Premier League weekend preview

 

The next couple of days also provide a welcome return to top-flight action following the international break. Here, we take you through all the weekend's matches...

NORWICH v ARSENAL, Saturday 12:45pm

The Premier League makes its return at Carrow Road after the international break and Norwich will be hoping to produce the sort of performance that saw them draw at Anfield and make life difficult at times for Man Utd. They have never been afraid to attack teams this season and perhaps against Arsenal’s often suspect defence they could cause the visitors a few problems. Arsenal fans will hope their team can pick up where they left off and that captain Robin van Persie’s scintillating form continues.

Recent results: Arsenal 2-1 Norwich (02/04/2005, PL), Norwich 1-4 Arsenal (28/08/2004, PL)

One to watch:  Robin van Persie remains the key man for the Gunners and at the moment the outcome of their season looks like depending on whether he can remain injury free. One goal from the Dutchman would see him become only the fifth player in Premier League history to score 30 in a calendar year.

Did you know?: Paul Lambert's side have scored six headed goals this season - only Manchester United (seven) have scored more.

Fantasy pick: Anthony Pilkington, 50 (Norwich), Robin Van Persie, 84 (Arsenal)*

Tweet of the week: 'If Blatter Ever Come to Arsenal am Gna Frimpong Him'@Frimpong26AFC, Emmanuel Frimpong

 

EVERTON v WOLVES, Saturday 3pm

Everton find themselves one place above the relegation zone although a win against Wolves could take them as high as ninth. However the home side will want to avoid three defeats in a row particularly against a side that have struggled so far this season. Mick McCarthy’s men do come into the game after a crucial win over fellow relegation candidates Wigan and seem to be a different team since they grabbed a last minute draw against Swansea. However David Moyes will expect his team to beat the visitors and climb back up the table.  

Recent results: Wolves 0-3 Everton (09/04/2011, PL), Everton   1-1 Wolves (21/08/2010, PL)

One to watch: Jack Rodwell impressed as he made his full England debut last week and Everton fans and players will hope he can continue with the sort of form that saw him earn an international call up. Marouane Fellaini who this week signed a new five-year deal talked about building on his midfield partnership with Rodwell, so the youngster’s importance to the club is clear.

Did you know?: Everton have lost six of their last seven games in all competitions.

Fantasy pick: Tim Howard, 37 (Everton), Jamie O’Hara, 41 (Wolves)*

Tweet of the week: 'Congratulations to Felliani, great boost for players, fans and football club. #onwardsandupwards #Proudtobeblue ', @Tim_Cahill Tim Cahill

 

MAN CITY v NEWCASTLE, Saturday 3pm

The only two unbeaten teams in the league come face to face in Manchester this weekend in what looks set to be an interesting clash. Alan Pardew’s Newcastle revolution certainly faces by far its sternest test against the league’s leaders. The game also sees statistically the best defence in the league attempt to keep out the home side’s attack which has scored 39 goals already this season. It remains to be seen whether the ongoing Carlos Tevez saga has had an effect on the Man City squad but despite Newcastle’s heroics so far this season the home side must surely start as favourites.   

Recent results: Newcastle 1-3 Man City (26/12/2011, PL), Man City 2-1 Newcastle (03/10/2010, PL)

One to watch: Hatem Ben Arfa returns to the ground where he suffered a horrific double leg fracture last October which kept him out of the game for 11 months. The young Frenchman will be keen to put that game behind him and try and help his side keep their unbeaten run going. If he can star in what would be an unlikely victory for his team then he will leave with much happier memories of the Etihad Stadium.

Did you know?: Newcastle are now unbeaten in their last 14 Premier League matches - equalling their all-time top-flight record set in 1950.

Fantasy pick: David Silva, 74 (Man City), Demba Ba, 65 (Newcastle)*

Tweet of the week: ' Finished training and en route to Manchester, big test tomorrow...we make history if we stay unbeaten #nufc ', @Sammy_Ameobi, Samuel Ameobi

 

STOKE v QPR, Saturday 3pm

Both clubs come into this game on the same points and they have been equally inconsistent so far this season. Stoke have beaten Liverpool and drawn with Man Utd but they were humiliated by Bolton in their last outing while QPR have won against Chelsea and Everton but have been demolished in couple of their games. QPR have at times seemed to lack a cutting edge up front although they will hope that Jay Bothroyd who has two goals in his last two games can keep his form going. Stoke are traditionally better at home and Anton Ferdinand will have to deal with a different type of attack as QPR’s defence will have to face the inevitable barrage from Rory Delap’s long throw.

Recent results: QPR 3-0 Stoke (02/03/2008, CHP), Stoke 3-1 QPR (27/11/2007, CHP)

One to watch: Heidar Helguson has scored three goals in his side’s last four games as QPR’s strikers have finally started to get on the score sheet. His team will desperately be hoping the Icelandic striker can add to his tally and become the assured finisher that they have been missing so far this season.

Did you know?: Stoke have scored a league-high 75% of their goals from set pieces this season.

Fantasy pick: Jon Walters, 51 (Stoke), Anton Ferdinand, 39 (QPR)*

Tweet of the week: ' Hearing the Stoke boys have got some naughty muzzy's kicking about tomo, should be funny 2 teams with muzwangas haha. @movemberuk', @Joey7Barton, Joey Barton

 

SUNDERLAND v FULHAM, Saturday 3pm

These two clubs have managed just two victories each so far this season and find themselves in the bottom quarter of the table. Fulham were very unlucky not to at least get a draw against Tottenham in their last game and the final score line was unfair on them. However they have not really impressed this season and Martin Jol could do with a win. Sunderland’s struggles have been a bit more well-documented but Steve Bruce’s position appears safe. Nevertheless a victory would certainly be welcome for the Black Cats. 

Recent results: Sunderland 3-0 Fulham (30/04/2011, PL), Fulham 0-0 Sunderland (11/12/2010, PL)

One to watch: Clint Dempsey is along with Andy Johnson, Fulham’s top scorer in the league this season and if he scores again he will overtake Brian McBride as the Premier League’s top scoring American. Fulham fans and players alike would love him to take that record against Sunderland as they attempt to improve their consistency in the league.

Did you know?: Fulham have used just 20 players in the Premier League so far, fewer than any other team.

Fantasy pick: Seb Larsson, 53 (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey, 53 (Fulham)*

Tweet of the week: '5-1 after 180 minutes, that's all that matters! Massive achievement for the Irish lads!!', @DamienDuff16, Damien Duff

 

WEST BROM v BOLTON, Saturday 3pm

Bolton are one team who will be frustrated by the timing of the international break. Their 5-0 destruction of Stoke in their last fixture was sweet revenge for their FA Cup semi-final defeat last season which preceded a run of 13 defeats in 16 league games. Owen Coyle’s men will hope they can keep their new found momentum going after their disastrous start to the season. West Brom will be looking to avoid three defeats in a row and maintain the mid-table position that they currently occupy. While this may not be the weekend’s most glamorous fixture it looks set to be a close game.

Recent results: Bolton 2-0 West Brom (26/12/2010, PL), West Brom 1-1 Bolton (02/10/2010, PL)

One to watch: Gary Cahill impressed at the heart of England’s defence and he will be key for Bolton if they are going to turn their season around. He attracted the interest of several major clubs over the summer however Owen Coyle managed to hold onto him. If the defender continues to play well, Bolton may really struggle to keep him and he will certainly put himself in real contention for a starting role at Euro 2012.

Did you know?: No team has been caught offside more times in the top-flight this season than West Brom (48).

Fantasy pick: Chris Brunt, 44 (West Brom), Chris Eagles, 53 (Bolton)*

Tweet of the week: 'Marcos & Jussi to turn on the Christmas lights!', @marcosalonso28, Marcos Alonso

 

WIGAN v BLACKBURN, Saturday 3pm

This match is one of the most important of the weekend as the bottom two clubs battle it out. Wigan succumbed to their eight defeat in a row in their last fixture against Wolves in another key relegation battle and while Roberto Martinez has the support of his chairman, he desperately needs a win. Blackburn’s fans have made their displeasure about Steve Kean’s management of the club very clear so the importance of this game for him is obvious. This really is a ‘must win’ game for both teams which could have a huge bearing on the remainder of their respective seasons.

Recent results: Wigan 4-3 Blackburn (05/12/2011, PL), Blackburn 2-1 Wigan (06/11/2010, PL)

One to watch: Wigan’s Premier League survival last season was in many ways thanks to the goals scored by Hugo Rodallega. He has yet to score this season and the club find themselves bottom of the league. If Wigan are going to turn their season around and avoid relegation which seems a difficult task at the moment then they desperately need the Colombian striker to rediscover his goal scoring touch.

Did you know?: Blackburn have scored seven goals away from home in this season's Premier League. That's as many as Wigan have managed home and away.

Fantasy pick: Ali Al-Habsi, 45 (Wigan), Junior Hoilett, 40 (Blackburn)*

Tweet of the week: 'At LAST!! An Official reveals ALL of the Footballing Authorities REAL views on Racism.. At least he is honest/foolish enough to say it!!', @JasonRoberts30, Jason Roberts

 

SWANSEA v MAN UTD, Saturday 5:30pm

Swansea are unbeaten at home this season and no opposition player has scored at the Liberty Stadium however that record will come under serious threat as defending champions Man Utd visit. Anything other than a win will be a big disappointment for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men as they try to reduce the five point gap at the top of the league between them and bitter rivals Man City. Despite their impressive home record and excellent start to the season, it would be a surprise if the home side can keep out the visitors.

Recent results: Man Utd 2-1 Swansea (07/05/1983, DIV1), Swansea 0-0 Man Utd (18/12/1982, DIV1)

One to watch: Michel Vorm has been instrumental in Swansea’s excellent home record so far this season and has conceded only a Danny Graham own goal. However if Swansea are going to maintain that record then the German keeper will have to be on top form in order to keep out the inevitable Man Utd onslaught.

Did you know?: Swansea have never lost a home game to Man Utd. The best the visitors have managed is a 2-2 draw in 1938 and a 0-0 draw in 1982.

Fantasy pick: Michel Vorm, 55 (Swansea), Wayne Rooney, 73 (Man Utd)*

Tweet of the week: ‘What kind of world are we living in where some idiots stab a dog 21 times and throw it over a fence?’, @WayneRoutledge, Wayne Routledge

 

CHELSEA v LIVERPOOL, Sunday 4pm

Sunday’s only fixture is the game of the weekend as two sides with big aspirations but tangible weaknesses clash at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have struggled to keep a clean sheet this season whereas Liverpool have been accused of being wasteful in front of goal. What is certain is that both managers will feel their teams are not quite achieving their full potential and therefore this game could be crucial for them both as they look to prove that they have what it takes to be amongst the best teams in the league. 

Recent results: Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool (06/02/2011, PL), Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea (07/11/2010, PL)

One to watch: Raul Meireles became the latest player to swap the red of Liverpool for the blue of Chelsea on transfer deadline day and unlike Fernando Torres, his time at the Blues has undoubtedly been a success. The Portuguese international has slotted seamlessly into Chelsea’s midfield and carried on in the same vein that saw him win the PFA Fans’ player of the year last season. He will undoubtedly be looking to put in a good performance to show his old club what they are missing.

Did you know?: Chelsea have picked up more cards than any other team this season: 28 yellow and three reds.

Fantasy pick: Frank Lampard, 70 (Chelsea), Luis Suarez, 47 (Liverpool)*

Tweet of the week: 'Home at last! Long journey from Costa Rica to London...now time to rest and prepare Sunday's game against Liverpool!', @juanmata10, Juan Mata

 

TOTTENHAM v ASTON VILLA, Monday 8pm

Tottenham are arguably the capital’s form team and are unbeaten in their last eight league games. They are currently without manager Harry Redknapp following his heart surgery however after managing to keep out Fulham’s second half onslaught in their last game confidence will be high. They will be particularly confident as they face an Aston Villa team that are yet to record an away victory this season and who despite their solid league position have not quite got going yet under new manager Alex McLeish.

Recent results: Aston Villa 1-2 Tottenham (26/12/2010, PL), Tottenham 2-1 Aston Villa (02/10/2010, PL)

One to watch: Darren Bent returns to face his former club and the manager who famously publicly ridiculed him following a late miss in a game in 2009. Bent has said his two years at Spurs were the worst of his career and he would surely love to score at White Hart Lane and inflict more misery on Harry Redknapp whose difficult month has included heart surgery and the announcement of an impending court case.

Did you know?: Aston Villa have dropped a league-high nine points from winning positions this season.

Fantasy pick: Rafael van der Vaart, 65 (Tottenham), Gabriel Agbonlahor, 67 (Aston Villa)*

Tweet of the week: 'I will do my best to be back soon and hope to make the game against Aston Villa guys.', @rafvdvaart,  Rafael van der Vaart

* Based on Fantasy Premier League, the official Premier League fantasy game

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