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Premiership MatchDay 17 preview

last updated Friday 20th December 2013, 10:03 PM

MatchDay 17 Saturday, December 21, 2013
Time Home   Away TV Referee
12:45 Liverpool v Cardiff BT1 L Probert
15:00 C.Palace v Newcastle   N Swarbrick
15:00 Fulham v Man City   K Friend
15:00 Man Utd v West Ham   M Jones
15:00 Stoke v Aston Villa   C Pawson
15:00 Sunderland v Norwich   M Atkinson
15:00 West Brom v Hull   J Moss
MatchDay 17 Sunday, December 22, 2013
13:30 Southampton v Tottenham Sky1 C Foy
16:00 Swansea v Everton Sky1 L Mason
MatchDay 17 Monday, December 23, 2013
20:00 Arsenal v Chelsea Sky1 M Dean
Premier League MatchDay 17 kicks off on Saturday with Arsenal's position at the Premier League summit under threat ahead of their blockbuster Monday Night Football meeting with title rivals Chelsea.

Liverpool have the chance to move to the top of the table, temporarily at least, as they welcome Cardiff to Anfield in Saturday's early kick off.

Should the Reds fail to take maximum points, then the focus will shift to Craven Cottage, where struggling Fulham have the unenviable task of tackling Manchester City, who know that any stay at the pinnacle would only last until Monday.

Chelsea could spend Christmas in first place if Liverpool fail to take maximum points and the Blues then go on to triumph at Emirates Stadium.

Premiership table - after 16th Dec 2012
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 16 6 1 1 16 6 5 1 2 17 11 16 35
2 Liverpool 16 7 0 1 22 5 3 3 2 17 13 21 33
3 Chelsea 16 7 1 0 19 6 3 2 3 13 11 15 33
4 Man City 16 8 0 0 35 5 2 2 4 12 13 29 32
5 Everton 16 5 3 0 17 7 3 4 1 10 8 12 31
6 Newcastle 16 4 3 1 12 8 4 0 4 9 14 -1 27
7 Tottenham 16 3 2 3 7 12 5 1 2 8 9 -6 27
8 Man Utd 16 3 2 3 8 7 4 2 2 17 12 6 25
9 Southampton 16 4 3 1 14 6 2 3 3 6 9 5 24
10 Swansea 16 2 4 2 15 12 3 1 4 7 9 1 20
11 Aston Villa 16 2 1 5 6 12 3 3 2 10 9 -5 19
12 Hull 16 4 3 1 7 3 1 1 6 6 16 -6 19
13 Stoke 16 3 4 1 8 5 1 2 5 7 15 -5 18
14 Norwich 16 3 3 2 9 8 2 0 6 6 21 -14 18
15 Cardiff 16 3 2 3 8 10 1 3 4 4 12 -10 17
16 West Brom 16 2 2 4 10 11 1 4 3 7 11 -5 15
17 West Ham 16 2 2 4 8 10 1 3 4 5 9 -6 14
18 C. Palace 16 3 1 4 7 10 1 0 7 3 14 -14 13
19 Fulham 16 2 1 5 9 13 2 0 6 6 17 -15 13
20 Sunderland 16 2 0 6 10 16 0 3 5 2 14 -18 9
All of the last four Premier League winners were Christmas Day leaders, while seven of the last nine went on to finish in first place - the exceptions being Arsenal in 2008 and Liverpool in 2009.

Tottenham, who axed Andre Villas-Boas on Monday, tackle Southampton in the first half of a Super Sunday double-header with caretaker boss Tim Sherwood in need of inspiration after their Capital One Cup exit in midweek, before Roberto Martinez returns to former club Swansea with his high-flying Everton side.

At the other end of the table, Sunderland know they are destined to be in last place even if they take all three points against Norwich at the Stadium of Light, while the team immediately above them, Crystal Palace, play host to Newcastle.

West Ham must halt their league slide with a daunting Upton Park date with champions Manchester United, West Brom begin the post-Steve Clarke era with a home meeting against Hull City, while Stoke City host Aston Villa in a Midlands derby on Saturday.

Saturday 21st December 2013

12:45 Liverpool (2) v Cardiff City (15) ~ BTSport

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is no stranger to the headlines, and his blistering form in front of goal and talk of a bumper new deal make him the man of the moment ahead of the clash with Cardiff at Anfield. With 17 goals to his name this season and eight in his last three games, the Uruguay international is clearly the man to watch this weekend.

Cardiff, meanwhile, are embroiled in off-field wrangling once again, with manager Malky Mackay given a very public dressing down by the club's hierarchy over his January transfer plans and reports suggesting he has been asked to resign or face the sack.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers may stick with the same side which beat Tottenham 5-0. Captain Steven Gerrard is sidelined by a hamstring injury, while striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle) and left-back Jose Enrique (knee) are out until the new year.

Cardiff have no new injury concerns. Craig Bellamy could return from a hamstring injury while Craig Noone may feature against his boyhood club. Andreas Cornelius is pushing for a first Premier League start but is likely to again have to settle for a place on the bench behind Fraizer Campbell.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 17; Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff) 3

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

Verdict: Liverpool 3 Cardiff 0

15:00 Crystal Palace (18) v Newcastle United (6)

Crystal Palace's two-game winning burst was halted by Chelsea in their last outing, but Tony Pulis will take heart from the way in which the title hopefuls were pushed all the way by the relegation-threatened Eagles.

Marouane Chamakh has now scored in each of his last three Premier League games - a career first - and now has Saturday's opponents Newcastle in his sights. The Magpies, who are challenging for European football this term, have enjoyed great success at Selhurst Park recently, winning all four of their last league meetings with Palace in south London.

Defender Dean Moxey has recovered from a hamstring injury but Palace manager Tony Pulis will have to give late fitness tests to midfield duo Stuart O'Keefe and Kagisho Dikgacoi, who both have small muscular complaints. Jack Hunt, Glenn Murray, Jerome Thomas and Adlene Guedioura and Jonny Williams are all definite absentees.

France midfielder Yohan Cabaye will return to the Newcastle squad after suspension, giving manager Alan Pardew more or less a full complement of players from which to choose - with no fresh injury concerns having arisen.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Crystal Palace W L W W L; Newcastle W W L W D Top scorers: Marouane Chamakh (Crystal Palace) 4; Loic Remy (Newcastle) 8

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

Verdict: Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 1

15:00 Fulham (19) v Manchester City (4) 

For all Manchester City's imperious home form, which was demonstrated to the full with their demolition of Arsenal, their away displays remain patchy as they make the trip to the banks of the Thames to tackle Fulham. Aston Villa have more points on the road than Manuel Pellegrini's men, and the absence of key man Sergio Aguero in the coming weeks will be a significant concern.

Five defeats in their last six games has seen the Cottagers slide into the bottom three, with Rene Meulensteen yet to buck the trend which began under former boss Martin Jol.

Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen has no new injury worries. Striker Hugo Rodallega has resumed training after his lengthy lay-off with a muscle injury but is unlikely to be rushed back into the squad. Central defender Brede Hangeland is making good progress after surgery on his sciatic nerve complaint as is defender Matthew Briggs after his hernia operation.

City have a problem at right-back with Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards (both hamstring) injured. Possible alternatives include central defender Dedryck Boyata, midfielder James Milner or left-backs Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov. The forward line is also weakened by the absence of top scorer Sergio Aguero (calf) and Stevan Jovetic (illness) is not ready to return. Defender Matija Nastasic (calf) is also still out.

Last season: Man City 2 Fulham 0, Fulham 1 Man City 2

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) 4; Sergio Aguero (Man City) 19

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Verdict: Fulham 2 Manchester City 1

15:00 Manchester United (8) v West Ham (17)

Manchester United's hopes of retaining the title they won at a canter last term remain in the balance with 10 points separating them from top spot prior to Saturday's trip to Upton Park to take on West Ham.

.Three victories in succession in all competitions have lifted spirits for the Red Devils, but the Hammers will also go into the game on a high after their dramatic late win over Spurs in the Capital One Cup. Sam Allardyce's side have, however, won just one of nine in the Premier League, with five defeats coming in that spell.

United winger Nani has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, joining Robin van Persie (thigh) and Michael Carrick (Achilles) on the sidelines. Wayne Rooney could be available after a groin injury as United look to avoid a third successive league defeat on home soil for the first time since 1979.

Hammers defender James Tomkins is back in contention after a groin injury but captain Kevin Nolan again misses out through suspension while Winston Reid (ankle), Stewart Downing (calf), Andy Carroll (heel), Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder) and Mladen Petric (thigh) are all injured.

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

Last five league matches: Man Utd D D L L W; West Ham L W L L D

Top scorers (all competitions): Wayne Rooney & Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 10; Ravel Morrison (West Ham) 5

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Verdict: Manchester United 1 West Ham 0

15:00 Stoke City (13) v Aston Vill (11)

Stoke City go into their derby duel with Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium just one point behind their Midlands rivals in the standings. Paul Lambert's Villa saw their five-game unbeaten run halted by Fulham before a heavy home defeat at the hands of Manchester United, with Christian Benteke's ongoing goal drought, which currently stands at 11 hours and 59 minutes, of increasing concern.

Mark Hughes has made the Potters tough to beat in recent weeks, with just one defeat in seven, but only two victories have been secured in that spell.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes hopes captain Ryan Shawcross will be fit to face Villa - the defender suffered a groin problem in Wednesday's Capital One Cup defeat by Manchester United and will be given a late fitness test. Shawcross' absence would be a major blow given his centre-back partner Robert Huth (knee) is still out, while strikers Peter Crouch (groin) and Jonathan Walters (ankle) are also doubts and midfielder Stephen Ireland cannot play against his parent club.

Villa are without suspended forward Gabriel Agbonlahor but midfielder Fabian Delph has served a ban of his own. Gary Gardner has returned to first-team involvement having recovered from a back complaint and fellow midfielder Chris Herd should be fit to play after a facial injury. Defender Ron Vlaar (calf) is still a major doubt, while it remains to be seen whether or not striker Christian Benteke - now without a goal in his last 10 Villa appearances - retains his starting place.

Last season: Stoke 1 Aston Villa 3, Aston Villa 0 Stoke 0

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Peter Crouch & Kenwyne Jones (Stoke) 4; Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 5

Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)

Verdict: Stoke 0 Aston Villa 0

15:00 Sunderland  (20) v Norwich (14)

For all the Wearside euphoria over reaching the Capital One Cup semi-finals with victory over Chelsea, the stark reality for Sunderland is that they will be bottom of the Premier League at Christmas regardless of the result of their Stadium of Light clash with Norwich on Saturday.

A paltry nine points from 16 matches leaves Gus Poyet's men four adrift and a significant upturn will be required to survive. Norwich responded well to drubbings by Man City and Liverpool and currently hold a five-point cushion above the drop zone.

Black Cats boss Gus Poyet can bring back striker Steven Fletcher and midfielder Jack Colback, who missed the midweek Capital One Cup win over Chelsea due to illness but have returned to training. Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) and defender Carlos Cuellar (hip) are both still missing.

Striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel (toe) and winger Robert Snodgrass (knee) are set to be back in Norwich's squad. Goalkeeper Mark Bunn is back training after his ankle operation and could be involved again but midfielder Anthony Pilkington (hamstring) remains sidelined, along with winger Elliott Bennett (knee) and midfielder Alexander Tettey (ankle).

Last season: Sunderland 1 Norwich 1, Norwich 2 Sunderland 1

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Phil Bardsley & Emanuele Giaccherini (Sunderland) 3; Gary Hooper (Norwich) 6

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Verdict: Sunderland 1 Norwich 2

15:00 West Brom (16) v Hull (12)

West Brom, who face Hull City at The Hawthorns this weekend, felt that four defeats in a row was evidence of a terminal decline under former boss Clarke and he was shown the door in the wake of the 1-0 defeat at Cardiff.

With the Baggies just two points above the bottom three, whoever is brought in to steady the ship must swiftly arrest the downward spiral. Amid an off-field spat over their future identity, Steve Bruce has managed to maintain focus on the important matter of football and has the Tigers within striking distance of a place back in the top 10.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster could return from a foot injury for West Brom, whose caretaker boss Keith Downing has no other injury worries to contend with.

Midfielder Robbie Brady is out with a groin injury which means he is a doubt for all Hull's matches over the Christmas period. Sone Aluko (Achilles) and Stephen Quinn (hamstring) remain long-term absentees.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: West Brom D L L L L; Hull L W L D D Top scorers: Saido Berahino (West Brom) 6; Robbie Brady & Matt Fryatt (Hull) 4

Referee: Jon Moss

Verdict: West Brom 0 Hull 1

Sunday 22nd December 2013

13:30 Southampton (9) v Tottenham (7) ~ SkySports 1

Tottenham became the fifth Premier League club this season to part company with their man in the dug-out on Monday morning, as Villas-Boas paid the price for a 5-0 home humbling against Liverpool, despite Spurs being only five points adrift of the top four.

Sunday's trip to Southampton, who have taken just two points from their last five games to slip from the dizzy heights of third to ninth place, is likely to be stand-in boss Sherwood's last chance to impress after the misery of their midweek Capital One Cup exit.

Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino will definitely have to do without the injured Artur Boruc, Kelvin Davis, Danny Fox, Guly do Prado and Victor Wanyama, while defender Nathaniel Clyne will face a fitness test on his hamstring complaint.

Tottenham are without Andros Townsend, who was forced off during Spurs' Capital One Cup loss to West Ham with a hamstring injury. Caretaker manager Tim Sherwood will have captain Michael Dawson available after a ban but Paulinho is still suspended and defensive duo Younes Kaboul (thigh) and Jan Vertonghen (ankle) are also missing.

Last season: Tottenham 1 Southampton 0, Southampton 1 Tottenham 2

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) 7; Jermain Defoe & Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) 9

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

Verdict: Southampton 1 Tottenham 2

16:00 Swansea (10) v Everton (5) ~ SkySports 1

The second game on Sunday sees Swansea welcome Everton to the Liberty Stadium, with Roberto Martinez returning to the club where he began his managerial career. The foundations for flowing football laid by Martinez have been continued by Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup, with the promise of a contest which will please the purists this weekend.

The Swans have won just twice in front of their own supporters this season, with four draws also recorded in their eight home contests.

Swansea forward Michu is a doubt with an ankle problem, while Nathan Dyer is facing a long spell on the sidelines after suffering ankle ligament damage at Norwich. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm has undergone ankle surgery, knee trouble continues to keep out Garry Monk but midfielder Leon Britton and defender Chico Flores should return from a toe injury and suspension respectively.

Everton have James McCarthy available after a ban but on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu has been ruled out for between six and eight weeks with the hamstring injury he sustained against Fulham, and Tony Hibbert (knee) is not yet ready for first-team involvement again. Fellow defender Leighton Baines is pencilled in for a Boxing Day return from a broken toe.

Last season: Everton 0 Swansea 0, Swansea 0 Everton 3

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Wilfried Bony (Swansea) 9; Romelu Lukaku (Everton) 8

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

Verdict: Swansea 0 Everton 2

Monday 23rd December 2013

16:00 Arsenal (1) v Chelsea (3) ~ SkySports 1

It may be the final match of the 10 fixtures taking place during MatchDay 17, but there is no disputing the fact that Arsenal's home date with Chelsea is the standout contest. The Gunners must recover from their demoralising 6-3 defeat to Manchester City last weekend to re-establish their title credentials.

Jose Mourinho's Blues have not been in sparkling form of late, with their midweek cup exit to Sunderland coming on the back of an uninspiring home victory over Crystal Palace and a 3-2 reverse at Stoke.

Arsenal will be without midfielder Jack Wilshere, who starts a two-match ban. Defender Laurent Koscielny is a major doubt after suffering a gash to his knee in the loss at Manchester City but German forward Lukas Podolski is available after a hamstring injury. Forward Yaya Sanogo (back), midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby (both knee) are all out.

Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole is to return to the subs' bench at best. With Branislav Ivanovic available after a ban, the defender will return at right-back, with Cesar Azpilicueta reverting to left-back and Cole dropping out of the side. Captain John Terry will also return, but Michael Essien is banned and fellow midfielder Marco van Ginkel (knee) is also out.

Last season: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1, Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) 13; Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 8

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

Source Sky/ Sporting Life
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