By Ryan Moran
- The Blues were defeated 2-1 by Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in August.
- Swansea City look to do the double over Manchester United.
- Liverpool look to turn the tables after being defeated by West Ham at Anfield.
The Barclays Premier League calendar reaches the halfway mark and game week four is about to be replayed, but will it produce the same shocks in game week 20?
Crystal Palace vs Chelsea
Stamford Bridge watched in shock as Crystal Palace came, saw and conquered a Jose Mourinho side on the decline. The Eagles condemned Chelsea to only a second home defeat under Mourinho but also their second defeat in the league with only four games played. Radamel Falcao scored his first and only goal in Chelsea colours either side of Bakary Sako’s opener and Joel Ward’s goal that denied the Blues a share of the spoils.
16 games later and Selhurst Park welcome Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea side still trying to find a way out of their current predicament. A year ago the two sides were in complete reverse, Neil Warnock left the Eagles in the bottom three for Alan Pardew to turn the club around into fifth place a year on. Diego Costa returns after serving a one game ban for five yellow cards while Patrick Bamford’s ‘terrible’ Palace loan means the striker isn’t allowed to play against his parent club.
The visitors sit three points above the relegation zone with a win crucial to resurrecting a dismal campaign as it has been so far. Pardew’s Palace occupy a Europa League place, with Manchester United and Liverpool only one point behind, only a win will ensure the home side remain there.
West Ham United vs Liverpool
Having already overcome Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, West Ham arose victorious at Anfield. Since then, Brendan Rodgers’ tenure at the club came to a halt and the ‘normal one’ placed in charge. Manuel Lanzini and Mark Noble found the back of the net that day with the Argentine loanee also scoring on three other occasions with the Hammers struggling without injured playmaker Dimitri Payet.
The French midfielder has trained with the squad and is likely to play a part at Upton Park, Victor Moses and Winston Reid are unlikely to recover in time to feature. Daniel Sturridge is also likely to be in contention for the visitors as the striker’s injury troubles continue to keep him on the side lines.
Liverpool sit higher in the table than their hosts by a mere point as a congested middle order remains with all sides stuttering. With European competition an aim for both sides, the three points against a rival could prove huge come the end of the season.
Manchester United vs Swansea City
Garry Monk completed the double over Manchester United last season and went half way to achieving that feat for a second consecutive season. A 2-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium built on a positive start to the season that didn’t last. A win-less October built the pressure as Monk was dismissed earlier this month.
Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis’ early form showed promise with goals against both Chelsea and United for both strikers, their barren run effectively stalled the Swans’ season. Goals have been a problem for the Red Devils with the home side failing to score in 18 games under Louis Van Gaal. A positive display in attack against Chelsea showed promise but couldn’t get a goal for their efforts. Anthony Martial’s trickery had Branislav Ivanovic beaten while Wayne Rooney’s hold up play received credit, a striker needs to score goals however and the England international hasn’t found the back of the net in 10 league games.
Everton vs Tottenham
A stalemate at White Hart Lane suggested these two sides would be in close proximity come the end of the season. Tottenham are nine points better off with a much stronger defensive record. The Toffees have scored more goals than Spurs with Romelu Lukaku ending 2015 level with Jamie Vardy, finding the net 15 times. Harry Kane slowly found his shooting boots, scoring 11 goals in 19 games.
John Stones gifted Stoke the chance to take all three points at Goodison Park last time out as Tim Howard’s net rippled four times. His foul on Marko Arnautovic in injury time meant Everton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as Roberto Martinez’s side once led 3-2 in that fixture.
Tottenham needed a late goal for Son Heung-min against 10-man Watford, in games like those it takes a strong team performance to grind out victory shown by Mauricio Pochettino’s side. Another performance of a slightly higher calibre will be needed to overcome Everton a tricky opponent because of their firepower up top.
Watford vs Manchester City
Watford have proved a tough nut to crack this season shown by occupying such a high league position for a newly promoted side. Having drawn their first three Premier League games, including a 2-2 draw with Everton, the Hornets travelled to the Etihad Stadium unbeaten. A City side that had already shipped eight goals in their first three games could only muster a 2-0 victory through Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for the Citizens however as Arsenal and Leicester look down on Manuel Pellegrini’s side with a three-point deficit between them. Odion Ighalo has scored 14 goals already in this current campaign with Tottenham unable to prevent the Nigerian last time out. The Hornets will be without Nathan Ake as the Dutch full back received red card for a high foot on Erik Lamela.
Both sides remain in the mix for Europe but City’s aims for the Premier League title require all three points to keep up with the sides above them.
Arsenal vs Newcastle United
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s deflected strike was enough to claim three points at St James’ Park with Aleksandar Mitrovic seeing red, struggling to settle into life in the Premier League. 16 weeks on and the Gunners find themselves top and the Magpies still remain in the bottom three.
The loss of Alexis Sanchez has been supplemented by the rise in form of Mesut Ozil, confirming form is temporary, class is permanent. Ozil has twice the amount of assists as his closest rival Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez, with 16.
The away team have improved since the start of the league but have failed to string enough results together to move away from trouble. Georginio Wijnaldum has been a key player along with Ayoze Perez, attracting attention from bigger sides but neither has been able to drag their side out of trouble.
With Swansea within two points of Newcastle and three sides only a victory away, three points are vital to stay within touching distance of the teams above. Arsenal are level on points with Leicester and three points above Manchester City, only victory would retain their spot at the top.
Leicester City vs AFC Bournemouth
One goal apiece in the previous encounter showed Bournemouth were a side worth taking notice of. Significant injuries have stalled their progress but not prevented their push to maintain Premier League status. With only three wins at this stage in the last campaign, the home side’s turnaround is extraordinary with eight more wins to their name.
Callum Wilson was an early contender for the golden boot but injury meant opportunities have fallen to Joshua King who has stepped up to the plate in recent weeks along with Junior Stanislas. Vardy and Mahrez have hit a wall in recent weeks with the Foxes failing to score in their last two games against Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Arsenal are ahead of Leicester on goal difference therefore a win is required to stave off close rivals City. Bournemouth remain three points above the drop zone, a draw would be enough to keep the Cherries out of trouble for another week.
Sunderland vs Aston Villa
A four goal draw meant sharing the spoils for two sides deep in a relegation scrap. Yann M’Vila and Jeremaine Lens got the goals that were cancelled out by a Scott Sinclair brace. Villa need to make up an 11-point deficit to move into contention of Premier League survival while Sunderland are seven points away from safety.
With both teams on their second manager of the season, Tim Sherwood and Dick Advocaat facing the cruel axe, Remi Garde and Sam Allardyce are faced with the task of guiding their sides to safety.
Another defeat for the Villains would create an even greater uphill battle with their nearest rival widening the deficit to seven points instead of the current four that separates the two sides.
West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City
Nine man Stoke were narrowly beaten by a Salomon Rondon header from a Rickie Lambert cross. Ibrahim Afellay was the first to see red after his reaction after being challenged by Craig Gardner. Charlie Adam was next to see red after the midfielder was seen to have stamped on Craig Dawson.
Both sides condemned Manchester United to defeat now face the task of taking three points off of one another with West Brom claiming victory earlier on in this campaign. A nine man Stoke side were beaten by a single goal, scored by Salomon Rondon.
Charlie Adam and Ibrahim Afellay saw red that day with the latter yet to have a major impact since his arrival. The Potters’ slow start to the season met with Bojan Krkic’s return from injury with the Spaniard and Arnautovic scoring two each in their last three games.
Darren Fletcher scored the winner over Newcastle with Saido Berahino’s time at the club becoming increasingly more stale the more the transfer saga continues. Rondon has chipped in with three goals while Rickie Lambert has struggled at the Hawthorns with a mere goal to show for his performances.
Both sit comfortably in mid table while a win for the Potters will draw the away side towards a Europa League fight. The Baggies are six points clear of trouble and the same amount from Stoke, a victory hindering Stoke’s Europa League push.
Norwich City vs Southampton
A 3-0 win at St Mary’s Stadium over a ten man Norwich side led to many thinking Southampton would be fighting for Europe again this season. A downturn in form has seen the Saints drop to 12th, seven points away from a guaranteed place. The Canaries are level on points with Chelsea, in this instance that is not such a good thing, three points clear of relegation.
One win in their last seven games, a 4-0 defeat of Arsenal, has seen the Saints fall out of contention while the Canaries’ have secured two victories out of a possible three in their fight towards safety.
At this current stage of the campaign, the three points would give Norwich a cushion in the coming weeks while another loss for Southampton builds pressure on Ronald Koeman, however unlikely it is that the board would consider sacking the Dutchman.
Liverpool face West Ham at the Boleyn Ground in the early kick off as Chelsea travel to Crystal Palace to avenge the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge, the action kicking off on Saturday 2nd January.
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