Preview from England Week 21 Pt 2

Huge rivals go head to head

Huge rivals go head to head

Chelsea (14th) Vs West Bromwich Albion (12th): Our view is: West Bromwich Albion head coach Tony Pulis has reminded his players they will need to perform to the highest level if they are to take anything from their trip to Chelsea on Wednesday. The Baggies visit Stamford Bridge unbeaten in three matches in all competitions and in pursuit of a third successive Barclays Premier League victory, but face a Chelsea team reinvigorated by the return of Guus Hiddink as interim manager. Chelsea, who won 3-2 at The Hawthorns in August, have not lost any of the five matches since the departure of Jose Mourinho and returned to rampant form as they demolished Crystal Palace 3-0 in their most recent league outing on 3 January. Hiddink could be without his three first-choice striking options. Diego Costa picked up a minor knock during Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup and is rated “doubtful”, while Loic Remy (calf) and Radamel Falcao (groin) are also out. Costa would represent a significant absence for Hiddink, under whom the Spaniard has blossomed. Having scored three league goals in 14 appearances prior to Hiddink’s arrival, Costa has equalled that haul in his two outings with the Dutchman as interim manager. All hail the impact of Ruben Loftus-cheek, the young Englishman will need to step up for the Blues in the striking department.

Eden Hazard (groin) is unlikely to be risked, while Nemanja Matic (concussion) is also a doubt and Oscar (toe) will be assessed ahead of the match. We say Chelsea 2-1 Winners

Chelsea (from): Amelia, Begovic, Blackman, Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Djilobodji, Ivanovic, Rahman, Terry, Zouma, Fabregas, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek, Matic, Mikel, Oscar, Ramires, Traore, Willian, Costa, Kenedy, Pedro.

West Bromwich Albion (from): Foster, Lindegaard, Myhill, Rose, Chester, Dawson, Evans, Gamboa, McAuley, O’Neil, Olsson, Pocognoli, Brunt, Fletcher, Gardner, Gnabry, McClean, McManaman, Morrison, Sessegnon, Yacob, Anichebe, Berahino, Lambert, Nabi, Rondon.

Match Appointments
Anthony Taylor Assistants: S Long, D Cann Fourth Official: J Moss

Match Facts
    – Chelsea have lost just one of their last six Barclays Premier League meetings with West Bromwich Albion (W3 D2 L1).
– West Brom have lost more BPL matches against Chelsea than versus any other opponent (14).
– Guus Hiddink has lost just one of his 16 matches in the competition (W12 D3 L1) and has the best win ratio of any manager to have taken charge of at least four matches (75%).
– Diego Costa has scored as many goals in two BPL matches under Guus Hiddink this season (three) as he had in 14 league appearances in 2015/16.
– Costa has had a hand in three goals (two goals, one assist) in three league outings against West Brom.
– The Baggies have not scored in the first 15 minutes of a league match since 18 May 2015, when Saido Berahino netted the opener against Chelsea, and are the only side yet to do so this season.
– West Brom have won their last two league matches and will be looking to win three in a row for the first time since November 2012 (four in a row, the third of which was against Chelsea).

Manchester City (3rd) Vs Everton (11th): Our view is: Everton captain Phil Jagielka says his side are not panicking about their Barclays Premier League form as they prepare to visit Manchester City on Wednesday. City are riding high in third and only three points adrift of BPL leaders Arsenal, Everton are 11th having won only six league fixtures this season and once in their past seven top-flight matches. The Toffees proved they can mix it with the best by beating City 2-1 in their League Cup semi-final first leg last Wednesday but recent league history is on the side of the hosts, who have won four and drawn one of their last five against Roberto Martinez’s side. Everton need to prove here if they are the fruit bowl (cock and balls) or just the banana. Pellegrini, meanwhile, is aware that City are entering a potentially decisive period of their campaign as they continue to battle on four fronts. “We have two home games in the Premier League, against Everton and Crystal Palace, and we must focus on those.” City will assess the fitness of Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring) and Wilfried Bony (calf), while captain Vincent Kompany (calf) is still out along with long-term absentee Samir Nasri (hamstring). Everton are very hopeful that the BPL’s joint-top goalscorer Romelu Lukaku – who is on fine form having scored 10 goals and assisted three more in his last 10 matches – can overcome an ankle knock in order to play and cause all sorts of damn issues for the Kompanyless City.  We say City 4-0 winners is a sunk battleship encounter.

Match Appointments
Roger East Assistants: S Beck, H Lennard Fourth Official: M Oliver

Match Facts
    – Manchester City have won four and drawn one of their last five Barclays Premier League meetings with Everton (W4 D1 L0).
– Everton have won 17 BPL matches against Man City. Only against West Ham United have they won more often (22 wins, also 17 wins versus Newcastle United).
– Yaya Toure has had a hand in six goals (three goals, three assists) in eight league encounters with Everton.
– Romelu Lukaku has scored 10 goals and assisted three more in his last 10 BPL appearances.
– Thirteen different players have scored a league goal for Manchester City this season (excluding own goals); a wider spread than any other team.
– Everton have scored a league-low tally (three) and proportion (8.3%) of goals from set-pieces this season.
– The Etihad Stadium has seen six goals scored in the opening 15 minutes of top-flight matches this term; more than any other ground.
– Manchester City’s home ground has also seen a league-high nine goals scored from outside the box this season.

Southampton (13th) Vs Watford (8th): Our view is: Ronald Koeman will be hoping that the returning Graziano Pelle can provide the firepower his out-of-form Southampton side need against Watford on Wednesday. Italy striker Pelle is expected to feature in Koeman’s matchday squad for the visit of the Hornets after a three-week lay-off with a knee injury. And with manager Koeman sceptical about spending big in the January transfer window, the responsibility of pulling the south-coast club out of their recent rut will fall largely on the frontman’s shoulders. Southampton have lost eight of their past 10 matches in all competitions, a run that has contributed to Saints slipping to 13th in the Barclays Premier League. Watford, who are ninth, head to the St Mary’s Stadium looking to make it four matches unbeaten on their travels. Key to their success this season has been the form of 13-goal striker Odion Ighalo, who is likely to return to Watford’s starting XI having dropped to the substitutes bench in the 1-0 FA Cup third-round win over Newcastle United on Saturday. Troy Deeney scored the winner against Newcastle, and manager Quique Sanchez Flores is confident that the duo will remain at Vicarage Road this month. Well if they don’t Watford as 100% screwed (and not in the good way)

Southampton (from): K Davis, Gazzaniga, Stekelenburg, Bertrand, Caulker, Cedric, Fonte, Martina, McCarthy, Targett, Van Dijk, Yoshida, Clasie, S Davis, Mane, McQueen, Ramirez, Reed, Romeu, Tadic, Ward-Prowse, Juanmi, Long, Pelle.

Watford (from): Arlauskis, Gomes, Belkalem, Britos, Cathcart, Ekstrand, Holebas, Nyom, Paredes, Prodl, Abdi, Anya, Behrami, Capoue, Dyer, Guedioura, Jurado, Watson, Berghuis, Deeney, Diamanti, Ibarbo, Ighalo, Oulare.

Match Appointments
Craig Pawson Assistants: D Bryan, M Scholes Fourth Official: K Friend

Match Facts
    – Southampton are unbeaten in their last four league meetings with Watford (W2 D2).
– Watford have failed to score in their last three league matches against Saints, including the goalless draw in their meeting at Vicarage Road earlier this season.
– The Hornets have won three of their last four trips to St Mary’s Stadium, netting exactly three goals in each of these victories.
– Watford have only made 18 changes overall to their starting XI from match to match in 2015/16; a BPL low.
– No player has been involved in more aerial duels in the top flight this season than Troy Deeney (237, level with Rudy Gestede).
– Of players to have been involved in 100+ aerial duels in 2015/16, Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk has the best success ratio (70%).
– Watford have been losing at half-time in just one of their 20 BPL matches this season (W7 D12); a joint league best alongside Crystal Palace.

Stoke City (10th) Vs Norwich (15th) Our view is: Alex Neil wants his Norwich City players to prove his FA Cup selection policy to be correct as the Canaries’ continue their pursuit of Barclays Premier League survival with a trip to Stoke City. Neil made seven changes to his team for the 3-0 home defeat to Manchester City in the third round on Saturday and he stressed that retaining top-flight status remains Norwich’s primary objective this season. Ahead of the visit to the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday, where Norwich are seeking a third successive league win, the 34-year-old explained his decision to rest many of his star men against Man City. “Our main priority is to stay in the Premier League, that’s the bottom line,” he said. Ibrahim Affelay, Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri are all set to return. But Crouch will still start yes? Stoke 1-0 Winners

Stoke City (from): Butland, Haugaard, Given, Bardsley, Cameron, Johnson, Muniesa, Pieters, Shawcross, Teixeira, Wilson, Wollscheid, Adam, Afellay, Ireland, Moha, Shaqiri, Shenton, Sidwell, Van Ginkel, Whelan, Arnautovic, Bojan, Crouch, Diouf, Joselu, Odemwingie, Walters.

Norwich City (from): Rudd, Ruddy, Bassong, R Bennett, Martin, Olsson, Whittaker, Wisdom, Andreu, Brady, Dorrans, Hoolahan, Howson, Jarvis, Mulumbu, O’Neil, Odjidja-Ofoe, Redmond, Tettey, Grabban, Jerome, Lafferty, Mbokani.

Match Appointments
Neil Swarbrick Assistants: S Ledger, M Salisbury Fourth Official: M Clattenburg

Match Facts
    – Stoke City have lost just one of their last nine home league encounters against Norwich City (W6 D2 L1), but this came in their last meeting with them in September 2013.
– The last eight league matches between these two sides have produced just 11 goals, with no side scoring more than once in a match during this run.
– Norwich have won three of their last four Barclays Premier League matches, the same amount they had won in their previous 23.
– Marko Arnautovic has scored seven goals in the BPL this season, despite having just 11 shots on target.
– Norwich have conceded three league goals in second half stoppage-time in 2015/16, more than any other team.
– Of goalkeepers to have played at least 10 BPL matches this season, Jack Butland has the save percentage (78.6%).
– Butland has also made a league-high 77 saves in the competition this term; six more than any other goalkeeper.

Liverpool (8th) Vs Arsenal (1st) Our view is: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned his players they are in for a “ferocious balls on the line battle” at Anfield on Wednesday. The Barclays Premier League leaders travel to Merseyside on the back of a 3-1 win over Sunderland in the FA Cup, while they have not lost against Liverpool in the last four matches between the sides. The fixture is one of the competition’s more traditionally entertaining contests, with the last nine top-flight meetings between the clubs at Anfield producing 35 goals. Arsenal will hope their recent record against Liverpool can help continue a fine run of form that has brought three straight victories in all competitions, while Wenger’s men have been beaten just once in their past 10. But the Frenchman issued a word of warning to his side as Arsenal seek to keep their title challenge on track.

“Momentum creates confidence and that’s vital at this level,” he told reporters. “Overall, in December and January we have been consistent and that’s important as we go into an important part of the season with many big games.

“Consistency is a good basis for belief. Every time we go to Anfield we face a team who are up for it and it’s always a ferocious battle.”Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has the personality to do well there, I don’t think you can explain their injuries by the intensity of Klopp’s game. [The challenge we face is] to play our game at a good pace but we are used to that pressing. It is not just Liverpool who do that.” Wenger is able to welcome back midfielder Tomas Rosicky (knee) for the encounter, while back-up goalkeeper David Ospina (groin) could return to the squad. But Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (knee) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) are still out. Klopp has been dealing with an injury crisis that forced him into naming an entirely changed XI for their 2-2 FA Cup draw at League Two Exeter City on Friday, and he has signed Queens Park Rangers centre-back Steven Caulker, who had been on loan at Southampton this season, to ease their concerns in defence. Awesome!! A bloke on loan from not 1 but 2 clubs!! Problem solved!!! We say 1-1 DRAW

Liverpool (from): Bogdan, Mignolet, Clyne, Jose Enrique, Flanagan, Ilori, Lovren, Moreno, Skrtel, Toure, Allen, Can, Henderson, Ibe, Lallana, Lucas, Milner, Ojo, Teixeira, Benteke, Firmino, Sturridge.

Arsenal (from): Cech, Ospina, Bellerin, Chambers, Debuchy, Gabriel, Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Ramsey, Rosicky, Campbell, Giroud, Walcott.

Match Appointments
Mike Jones Assistants: G Beswick, A Garratt Fourth Official: R Madley

Match Facts
    – Only Manchester United (21) have secured more Barclays Premier League wins against Arsenal than Liverpool (16).
– Liverpool v Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks than any other fixture in BPL history (5).
– The last nine league meetings between these clubs at Anfield have seen 35 goals scored (3.9 per match on average).
– Liverpool have scored 22 goals in their 20 league fixtures so far this season; the lowest tally after 20 matches of any league campaign.
– Mesut Ozil has either scored or assisted 16 of Arsenal’s last 24 league goals (three goals, 13 assists).
– Alberto Moreno has created more goalscoring chances than any other Liverpool player in the BPL this tern (39) and is also the most creative defender in 2015/16.
– Arsenal have scored the first goal of the match on 14 occasions in the league this season; more often than any other team

Tottenham Vs Manchester City: Our view is: BOOOOOMMMMMMMM 2nd quality game of the week!!! Mauricio Pochettino is eager for Tottenham Hotspur to tighten up defensively when they renew acquaintances with Leicester City in the Barclays Premier League on Wednesday. The sides battled to a 2-2 draw in Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie at White Hart Lane. Substitute Harry Kane’s 89th-minute penalty for Spurs earned a replay at the King Power Stadium next week. Pochettino named a much-changed side for that fixture, though, and the Argentinian is likely to revert to type in the league. And the former Southampton manager is targeting an improvement at the back after Spurs failed to keep a clean sheet in their last three matches. Opposing manager Claudio Ranieri also opted to make changes for the cup tie but he remains without Jeffrey Schlupp (hamstring), while the BPL’s joint-top scorer Jamie Vardy is rated as 50-50 following surgery on a minor groin problem. Leicester have been this season’s undoubted surprise package, but they have slipped from first to second in the table following a run of three top-flight matches without victory, and Ranieri’s men have not scored in the league since the 3-2 win over Everton in December. But as fluffy Claudio says: “We’ve had an outstanding season so far. We just want to keep that going in every competition.” Draw 3-3

Tottenham Hotspur (from): Lloris, McGee, Vorm, Alderweireld, Davies, Dier, Fazio, Rose, Trippier, Vertonghen, Walker, Wimmer, Alli, Bentaleb, Carroll, Chadli, Dembele, Eriksen, Lamela, Mason, Onomah, Son, Townsend, Winks, Kane.

Leicester City (from): Schmeichel, Schwarzer, Benalouane, De Laet, Fuchs, Huth, Moore, Morgan, Simpson, Wasilewski, Albrighton, Drinkwater, Dyer, Hammond, Inler, James, Kante, King, Mahrez, Dodoo, Kramaric, Okazaki, Ulloa, Vardy.

Match Appointments
Lee Mason Assistants: L Betts, I Hussin Fourth Official: T Robinson

Match Facts
    – Tottenham Hotspur are unbeaten in their last five Barclays Premier League meetings with Leicester City (W3 D2).
– After scoring in 18 successive BPL matches, Leicester City have now failed to score in their last three.
– The last nine league meetings between these two clubs have produced 38 goals (4.2 per match on average).
– Leicester have the BPL’s lowest passing accuracy in 2015/16 (69.8%).
– The Foxes have conceded more goals to opposition substitutes than any other BPL team this term (eight).
– Spurs have fielded the youngest starting XI this season in the top flight on average in this campaign (24y 304d).
– Leicester have scored a league-high five goals from fast breaks in the 2015/16 league season.
– N’Golo Kante has made the most tackles (79) and interceptions (81) in the BPL this season


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