By Jake Davies
- Manchester United tackle a strengthened Arsenal side on Sunday
- Two solid defence’s clash at St Mary’s
- Leicester’s final stretch for the title begins
As the discussion of the lack of success of English teams in European competition continues to be rife, some of the heavyweights of English football aim to right those wrongs this weekend in the Barclay’s Premier League.
Manchester United v Arsenal
Manchester United and Arsenal headline the Barclay’s Premier League fixtures this weekend, after both teams play their respective matches in Europe in midweek.
Arsenal have to bounce back from a tough loss to Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, as the games continue to come thick and fast for the top teams in the Premier League that are still involved in many competitions at the business end of the season. It’ll be interesting to see how an injury-ravaged Manchester United compete, after seamlessly giving up on the Top 4 finish as their captain Wayne Rooney suggested the best possible route to Champions League Football would come via wining the Europa League.
On the topic of the injury list of both teams, Manchester United have Matteo Darmian and long term absentee Marcos Rojo back in training following their respective shoulder injuries, while Antonio Valencia, who had foot surgery, is also in contention to return for Manchester United. The most significant of news for Manchester United on whether they can win this massive game on Sunday is the news that David De Gea may return for the Arsenal match.
De Gea and Chris Smalling were both ruled out for the Europa League game on Thursday, and both are facing a race for full fitness in the build up to the Arsenal game. The absence of both players would be a massive blow, with both De Gea and Smalling notably the better performers in a struggling Manchester United side this season.
Arsenal are in better shape when it comes to injuries with Alexis Sanchez recently coming back to action, as well as Danny Welbeck coming back, which adds strength and pace to the attacking numbers of Arsenal.
What will be fresh in the minds of Manchester United is the 0-3 demolition job, where Arsenal absolutely decimated Manchester United in a rampant first half hammering at the Emirates in October. Van Gaal’s Reds actually have only won 10 of their subsequent 27 games since that Arsenal loss, so Manchester United, who have generally played very well against the top teams this season, will be looking to bounce back and right the wrongs from October.
Southampton v Chelsea
Southampton and Chelsea’s big clash on the weekend earmarks a titanic tussle, where in recent months both teams have looked a lot more solid and harder to break down. Chelsea have improved under the tutelage of Guus Hiddink and historically have a very good record against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium. At Southampton’s home ground Chelsea have lost just the one Premier League meeting against the Saints, but Southampton haven’t conceded a league goal in over nine hours of Premier League football.
Chelsea also travel to Southampton with a positive outlook on their improving results, they are unbeaten in their last ten top flight matches, although only four of those ten matches they have managed to get the victory.
In terms of injury news, Kurt Zouma is an obvious long term absence after suffering the freak knee injury that required surgery, while John Terry is on the verge of a return from a hamstring injury, which would significantly strengthen Chelsea’s back four. The back four cohesion of Chelsea will be of prime importance, when taking into account the plethora of attacking talent Southampton have at their disposal: Charlie Austin, Graziano Pelle, Juanmi and Shane Long. New signing Alexandre Pato is still in search of his first appearance for the Blues as he seeks match fitness
Leicester v Norwich
Despite Leicester sitting neatly at the top of the table, many football aficionados still anticipate their drop in consistency moving towards the final race to the Premier League title, but with continuing good results against Man City at the Etihad and Liverpool at home, Leicester are showing no signs that their fantastic run is coming to an end. On the other hand, Norwich have lost 6 of their last 7 games in all competitions and are on the brink of plummeting into the relegation zone. Leicester, who now have a guaranteed 12 games left to finish the season, whereas their rivals have other competitions to worry about, may just profit from their shortened schedule to conclude the 2015/16 season.
12:45 West Ham vs Sunderland
15:00 Leicester vs Norwich
15:00 Southampton vs Chelsea
15:00 Stoke vs Aston Villa
15:00 Watford vs Bournemouth
17:30 West Brom vs Crystal Palace
14:05 Manchester United vs Arsenal
14:05 Tottenham vs Swansea