Football News: Premier League Match Preview Saturday 2nd December 2017

 

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Premier League Match Preview Saturday 2nd December 2017
Image from: ego-alterego.com

Saturday 2nd December 2017



Chelsea v Newcastle United 12:30pm kick off


Luiz (knee injury) out
Batshuayi (ankle injury) major doubt
Musonda (knee injury) out
Kenedy (muscle injury) major doubt

Six games without defeat, five of them wins, has seen Chelsea move up to 3rd but left them 3 points behind Man Utd and a massive 11 points behind Man City. Surprisingly their away record is actually better than their home one, with the Blues struggling to score at Stamford Bridge. All the pressure will be on Chelsea to make the running and go and win this game to keep pace at the top. Antonio Conte will have to be careful not to play into Rafa Benitez's hands by attacking too openly.
Most important player: Gary Cahill. With no John Terry any more, Cahill is having to be the leader of the squad. It is big shoes to fill.


Lascelles (ankle injury expected return 9th December) major doubt
Atsu (thigh muscle strain expected return 16th December) out
Dummett (hamstring injury expected return 16th December) out

Having just broken their run of defeats, I doubt Benitez would have wanted a game like this to follow it, especially as they have won just once all season away from home. This is a game Benitez will particularly want to win at a former team where he did not see eye to eye with the fans, unlike at Newcastle, where he is beloved by the fans. Goalscoring is growing as a problem, with just 13 goals so far this season in 14 games, and defensively they have not looked good since Lascelles picked up an injury, as well as missing his aerial ability on offensive setpieces.
Most important player: Florian Lejeune. Defensively the Toon have not looked as strong as they were with Jamaal Lascelles in there. It is time for Lejeune to step up and take charge at the back and show why Newcastle had to beat Arsenal to his signature.


Defining Battle: Conte will want a lot more out of his team, in terms of attacking intent, than they showed midweek against Swansea. For both teams the key is Chelsea's partnership up front, Morata will try and move the Newcastle defence around to create space for Hazard (or whoever plays there). Will Newcastle be capable of keeping that space to a minimum? Will their midfield drop in deep and concentrate on protecting the defence, if so how will they get out and give them a breather?


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 3-1
Ed003 - 2-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 2-0
Ed025 - 2-0
Ed033 - 2-0



Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool 3pm kick off


Bong (knee injury) doubt
Sidwell (back injury) out

Brighton have begun to slowly drop down the table after failing to win for 3 games in a row, though they are still holding down a top half place. At home they are able to avoid defeats, the only team to beat them being league leaders Man City, but they also struggle to win, with 4 draws in 7 games so far. They are extremely well organised defensively, but lack any real attacking threat, despite usually playing with 2 skilful widemen and often having 2 strikers.
Most important player: Jose Izquierdo. The Colombian winger adds pace and skill down the left and is having to perform well to keep Solly March out of the side.


Klavan (illness) slight doubt
Clyne (back injury expected return 10th February 2018) out
Bogdan (ACL injury) out

Despite the talk of Liverpool's defensive weakness, the Premier League has seen them unbeaten in 5 and concede just 2 goals in those games, one of which was a fluke goal against Chelsea. The fullbacks are sitting deeper, the play is less expansive, but having Salah, Firmino and Mane up front means the rest of the team are no longer vital to create an attacking threat to the opposition. Now it is time for them to show it is a real genuine turnaround and not just a bit of good fortune after a bad run.
Most important player: Mohamed Salah. Who else could it be but Salah? He is the man of the moment, scoring goals for club and country that are vital.


Defining Battle: the key in this match is set pieces. Liverpool have improved markedly on attacking set pieces but struggle to defend them, while Brighton have been good both ends of the pitch. They have a real chance of picking the Reds off if they can get some set pieces in the final third, as they will be unable to commit many bodies forward to avoid being countered on, the delivery has to be good.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 0-1
Ed003 - 1-3
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed018 - 1-2
Ed025 - 0-2
Ed033 - 1-2



Everton v Huddersfield Town 3pm kick off


Baines (calf muscle strain) major doubt
Keane (head injury) major doubt
McCarthy (hamstring injury expected return 7th December) out
Stekelenburg (groin strain expected return 18th December) out
Barkley (hamstring injury expected return 10th December) out
Funes Mori (ACL injury expected return 1st April 2018) out
Coleman (broken leg expected return 13th January 2018) out
Bolasie (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out

I am not sure if this could really be described as an exciting time for Everton fans, but at least there is a sense of relief after the 4-0 thrashing of the Hammers and the arrival of Sam Allardyce to stave off a potential relegation battle. The big issue is whether the players will buy into his methods quickly enough or not. It took a while at Palace, which is why they struggled so much in the beginning, until the players realised they may as well embrace it and get on with things. Will the Everton players do the same quickly?
Most important player: Jordan Pickford. The defence in front of him has been a mess this season, it is time he took charge and organised them properly, until Allardyce has the time to drill their responsibilities into them.


Billing (ankle injury expected return 13th January 2018) out
Hefele (achilles injury expected return 16th December) out
Stankovic (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out
Van La Parra (suspended) out

This is beginning to turn into a slippery slope that the Terriers are sliding down after 3 losses in a row. Defensively they are really getting taken to the cleaners with regularity now, in the last 8 games they have been beaten by 3 or more goals on 4 occasions. Add that to their struggles to score at the other end and it is little wonder that they are falling away.
Most important player: Jonas Lossl. When a keeper ships as many goals as he has this season, it is difficult to keep his confidence up. If that goes, Huddersfield are in real trouble.


Defining Battle: difficult to really pick a defining battle when Allardyce has not yet sent out an Everton side after having a bit of time to work with the players! There is not the flair and pace that he had at Palace, so he will be unable to just sit deep and spring out quick on the counter. This Everton side just do not have the players for the quick counter, so they have to try and control the ball. Huddersfield are likely to press them and try and force errors high up the pitch, as Everton's lack of pace at the back will make it difficult for them to play with a high line. Do Everton have the confidence and ability to break the press?


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 3-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 0-1



Leicester City v Burnley 3pm kick off


Iheanacho (illness) minor doubt
Huth (foot injury expected return 9th December) out
James (achilles injury expected return 9th December) out

The Foxes are beginning to look a lot more like the Leicester team that won the league just 2 seasons ago and they have crept up into the top half of the table following their victory over Spurs. The arrival of Claude Puel seems to have refreshed the side and they have lost just once in their last 8 games. They are just a good run away from challenging for a return to European football, something that looked totally out of the question under Craig Shakespeare.
Most important player: Kasper Schmeichel. A good game from him can make all the difference, especially with his ability to launch quick counters.


Defour (knee injury) major doubt
Lowton (knee injury) doubt
Marney (fitness) doubt
Walters (knee injury) out
Heaton (dislocated shoulder) out

Burnley are in 6th in the Premier League, yes 6th. Little old Burnley. Four wins in the last 5 games as Sean Dyche has performed what could well be a minor miracle to get them there. Oddly, despite the more expansive, attacking style he has turned to this season, they are still involved in very few goals at either end of the pitch. How much longer can they continue to rely on throwing bodies in the way of shots to keep them defensively sound? As we saw with their opponents Leicester, it only takes a slight dip in level for those shots to suddenly beginning going in. While they have not got where they are via a fluke, it is not really a sustainable position and they will need to continue to invest to keep there.
Most important player: Stephen Ward. The Irish full back has improved immensely in his time in the Prem with the Clarets. His delivery from the left is one of the best in the Premier League and a huge part of their success.


Defining Battle: both sides are very much about hard work, bodies on the line, all out challenges. The difference is that Leicester have more quality to their team, with more pace as well. The battle is between Vardy and Burnley backline, to ensure that he does not get in behind and they are not caught on the counter.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 1-0
Ed007 - 1-0
Ed018 - 1-1
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 0-1



Stoke City v Swansea City 3pm kick off


Choupo-Moting (ankle injury) late fitness test
Butland (broken finger expected return 12th December) out
Cameron (concussion) late fitness test
Ireland (broken leg) out

Once again Stoke are sliding down the table under Mark Hughes after 2 defeats in a row make it 4 games without a win and just 3 wins all season. It is little wonder that the stadium is no longer the ultimate test of a Premier League team as the fans have become disillusioned and the support is beginning to turn on the team. Even the pantomine villains of opposing sides are barely getting booed, when once it was a white hot atmosphere that intimidated the weaker souls. The Potters have now lost more games at home than they have won, another defeat today would put them in the heart of a relegation battle.
Most important player: Joe Allen. If only he had a football brain to match his heart he would be such a good player. He is a willing runner but those runs are more often than not of little use, however he keeps going and gives his all and that is what they need right now, over and above the lack of effort, heart and desire of the likes of Shaqiri.


Bartley (MCL injury expected return 18th December) out
Fernandez (compassionate leave following death of his father) out

Things are going from bad to worse for the Swans, it has now been 6 matches since they won and 5 of those 6 ended in defeats. They do not even look like a team capable of scoring with their stifling style of play, which lacks any kind of attacking thrust and is mind numbingly dull. They seem to spend more time drilling in how to time waste than how to pass, unless the pass is in the direction of the advertising hoardings. Swansea have managed just 7 goals all season and it is looking more and more like Paul Clement is completely out of his depth, in this situation, as Palace have now equalled their points total. If Clement is unable to figure out how to get their attack firing soon, they are going to be in real trouble. The worry is that he clearly wants to play this way, instead of the way they played last season when they climbed out of the relegation zone. That attacking football has completely vanished at the start of this season and left them as a chore to watch.
Most important player: Martin Olsson. There is so little attacking threat in the team that they really need the full backs to provide something, anything. Maybe they could try being between any white advertising hoardings and Sanches in the hope of intercepting his passes....


Defining Battle: the biggest battle will be between anyone watching and their eyelids if this plays out as previous Swans games have! You would have to expect a bit more from Swansea in this match, as a win would bring them to just a point behind Stoke. So, as I am expecting Swansea to at least attempt to get forward, the battle will be in the wide areas, between the fullbacks of Swansea and the wingbacks of Stoke. Push Stoke's wingbacks back and Hughes will be forced to make changes again.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-0
Ed003 - 3-0
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 1-0
Ed018 - 1-0
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 2-1



Watford v Tottenham Hotspur 3pm kick off


Hughes (hamstring injury) out
Britos (knock) doubt
Femenia (knock) doubt
Success (knee injury expected return 9th December) out
Chalobah (knee injury) out
Kaboul (hamstring injury) out
Cathcart (knee injury) out
Hoban (ACL injury) out

The Hornets have slipped a little of late, to no longer be the best of the rest as Burnley have taken over that mantle for now. This is a big chance to move up as they play the team just above them, a struggling Spurs. While Watford and, particularly, Marco Silva have been getting a lot of plaudits, their form has not been good of late, with just 2 wins in the last 6 games. Defensively they are shambolic under pressure, with a tendency to lose shape and ship goals when attacked with purpose. That is something that could cost them dearly against a Spurs side with Harry Kane leading the line.
Most important player: Sebastian Prodl. The big Austrian centre back has been poor since his return to the side, Watford could do with him improving his form as he is their leader at the back usually.


Winks (illness) slight doubt
Alderweireld (hamstring injury expected return 2nd January 2018) out
Wanyama (MCL injury expected return 31st December) out

Spursy Spurs have returned, with the North London side suddenly being vulnerable and struggling, failing to win in their last 3 games and only 1 win in 5, they have slipped out of the European places for now. Oddly Spurs have yet to draw a game on the road (in the Premier League anyway) this season. Despite the hysteria in the media about their 'Wembley hoodoo' they have managed the same number of points home and away. This is really Pochettino's first big test as the manager here as they have never struggled the way they are right now under him. Is he the manager to bring the 'Glory Glory' days back or is he destined never to win anything? So far his career has been lacking trophies, a big glaring miss that has to be rectified if the club are to hang on to their better players in the long term.
Most important player: Eric Dier. His performances, like those of Dele Alli, have been poor of late, with him being moved between different roles constantly. With no Alderweireld at the back, the defence is need of a lot more protection, which he is not providing of late. Sometimes because he is part of it, sometimes because he is being overrun in midfield without a strong partner alongside him.


Defining Battle: the midfield will be key, Spurs have not been at their best in there this season and can be got at, while Watford are very open and can also be overrun at times. Whichever of the two sides gets control of the centre of the pitch should go on to win. Should.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-2
Ed003 - 2-2
Ed004 - 2-3
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed018 - 1-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-2



West Bromwich Albion v Crystal Palace 3pm kick off


Phillips (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Gibbs (thigh injury) late fitness test
Chadli (hamstring injury expected return 26th December) out
Brunt (calf strain) out
Dawson (knee injury expected return 23rd December) out
Morrison (achilles injury expected return 26th December) out

Despite having the 'dream team' of Pulis and Megson in charge, the Baggies had slid down the table after a promising start and have not won in the Premier League since the second game of the season. They are a team in total freefall who have been struggling with niggling injuries ruling out players, something which is very unusual for a Tony Pulis side. In fact it is unusual enough for me to wish I had taken more notice of them and done some digging to find out why they were suddenly suffering with all the injuries. Was it perhaps just a sign the players were disillusioned with the Pulis-way enough to lack effort in training and so their fitness levels dipped? Is it just bad luck and one of those things with no real reason behind it? Or could it coincide with the arrival of Gary Megson and a change in training programs?
Most important player: Ahmed Hegazy. The Egyptian is excellent in the air, but he does lack a bit of pace and has the turning circle of the QE2 with a rudder problem. Put him up against quick, nimble forwards and he struggles badly, as was seen earlier in the season when Jamie Vardy tore him a new one over and over again. Palace have a couple of pacey, nippy forwards he might have to face, though he will be hoping they go with Benteke instead!


Dann (knock) late fitness test
Cabaye (knock) late fitness test
Schlupp (knock) late fitness test
Milivojevic (knock) late fitness test
Chung-Yong (muscle injury) out
Wickham (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out
Delaney (knock) out

While things have certainly picked up at home following the arrival of Roy Hodgson, on the road it is a little different for the Eagles, whose struggles to score have not abated. They have still not scored a single goal away from the 'comforts' of Selhurst Park and have only managed to pick up 1 point in their 7 away games, which came midweek at Brighton, Palace's bitter rivals. What Hodgson has managed to do is make Palace a relevant factor in the relegation battle, as they are within touching distance of the team's above them. If results go their way, they could be off the bottom of the table this weekend and that would be a major boost to their morale.
Most important player: Wilfried Zaha. Zaha is their one player with genuine flair and skill, but he does tend to be a little lacking in end product most of the time. When he is on his game though, he is the difference between a Palace side that slumps to the bottom of the league and one with a hope of surviving.


Defining Battle: if Palace can get Zaha in and around Hegazy, then he should easily have the beating of the Egyptian and the Londoners will get a lot of joy from using his pace. What they have to avoid doing is getting caught up in just pumping long balls to the static Benteke, as the Baggies defence are adept in dealing with players like him.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed018 - 0-0
Ed025 - 2-2
Ed033 - 2-1



Arsenal v Manchester United 5:30pm kick off


Lacazetter (groin strain) out
Cazorla (plantaris injury) out
Sanchez (hamstring injury) late fitness test

Arsenal have turned their season around since losing to Stoke and then Liverpool in consecutive games, despite the 'ball-less' loss to Watford. In the 11 games following the loss to Liverpool, Arsenal have lost just twice and been held to a draw once and have moved into the top 4. At home they are particularly strong with a 100% record, winning their 7 home matches with 20 goals scored and just 4 conceded. It is the kind of record Jose Mourinho would take great delight in ending. The big question though is whether or not this is the Gunners genuinely being back to something like their best or if this is another of their false dawns, when they suck the fans into believing they are contenders only to fall away a few weeks down the line?
Most important player: Mesut Ozil. The German has been in excellent form of late, but this is the kind of game that will be difficult for him to make an impression on. Mourinho will be sure to have a plan to block him out of the game.


Matic (muscle injury) late fitness test
Fellaini (knee injury) out
Bailly (groin strain expected return 10th December) major doubt
Jones (thigh injury expected return 10th December) out
Carrick (heart condition) out

Despite losing just 2 games all season, Man Utd have been slowly dropping away from their cross city rivals and it is beginning to get to the point where even Jose Mourinho will have to cease parking the bus against the other top sides or he will just be conceding the Premier League. This is not the time for pragmatism, even against a team with a perfect home record, like Arsenal. Now is the time to win and put pressure on City before they get too big a lead and it becomes impossible to catch them. The Red Devils have to keep themselves in a position to take advantage of any slips, 8 points is about the limit before it starts becoming a major fall that is needed to catch up. This is not the position Jose likes to be in, he wants to be the team out in front and to concentrate on just grinding out result after result to stay there.
Most important player: Romelu Lukaku. Time for him to end his bad run and start scoring again, whether he has a boot deal or not.


Defining Battle: this could be a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't for Jose Mourinho. Arsenal have been so good at home it would be perfectly understandable if Mourinho got his players to sit back and look to soak up the pressure. However anything less than a win is not good enough right now. Wenger will be concentrating on taking charge of the midfield and looking to his wingbacks to push back the United widemen. That is the key to this game, being brave in the wide areas. If one team can peg the other side's widemen back then they should go on to win as there will be no outball.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-2
Ed003 - 1-0
Ed004 - 2-2
Ed007 - 1-3
Ed018 - 2-1
Ed025 - 0-0
Ed033 - 1-2



Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed033 - 84 points
2. Ed018 - 83 points
3= Ed025 - 79 points
3= Ed002 - 79 points
5= Ed004 - 75 points
5= Ed003 - 75 points
7. Ed007 - 68 points


*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 1st December 2017

Written by Tris Burke



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