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Premier League Preview - 3rd - 5th December 2011

last updated Saturday 03rd December 2011, 11:26 AM

This weekend's Premier League action gets under way on Saturday lunchtime when Chelsea make the trip to fellow high-fliers Newcastle.

Andre Villas-Boas' men got their league campaign back on track with victory over Wolves last time out and will look to make it back-to-back wins when they travel to the North East.

Elsewhere, Manchester United will hope to bounce back from their deflating Carling Cup exit when they visit Aston Villa, while neighbours City remain unbeaten in the top spot as they prepare to host promoted Norwich.

Tottenham will look to maintain their storming form at home to Bolton while the weekend's other televised clash sees Sunderland start life without sacked manager Steve Bruce with a trip to Wolves.

Saturday 3rd December

12.45 - Newcastle (4) v Chelsea (5)  Sky2

Chelsea enjoyed some relief against Wolves last weekend with a 3-0 win to ease the pressure on manager Villas-Boas but the Blues will be wary of a Newcastle side who fought hard for a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford in their last encounter.

The West Londoners sit just a point behind the Magpies and will be hoping to leapfrog them into fourth place with a good result in front of the Sky cameras, but could be lacking confidence after they were dumped out of the Carling Cup at home to Liverpool in midweek. The hosts have added incentive as they look to pay tribute to their former midfielder Gary Speed with a win after his tragic death last weekend.

Newcastle midfielder Cheik Tiote will not be available because of a knee problem which has sidelined him since the end of October, and the Ivorian is also a doubt for next weekend's trip to Norwich. Winger Jonas Gutierrez is suspended after being sent off at Manchester United last Saturday, but striker Leon Best (groin) has returned to training and is available.

Chelsea will be without Josh McEachran against the Magpies after the midfielder was forced from the field in Tuesday's Carling Cup defeat to Liverpool with an injury to his left ankle. He is expected to recover from the problem in less than a fortnight. Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien remains a long-term knee injury victim.

Last season: Chelsea 2 Newcastle 2, Newcastle 1 Chelsea 1

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Demba Ba (Newcastle) 9; Frank Lampard & Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) 7

Referee: Andre Marriner

15.00 - Blackburn (20) v Swansea (13)

He may not have won the sack race but pressure continues to grow on Blackburn manager Steve Kean as his side prepare to host Swansea at Ewood Park. Rock-bottom Rovers are without a win in the Premier League since 17th September and suffered further woe in midweek when they were denied a spot in the Carling Cup semi-finals by Championship side Cardiff.

Three points against Swansea would help to ease the heat on Kean but the Welsh visitors will also be chasing a result having failed to win in three.

Christopher Samba, Martin Olsson and Michel Salgado could all return to the Blackburn defence after being sidelined by hamstring problems. Forward Junior Hoilett is doubtful due to the virus which ruled him out of Tuesday's Carling Cup defeat at Cardiff, while Steven Nzonzi serves the second game of his three-match suspension.

Striker Danny Graham is a major doubt for Swansea because of an Achilles injury he suffered in last weekend's goalless draw with Aston Villa. Leroy Lita likely to lead the line in his absence. Right-back Angel Rangel is facing a month out after suffering an ankle problem in the same game so Wales Under-21 captain Jazz Richards is set for a first Premier League start.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Ruben Rochina & Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 6; Danny Graham (Swansea) 4

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

15.00 - Man City (1) v Norwich (10)

Still sitting pretty at the top of the table are Manchester City, who boast a five-point lead despite only managing a 1-1 draw at Liverpool last time out. Premier League newcomers Norwich will not be relishing the prospect of facing the undefeated leaders on their own turf despite having made an impressive start to their own campaign to sit mid-table.

The Canaries enjoyed a 2-1 win over QPR last weekend to halt a run of back-to-back defeats but could endure a tough afternoon against a City side buoyed by their progression to the Carling Cup semi-finals in midweek

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini made 10 changes for the midweek Carling Cup win at Arsenal but Sergio Aguero played almost an hour off the bench and could be rested against the Canaries with Bayern Munich next week in mind. Aleksandar Kolarov, who suffered a knock prior to the Arsenal game and played just over half an hour, will be assessed while Gareth Barry and Mario Balotelli return from suspension.

Norwich defender Ritchie de Laet is doubtful with a back problem. Centre-half Zak Whitbread could return to the squad following a hamstring injury, while Daniel Ayala is still recovering from a knee injury. Defender Elliott Ward has now been able to step up his rehabilitation from a knee ligament problem suffered in pre-season, but striker James Vaughan (knee) is still out.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Edin Dzeko (Man City) 13; Anthony Pilkington, Steve Morison & Grant Holt (Norwich) 4

Referee: Howard Webb

15.00 - QPR (11) v West Brom (14)

QPR entertain West Brom at Loftus Road as they look to move on from their narrow defeat to Norwich last weekend. Like fellow top-flight newcomers the Canaries, Neil Warnock's men have fared well in their campaign so far to sit mid-table and will be in no hurry to relinquish that position against Roy Hodgson's Baggies, who were beaten at home by in-form Tottenham last weekend to leave them in 14th place.

Shaun Wright-Phillips is a doubt for QPR. There were fears that the former Manchester City winger had broken his foot last week at Norwich and, while manager Neil Warnock has denied there is a break, Wright-Phillips could miss out against Albion. Third-choice goalkeeper Radek Cerny looks set to deputise in goal once more after injuries to first-choice duo Paddy Kenny (buttocks) and Brian Murphy (calf). QPR skipper Joey Barton returns from suspension, but Kieron Dyer and DJ Campbell (both foot) are out.

West Brom midfielder Zoltan Gera will be sidelined for the rest of the season with a ruptured anterior ligament suffered against Tottenham last weekend. Simon Cox replaced Gera in a 4-4-1-1 formation in that match. Baggies boss Roy Hodgson is hoping four-goal leading scorer Shane Long can recover from shake off a groin injury which led to him being substituted after 70 minutes against Spurs. Peter Odemwingie is on standby to replace him.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: QPR W L L W L; West Brom W L L W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Heidar Helguson (QPR) 5; Shane Long (West Brom) 4

Referee: Martin Atkinson

15.00 - Tottenham (3) v Bolton (18)

Tottenham are in blistering form having stormed to five consecutive wins to leave them third in the table and in prime position to overthrow second-placed United. Spurs have never won six Premier League games on the bounce in their history but will be looking to do just that when they entertain beleaguered Bolton at White Hart Lane.

The North Londoners have won six and lost none of their last seven home games against the Trotters in all competitions and will host a Bolton side stinging from back-to-back defeats and languishing in the drop zone.

Dutch star Rafael van der Vaart has recovered from a hamstring injury and is available, but midfielder Sandro is struggling with a groin problem. Forward Roman Pavlyuchenko and midfielder Giovani Dos Santos are fit after overcoming their respective knee and groin injuries. Long-term absentees Michael Dawson (Achilles), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Niko Kranjcar (thigh) remain out.

Defender Dedryck Boyata and striker David Ngog both return for Wanderers. Boyata has been out since October with an ankle injury while a knee problem has restricted Ngog's involvement recently but both trained this week. Midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker is a major doubt after injuring a hamstring last weekend while centre-back David Wheater is suspended after his sending-off against Everton.

Last season: Tottenham 2 Bolton 1, Bolton 4 Tottenham 2

Last five league matches: Tottenham W W W W W; Bolton L L W L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Emmanuel Adebayor, Rafael van der Vaart & Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 7; Ivan Klasnic (Bolton) 6

Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)

15.00 - Wigan (19) v Arsenal (7)

A midweek Carling Cup exit to Manchester City put a dent in what has otherwise been a good run of form for Arsenal, who have finally ignited their season after a slow start.

The Gunners travel to relegation candidates Wigan this weekend hoping to build on a six-game unbeaten streak in the league, with five of those encounters ending in wins. The other match finished as a 1-1 draw at home to hard-working neighbours Fulham last time out, while Roberto Martinez's Latics enjoyed a 2-1 victory at Sunderland to seal the end of Bruce's reign.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has no fresh injury concerns. Emmerson Boyce, who has not featured in the squad for the last two matches, is back in training working on his fitness. Fellow defender Antolin Alcaraz misses out again as he serves the final game of his three-match suspension for spitting at Wolves' Richard Stearman.

Arsenal will be without midfielders Abou Diaby (hamstring) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh). Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) is also still out, along with defenders Carl Jenkinson (back) and Bacary Sagna (ankle). Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (hernia) are long-term absentees.

Last season: Arsenal 3 Wigan 0, Wigan 2 Arsenal 2

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Franco Di Santo (Wigan) 4; Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 17

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

17.30 - Aston Villa (8) v Man Utd (2)

Manchester United travel to Aston Villa desperate to recover from their Carling Cup upset. A largely second-string Red Devils side were beaten 2-1 by Crystal Palace after extra-time at Old Trafford to oust them from the competition.

Sir Alex Ferguson apologised to the United fans after that defeat and will be keen to get things back on track at Villa Park to close the gap on City. Villa were held to a goalless draw at Swansea last weekend in an encounter overshadowed by the death of Wales manager Speed and will be hoping to take advantage of a wounded United side to claim their first win in three games.

Aston Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov is back after the Bulgaria international missed Sunday's goalless draw at Swansea with a hamstring problem. He has now resumed training, while fellow midfielder Stephen Ireland is also in contention after missing the trip to Wales with a foot injury suffered in training. Defender Eric Lichaj (hip) remains the only long-term casualty.

Dimitar Berbatov will miss out for United with an ankle injury suffered in the midweek Carling Cup defeat by Crystal Palace. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said the Bulgarian striker's injury is not serious, but also revealed that Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio - who also picked up knocks against Palace - will miss out. Danny Welbeck is a doubt with a muscle strain while Anderson (knee), Michael Owen (thigh) and Tom Cleverley (ankle) are longer-term absentees.

Last season: Man Utd 3 Aston Villa 1, Aston Villa 2 Man Utd 2

Last five league matches: Aston Villa L D W L D; Man Utd L W W W D

Top scorers (all competitions): Darren Bent & Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) 5; Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 12

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

Sunday 4th December

15.00 - Everton (9) v Stoke (12)

Stoke could leapfrog Everton with the right result when they travel to Goodison Park, despite currently sitting three places below them in the standings.

The Potters halted a run of four consecutive defeats with victory over struggling Blackburn last time out, while David Moyes' Toffees are fresh from back-to-back wins and will hope to continue that winning streak.

Everton will also be hunting for a win to honour their former player Speed, with tributes to the late midfielder planned before kick-off.

David Moyes will be hoping that midfielder Jack Rodwell (rib) and defenders Phil Neville (hamstring) and Sylvain Distin (groin) will be fit to face the Potters after they all missed out against Bolton last time out.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis made eight changes from the side that beat Blackburn last weekend for Thursday night's 1-1 draw with Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, and most of the players he rested are likely to come back in. Andy Wilkinson (calf and knee) remains a doubt while Jonathan Woodgate, who is ineligible in Europe, returns to the squad.

Last season: Stoke 2 Everton 0, Everton 1 Stoke 0

Last five league matches: Everton W L L W W; Stoke L L L L W Top scorers: Apostolos Vellios (Everton) 3; Jonathan Walters (Stoke) 6 Match odds: H 8-11 A 16-5 D 23-10

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

16.00 - Wolves (17) v Sunderland (16)  Sky1

Sunderland are in action in Sunday's televised clash at Wolves when they will make the trip to the Midlands under the temporary care of caretaker boss Eric Black. Bruce's sacking came on the back of a run of poor results which left the Black Cats 16th in the table and just two points clear of the drop zone, while Wolves sit one spot below them on goal difference only.

Both teams will be desperate to put some distance between themselves and the relegation places, setting up what promises to be a fiercely contested encounter at Molineux.

Wolves midfielders Jamie O'Hara and Stephen Hunt will return after missing the defeat at Chelsea through suspension while striker Kevin Doyle (knee) and defender Richard Stearman, who will play with a cast on his broken wrist, are expected to be available. But midfielder Karl Henry will have to serve a one-game ban after incurring his fifth yellow card of the campaign at Stamford Bridge.

Caretaker Sunderland boss Eric Black, who has taken charge of team affairs in the wake of Steve Bruce's departure, has little room for manoeuvre with Titus Bramble and Fraizer Campbell (both knee) back in training, but short of match fitness. Striker Connor Wickham (knee ligaments) and goalkeepers Simon Mignolet (fractured nose and eye socket) and Craig Gordon (knee) also remain on the sidelines.

Last season: Sunderland 1 Wolves 3, Wolves 3 Sunderland 2

Last five league matches: Wolves D L W L L; Sunderland W D L D L Top scorers: Steven Fletcher & Jamie O'Hara (Wolves) 3; Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) 4 Match odds: H 13-10 A 7-4 D 21-10

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Monday 5th December

20.00 - Fulham (15) v Liverpool (6)  Sky1

Damien Duff looks doubtful for Fulham after the Republic of Ireland midfielder was forced off in the first half of the Europa League defeat to FC Twente on Thursday with a recurrence of a calf injury. Mousa Dembele also limped off but could feature against Liverpool, while Clint Dempsey should return from a thigh complaint. Bryan Ruiz comes back into contention after being cup-tied against former club Twente.

Lucas Leiva has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury so Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has to find a replacement in central midfield. Summer signing Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing, who has been a back-up all season, look the most likely contenders. Captain Steven Gerrard is still sidelined with an ankle infection.

Last season: Fulham 2 Liverpool 5, Liverpool 1 Fulham 0

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

Top scorers: Andrew Johnson (Fulham) 11; Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 7

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Source Sporting Life/SkySports
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