The BIG clash – EPL weekend preview

Blog by – Souvik

Arsenal v Chelsea - Premier League Preview

You will have to till Monday to catch the biggest firecracker that the Premier League has to offer this festive weekend. The battle between two of London clubs in the form of the rejuvenated Arsenal and “the special one’s” Chelsea in 1st and 3rd place respectively should certainly be enough to whet your appetite.

League leading Arsenal will be looking to put their 6 goal humiliation at the Etihad behind them, while the Blues will smell blood, fully knowing a win may take them to the top of the standings. Ever since the opening day humiliation against Villa, the Gunners have put the pedal to metal at home, having won 6 of the previous 7 home games, with the draw in their last home game against Everton being the only blip in their record. With only a single point to show for their efforts in the last couple of games, Wenger will be keen to build a gap between them and the rest of the pack.

Jose Mourinho’s second spell at the helm at Stamford Bridge hasn’t been all plain sailing with the Blues faltering every now and then. Their away form especially will be something that the Portuguese would look to improve upon, having failed to come up with the goods recently away to both Newcastle and Stoke. Yet, recent failures of league leaders Arsenal have seen the Blues close the gap to only two points. Chelsea will be looking to continue on their recent run of results at the Emirates though, having lost just two and won four of the last eight.

Jack Wilshere will be serving his first of a two game suspension for his indiscretions at the weekend. Michael Essien remain suspended for Chelsea while Ryan Bertrand remains out.

Some stats to keep an eye on:

  • Chelsea have won eight and lost just two of the last 11 meetings with Arsenal in all competitions.
  • Chelsea have taken 11 points away from the Emirates Stadium, the joint-best haul of any team in the Premier League since the Gunners moved from Highbury (along with Aston Villa).
  • Chelsea have had 11 different managers since Arsene Wenger was appointed and 12 in total with Mourinho’s second spell. Jose Mourinho will be the fifth different manager Arsene Wenger has faced in the last six Chelsea v Arsenal fixtures.
  • Arsenal have not gone three Premier League fixtures without a win since January 2013; the third of those games was against Chelsea.
  • Chelsea have scored at least twice in each of their last six Premier League games (16 goals in total).

Two ends of the table clashes

Part 1

Liverpool and Cardiff lying on two ends of the EPL table may even have different priorities going into the game. With Luis Suarez in arguably the form of his life, the Reds will be looking to make more inroads at the top of the table. Going on form alone anything but three points for the Kops will be deemed a disappointment.

Malky Mackay and Cardiff meanwhile will do a good job to keep their focus on the field on the field. The Welsh side has made all the headlines for the wrong reasons coming into the game. The relation between manager Malky Mackay and Chairman Vincent Tan seemed to have reached a rock bottom. Mackay was told in recent days that “not a single would be made available” for the purpose of squad strengthening. Mackay may follow head of recruitment Iain Moody out of the club as the controversial Tan continues to run the rules in the Welsh capital.

Gerrard (hamstring), Daniel Sturridge (ankle) and Jose Enrique (knee) misses out for Liverpool while former Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy will be absent with a hamstring injury.

Key stats:

  • These two teams have not met in the league since December 19th 1959 when Cardiff won 4-0 at Anfield.
  • Suarez’s total of 17 goals is more than 10 of the 20 Premier League clubs have managed this season.
  • 18 of Luis Suarez’s 27 Premier League goals in 2013 have come at Anfield.
  • Liverpool have scored 39 goals in 16 games this season; the last time they had as many was in the title-winning 1987-88 season.

Part 2

Newcastle going away to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace represents another fixture between two teams at two ends of the spectrum as far as the league table goes in the EPL. However the Eagles have been on the upswing of late as Tony Pulis seems to have re-invigorated the side. With two wins in their last three games which included a narrow 2-1 loss to Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge, the Eagles seem to have found a new spring to their step.  Palace would go into the game with much confidence after the emergence of on loan, Maroune Chamakh, who all of a sudden looking like a Premier League striker.

Alan Pardew on the other hand will be returning to his former stomping ground having made 128 appearances in the red and blue of Palace. Premier League’s newly crowned manager of the month for the month of November looking to continue on his side’s fine form of late which sees the magpies climb up the table to sixth in the table. The toon will be further boosted by the return of Yohan Cabaye, after the Frenchman served his one match suspension against Southampton.

Key Stats:

  • Palace have failed to score in their last 5 meetings with Newcastle in all competitions.
  • No team have won more points than the Magpies in their last 6 games (13).
  • Newcastle have won their last 4 league trips to Selhurst Park to play Palace.
  • Despite conceding only two goals more than Newcastle (22), Crystal Palace (24) have 14 points fewer.
  • Marouane Chamakh has scored in three successive Premier League games for the first time in his career.

Part 3

Machester City look to have hit top gear, thrashing fellow title contenders Arsenal for six in their last game. The Citizens however will be without their Argentine forward Sergio Aguero, who has accounted for 13 of City’s 47 goals this campaign.

Even without the Argentine hitman, it will be an uphill task for the Cottagers to keep Pellegrini’s men at bay as they look to build on their 5 game unbeaten run in the Premier League which now sees them only two points off league leaders Arsenal. The only solace that Fulham can take into their game is Manchester City’s away form of late in the league which has seen them bag only 4 points from their last 4 away fixtures. Rene Meulensteen has instilled a fighting spirit amongst the Cottagers though the results have still not been forthcoming.

Fernando Amorebieta makes a welcome return to the fold for Fulham. Brede Hangeland and Hugo Rodallega, though won’t be available for selection.

Key Stats:

  • Man City have won 6 and lost none of the last 9 matches with Fulham in all competitions.
  • City have opened the scoring in 8 of their previous 12 away games.
  • Man City have averaged 7.6 shots on target per game at home this season but only 5.3 in away games.

 

Survival of the fittest (the manager version)

“You’re getting sacked in the morning” has been a common theme for songs from the fans’ end for both Sam Allardyce and David Moyes this season. The pressures however will be quite different going into the game. With West Ham’s marquee signing of the summer, Andy Carroll yet to kick a ball in anger this season, the Hammers see themselves languishing in 17th spot having won only 1 of their last 6 games.

David Moyes will certainly have more of a look-in and try to build an identity of his own even though Manchester United see themselves in a precarious situation at ninth in the table. With Robin van Persie out, all Man United fans will be eagerly awaiting the news on Wayne Rooney’s fitness heading into the game. The Red devils have looked blunt going forward whenever their talismanic Englishman in the side and will again be looking at the availability of their spiritual leader.

Key Stats:

  • The Hammers have failed to score in 6 of their last 8 Premier League games against Man United.
  • Wayne Rooney has scored 7 goals in his last 6 league appearances against West Ham.
  • The last time Man Utd had fewer points as this after 16 Premier League games was 2001-02 (24).

Elsewhere

Sunderland vs Norwich

Sunderland certainly looks a more potent Premier League side under Gus Poyet, yet they find themselves languishing at the bottom with a mere 9 points to show for their efforts. Chris Hughton on the other hand has struggle get the Canaries off the blocks this season. The pressures on the ex-Spurs defender will be a slight bit more after splashing the cash on a number of signings in the summer.

Gary Hooper recent goal scoring exploits will give the Canaries much hope, while Sunderland will be looking to build on their Capital One Cup victory over Chelsea in mid-week.

West Brom vs Hull

Only a few months after Steve Clark led the Baggies to an eighth place finish in one of the most of the impressive campaigns till date at the Hawthorns, the Englishman finds himself jobless. West Brom pulled the plugs on Clark’s tenure last week after watching the Baggies suffer their fourth loss in as many games in the league. The rudderless Albion head into the game hanging precariously 2 points above the relegation places after failing to register a single win in their last six games in the competition.

Steve Bruce meanwhile will be desperate to improve the Tigers’ away record, having seen his side lose six of their eight away games so far. Hull, though will be going to one of their favourite hunting grounds, in the Hawthorns where they have enjoyed successes of late, having won their last 2 league trips away to West Brom.

Southampton vs Tottenham

Manager less Tottenham travel to St. Mary’s to face Quentin Pochettino’s Southampton who have impressed all and sundry with their footballing style and flair. Southampton facing their third opponent in a row in the top 7, will be looking to get back to winning ways  after failing to record a victory in any of the Saints’ last five games.  It was about a year ago that the Argentine Pochettino was appointed at the helm of the Saints, replacing Nigel Adkins who had brought the Saints back into the Premier League via two seasons of consecutive of promotions. The decision was certainly not one to go down with much fanfare, but a year on everyone seems to be more than happy down South coast.

Tim Sherwood and co. meanwhile will try to steady the ship at White Hart Lane and resurrect some pride into the Lily Whites. The loss to West Ham in midweek will certainly not be helping his cause. With Danny Rose and Vlad Chiriches set to return, Sherwood would feel a bit more comfortable about the backline after the 5-0 hiding that was handed out by Liverpool. Southampton meanwhile will be missing a handful of their key players with Artur Boruc (hand), Victor Wanyama (leg), Danny Fox (hamstring), Kelvin Davis (37-year-old’s back), Guly do Prado (bloaty head), and Nathaniel Clyne (pelvis) all out for the game.

Swansea vs Everton

Swansea is certainly feeling the effects of the Europa League as Michael Laudrup’s side has been hit with injuries right left and centre this season. With Michu unable to hit the heights of last season and Wilfried Bony still struggling to come to terms with the pace and power of the league, the Swans have struggled to break down defences like last season.

Roberto Martinez has succeeded where Villas-Boas failed. The Spaniard has been able to integrate and gel together a squad that was assembled in the final days or rather hours of the transfer window. Martinez’s sides have always been associated with playing with certain flair. With an added astuteness at the back, the Toffees see them fighting amongst the big boys, sitting pretty in 5th place in the table.

Stoke vs Aston Villa

The game sees two mid table teams with an opportunity to kick-start their season. Both team have stuttered and stumbled, huffed and puffed to get any sort of run going. Whle Paul Lambert’s men have shown flair in their passing game, the lack of class in the final third have let them down time again. However in the last two games, the Villans have been incompetent on either side of the pitch. The inconsistencies from Villa is quite reflected in their last nine games. Two consecutive losses was followed by a spell of five games unbeaten, only to come unstuck against Fulham and Manchester United recently.

The Potters in their first campaign without Pulis come into the game on the back of a Capital One cup defeat at the hands of Manchester United. Stoke, however have been in quite good in the league recently. Unbeaten in their last three games, which includes the scalp of Chelsea at The Britannia, Mark Hughes will be looking to his players to push on from their impressive recent showings and propel themselves into the top half of the table.

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