Hey guys, I’m afraid it’s going to be pretty short and sweet from me today as the Festive season demands my time! I’ve tried to pack in all the info I can, but keep a look out for Burk’s News Wrap for any other up to date info. Rotation hit us hard on the weekend and unfortunately we could be in for another round of surprises…
Swansea v Man City
Swansea: Tremmel, Rangel, Williams, Chico, Davies, Routledge, De Guzman, Canas, Shelvey, Hernandez, Bony
Man City: Hart, Kolarov, Kompany, Nastasic, Zabaleta, Nasri, Toure, Fernandinho, Navas, Milner, Negredo
Swansea are still without Vorm and Michu as the pair sit out due to injuries. The striker role will be a battle between Vazquez and Bony and Shelvey’s support role looks secure for the time being. Routledge should come back into the midfield and Rangel is expected to line up at right back at the expense of Tiendalli.
Pellegrini decided to rest a number of players for the home game against Palace on the weekend, but we should see all these players return for the trip to Wales. Yaya Toure, Zabaleta, Kolarov and Negredo all look set to return to the starting XI, but City will be without the versatile David Silva in midfield after the Spaniard picked up his 5th yellow of the season at the Etihad. This could see Nasri being given a chance to venture forward more against the Swans.
It’s tough to predict anything but a win for Man City at the moment. With key individuals rested for the Palace matchup, Pellegrini has an abundance of talent to choose from and the firepower will prove too much for the Swans. Playing at home, the Swansea side does have a good chance of getting on the score sheet though.
Arsenal v Cardiff City
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Walcott, Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Flamini, Podolski
Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, John, Turner, Noone, Medel, Mutch, Gunnarsson, Campbell, Whittingham
Arsenal will be without Giroud after the Gunners’ Boss confirmed that the Frenchman will be out due to injury. This will give Podolski the chance to fill into the striker role after the German got a run on from the bench over the weekend. Ozil missed out for the game against Newcastle with a shoulder injury and looks set to miss a few games. Cazorla should line up just behind the striker with Wilshere and Arteta on hand to help create opportunities for the home side. At the back, Gibbs has been ruled out and Monreal is a doubt due to illness. Should Gibbs not be fit in time, Vermaelen may end up filling in at left back.
Taylor remains a doubt at left-back for Cardiff, giving Declan John the chance to deputise in defense. Noone has looked good down the right hand side so I’d expect him to continue in the starting XI with Whittingham on the opposite flank. Medel, Mutch and Gunnarsson look set to take up the midfield spots in a 4-3-3 formation with Bellamy still sidelined with a knee injury.
Arsenal have lost just 1 at home this season and I don’t expect them to add to this tally against Cardiff. The Welsh side let a 2 goal lead slip against Sunderland on the weekend and could find themselves dangerously close to the relegation zone after the trip to the Emirates. I’m going with an Arsenal win and a clean sheet to go with it.
Crystal Palace v Norwich
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Ward, Parr, Puncheon, Jedinak, Bannan, Chamakh, Jerome
Norwich: Ruddy, Martin Turner, Bassong, Olsson, Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Johnson, Fer, Redmond, Hooper
Crystal Palace are still without O’Keefe and Dikgacoi, giving Ward another chance to line up in the midfield. Jerome was forced off early in the game against City and if he isn’t fit enough to face Norwich, should be replaced by Marouane Chamakh. Pulis does have the option of giving Dwight Gayle a start by shifting to a 4-4-2 formation.
Norwich welcome back Michael Turner after the defender was forced to sit on the sidelines against Man United and serve out a one-match suspension. This will see Bennett back on the bench. Chris Hughton looks to be without Howson in the middle of the park and will need to make the call between Hoolahan and Elmander for a place just behind Hooper.
The introduction of Tony Pulis at Crystal Palace has seen the side tighten up defensively. The Eagles will need to find a way to score goals though. They’ve found the net just 12 times this season and will need to do some more regularly if they are to avoid the drop. They should have the opportunity at home to take the 3 points from Norwich though. If the home side can continue their impressive defensive run, they should be able to nick a goal or 2. I’m going with a Crystal Palace win, although it could be a tight one.
Fulham v West Ham
Fulham: Stokdale, Hughes, Riether, Senderos, Richardson, Kasami, Sidwell, Parker, Duff, Bent, Kacaniklic
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Rat, Demel, McCarthy, O’Brien, Maiga, Nolan, Noble, Diame, Cole, Jarvis
Fulham return to Craven Cottage after being thumped 6-0 by Hull. Meulensteen made 6 changes to the side that travelled to Hull and will need to rethink his strategy for this one. Parker is likely to return to the side as the Fulham boss looks for a bit more stability in the middle of the park. Riether will come back into the defense and Senderos is available once again. Berbatov is still a doubt so we could see either Taarabt or Bent deployed as the lone striker.
The Hammers arrive at Craven cottage with no centre backs to choose from as they deal with injuries to Collins, Tomkins and Reid. This should see O’Brien, McCarthy, Demel and Rat at the back for the Hammers. Morrison is still a doubt, giving Jarvis and Cole the opportunity to keep their place on the flanks, with Maiga inside them.
I think Fulham can pull this one off. West Ham are really struggling at the back and the Cottagers will have their home fans to spur them on. I’m going for a 2-1 score line, but with these two sides, anything is possible!
Liverpool v Hull City
Liverpool: Mignolet, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Cissokho, Henderson, Sterling, Lucas, Couthino, Suarez, Gerrard
Hull City: McGregor, Chester, Davies, Rosenoir, Figueroa, Livermore, Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Koren, Boyd, Sagbo
Steven Gerrard has resumed training and may be called on by Brendon Rodgers for the visit of Hull City to Anfield. The Liverpool skipper may replace Joe Allen who picked up an injury in the loss to Chelsea. Sakho is also out with hamstring injury, which should see Daniel Agger partner Skrtel in the heart of the Liverpool defense.
Bruce and Meyler sat on the bench for the thrashing of Fulham, which gave Rosenoir and Koren the chance to stake their claim for a starting berth. The Hull boss now has a decision to make as Koren really seized his opportunity by finding the back of the net twice. Steve Bruce used Sagbo and Boyd upfront for the game against Fulham and may just decide to keep Graham on the bench as the pair teamed up nicely in the 6-0 victory.
Hull arrive at Anfield having beaten their hosts 3-1 at home earlier in the season and will be in high spirits after the drubbing of Fulham on the weekend. I think Hull will give Liverpool a run for their money but the home side should have enough to get the 3 points. Liverpool will have a point to prove after losing their last 2 matches and won’t be happy with anything but a win in this one.
Southampton v Chelsea
Southampton: Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Rodriguez, Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse, Lallana, Lambert, Cork
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Willian, Ramires, Hazard, Oscar, Torres
Calum Chambers place at the back doesn’t look very secure as Nathaniel Clyne returned to the side in the loss against Everton. Third choice keeper, Paulo Gazzaniga found himself on the bench with the return of Kelvin Davis to full fitness and Rickie Lambert looks set to keep his place up front with the news of Osvaldo falling ill. Schneiderlin is available once again after serving his one-match suspension and may take James Ward–Prowse’s place in the midfield.
Mourinho may end up fielding both Azpilicueta and Cole at the back as Luiz is suspended and Ivanovic is struggling to shrug off a knee injury. Further up the pitch, Ramires should return to the starting XI after being suspended for the Liverpool game. Frank Lampard has picked up an injury which should see Mikel come back into a central midfield role, with Hazard and Willian out wide. Eto’o looks as though he may have made the lone striker role his own after starting the last 2 for Chelsea, but faces stiff competition from Torres.
Chelsea will have a tough time against the Saints but should have the firepower to get them over the line. Southampton will need to show a little more consistency if they hope to come away from Stamford Bridge with some points. A shift at the back for Chelsea will give the Saints a chance at goals, but with the creativity of Hazard in the midfield, the home side should be able to outscore their visitors.
Stoke City v Everton
Stoke City: Sorensen, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Assaidi, Whelan, N’Zonzi, Walters, Adam, Crouch
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Alcaraz, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Barkley, Pienaar, Lukaku, Mirallas
Begovic remains sidelined for Stoke and Andy Wilkinson looks set to join him after the defender picked up an injury. Wilson and Whelan are back though after serving their suspensions. Charlie Adam was rested for the game against Tottenham but should find himself back in the side filling in just behind Peter Crouch.
Everton welcome back Howard and Barry as they were forced to sit out the win against Southampton due to suspension. Jagielka is out with a hamstring injury, giving Alcaraz the chance to line up in the central defensive role. Mirallas and Pienaar were rested for the game against the Saints and will be looking for a return to the starting XI against Stoke.
Everton should have enough to take the victory here but I think Stoke will put up a good fight. Yes, the Potters have been hammered in their last 2 games, but both were away from home and they’re unbeaten in their last 6 Premier League games at home. I’d put money on Everton coming out the victors, but wouldn’t be too surprised if Stoke managed to hold them.
Sunderland v Aston Villa
Sunderland: Mannone, Roberge, Diakite, Dossena, Bardsley, Larsson, Cattermole, Colback, Giaccherini, Ki, Fletcher
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Luna, Baker, Agbonlahor, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, El Ahmadi
Both Borini and Johnson have been ill and remain doubts for the match against Villa. John O’Shea joins them on the doubtful list as he continues to struggle with a shoulder injury. Steven Fletcher grabbed his chance on the weekend by slotting in a goal and could be favourite to lead the line. Cattermole and Colback should pair up in the centre of the midfield with Ki playing in “the hole” behind Fletcher.
Ciaran Clark picked up his 5th yellow of the season meaning the Aston Villa defender misses out on the game against Sunderland. Paul Lambert should be able to welcome back Ron Vlaar though. The centre-back has resumed training and may be called upon straight away. Benteke is another who is back in training and will be looking for a place up front at the expense of Kozak.
Villa have failed to win any of their last five matches and face a Sunderland side that will be full of confidence thanks to salvaging a point after being 2-0 down to Cardiff. I think the Black Cats will be able to control the game a little more than the Villa side and could end up frustrating the likes of Agbonlahor and Wiemann. I’m going for a Sunderland win, although I don’t expect many goals in this one.
West Brom v Newcastle
West Brom: Foster, Lugano, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Jones, Morrison, Mulumu, Long, Jacob, Berahino
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Sissoko, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Gouffran, Tiote, Remy
The big news surrounding West Brom at the moment is Nicholas Anelka’s controversial goal celebration and it remains to be seen whether the Frenchman gets a run out against Newcastle. Shane Long is back in contention and gives the West Brom caretaker boss the option of sticking Anelka back on the bench. Sessegnon may return on the right wing and Chris Brunt is also in line for a return to the midfield.
Newcastle seem to be the most reliable side to pick from in what has been a pretty crazy festive season. They seem to be “rotation-proof” as Pardew looks set to name an unchanged side from the one that lost to Arsenal. Ben Arfa does offer options in the midfield though and I personally think the Frenchman deserves a run. Ben Arfa could take a spot on the right wing with Sissoko moving in alongside Tiote and Anita moving onto the bench.
Newcastle would be disappointed to come away with anything but the 3 points and should be able to start the new year with a victory. West Brom have managed to string a few draws together but don’t seem to have the creativity they need to turn those draws into wins. I’m going with a win for the home side and a possible clean sheet to go with it.
Man Utd v Tottenham
Man Utd: De Gea, Evans, Vidic, Smalling, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverly, Young, Rooney, Welbeck
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose, Lennon, Eriksen, Dembele, Capoue, Adebayor, Soldado
Jones and Fellaini remain sidelined for the United side and Moyes will be hoping to have Rooney back after the striker missed the trip to Norwich with a groin problem. Valencia is back in contention after serving his match ban and may come straight back in on the right wing. On the left, Moyes will need to make the decision between Januzaj and Young. Smalling looks set to continue at right back in Rafael’s absence.
Tottenham’s convincing win over Stoke should see them relatively unchanged for the trip to Old Trafford, besides some tweaks at the back. Walker is back in contention after serving a one-match ban and Danny Rose was rested for the game against Stoke. Both defenders should find themselves back in the line up at the expense of Naughton and Fryers. Paulinho looks set for a spell on the sidelines after injuring his ankle, giving Capoue the chance to fill in for the Brazilian.
United should have enough to claim a victory at home, as long as they have Rooney back. The return of Carrick and Fletcher has seen some stability return to the United midfield and they’ll need to control the game from the middle if they hope to come away with the 3 points. A clean sheet looks unlikely but the Manchester side have picked up their performances and will see this as a hugely important fixture.