By Ryan Moran
- Manchester United face Watford in the lunchtime kick off.
- Jamie Vardy in search of equalling Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s goal scoring record.
- La Marseillaise to be played prior to all 10 fixtures in memory of the Paris victims.
Manchester, UK- On a weekend of fixtures that goes way beyond the football, Jurgen Klopp faces his toughest test, travelling to the Etihad Stadium to face current leaders Manchester City as the Premier League shows their support to France following the terror attacks in Paris.
Manchester City vs Liverpool
With the chasing pack hot on their heels, City cannot afford to slip up at the hands of Klopp’s Liverpool who have only lost once in four games at the hands of Crystal Palace. With Arsenal level on points, Leicester City one point behind and rivals Manchester United two points worse off, any result other than a win is likely to see Manuel Pellegrini’s side looking up at the teams above. For the away side a win would close the gap on their opponents to six and, depending on other results, gradually climb towards those desirable four Champions League places.
Sergio Aguero and Fabian Delph are both available for selection after time on the side line while Mamadou Sakho misses out through injury. Raheem Sterling and James Milner play against their old clubs for the first time as Milner returns to the Etihad after leaving for Anfield while money related jibes from the away fans are expected for Sterling. Previous encounters show the away side have struggled against the home side, not winning one of the last six, taking two draws and four losses but under Klopp, the tide may turn. With the return of Aguero and Daniel Sturridge expected to play a part, from a neutral point of view goals are certainly expected for both sides.
Tottenham vs West Ham United
Fifth placed Tottenham welcome sixth placed West Ham United who sit below their opposition on goal difference. Unfortunately for the Hammers, Dimitri Payet misses out through injury in their 1-1 draw with Everton. The away side will miss the midfielder’s creativity in the middle of the park and will rely on the pace and fluency in Manuel Lanzini’s attacking play that has proved so effective already this season. The home side possess threats of their own in Christian Eriksen and England international Dele Alli, not to mention their ever present striker in the form of Harry Kane.
After a man of the match performance against France, Alli’s stock rose significantly along with the reputation of manager Mauricio Pochettino to throw the young talent in at the deep end with Eric Dier also, who made his debut in the international break. These players are crucial to Tottenham’s success in recent times along with Kane’s gradual return to goal scoring form.
With teams as far down as 12th within five points of both sides, a win is crucial to maintain the gap between the chasing pack and with at least one team dropping points, taking all three could be looked back on as a crucial win come the end of the season with European places desirable.
Watford vs Manchester United
If anyone had said to Quique Sanchez Flores that his Watford side would sit five points and five places above last season’s champions he would have called them crazy, that is the position the Hornets are in. Unfortunately the home side are yet to upset a top side, falling to defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Arsenal. Eight points separate the sides and a loss for United allows Tottenham or West Ham to go level on points if either side were able to claim victory.
The up side for Flores is that United are without both Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial, the problem posed is who will fill the position of striker? James Wilson is the third choice striker but with a lack of minutes so far this season it is unlikely he will play the whole game. Odion Ighalo remains a doubt after returning back late from international duty with Nigeria.
Chelsea vs Norwich City
Another international break has passed, is this finally the one that allows Chelsea to start again and change their fortunes for the better. Only a point separates the home side from Norwich City who are one place ahead in a lowly 15th with Jose Mourinho needing to get the results on the pitch to take the media spotlight away from his misery.
Thibaut Courtois is likely to return in goal for Chelsea and Branislav Ivanovic also expected to play at Stamford Bridge. Last season the Chelsea side of 2014 played a creative, free flowing style of football encompassed by one touch passing moves and the flare from Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas to create and score goals. The side of 2015 played a counter attacking, backs against the wall style of winning games by the odd goal. The current side fit the picture of the 2015 side and although the creativity can be risky, it shows positivity, something the home side need in abundance at this current moment in time.
As for Norwich, they have had a mixed bag of results but not currently a side in a relegation fight, Dieumerci Mbokani has been a good addition, scoring goals. The Canaries have scored in seven of their last 10 league games, Watford have only scored in six so defensively Norwich need to stop leaking the goals.
West Bromwich Albion vs Arsenal
A North London derby draw with Tottenham denied Arsenal the opportunity of going into the international break top of the pile as Manchester City slipped up at the hands of Aston Villa. However, Arsene Wenger raised concern on the frame of mind of his French contingent after the occurrences in Paris, assessing the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud prior to the game.
Tony Pulis has a full squad apart from Gareth McAuley who is suspended after their 2-0 loss to Manchester United. Being the earlier of the two kick offs, Arsenal have the opportunity of going top, prior to City’s game with Liverpool on Saturday evening. The Baggies have struggled at home this season, winning only once and with the Gunners netting 22 goals in 12 games, they will expect to add to that tally at the Hawthorns. A loss could see them fall towards the relegation zone, a place Pulis is not so familiar with.
Newcastle United vs Leicester City
The home side climbed out the relegation zone with a win over Bournemouth and are now faced with the challenge of preventing Jamie Vardy netting in his tenth consecutive league game and denying the striker a joint record with Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The ex-Fleetwood player’s story is the stuff of dreams and can only be admired. The attacking three of Marc Albrighton, Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have been influential in the Foxes rise to the top four, creating and finishing chances as the away side have only lost one game all season.
The Magpies have had mixed fortunes, dominating Stoke and coming away with a draw but were outplayed by Bournemouth and left with a victory which highlights the fact that goals win games. When you are down in the bottom half of the table you need goals to get you out of trouble no matter if your side is getting dominated. A draw could keep Steve Mclaren’s side out of the relegation zone as Bournemouth face a struggling Swansea side. A win for Leicester could see them top the table come the end of Saturday, wouldn’t that be a story to tell combined with the events of last year.
Of the weekend’s other fixtures:
Everton vs Aston Villa
Southampton vs Stoke City
Swansea City vs AFC Bournemouth
Crystal Palace vs Sunderland
Watford welcome Manchester United for the lunchtime kick off on 21st November while Manchester City welcome Liverpool in the pick of the fixtures.
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