By Ryan Moran
- Manchester City are unbeaten in five league visits to the Britannia Stadium.
- Santi Cazorla and Wayne Rooney join the Premier League injury list.
- Daniel Sturridge likely to return after scoring a brace in the League Cup.
Stoke, UK- Manchester City hope to continue to set the pace in the Premier League with a sixth straight away victory against Stoke City. Leicester travel to Swansea in search of a rare clean sheet while United and Arsenal lose key players to injury.
Stoke City vs Manchester City
Midweek success in the League Cup for both sides means both sides are just two games away from the final at Wembley. Although both have been highly successful in the cup this year, league form has contrasted as City claimed their position at the top of the league back at Leicester’s expense while a 2-0 defeat at lowly Sunderland left the Potters in 12th. The home side have been tight in defence in recent times, keeping five clean sheets in their last nine games, winning five and drawing two, while a clean sheet in each win has produced a 1-0 score line; the same score as Stoke’s only home Premier League win over the Citizens in 2009 when James Beattie’s first half header was enough to defeat Mark Hughes’ City side.
If the Stoke are to prevent their opponents from scoring, they will have to stop Kevin De Bruyne, a player who has scored four goals and assisted another six in his last ten appearances. With the top four separated by only two points and fifth placed Tottenham down to 12th placed Stoke only four points apart, nothing but a win is detrimental while the league is so closely fought from top to bottom.
Swansea City vs Leicester City
While both sides possess a strike force capable of beating any defence on their day, one has done that 11 games in a row, the other have only scored 14 goals in 14 games, the same as Jamie Vardy on his own. Having failed to score in six of their last ten games, the problem is clear for the Swans and Garry Monk. Both sides have only kept two clean sheets all season in the league, the Foxes will see the Liberty Stadium as an opportunity to make it three clean sheets and more goals for the prolific Vardy. Between them, Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis have scored ten goals, their partnership was feared after their threatening start to the season but Gomis especially has failed to make an impact.
With both Manchester United and Arsenal both within two points, win for both sides will allow them to leapfrog Leicester in second therefore a win is crucial for the Foxes. As for Swansea, they need to grind out results to avoid slipping into a relegation battle, one they were steered away from by Monk when in interim charge.
Manchester United vs West Ham United
While United’s draw at Leicester kept them within reach of the peak of the table, it also allowed their rivals Manchester City to leapfrog both sides to the top. Now a point behind both sides, The Red Devils welcome West Ham United, a side suffering without playmaker Dimitri Payet, who currently lie in eighth position after spending time in the top four. Wayne Rooney will also miss the game through an ankle injury.
The loss of Payet has had a profound effect with five points from the last possible 15 available. This has seen the Hammers drop out of the top four down to eighth with teams down as far as Watford realistically able to catch the away side if they suffer defeat at Old Trafford. In contrast their opposition had to come from behind to take a point from their encounter with Leicester thanks to Bastian Schweinsteiger who also crossed the ball that Troy Deeney slid into the back of his own net for United’s winner the game before. As the German slowly acclimatises to the demands of the Premier League and the change in style of play, the more of an impact the midfielder seems to be having in an attacking sense, being directly involved in two of the last three goals his side have scored. Schweinsteiger will be a player West Ham will need to keep quiet to claim victory at an iconic ground.
Arsenal vs Sunderland
Arsenal go into the weekend’s fixtures with Tottenham breathing down their neck and both Manchester sides and Leicester City in the upper reaches of the table. As for Sunderland, the Sam Allardyce approach is starting to work on Wearside with three wins from six games after earning three points in eight games under Dick Advocaat.
The loss of Santi Cazorla deals a massive blow as the Gunners’ injury list continues to grow. The creative midfielder is likely to be out until March with a knee injury and with his side without a win in their last three games, the loss of the Spaniard inhibits the strength of squad Arsene Wenger can field.
While Allardyce’s West Ham side started to play attractive, free flowing football, the manager has slipped back into his old ways where his side grinds out results on scrappy play and long balls, it appears to be doing the trick. The loss of Jermaine Defoe to a hamstring injury gives Steven Fletcher the chance to recapture the form shown on the international stage for Scotland as goals remain hard to come by in the league for the striker.
West Bromwich Albion vs Tottenham
West Brom welcome a Tottenham side in the resurgence and unbeaten in their last 13 games, their only loss coming to Manchester United in their opening fixture of the season. As for the Baggies, mid table is where they want to be as Tony Pulis looks for stability and Premier League survival in his first full season in charge.
While Spurs could only muster a point from their encounter with Chelsea, Pulis’ side shared the spoils with a Hammers side lacking the quality Payet provided. The return of Dele Alli, after serving his game ban for accumulating five yellow cards, will be welcomed after the loss of Ryan Mason to an ankle injury. With Harry Kane back among the goals, a Pulis side will be fully tested in their search to keep out last year’s golden boot winner.
A win for Tottenham keeps the pressure on the top four to keep winning, and with Arsenal’s recent struggles a win could see them leapfrog their North London rivals into a Champion’s League place for the time being. A win for West Brom could move the Baggies 11 points clear of the drop zone with Bournemouth and Newcastle facing tough tests at Chelsea and Liverpool respectively
Newcastle United vs Liverpool
The return of Daniel Sturridge in midweek is a step in the right direction for club and country providing the striker can stay away from the medical room. The ex-Chelsea and Manchester City player has struggled with injury over the past two seasons and impressed new manager Jurgen Klopp with the German claiming he now understands the hype around the player. However, it is likely the player will be bedded into the side gradually to avoid any more long periods on the injury list. Two consecutive wins for Liverpool have kept the away side in contention as teams above start to stutter while Newcastle are still struggling for results under Steve Mclaren.
The Magpies have conceded eight goals in their last two outings scoring only once, their opposition have scored five in two, four of those coming against current leaders Manchester City. While fellow strugglers Bournemouth show fight to climb out of relegation, Mclaren’s side look defeated and almost beaten in many parts of the field, especially in defence. There seems to be a lack of organisation in defence and Fabricio Coloccini isn’t commanding that back line like a captain and leader should. The Argentine requested to leave because of home sickness and since then has never returned to the Coloccini many remember in a Newcastle side competing in the Europa League one minute, struggling down the uglier end of the table the next. If the centre half recaptures his form, confidence will grow and he can go back to being the leader of a good Newcastle side rather than a constantly struggling Magpies side.
Everton vs Crystal Palace
With a compact middle table from sixth placed Liverpool down to tenth placed Southampton, Crystal Palace’s trip to Goodison Park could widen the field slightly depending on the result. Palace sit two places above their opponents and one point clear, anything but a loss will keep the Eagles above the Toffees in the table.
Both sides were involved in six goal games last time out, the away side running out 5-1 winners against Newcastle while Everton had to settle for a point in a 3-3 draw as a last minute Junior Stanislas goal denied the Blues all three points. Gerard Deulofeu was key from wide positions as the winger constantly troubled the Cherries’ back line but will need to be on top of his game to inflict similar damage on a stronger back line.
Chelsea vs AFC Bournemouth
Once again Jose Mourinho hogs the headlines with another negative story, his relationship with Diego Costa. After failing to bring the striker on in the 0-0 draw with Tottenham likely to be because of his decision making in Europe against Maccabi Tel Aviv, which Mourinho openly spoke about, their relationship seems to be on tenterhooks. While the Portuguese denies the allegations of this being the reason behind the striker not appearing at White Hart Lane, many will question why Costa did not appear with the game at 0-0.
Bournemouth’s Stanislas made the best possible impact with a brace against Everton but it’s the amount of goals they are conceding that is the worry for Eddie Howe’s side. Having conceded the most amount of goals in the Premier League this season already, joint with Newcastle on 30 goals, defensively the Cherries need to be tighter. In attack they aren’t short of goals and with their counter attacking style and ability to overload the box to great effect, a more resolute back line is needed to steer them away from relegation.
A win for Chelsea could move them equal on points with West Brom, dependent on their result, while a win for Bournemouth could move them out of the relegation zone providing Sunderland lose.
Of the weekend’s other fixtures:
Watford vs Norwich
Southampton vs Aston Villa
Manchester City travel to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City in the lunch time kick off on Saturday 5th December.
Main Image Credit: Paul Ellis/Getty
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