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Premiership Preview - 30th Dec 2011 - 1st Jan 2012

last updated Friday 30th December 2011, 7:17 PM

Premiership Games
Friday 30th December 2011
19:45 Liverpool v Newcastle Sky1
Saturday 31st December 2011
12:45 Man Utd v Blackburn ESPN
15:00 Arsenal v QPR
15:00 Bolton v Wolves
15:00 Chelsea v Aston Villa
15:00 Norwich v Fulham
15:00 Stoke v Wigan  
15:00 Swansea v Tottenham  
Sunday 1st January 2012
12:30 West Brom v Everton Sky1
15:00 Sunderland v Man City Sky1
It will be a New Year and a new start for a lot of teams at the wrong end of the Premier League, but both Manchester clubs will hope for more of the same in 2012.

They are currently level at the summit with 45 points apiece and United host rock-bottom Blackburn on Saturday while City travel to Sunderland the following day.

Tottenham are just seven points behind the Mancunian pace-setters with a game in hand and will look to keep the pressure on against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

Premiership table - 27:12:11
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man City 18 9 0 0 28 4 5 3 1 25 11 38 45
2 Man Utd 18 7 1 1 28 11 7 2 0 19 3 33 45
3 Tottenham 17 6 1 1 17 8 6 1 2 17 11 15 38
4 Chelsea 18 6 1 2 22 13 4 3 2 14 8 15 34
5 Arsenal 18 6 2 1 15 6 4 1 4 19 20 8 33
6 Liverpool 18 3 6 0 11 7 5 1 3 10 7 7 31
7 Newcastle 18 4 3 2 12 11 4 3 2 13 11 3 30
8 Stoke 18 4 3 2 12 9 3 1 5 6 19 -10 25
9 West Brom 18 2 2 5 7 11 4 2 3 12 15 -7 22
10 Everton 17 3 2 4 9 10 3 1 4 9 10 -2 21
11 Norwich 18 4 2 3 16 14 1 4 4 11 19 -6 21
12 Aston Villa 18 3 2 4 11 11 1 6 2 8 12 -4 20
13 Fulham 18 3 3 3 14 14 1 4 4 5 10 -5 19
14 Swansea 18 4 4 1 11 3 0 3 6 6 19 -5 19
15 Sunderland 18 2 4 3 13 11 2 2 5 9 11 0 18
16 QPR 18 1 4 4 8 15 3 1 5 10 17 -14 17
17 Wolves 18 3 2 4 13 15 1 2 6 7 18 -13 16
18 Wigan 18 1 4 4 9 16 2 1 6 6 19 -20 14
19 Bolton 18 1 0 8 10 23 3 0 6 12 18 -19 12
20 Blackburn 18 2 0 7 12 19 0 5 4 13 20 -14 11
Elsewhere, Arsenal, who play QPR, have developed a touch of the Liverpools about them recently with their last three home games in the league finishing 1-1, 1-0 and 1-1.

The draws came against Fulham and Wolves - teams not dissimiliar in ability to QPR who aren't a bad outfit on their travels.

Chelsea also have a home game but defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge are clear evidence that Chelsea aren't the force they were at home and that fact was underlined when they drew with Fulham on Boxing Day.

Norwich getting high scores at Carrow Road could change when low-scoring Fulham come visiting, despite the fact they deserved a 1-1 draw at Chelsea last time.

Swansea and Stoke have managed to overcome Fulham and Norwich will fancy their chances.

There is also the relegation battle between Bolton and Wolves.

Friday 30th December

19:45 - Liverpool (6) v Newcastle (7) - Sky1

All eyes will be on Andy Carroll when Liverpool host his old club Newcastle on Friday evening with just a point separating the two in the Premier League table.

Former Geordie favourite Carroll has struggled to make an impact since his club record £35million move to Anfield last January, with injuries and poor form restricting him to just five goals.

In contrast his replacement Demba Ba, who joined the Magpies on a free transfer in the summer, has thrived on Tyneside, establishing himself as the Toon's new main man.

With 14 league goals to his name this season, the in-form Senegal international is an early contender for this term's golden boot, with only prolific Arsenal hitman Robin van Persie topping him in the scoring stakes.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is unavailable for Friday's Premier League visit of Newcastle as he serves a one-match suspension.

That could give Andy Carroll the chance to make back-to-back league starts for the first time since the beginning of November.

Captain Steven Gerrard returned from a two-month absence with a substitute appearance on Boxing Day, but is likely to start on the bench again.

Newcastle's in-form frontman Demba Ba will be fit to take his place in the side.

The Senegal international, who scored his 14th goal of the season at Bolton on Boxing Day, suffered a knock to his knee but will be fit.

Full-back Davide Santon, who missed out at the Reebok Stadium with a knee problem, is fit and Dan Gosling has completed his three-match ban, but Danny Guthrie (groin), Peter Lovenkrands (calf) and Steven Taylor (Achilles) remain on the sidelines.

Liverpool (from): Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique, Kuyt, Adam, Henderson, Downing, Carroll, Bellamy, Doni, Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Shelvey, Gerrard, Spearing, Rodriguez.

Newcastle (from): Krul, Elliot, Harper, Simpson, R Taylor, Santon, Ferguson, Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Kadar, Tiote, Cabaye, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Sammy Ameobi, Gosling, Abeid, Vuckic, Smith, Ba, Best, Shola Ameobi.

Saturday 31st December

12:45 - Man Utd (2) v Blackburn (20) - ESPN

The action on New Year's Eve kicks off at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime with Manchester United hoping to build on their demolition of Wigan against struggling Blackburn Rovers.

Steve Kean revealed in midweek that Sir Alex Ferguson gave him words of support following the abuse from a large section of Blackburn fans, with the club bottom of the Premier League and five points adrift of safety.

But rest assured there will be no favours dished out when the two sides take to the pitch as United have the chance to go top of the table, at least temporarily.

Despite all the talk of doom and gloom a few weeks back, they have gone from strength to strength and you would bank on a home victory in this one.

However, Rovers showed heart at Liverpool last time out and are fighting for their lives.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson must contend with massive defensive problems.

Jonny Evans (calf) has joined Nemanja Vidic (knee), Chris Smalling (tonsillitis) and Fabio (hamstring) on the sidelines.

Phil Jones (illness) and Rio Ferdinand (back) only have an outside chance of being involved, which might mean Michael Carrick partnering Patrice Evra in central defence, with Antonio Valencia at right-back.

Martin Olsson is hoping to make his long-awaited Blackburn comeback.

The Swede has featured just once for Steve Kean's men since November 5 after suffering a hamstring injury but could ease a major injury crisis for the Lancashire outfit.

David Dunn and Junior Hoilett (both hamstring) face late tests but goalkeeper Paul Robinson (calf) is among seven senior players definitely out, as is Gael Givet, even though the Frenchman has returned to training following a minor heart procedure.

Last season: Blackburn 1 Man Utd 1, Man Utd 7 Blackburn 1.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 16; Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 11.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

15:00 - Arsenal (5) v QPR (16)

Speculation surrounds the return of Thierry Henry to Arsenal, with the New York Red Bulls forward to be offered the chance to put on the red and white jersey once again during a two-month loan spell.

If he does complete a comeback to North London he may provide some much-needed help to Robin van Persie up front, who despite a fantastic season so far was frustrated by Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey during their recent 1-1 draw.

Arsenal have done well to claw themselves back into the top five and finishing in the Champions League places come May must be a priority for Arsene Wenger.

They host QPR at the Emirates on Saturday with Rangers currently on the slide - Neil Warnock's Hoops have not won any of their last six during a tough Christmas period.

Arsenal winger Theo Walcott, who missed the Boxing Day draw against Wolves, has recovered from illness and is expected to return.

Defender Bacary Sagna is on schedule to return at the end of January along with fullback Kieran Gibbs (stomach).

Midfielder Jack Wilshere(ankle) could be back by the middle of February while full-back Carl Jenkinson remains sidelined with a back problem and Brazilian left-sided player Andre Santos (ankle) is expected to be sidelined until March.

QPR manager Neil Warnock has no fresh injury concerns.

The Rs came out unscathed from their 1-1 draw at Swansea, meaning Warnock could name the same squad.

Anton Ferdinand continues to miss out in defence with a hamstring injury, while Armand Traore, Matt Connolly and Jay Bothroyd will all be hoping to feature against their former club.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 20; Heidar Helguson (QPR) 7.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

15:00 - Bolton (19) v Wolves (17)

Owen Coyle would have been hoping that victory for Bolton over Blackburn was to be a turning point, but a limp display against Newcastle at home means they are well and truly stuck in the bottom three.

It is a big game for Wanderers on Saturday as they face fellow relegation strugglers Wolves, who are one place outside the bottom three.

A win for Bolton would see them move just one point behind Mick McCarthy's men but they will need to up their game if they are going to get anything from this one - Wolves earned a creditable draw at Arsenal on Tuesday and have fighting spirit.

Bolton boss Owen Coyle has Sam Ricketts, Gretar Steinsson and Joe Riley back in first team contention.

Ricketts was an unused substitute for the Boxing Day defeat against Newcastle.

Steinsson (illness) and Riley (hamstring) have recovered and could feature.

Midfielder Darren Pratley (virus) is a doubt while it remains to be seen whether or not Gary Cahill will play after Coyle confirmed a fee for the centre-back has been agreed with Chelsea.

Wolves midfielder Nenad Milijas starts a three-match ban for his sending off against Arsenal.

Milijas, whose appeal against the red card was rejected by the Football Association, could be replaced by Dave Edwards if he has shaken off the illness which ruled him out of the 1-1 draw with the Gunners.

Full-back Ronald Zubar is a major doubt with the knee injury suffered against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and likely to be replaced by Richard Stearman.

Last season: Bolton 1 Wolves 0, Wolves 2 Bolton 3.

Last five league matches: Bolton L L L W L; Wolves W L L D D.

Top scorers (all competitions): Ivan Klasnic (Bolton) 7; Steven Fletcher (Wolves) 7.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

15:00 - Chelsea (4) v Aston Villa (12)

Despite beating Manchester City just a few weeks ago, Chelsea are 11 points off the top of the table and their chances of a title bid hang by a thread - victory at home to Aston Villa is a must if they are to keep their faint hopes alive.

Andre Villas-Boas' side have drawn their last three matches 1-1 since that victory over City, and unless they can produce an impressive run, this will be regarded as a season of transition for the Portuguese coach in his first year in England.

Villa have not won for three matches and Alex McLeish continues to endure a rough ride - also in his first campaign with the club.

Ramires is available after suspension for Chelsea and Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas must decide whether to recall the Brazilian following his one-match ban or stick with his midfield of Frank Lampard, Raul Meireles and Oriol Romeu.

Defenders John Terry and Jose Bosingwa have shaken off knocks picked up in the Boxing Day draw against Fulham but Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel (both hamstring) remain sidelined.

Villa hope to have record signing Darren Bent available after a three-game absence with a thigh problem.

Bent will be included in the squad if he comes through training unscathed but fellow striker Emile Heskey is ruled out with an Achilles problem.

Right-back Alan Hutton returns after serving a one-game ban for his sending off against Arsenal but faces a fight for his spot after Carlos Cuellar's recent impressive form.

Last season: Chelsea 3 Aston Villa 3, Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 0.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) 10; Darren Bent & Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) 5.

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).

15:00 - Norwich (11) v Fulham (13)

Norwich and Fulham are only separated by one place ahead of their meeting at Carrow Road.

The Cottagers bounced back from their embarrassing defeat by Manchester United with a deserved point at Chelsea and it remains to be seen which team turns up in East Anglia.

Things could begin to get tough for the promoted clubs as the season progresses but Norwich have acquitted themselves well so far - 21 points from 18 games leaving them well-placed in mid-table.

Norwich left-back Marc Tierney (groin) is 50-50 but fellow defender Kyle Naughton is available again having missed the defeat to parent club Tottenham through suspension.

Ritchie de Laet (back) remains doubtful after coming off against Spurs.

Andrew Johnson (groin), Bobby Zamora (Achilles) are set to miss out for Fulham and Damien Duff is another injury concern.

Fulham boss Martin Jol is also without defender Zdenek Grygera (knee) and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer (spine).

Midfielder Simon Davies (back) is hopeful of a return for the New Year fixtures.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Grant Holt (Norwich) 7; Andrew Johnson (Fulham) 11.

Referee: Howard Webb.

15:00 - Stoke (8) v Wigan (18)

Stoke have the opportunity to consolidate their place in the top half while Wigan can move out of the bottom three when the two teams lock horns at the Britannia.

It is difficult to look past a home win here but Wigan have the potential to surprise teams.

They have Conor Sammon available after his red card received against Manchester United was rescinded on Thursday.

But can their defence stand up from the direct approach of the Potters? Stoke boss Tony Pulis will assess striker Peter Crouch and midfielder Glenn Whelan, who have missed the last two games through illness and a calf injury respectively, while there will also be a fitness test for Robert Huth after the defender picked up a knock in the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa on Boxing Day.

Forward Ricardo Fuller missed that fixture due to an ankle complaint but is expected to be available.

Wigan will have striker Conor Sammon available after the red card he picked up at Manchester United was rescinded by the Football Association.

The Latics have no new injury problems and could soon welcome back defender Emmerson Boyce, who has been out since the beginning of November with a hamstring problem.

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

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Kenwyne Jones, Peter Crouch & Jonathan Walters (Stoke) 6; Franco Di Santo & Jordi Gomez (Wigan) 4.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).

15:00 - Swansea (14) v Tottenham (3)

Tottenham will finish the year in third place whatever the results at the weekend, a remarkable achievement considering where they were at the beginning of the campaign and many are tipping them to remain close challengers for the Premier League crown.

Harry Redknapp's charges have a difficult match at Swansea to contend with, though, with the Welsh outfit searching for their first win in four attempts.

They have only lost one of those games but after an impressive start to life in the top-flight, Brendan Rodgers may be looking nervously at the bottom half of the table with a tricky run of fixtures to come.

Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers will make a late decision over the fitness of Angel Rangel.

The Spanish full-back, recently back from an ankle injury, was forced off with a similar problem in Tuesday's 1-1 draw against QPR, with Jazz Richards set to continue if Rangel is ruled out.

Left-back Neil Taylor is set to return from a knee injury but centre-half Steven Caulker misses out due to the terms of his loan from Spurs, with club captain Garry Monk coming into the side.

Michael Dawson misses out for Spurs despite returning to full training after four months out with an Achilles injury.

Aaron Lennon (hamstring) and Ledley King (knee) are also out but Jermain Defoe could be fit after making encouraging progress in his return from a hamstring problem that has kept him out of the club's past two matches.

Sebastien Bassong (back) and Roman Pavlyuchenko (ankle) are doubtful.

Last season: No corresponding fixture.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Danny Graham (Swansea) 6; Emmanuel Adebayor & Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 9.

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

Sunday 1st January 2012

12:30 - West Brom (9) v Everton (10) - Sky1

Fellow Black Country outfit West Brom have been resurgent of late and Roy Hodgson has really got his team playing for each other.

Two wins and a draw against Manchester City see the Baggies sitting pretty in ninth, putting distance between themselves and the dogfight.

Everton visit the Hawthorns on New Year's Day.

The Toffees have had a hit-and-miss first half of the season but successive victories would see them leapfrog West Brom in the table.

West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu is a major fitness doubt after aggravating a groin injury during the home draw with Manchester City on Boxing Day.

James Morrison, if he recovers from a recent hamstring problem, and Graham Dorrans are in contention to replace him.

Central defender Jonas Olsson is expected to shake off an ankle knock suffered against Roberto Mancini's side, while Billy Jones is again set to deputise at right-back for Steven Reid, who is recovering from knee surgery.

Midfielder Marouane Fellaini misses out for Everton due to an abductor strain.

The Belgian international sat out the Boxing Day draw at Sunderland but Jack Rodwell, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since December 4, could be ready for a return as he has trained this week.

Loan signing Landon Donovan is not eligible to play until next week.

Last season: West Brom 1 Everton 0, Everton 1 West Brom 4.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Shane Long (West Brom) 5; Leon Osman, Leighton Baines & Apostolos Vellios (Everton) 3.

Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).

15:00 - Sunderland (15) v Man City (1) - Sky1

City will no doubt be keeping one eye on the Man Utd result ahead of their clash at Sunderland from 3pm on Sunday.

Roberto Mancini's men were held at West Brom on Boxing Day and a tricky trip to a rejuvenated Sunderland will test their title credentials further.

Martin O'Neill has restored some confidence at the Stadium of Light since his arrival as manager, and following two victories, a draw and a creditable defeat at Spurs, his players will be motivated to keep moving forward against their big-spending opponents.

Stephane Sessegnon, in particular, is in a rich vein of form but will have to be at his best to test City's strong backline.

Defenders Phil Bardsley (thigh) and Titus Bramble (Achilles/calf) are major doubts for Sunderland after picking up their respective injuries in the 1-1 Boxing Day draw with Everton.

With Michael Turner (knee) also on the casualty list, manager Martin O'Neill is short of defensive options.

Midfielder Kieran Richardson has not trained all week because of illness but O'Neill is keeping his fingers crossed.

Connor Wickham, Fraizer Campbell and Craig Gordon (all knee) and Simon Mignolet (fractured nose and eye socket) remain on the sidelines.

Manchester City full-backs Micah Richards and Aleksandar Kolarov are back in contention.

Right-back Richards was not risked in the Boxing Day draw at West Brom after a calf problem while left-back Kolarov has missed six games with a groin injury.

The pair's possible return means manager Roberto Mancini has a full-strength squad, aside from the absent Carlos Tevez.

Last season: Man City 5 Sunderland 0, Sunderland 1 Man City 0.

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

Top scorers (all competitions): Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) 5; Sergio Aguero (Man City) 15

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).

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