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Football News: Premier League Match Previews Saturday 25th November 2017

Premier League Match Previews Saturday 25th November 2017
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Saturday 25th November 2017


Crystal Palace v Stoke City 3pm kick off


Mutch (knock) slight doubt
van Aanholt (hamstring injury) slight doubt
Chung-Yong (muscle injury) out
Wickham (ACL injury expected return 1st January 2018) out

Palace are much better at home than away, but that is not saying much considering they have lost every game on the road without scoring a goal. At home they are unbeaten in 3, though only one has been a win, which needs to change if they are to have any hope of survival. After getting within touching distance of the teams above them, a gap has begun to grow once more. At least they can take some heart from the fact that they have scored 2 goals in every home match since Roy Hodgson took charge, all they need to do is tighten up defensively at home to turn those draws into wins.
Most important player: Mamadhou Sakho. The big French defender has been all over the place over the last few weeks, after playing so well last season for Palace. His performances have been more of the headless chicken variety in the last few games. That is not helping Palace's survival hopes.


Butland (broken finger expected return 12th December) out
Cameron (concussion expected return 2nd December) out
Ireland (broken leg) out

While they are beginning to pull away slightly from the relegation zone, they are still far from safe. Just one win away from home this season is simply not good enough for a team that expects to be challenging for European football. It does seem that Mark Hughes has steadied the ship now and is moving things in the right direction, but this seems to be the way it works under him. The inconsistency is frustrating as, each time the team seems to be about to fold, they go on a good run and as soon as they settle into a good run they lose.
Most important player: Erik Pieters. The Netherlands left back is usually being utilised as a left wing back at the moment, but he lacks the quality needed in attack to play the role really well. That provides a weakness for opponents to attack.


Defining Battle: I expect the Potters to stick with their back 3 system, which means the key is the wingbacks. Palace need to force them onto the back foot to turn Stoke into a back 5. In particular Mame Biram Diouf is weak defensively, usually getting caught out of position, so he is likely to be targeted by Hodgson.


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


Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion 3pm kick off


Bailly (knock) major doubt
Jones (thigh injury expected return 2nd December) out
Carrick (calf strain) major doubt

With a perfect record to maintain at Old Trafford, on paper it looks like Brighton have little chance of a result, however there have been a few signs of wobbles lately from the Red Devils. The shock defeat in the Champions League is likely to have killed any chance of complacency at United, if there was any. With an 8 point gap to Man City that they need to close down, United can ill afford any more slip ups in the league.
Most important player: Nemanja Matic. His quality in the middle of the park has provided so much time and space for Pogba to do his work in.


Sidwell (back injury) out

Are Brighton the real deal or will the Seagulls slide down the table eventually? Currently they are 9th, on a run of 5 games without defeat and looking competitive, however it is still early days and they have yet to have any real injury problems to face, nor the exhausting Xmas period to take it out of their legs. Games like this one against Man Utd are not really all that relevant to Brighton's hopes of survival, any points picked up are just a bonus. For them what matters is beating those in the lower half of the table.
Most important player: Dale Stephens. His role of getting in amongst the opposition and breaking up play will be vital against a side with the quality of the Red Devils.


Defining Battle: the central midfield area is the key. Brighton's strength is out wide, there they can give anyone genuine problems with pace and skill and United lack the genuine widemen to truly bother them there. Plus Jose Mourinho tends to concentrate on nullifying an opponent's strength and then exploiting their weakness, so it is likely he will seek to merely stifle the game out wide and look to Pogba to control the game in the centre and create chances. Brighton's task is to keep the Frenchman pushed back deep and not allow him to get time and space on the ball in the final third.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 5-0
Ed003 - 3-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 4-0
Ed018 - 3-1
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 2-0


Newcastle United v Watford 3pm kick off


Lascelles (ankle injury expected return 2nd December) major doubt
Atsu (thigh muscle strain expected return 2nd December) out
Merino (back injury expected return 2nd December) major doubt
Dummett (hamstring injury expected return 2nd December) doubt
Isaac Hayden (suspended) out

The Toon seem to be at a tipping point right now, not just because of the run of 3 defeats in a row, but also with the club in the midst of takeover negotiations. The off pitch sale could be just the tonic the club needs to lift it, if it does fall into a bit of a slump in the longer term. As things stand, only really Bournemouth at home will have been an unexpected result for Newcastle, as their away record is not good and both Burnley and Man Utd are flying high. At home they have a good record, winning half their games and should still have plenty of confidence ahead of this clash.
Most important player: DeAndre Yedlin. His pace and willingness to work up and down the right flank have been vital for Newcastle this season.


Femenia (knock) major doubt
Kenedy (muscular injury expected return 29th November) major 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
Deeney (suspended) out

After a run of 3 defeats in a row, just like the one Newcastle are currently in the middle of, Watford got back to winning ways last weekend to put themselves in the exact same position they were last season. Somehow this time around Marco Silva is winning a huge amount of plaudits for achieving exactly the sum total of nothing more than his predecessor. Silva needs to stop worrying about whether he can get a job elsewhere every couple of months and prove himself as a manager through a whole season.
Most important player: Richarlison. He scores goals, creates goals for others and is a major threat to the opposition.


Defining Battle: the absence of Hayden leaves a gaping hole in the centre of midfield for Newcastle, one that the Hornets will want to exploit. They do have potential replacements, but none are anything like as useful on the ball as Hayden, though Diame can match his mobility at least. That does create an opportunity for Watford to push onto Shelvey and keep him tightly controlled. It is up to Newcastle to find a way round this.


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


Swansea City v Bournemouth 3pm kick off


Abraham (back spasm) late fitness test
Bartley (MCL injury expected return 12th December) out

The Swans have been, quite frankly, dire all season. They do tend to keep possession, but they offer little attacking intent and move the ball far too slowly allowing opponents all the time in the world to prepare for their attacks. It is little wonder they have scored just 7 goals this season and have lost their last 4 games in a row. Watching Swansea is very reminiscent of watching Derby County when they were managed by Paul Clement, boring. There may be an excuse, in that they lack quality in the attack having lost Fernando Llorente to Spurs in the summer, but that is not the main issue at all. It is a simple case of tactics that stifle what little creativity and skill the team possesses.
Most important player: Renato Sanches. Someone needs to provide some creativity and flair, it seems that Sanches is seen as the likeliest option by the manager.


Ibe (knee injury) doubt
Defoe (calf strain expected return 29th December) doubt
Stanislas (groin strain expected return 3rd December) major doubt
B. Smith (hip injury) out
Mings (back injury) out
Federici (knee injury expected return 16th December) out
Francis (suspended) out

Three wins in their last four games has lifted the Cherries out of the relegation places, but not yet to safety. Eddie Howe will be looking to this game to continue the good run with Callum Wilson back among the goals. His big worry will be that Joshua King has been unable to replicate his excellent form from last season.
Most important player: Steve Cook. With captain Simon Francis suspended, Cook will have to provide the defensive leadership.


Defining Battle: with both teams likely to use a variation of the same formation, the key is the Swansea left, which is likely to consist of Ayew and Olsson. Ayew offers little defensive cover and Olsson is weak defensively, that is a weakness Bournemouth should have the ability to exploit if they want to win. With Ayew always looking to cut inside, there should be plentiful space down that flank for them to use.


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


Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion 3pm kick off


Alderweireld (hamstring injury expected return 2nd January 2018) out
Wanyama (knee injury expected return 31st December) out

Are Spurs still too Spursy to truly compete for the league, or are there other reasons more to blame for the recent pair of defeats against their rivals for the top 4? It does feel like Tottenham still have the same old problem of falling just as they get in a strong position to make a genuine challenge. Could Pochettino's lack of experience in winning trophies be holding them back? Spurs have had a tendency, as far back as I can remember, to be too inconsistent to win the league. While Mauricio Pochettino has brought them a long way towards curing that problem, without Alderweireld at the back or Harry Kane up front, Spurs seem eminently beatable. Despite the gradual strengthening of the squad, there still seems to be a lack of genuine strength in depth, evidenced by the fact Moussa Sissoko has made so many starts this season, despite his lack of quality.
Most important player: Dele Alli. The England forward has been badly out of sorts this season, his link up with Kane has been much missed.


Chadli (hamstring injury expected return 26th December) out
Dawson (knee injury expected return 23rd December) out
Morrison (achilles injury expected return 26th December) out

The Baggies are on a horrible run of ten games without a win, 4 defeats on the bounce, which is why Tony Pulis has been fired. However it remains to be seen whether the choice of Gary Megson taking over will turn out to have a positive effect or not. The team is in a complete mess, with little forward thinking amongst the midfield, which is almost completely composed of defensive minded players with no creativity. Which goes a long way to explaining why they have managed to score just 3 goals in 6 away matches this season.
Most important player: Jonny Evans. As club captain it is up to him to lift the players around them and get them performing to their best.


Defining Battle: it is difficult to know how Megson will set out the West Brom side for this game, though it is difficult to see him doing any
thing exciting or revolutionary at all. What is clear is that the Baggies are weak on the left side, which means Spurs will have a weakness to expose there. Will Megson go with a back four and widemen that can help protect the fullbacks or go with the trend of a back 3 and wingbacks allowing Spurs to expose the defensive frailty down that side?


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


Liverpool v Chelsea 5:30pm kick off


Can (muscular injury) late fitness test
Matip (thigh strain) late fitness test
Lallana (thigh strain) late fitness test
Clyne (back injury expected return 10th February 2018) out
Bogdan (ACL injury) out

At home in the league Liverpool are a totally different proposition than they are away. At home they are unbeaten and have conceded just 1 goal in 6 matches, away they have conceded 16 and lost twice. With a 3 match winning run in the Premier League behind them, have Liverpool turned the corner and put the difficult results behind them? If they have not got themselves back on track this will be a difficult evening for the red half of Merseyside.
Most important player: Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian is at the centre of everything Liverpool do, both attacking and defending.


Batshuayi (ankle injury) out
Musonda (knee injury) out
Kenedy (muscle injury) major doubt
Moses (hamstring injury) slight doubt

Chelsea certainly do seem to have turned the corner after a difficult start and are on a run of 4 wins in a row. Away from home they have been particularly strong with 5 wins out of 6 games, just the shock defeat at Palace is a blot on the copybook. With injury problems clearing up and the team beginning to knit back into the unit they had last season, Chelsea will want the win to maintain pressure on City at the top and keep their hopes of retaining the title alive.
Most important player: N'Golo Kante. The Frenchman's energy is key to protecting the back 3 against the marauding forward runs of the Liverpool attack.


Defining Battle: what can the Liverpool defence do to cope with the pace of the Chelsea attack, will the midfield be able to add any protection, or will they be overrun? This is one game that Liverpool's midfield needs to be more disciplined than usual, to sit in front of the defence and provide protection, as they can not rely on being able to just outscore a side as strong as Chelsea.


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


Editor's Predictions Table
1= Ed018 - 73 points
1= Ed033 - 73 points
3. Ed003 - 67 points
4. Ed004 - 65 points
5. Ed025 - 64 points
6. Ed002 - 62 points
7. Ed007 - 57 points


*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 23rd November 2017

Written by Tris Burke November 25 2017 04:36:44