By Ryan Moran
- Jamie Vardy is equal with Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s goal scoring record of a goal in each of his last 10 games.
- Chelsea return to White Hart Lane for the first time since their 5-3 defeat on New Year’s Day.
- Manchester clubs return to League action on the back of a winless midweek for either side.
Manchester, UK- On a weekend that would have seen one top five clash, it wasn’t the fixture many were expecting as 15th placed Chelsea play 5th placed Tottenham. Leader’s Leicester play second placed Manchester United.
Leicester City vs Manchester United
All eyes will be on Jamie Vardy as commentators and journalists anticipate the breaking of Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s goal scoring record. The 12 year old record is on the brink of being broken by a striker whose rise from non-league to the Premier League has been a fairy tale story in itself. Of 28 goals scored, Vardy has found the back of the net 13 times, working out as a goal in every game so far this season. The talismanic Riyad Mahrez has contributed seven goals and six assists to the Foxes cause this season as they have netted 28 goals, conceding 20.
As for their opponents, Manchester United boast the best defensive record in the league with only nine goals beating Sergio Romero and David De Gea, after his transfer to Real Madrid fell through. The Red Devils needed an own goal from Troy Deeney to claim a win at Vicarage Road while Memphis Depay silenced critics with a goal on his return to the starting line-up. Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial look likely to return to the first team picture after recovering from injury and illness to feature in midweek.
The winner of this fixture will go top of the league with Leicester opening up a four point deficit with a win while a win for Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City will leave only two points between the top four. A draw would allow City and the Gunners to leapfrog both United and Leicester, dropping both back to their previous third and fourth position in the table.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea
1st January 2015, New Year’s Day and also the day Chelsea were dealt a minor blow on their way to being eventual Premier League champions. A 5-3 loss at White Hart Lane wasn’t enough to deny Jose Mourinho his first title since returning to the Blues in 2013. The West London outfit make the trip to North London once again on the back of two victories, a 1-0 win over Norwich City in the league and a 4-0 success against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champion’s League. Two wins out of their last five games and seven losses from their first 13 games state the importance of back to back victories. A win against Tottenham will only strengthen the away side’s rise back towards the top of the table, condemning the home side to only a second defeat this season.
Dele Alli will miss the fixture through suspension after picking up five yellow cards this season already while John Terry remains a doubt. Similar to Chelsea’s demise, Harry Kane took a while to get off the mark this season but has started to score more regularly in recent games with the winner in midweek against Qarabag in the Europa League. A fallout between Mourinho and striker Diego Costa was prominent in midweek as the striker was unhappy with his manager’s claim that the Spaniard wasn’t making the right runs into the final third.
A win for Tottenham would see them leap frog Manchester United providing they lose to leaders Leicester City, while a win for Chelsea gives the chasing pack a chance to close the gap on the guaranteed Europa League place and also allowing the champions to move up as high as three places, more likely to be from 15th to 13th providing other results go their way.
Manchester City vs Southampton
An injury hit Manchester City welcome Southampton to the Etihad Stadium on the back of two consecutive losses, the first to Liverpool in the league and then to Juventus in the Champion’s League. The home side are without goalkeeper Joe Hart but David Silva returns after injury. The Saints will be without Graziano Pelle through suspension.
Without leader Vincent Kompany at the heart of their defence, City look vulnerable as seen when they were exposed by Liverpool last weekend in the 4-1 defeat. The return of Silva will be a welcome return but with Manuel Pellegrini’s side now looking up at leaders Leicester and the chasing pack closing the gap, they can’t avoid to drop points.
Last time out Southampton fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Stoke City and will want to avoid back to back defeats for the first time this season. The loss of Pelle opens up a starting place for the likes of Shane Long waiting in the wings to take advantage of the Italian’s suspension.
Eighth placed Southampton are currently four points away from fifth placed Tottenham, a win is needed to keep up the pace with the likes of West Ham United, Everton and Liverpool also climbing up the table. City slipped to third after defeat at the hands of Liverpool, another loss could see them slip to fifth place.
Norwich City vs Arsenal
A surprise defeat to West Brom concluded in a missed opportunity to be top of the league, now occupied by Leicester. Santi Cazorla’s missed penalty proved costly at 2-1 and now put pressure on the Gunners to hold off chasing sides such as Tottenham two points behind. The return of Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain give Arsene Wenger more strength in depth. Olivier Giroud seems likely to start after scoring once more against West Brom in their defeat. A 3-0 win in the Champion’s League showed fight at a time when the Gunners were on the brink of being knocked out.
Norwich suffered a tight defeat to Chelsea although more chances fell the opposition’s way. The relegation zone looms after every defeat with the Canaries’ goal difference superior enough to hold off the teams below them. The home side currently have two points fewer than they did as this stage of the competition two years ago when they were relegated at the end of that season.
Being one of the last games of the weekend, the pressure will either be on both sides to claim all three points, for Norwich to stay clear of the relegation and for Arsenal to keep up with the likes of Leicester and Manchester City.
Liverpool vs Swansea City
After recovering from their 2-1 defeat by Crystal Palace Liverpool managed to sink Manchester City to a rare defeat by a relatively large margin. The Red’s then followed this up with a 2-1 win over Bordeaux in the Europa League. As for Swansea, times have been tough with only four points from a possible 15 with their draw against Bournemouth coming from two goals behind, free transfer http://gty.im/495628830 once again proving to be the best value for money.
Star man Philippe Coutinho seems likely to miss out with a hamstring injury and ex-Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey missing out because of picking up five yellow cards already this term. As pressure mounts on Garry Monk, momentum is once again gathering for Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp.
Swansea currently occupy 14th position on goal difference over Chelsea, needing to better or equal Chelsea’s result to stay ahead of the Blues while a win for Liverpool keeps the pace on the teams above them with Tottenham facing Chelsea and United playing Leicester, at least two teams have to drop points.
West Ham United vs West Bromwich Albion
As expected, the Hammers are starting their gradual decline after the soaring start that took them near to the peak of the top flight. The home side are without a win in their last three, drawing one and losing two, while their opponents recorded a shock victory over Arsenal. Three wins and two losses in their last five show the rollercoaster ride Baggies’ fans experience in a season that currently sees their side propping up the middle of the table, keeping tabs on the teams above but being chased by the teams below.
A win for West Ham holds off the likes of Everton, Southampton and Liverpool who are hot on their heels while West Brom will close the gap on West Ham to one point with a win. With Chelsea starting to gain confidence, a loss for Tony Pulis’ side could leave them equal on points with Mourinho’s side if they win.
Of the weekend’s other fixtures:
AFC Bournemouth vs Everton
Crystal Palace vs Newcastle United
Aston Villa vs Watford
Sunderland vs Stoke City
First placed Leicester welcome second placed Manchester United to the King Power Stadium on Saturday 28th November.
Main Image Credit: Ian Horrocks/Getty
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