Welcome to the Christmas edition of the Gameweek preview! We’ve got an awesome set of fixtures to wake us up after a relaxing day off and who knows, perhaps even more reasons to celebrate. With Suarez away at City this week, our search for the captain choice widens. A perfect opportunity to find that player who’ll boost you up the rankings! Let’s take a look at the options…
Hull City v Man Utd
Hull City: McGregor, Chester, Davies, Bruce, Figuero, Livermore, Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Meyler, Graham, Sagbo
Man Utd: De Gea, Evans, Vidic, Rafael, Evra, Valencia, Jones, Cleverly, Young, Rooney, Welbeck
Steve Bruce’s selection has been consistent of late and I don’t think we’ll see too many (if any) changes for the Hull side against Man Utd. The Hull boss kept his faith in the 3-5-2 formation last week and although it’ll be a big risk with Valencia starting to shred defenders down the right, we should see Chester, Davies and Brucecontinue at the back. Quinn and Aluko remain on the sidelines and there’s no indication we’ll see Brady back in contention either.
David Moyes is likely to continue with Phil Jones in the central midfield position, partnering with Cleverly. Smalling came in alongside Evans for the matchup against the Hammers but Moyes will have Vidic as an option for the Trip to Hull. Welbeck was subbed after suffering a knock to his knee in the victory against West Ham but might be fit enough in time for the trip to Hull. If he doesn’t make it, we could see Young rewarded with a start on the wing and Rooney being given the lone-forward role. Young has found some form of late and I think he may have done enough to earn himself a start.
United have put together 4 wins in a row and are starting to find the back of the net with some consistency. They will however, find it difficult racking up the goals against a side that have not allowed any team to score more than 2 against them at home this season. The Reds should come away with a win, but I’m not sure they’ll walk it.
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Luna, Baker, Agbonlahor, El Ahmadi, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Albrighton
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Gabbidon, Delaney, Ward, Parr, Bolasie, Puncheon, Jedinak, Bannan, Dikgacoi, Jerome
Ron Vlaar is still struggling with a calf problem and is unlikely to make the game against Crystal Palace. Lambert will also have to do without Christian Benteke as the Belgian continues to struggle with his knee. Kozak will continue up front in Benteke’s absence with Wiemann likely to line up just behind him in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Villa will have Agbonlahor back after serving his 1 match suspension but will be without Westwood.
Jerome will lead the attack for Pulis’ men as Chamakh sits this one out due to picking up his 5th yellow of the season. Should Pulis continue with the 4-4-2 formation, Dwight Gayle will be given the opportunity to partner Jerome up top, but the Palace boss may decide to push Bannan up the field instead. Palace will be hoping to have Dikgacoi back after missing the last couple through injury.
This game doesn’t exactly scream goals. Palace have only scored 4 on the road this season and Villa continue to try take the “route one” approach, with little effect. I think we’ll see a low scoring draw and perhaps even a clean sheet for the likes of Clark and Baker.
Cardiff City v Southampton
Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Noone, Medel, Mutch, Kim Bo-Kyung, Campbell, Whittingham
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Rodriguez, Shneiderlin, Ward-Prowse, Lallana, Lambert, Cork
Let’s hope the Cardiff side can put all the politics and boardroom nonsense behind them and put on a show against the Saints. DJ Campbell was dropped to the bench for the game against Liverpool but might find himself back in the lineup at home. Noone put in a good performance against the now table topping side last weekend and will be hoping to be rewarded with a start ahead of Don Cowie. Bellamy is still doubtful and Cornelius continues to build his fitness with appearances from the bench.
The Saints defense was once a gold mine for budget defenders, but we find ourselves looking elsewhere as the South England side continue to leak goals. They should have Luke Shaw back in place of Danny Fox and we’re likely to see Chambers continue at right-back. The Saints Boss will also have Lovren and Fonte back in contention. Festive season rotation may see James Ward–Prowse recalled to the starting XI in place of Davis, with Lambert hoping for another start ahead of Osvaldo.
Cardiff have only managed 4 goals in their last 6 matches and with the Saints side welcoming back more of the their solid defenders, it’ll be tough for the Welsh side to find a way through. Cardiff look happier at home though and will be behind their manager as they look to string a few positive results together in the hope of keeping Malky Mackay in charge. It’s tough to call a winner here. I’m leaning toward a draw but Southampton may just pip it.
Chelsea v Swansea
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Ramires, Schurrle, Hazard, Oscar, Eto’o
Swansea: Tremmel, Rangel, Williams, Chico, Davies, Routledge, De Guzman, Britton, Shelvey, Hernandez, Bony
We’re likely to see some rotation from Mourinho on Boxing Day with Luiz and Cole pushing for starts at the back. Cahill and Azpilicueta might find themselves on the bench. Oscar will surely get his first start since returning from injury and Eto’o may be given the nod ahead of Torres for the lone striker role. Mata and Schurrle were on the bench for the draw against Arsenal and will offer the Chelsea boss even more options in the middle of the park.
Michu joins Dyer and Vorm on the Swansea injury list as the Spaniard prepares for 6 weeks out with an ankle injury. This should see Bony given the role up front, with Shelvey being pushed forward to support the new signing. At the back, the Swans welcome back Rangel and he should slot back in in place of Tiendalli in the right-back position.
We should see goals in this one as the Blues have been really inconsistent at the back this season. The Swans top the list for the most passes completed this season but Chelsea are still undefeated at Stamford Bridge under Mourinho and the Chelsea attack should have what it takes to outscore the Welsh side.
Everton v Sunderland
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Barkley, Pienaar, Lukaku, Mirallas
Sunderland: Mannone, Roberge, O’Shea, Celustka, Bardsley, Larsson, Cattermole, Borini, Giaccherini, Ki, Altidore
Gerard Deulafeu remains on the sidelines, giving Mirallas the opportunity to continue on the wing. Pienaar limped off on the weekend but is expected to be fit in time for the matchup against Poyet’s men. Martinez may just decide to rest the South African though and hand Naismith a start after he ran on to replace Pienaar in the win against Swansea. Baines may also be back for the Toffees as he’s been declared fit for selection.
After a disappointing goalless draw against the Canaries, Poyet’s men will be facing an uphill task taking on one of the form sides in the Premier League. The Black Cats will have to do without Wes Brown at the back after the former United man saw red on the weekend. Fletcher and Johnson may be called upon to find the spark required, as both warmed the bench against Norwich.
Sunderland found themselves at the bottom of the log for Christmas and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Despite back-to-back goalless draws, the Black Cats have looked woeful this season and without the services of Wes Brown in defense, will be vulnerable to attacks from Lukaku and Barkley. Everton should win this with a possible clean sheet intact.
Newcastle v Stoke City
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Sissoko, Tiote, Cabaye, Gouffran, Ameobi, Remy
Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Arnautovic, Whelan, N’Zonzi, Walters, Adam, Crouch
Pardew could choose to roll out a 4-4-2 formation with the absence of Tiote due to a 1-match suspension. This would see Anita return to the Magpies’ midfield with Ameobi partnering Remy up front. Cabaye continues to impress, having scored or assisted in 8 of the last 12 gameweeks. Ben Arfa will be pushing for a start after coming on to score from the spot last time out.
Charlie Adam proved to be the game changer coming off the bench during the game against Aston Villa on Saturday and will surely get the nod for a spot just behind Peter Crouch. This will mean Arnautovic and Assaidi will be fighting it out for a spot in the Potters midfield. At the back, Shawcross and Wilson look set to continue in their central defensive roles, with Pieters and Cameron on either side of them.
Newcastle have gone relatively unnoticed this season and find themselves all the way up in 6th spot. Having lost only 1 game at home this season, the smart money would be on the Magpies to secure yet another victory. I wouldn’t be too surprised with a draw though.
Norwich v Fulham
Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Olsson, Snodgrass, Elmander, Johnson, Fer, Redmond, Hooper
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Hughes, Riether, Amorebieta, Riise, Karagounis, Sidwell, Parker, Dejagah, Berbatov, Kacaniklic
Unbeaten in 4 of their last 5, Norwich have Snodgrass back in the fold after the midfielder returned to face Sunderland on the weekend. Howson is still struggling with a back injury so we may see Johnson and Fer lineup together in the centre of the midfield, with Snodgrass and Redmond on either side of them.
Fulham put up a good fight at Craven Cottage on the weekend and at one stage during the second half, looked good to force a draw against Man City. They lacked options in the final third though and will be hoping to have Dimitar Berbatov back for the trip to Norwich. Taarabt may find himself back on the bench with Kacaniklic and Kasami pushing for a starting berth. At the back, Amorebieta looks set to continue in Senderos’ absence after the defender was subbed off early against City.
Even though Norwich have only scored 15 this season, Fulham are really struggling at the back so I think we’ll see goals in this one. The Craven Cottage side has it in them to come away from Carrow Road with 3 points though and if Berbatov is fit, could get the away win that they need to boost the confidence going into the new year. I’m going for a Fulham win with at least 3 goals between the sides.
Tottenham v West Brom
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose, Chadli, Eriksen, Dembele, Sigursson, Adebayor, Soldado
West Brom: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Morrison, Mulumu, Long, Sessegnon, Amalfitano
Tim Sherwood starts his reign as the permanent Spurs boss with a trip to the midlands to face a struggling West Brom side that is without a win in their last 7 premier league games. Emmanuel Adebayor reminded us what he’s capable of by netting twice in his comeback match and has surely won himself another start. Sigurdsson also got himself a start against Southampton and we should see him retain his spot on the flank, with Eriksen and Dembele inside him. The North London side will still be without Paulinho as he serves out his suspension.
West Brom also have a new Manager at the helm and rang the changes last weekend with Foster coming back in between the posts. Morrison was also recalled to the starting lineup with Amilfitano warming the bench. Scott Sinclair will be looking to keep a starting place on the flank with Sessegnon on the opposite side.
I’m going for a home win. The new Spurs’ boss may just breathe new life into the White Hart Lane side and seems to be really keen to play some attacking football. I think they’ll put at least 2 past the Baggies and there’s a good chance of a clean sheet for the likes of Walker and Dawson.
West Ham v Arsenal
West Ham: Adrian, Rat, Demel, Collins, Tomkins, Morrison, Diame, Noble, Cole, Cole, Jarvis
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Walcott, Ramsey, Arteta, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud
The West Ham lineup is a complete guess at the moment as Allardyce continues to surprise us with his selections. Jaaskelainen found himself on the bench against United with Adrian taking his place between the sticks. The Spaniard should keep his place as the West Ham keeper when they host Arsenal, but who will line up in front of him is a bit of a mystery. O’Brien and Rat are available, but the West Ham boss also has Collins, Demel and Tomkins to choose from. Up front, Maiga’s place is under threat as Carlton Cole continues to stake his claim for the forward role.
Wilshere sits out for his 2nd of a two-match suspension, leaving Arsene with the easy decision of keeping Walcott on the right. We might see a bit of a mix up with the rest of the Arsenal attack though, as Podolski and Cazorla offer Arsene options ahead of the busy Christmas period. Those with Ozil and Ramsey will be holding their breathe for the starting sheet, with fears of the midfielders being rested. With Koscielny’s injury, Vermaelan has been handed the chance to cement his place in the Arsenal defense once again.
Arsenal owners will be licking their lips with the prospect of the North London side taking the Hammers apart. Arsene’s men will be looking to get back to winning ways after a couple of disappointing results and a game against West Ham gives them the perfect opportunity. The Hammers have been goal shy, so a clean sheet could also be on the cards. I’m expecting at least 2 goals from the visitors.
Man City v Liverpool
Man City: Hart, Kolarov, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Nasri, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva, Navas, Negredo
Liverpool: Mignolet, Sakho, Skrtel, Johnson, Flanagan, Henderson, Sterling, Lucas, Couthino, Suarez, Allen
Pellegrini has confirmed that Joe Hart will keep his place in the starting XI after the Englishman came in for Pantilimon for the trip to Craven Cottage. Zabaleta is still sidelined, giving Clichy the chance to continue on the right, with Kolarov on the left. Pellegrini has the option of partnering Dzeko with Negredo in attack, or simply pushing Silva further up the pitch and playing Negredo as the lone striker. Milner has looked good coming off the bench and gives the City boss options in the middle of the park, as does Jesus Navas who scored off the bench against Fulham.
Why fix what aint broke? Liverpool are top of the log and there isn’t much reason for Rodgers to make any changes to the side as they prepare to take on City at the Etihad. Gerrard and Sturridge are still out, giving Lucas and Allen the chance to continue in the midfield, with Coutinho and Sterling alongside Suarez in attack.
With a goal difference of +31 and at least 3 goals in 5 of their last 6 games, we can expect the Citizens to put a few in the back of the net. With Kompany back in the heart of the City defense, City fans will be hoping they can find a way to keep Suarez quiet. A draw seems likely when you look at both teams form, but the fact that they’re playing at the Etihad should give the home side the edge in what could be a high scoring game.
Good luck to all!