have not lost since 2nd October and have only drawn one game in all competitions since then. There is no stopping Robin van Persie right now and he added to his season's tally with a brace against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. The Gunners are at the Emirates once more as they host Fulham this weekend. Martin Jol's side face a short journey across the capital but are underdogs for this clash. Fulham earned a 0-0 draw at Sunderland last weekend but are only two points above the relegation zone and looking over their shoulder.

Arsenal have no fresh injury problems. Midfielder Thomas Rosicky (thigh) could be in contention after missing out against his old club Borussia Dortmund in midweek, while Laurent Koscielny is set to continue at right-back in the absence of Carl Jenkinson (back) and Bacary Sagna (ankle).

Fulham will be without several first-teamers. Republic of Ireland winger Damien Duff misses out because of a problem with his right calf, while international team-mate Stephen Kelly is also sidelined with a thigh injury. Steve Sidwell (hernia), Zdenek Grygera (cruciate), Orlando Sa (hamstring) and Simon Davies (knee) are also sidelined, although John Arne Riise returns after missing last week's clash at Sunderland due to the birth of his son.
Last season: Fulham 2 Arsenal 2, Arsenal 2 Fulham 1.

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

Top scorers: Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 17; Andrew Johnson (Fulham) 11.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Sunday 27th November

13.30 - Swansea (13) v Aston Villa (8) (Sky 1)

Alex McLeish was criticised in the wake of that Tottenham defeat for being too negative at White Hart Lane, but the Aston Villa manager faces another difficult away trip when his side go to Swansea on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1. It remains to be seen if the Scot adopts a more positive approach at the Liberty Stadium, but he will have to be wary of the Swans' pace in attack - Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair looking bright for Brendan Rodgers' men during last Saturday's 1-0 reverse at the hands of Manchester United.

Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers is set to restore midfielder Joe Allen to his starting line-up. Allen had to settle for a place on the bench against Manchester United due to a calf problem but is likely to return against Villa. Centre-half Steven Caulker has returned to training after his knee injury, but is not likely to be risked.

On-loan midfielder Jermaine Jenas returns to Villa's squad. Jenas was ineligible to face his parent club Tottenham when Villa went down 2-0 at White Hart Lane on Monday and has yet to start a game for Villa. Skipper Stiliyan Petrov (hamstring) and fellow midfielder Chris Herd (leg) are battling to be fit to face the Swans.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

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

Top scorers: Danny Graham (Swansea) 4; Darren Bent & Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) 5.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).

16.00 - Liverpool (6) v Man City (1) (Sky 1)

Liverpool piled the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas last time out with a victory at Stamford Bridge and will have the opportunity to move into the top four on Sunday. However, Manchester City lie in wait and Roberto Mancini's side have been in imperious form this term. A defeat by Napoli in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night, though, shows they are not infallible. Liverpool, at home, will fancy their chances after a week's rest.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is likely to keep changes to a minimum. Defender Jamie Carragher, who returned to the squad for last week's win at Chelsea but could only make the bench, may have to settle for a place among the substitutes again. Winger Stewart Downing will be pushing for a recall having been dropped last week after starting the first 11 league matches but captain Steven Gerrard is still not fit to return from an ankle infection.

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has recovered from a fever and should be available. The Italian was sick during Tuesday's Champions League defeat at Napoli but scored City's goal and played the full 90 minutes. City have no other injury concerns following their trip to Italy.

Last season: Liverpool 3 Man City 0, Man City 3 Liverpool 0.

Last five league matches: Liverpool D D W D W; Man City W W W W W.

Top scorers: Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 7; Edin Dzeko (Man City) 13.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

Source SkySports/Sporting Lif
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