Football News: Premier League Previews Saturday 9th December 2017

 

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Premier League Previews Saturday 9th December 2017
Image from: wusa9.com

Saturday 9th December 2017



West Ham United v Chelsea 12:30pm kick off


Kouyate (hamstring injury) doubt
Antonio (cramp) slight doubt
Reid (hamstring injury) major doubt
Collins (hamstring injury) major doubt
Carroll (knee injury expected return 16th December) major doubt
Chicharito (hamstring injury) doubt
Byram (thigh strain) major doubt
Fonte (ankle injury expected return 20th January 2018) out
Noble (hip injury) slight doubt

Moyes' arrival has not really changed things, with the Hammers still conceding, still struggling to score and not winning. They have now gone 8 Premier League games without a win and are deep in relegation trouble, 3 points behind safety and just a point off the bottom. The good thing is the game is at home, as they have yet to win a single game away, while at home they have managed 2 wins in 6 matches. However, facing Chelsea right now is exactly what Moyes will not want, as Chelsea are moving up into top gear right now, while Moyes has a box full of neutrals that is grinding against the cogs as he tries desperately to get it into first. It is not so much of a case of parking the bus in front of the goal as getting the team to push it into place with the handbrake locked on, judging by the 32 goals they have conceded so far this season. You have to wonder if Moyes still has it in him to rescue a team from relegation trouble.
Most important player: Pedro Obiang. Facing N'Golo Kante is never an easy task, West Ham will be looking to Obiang to match his energy.


Luiz (knee injury) out

Chelsea are looking more like the Chelsea of last season now, the injuries have cleared up and the form has improved. They have not been beaten in 7 games now and 6 of those were wins. With no Diego Costa to implode and cause issues in the second half, Chelsea look stronger this season than last, but they are unfortunate to be chasing down a Man City side that are consistently winning game after game. All they can do is keep on pushing and hope the Mancunians falter.
Most important player: Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard has settled in well now and has 9 goals so far this season. This is a chance for him to rack up some more goals....


Defining Battle: while West Ham are at home, their relative positions and strength of team means the onus is on them to stop the Blues, rather than going out to play to their own strengths. With the slight shift in formation and tactics this season, Chelsea now play much more through the middle of the pitch at the top end, leaving the width almost entirely down to the wing backs. The key for the Hammers will be to keep narrow and close the space in the centre of the pitch, not allowing their central players to be drawn out wide too often.


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



Burnley v Watford 3pm kick off


Brady (knee injury) out
Mee (knee injury) late fitness test
Lowton (knee injury) late fitness test
Marney (fitness) doubt
Walters (knee injury) out
Heaton (dislocated shoulder) out

If you would have told people before the season started that Burnley would be level on points with Spurs after 15 matches have gone, they would have probably laughed at you. However the Clarets are 7th and level on points with Tottenham, despite losing last time out. Despite that, they are not the best team to follow if you want to see goals, though they are playing some good football at times, they have scored just 5 goals in 7 games at home. Defensively they are solid, particularly at home, where they have only let in 3 goals, less than a goal every other game! We will only truly know when the season finishes if they are in a false position, but they are very reliant on bodies in front of shots to keep their defensive record so good and that can only last so long. They need to find a way to add more goals to their game to make up for the times when their bodies in the way just divert shots into the net.
Most important player: Scott Arfield. The Canadian (Scot?) is likely to be the replacement for the injury Robbie Brady. His high work rate and movement will have to make up for the loss of Brady's delivery from wide areas and set pieces.


Hughes (hamstring injury expected return 30th December) out
Britos (knock) late fitness test
Okaka (calf strain) out
Success (knee injury expected return 23rd December) out
Chalobah (knee injury expected return 3rd February 2018) out
Kaboul (hamstring injury expected return 20th January 2018) out
Cathcart (knee injury) out
Hoban (ACL injury) out

This is a chance for Marco Silva to try and live up to his reputation and break a run of poor form which has seen them pick up just 2 wins in 7, with 4 of them defeats. Watford are currently sat in 8th and Silva was the man Everton wanted to recruit to replace Ronald Koeman, it is now up to him to prove the Hornets were right to keep hold of him. A win puts them level with Burnley on points and puts them in touching distance of a European place. Anything less will give Sam Allardyce more reasons to dismiss his record.
Most important player: Roberto Pereyra. The Argentine attacking midfielder offers a whole new dimension to the Watford attack and is a real creative force.


Defining Battle: hustle and bustle versus flair and skill, in the main at least. With Watford favouring a back 3, Burnley will probably look to play two up front to keep them occupied and stop them being able to push any into midfield. Otherwise the Clarets will struggle to get out as Watford will look to dominate the possession.


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



Crystal Palace v Bournemouth 3pm kick off


McArthur (illness) slight doubt
Hennessey (back spasm) doubt
Ward (groin strain) late fitness test
Dann (illness) slight doubt
Cabaye (knee injury) slight doubt
Tomkins (knock) late fitness test
Chung-Yong (muscle injury) out
Wickham (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out
Delaney (knock) out

This is more like what we expected to see from Roy Hodgson, two nil-nil draws in a row to move Palace into 18th and put them within reach of escaping the bottom 3 with a win this weekend. The Eagles are unbeaten in 4 Premier League games and have scored 2 goals in each of their last 4 home matches. Palace are beginning to look like a team that will be safe and sound in the Prem at the end of the season.
Most important player: Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The youngster, on loan from Chelsea, has been excellent going forward but really needs to work on his defensive contribution. When a team is in a relegation battle it can ill afford passengers.


B Smith (hip injury) out
Mings (back injury) out
Federici (knee injury) out
A Smith (suspended) out

Despite not winning in 3 Premier League games Bournemouth have stayed out of the drop zone and sit in an, almost, comfortable mid-table position right now. Though they are only there because there have been so many worse players in the league this season, which must be a worry for Cherries' fans, as new managers are in place at most of those below them, which should see them improve and push on. Away from home they have really struggled to score, with just 4 goals in 7 games so far. What happened to the free scoring Eddie Howe side which first arrived in the league?
Most important player: Simon Francis. The captain has struggled badly when needed at right back, which it looks likely he will have to play once more this weekend. Can he avoid another poor display out there?


Defining Battle: with Adam Smith missing through suspension, Bournemouth will have a real vulnerability to exploit at right back. Palace's pacey wide attackers could have a field day running at Francis and that will be the key to the game. If he continues to be as hopeless as he has been all season when played at right back, then it could be a torrid day for the Cherries' defence.


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



Huddersfield Town v Brighton & Hove Albion 3pm kick off


Cranie (ankle injury) late fitness test
Billing (ankle injury expected return 13th January 2018) out
Hefele (achilles injury expected return 16th December) out
Stankovic (ACL injury expected return 23rd December) out
Van La Parra (suspended) out

The Huddersfield slide continues as the Terriers have now lost 4 in a row and slipped to 16th in the Premier League table. The big worry, even more than the goals conceded, is that scoring goals has become a real problem for them, with just 2 goals in their last 6 games. They really have the look and feel of a team destined for relegation now, though their home form is not so bad, with 3 wins in the 7 home games played so far. An answer must be found to their goal scoring woes quickly, before it is too late for them to save themselves from the drop.
Most important player: Laurent Depoitre. The Belgian striker has been excellent at times for Huddersfield, but he lacks the goals they need from a forward. It is time for him to change that.


Sidwell (back injury) out

Like their opponents today the Seagulls have not won in four matches, but they are coming in on the back of a thrashing at the hands of Liverpool last weekend, which they need to get out of their system quickly if this run is not to become a slide similar to Huddersfield's. Also like their opposition, Brighton struggle to score goals, but they are a lot more solid defensively, as they put most of their energy into protecting their goal.
Most important player: Dale Stephens. His role protecting the defence has been vital and a big part of their success.


Defining Battle: this is a big chance for both sides to actually go out and try and win, rather than avoid defeat. The wide areas will be the key, Brighton have a lot of ability and pace on the flanks that Huddersfield need to stop. If they can shut those wingers out of the game then that will take them a long way towards victory.


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



Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion 3pm kick off


Bartley (MCL injury expected return 18th December) out
Fernandez (match fitness) major doubt

Swansea's problems are growing by the week, they have lost 6 of the last 7 Premier League matches and dropped to the bottom of the table. They have a genuine problem of being unable to even take any shots, let alone score goals. Their style of play is sluggish and lack any kind of attacking thrust. For all Paul Clement's talk of how the players perform in training but not in the matches, it must be said that his time at Derby County was exactly the same, with one dire, slow, lumbering, toothless performance after another. It has to be wondered if the Swans' board are doing the right thing by backing him, even if he is clearly an extremely good coach. The skills needed by an assistant manager/coach are not the same needed by a manager/head coach. In time I am sure Clement is fully capable of learning and developing those skills needed, but that is why managers need to work their way up from the lower leagues, to make their mistakes before they get the big jobs.
Most important player: Wilfried Bony. The big striker has finally got off the mark following his return, he now needs to build on that over the next few weeks.


Barry (thigh strain expected return 17th December) major doubt
Phillips (hamstring injury) slight doubt
Chadli (hamstring injury expected return 26th December) out
Brunt (calf strain) slight doubt
Dawson (knee injury expected return 23rd December) out
Morrison (achilles injury expected return 26th December) out

New manager Alan Pardew will have a big job on his hands after the Baggies have gone 13 games without a win and slid down the table gradually. Now just above the drop zone, the club will be hoping Pardew has his usual short term galvanising effect on the team. If not, West Brom are in serious trouble as the man they would ususally turn to in this situation is Tony Pulis....
Most important player: Jonny Evans. His leadership could make or break the rest of the season.


Defining Battle: this should be a very difficult match for the Swans, as West Brom will still have the organisation at the back that Pulis drilled into them but now they will have a bit more freedom to attack from Pardew. The best chance they have is to get Hegazy turning, playing the ball in behind him for a forward running at him. Hegazy is very slow on the turn and struggles against anyone running in behind or running at him with pace.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 0-1
Ed003 - 0-2 (A sacking)
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 2-2
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 0-1



Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City 3pm kick off


Rose (eye laceration) slight doubt
Alderweireld (hamstring injury expected return 2nd January 2018) out
Wanyama (MCL injury expected return 31st December) out
Sanchez (suspended) out

Four games without a win is a run of form no one expected to see Spurs in this season. It has been enough of a run to see questions raised in the media about the decision by Mauricio Pochettino to release a book right now about his managerial career, despite not having won anything. With Tottenham sat in 6th, way off the title chase, it is difficult to see the book as anything but a negative, at the moment, though it is clear that the loss of Alderweireld to injury is the key factor in the team's recent struggles.
Most important player: Jan Vertonghen. Time for the Belgian centre back to step up and show some leadership to drag Spurs back into contention.


Martins Indi (groin strain expected return 31st January 2018) out
Cameron (concussion) slight doubt
Ireland (broken leg) out
Jese (personal reasons) out

Stoke's away record is awful this season, with just one win so far on the road, but they have still managed to reach a fairly safe mid-table position so far. It is so close in the bottom half that a loss could see them fall dramatically while a win lift them right up. Mark Hughes will want to take advantage of Spurs' current poor form to pick up an unlikely result and move his team into the top half, where they expected to be before the season kicked off.
Most important player: Erik Pieters. The return to a back four has suited him in particular, he is not that comfortable with the attacking side of the game.


Defining Battle: the Potters have a real weakness in wide areas which Spurs should look to exploit, though they have to rely on their full/wing backs to do so, as they also lack any real quality widemen in the forward areas.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 3-1
Ed003 - 4-0
Ed004 - 1-0
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 2-0
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 2-0



Newcastle United v Leicester City 5:30pm kick off


Lascelles (ankle injury) slight doubt
Atsu (thigh strain) slight doubt
Dummett (fitness) doubt

The Toon are dangerously close to the relegation places and on a run of 6 games without a win, 5 of them defeats, as their lack of quality additions in the summer begins to tell. At home they do have a decent record this season with 3 wins in 7 and only conceding 8 goals, but that lack of quality has also seen them score just 7 goals in those matches. With the disruption of a potential takeover lurking in the background, there is little that can be done to turn this around in terms of transfer activity in the January window. It is up to Rafa Benitez to manage as best he can and hope it is enough, unless the slump persuades current owner to loosen the purse strings. Perhaps Mike Ashley could use some of the millions he saved by underpaying Sports Direct workers over the years to help fund the club?
Most important player: Matt Ritchie. The Scot is one of the few players Newcastle have capable of scoring from range, though he has yet to show that this season.


Huth (foot injury expected return 23rd December) out
James (achilles injury expected return 23rd December) out

Things are certainly looking rosier under Claude Puel, as the Foxes have moved into the top half on the back of 2 wins in a row and have lost just once in their last 9 games. While they are still nowhere near the level of their shock title win, they have improved markedly over last season's performances. They look fully capable of challenging for a European place at the end of the season. The worry is that it is just the so-called 'new manager bounce' that they are enjoying right now, rather than a return to something like their best form.
Most important player: Jamie Vardy. The England striker has returned to some form this season, though still a long way off his best. His pace and finishing are still Leicester's main threat.


Defining Battle: Newcastle's big weakness is at full back, neither Javier Manquillo nor DeAndre Yedlin are the best defensively, which led Benitez to go with a back 3 last time out, to try and cover for that weakness. Whether a back 3 or a back 4 is used this time out, it is those areas outside of the centre backs that can be exploited by Leicester, with the genuine pace and skill they have available in those parts of the pitch.


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



Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed033 - 93 points
1= Ed018 - 93 points
3. Ed002 - 89 points
4. Ed025 - 88 points
5. Ed004 - 85 points
6. Ed003 - 83 points
7. Ed007 - 79 points


*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 7th December 2017

Written by Tris Burke



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