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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 23 September 2020

Premier League previews: who will win today’s games and why*

*Don’t be silly, of course we can’t predict that sort of stuff in advance. Not even at Christmas.

All games kick off at 3pm unless stated otherwise.

Everton v Wigan

(Stephen Pond/EMPICS Sport)

Out: Everton — Marouane Fellaini (suspended), Tony Hibbert (calf), Kevin Miralles (hamstring). Wigan — Adrian Lopez (hamstring), Ben Watson (shin), Albert Crusat (knee injury).

Doubtful: Wigan — Ryo Miyaichi (ankle), Ivan Ramis, Gary Caldwell (both hamstring), Antolin Alcaraz (groin).

Betting: Everton 8/15, Draw 14/5, Wigan 6/1

Everton have belied their status as traditional slow starters with a strong show of form in the first half of the 2012/13 season, and find themselves mixing it with the heavyweights at the top of the standings.

They came from behind to secure a 2-1 win away to promoted club West Ham United on Saturday, with goals from Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar cancelling out an early Carlton Cole effort.

With Arsenal’s match at home to West Ham postponed due to a planned London Underground strike, the Toffees have a chance to climb as high as third if they claim all three points this afternoon and other results go their way.

Their opponents at Goodison Park, Wigan, suffered a narrow 1-0 loss at home to Arsenal on Saturday, Mikel Arteta’s penalty sealing the result in the visitors’ favour.

The defeat left Roberto Martinez’s team 18th on the table, behind 17th-placed Southampton on goal difference and in the relegation zone at Christmas for the third consecutive season.

Verdict: Everton

Fulham v Southampton

Out: Fulham — Bryan Ruiz (hamstring)

Doubtful: Fulham — Mahamadou Diarra. Southampton — Adam Lallana (knee).

Betting: Fulham 5/6, Draw 5/2, Southampton 10/3

Fulham’s 5-0 opening day win over Norwich City must seem like a distant memory following a run of just one victory in their last 10 league outings.

Their poor form has seen them slide to 13th on the table – not low enough to set alarm bells ringing in earnest, but more than enough to raise the spectre of a grim relegation battle in the second half of the campaign.

Just five points separates Fulham from 18th-placed Wigan Athletic, while Southampton are clear of the drop zone on goal difference only.

A positive run of just one defeat in six matches during late November and December had seen Nigel Adkins’ side breathe life into their faltering campaign.

But they missed an opportunity to pull clear of the bottom three on Saturday, going down 1-0 at home to fellow strugglers Sunderland.

Now Adkins and his players must seek to pick up points at Craven Cottage, where Fulham have only lost three times in the league this season.

Verdict: Draw

Manchester United v Newcastle United

(Nick Potts/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Out: Newcastle — Yohan Cabaye (groin), Steven Taylor (hamstring), Ryan Taylor (knee).

Doubtful: Manchester United — Nani, Jonny Evans (both hamstring), Shinji Kagawa (knee).

Betting: Man Utd 1/4, Draw 5/1, Newcastle 10/1

Manchester United’s draw against Swansea ended a five-match winning streak in which United scored 14 goals and they are clearly the highest scoring team in the English Premier League with 44 goals this season.

They will enjoy returning to home comforts, with last season’s Premier League runners-up having lost just once at Old Trafford in 17 fixtures in 2012, winning 15 of them.

But while the table-toppers have been prolific in front of goal, they have also been sloppy at the back this season, conceding 25 goals. Of the sides in the top half of the table, only 10th-placed Norwich City (27 goals) have conceded more than them.

A weakness at set-pieces has been exploited by many of their opponents this season and Newcastle have no shortage of tall timber up front with Demba Ba and Shola Ameobi competing for a first-team place.

In 14th, the Magpies have struggled to repeat their heroics from last season and a 1-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, which came thanks to Ameobi’s late winner, snapped a three-match losing streak in all competitions.

Their away form has been dreadful, with their most recent competitive win on the road in all competitions coming against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in May.

They also have a shocking record against Manchester United, having won just one of the past 20 Premier League meetings between the two sides.

Verdict: Manchester United

Norwich v Chelsea

Out: Chelsea — John Terry (knee).

Doubtful: Norwich — Grant Holt (hamstring).

Betting: Norwich 9/2, Draw 13/5, Chelsea 4/6

Despite Chelsea’s potent attack and their ability to find goals from all areas of the pitch — seven different players hit the back of the net in the 8-0 thumping of Aston Villa — Norwich will be confident they can get a result against the reigning European champions.

The Carrow Road side have already defeated Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham this year and despite their previous loss to the Blues their form against the league’s top sides should at the very least make today’s visitors wary.

However, Chelsea’s scintillating display against Aston Villa will see them head into the match as deserved favourites and while an upset is not out of the question, anything less than all three points will leave a sour taste in supporters’ mouths and heap the pressure back on manager Rafael Benitez.

Verdict: Chelsea

QPR v West Brom

(Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Out: QPR — Park Ji-sung (knee), Hogan Ephraim (hamstring), Andy Johnson (knee), Bobby Zamora (hip).

Doubtful: QPR — Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa (both back). West Brom — Claudio Yacob (hamstring), Steven Reid (shin).

Betting: QPR 13/10, Draw 23/10, West Brom 21/10

Queens Park Rangers will seek to recover from their first defeat under Harry Redknapp when they host West Bromwich Albion this afternoon.

The veteran manager, axed by Tottenham at the end of last season, led QPR to three draws and a win in his first four matches in charge, helping them climb off the foot of the English Premier League table.

That sequence ended in a 1-0 defeat at underachieving Newcastle United on Saturday, with Shola Ameobi’s 81st-minute strike consigning the visitors to defeat at St James’ Park.

Home form is likely to prove crucial if QPR are to survive, but taking points off West Brom will be not be easy at Loftus Road, with the West Midlands team going from strength to strength under the stewardship of Steve Clarke.

It remains to be seen if West Brom, who defeated Norwich City 2-1 at home on Saturday, can stay in the hunt for a European berth come the end of the season, but for now they will confident of gaining a positive result when they arrive in west London this week.

Verdict: West Brom

Reading v Swansea

Out: Reading — Jason Roberts (hip), Sean Morrison (ankle), Alex McCarthy (shoulder). Swansea — Angel Rangel (calf).

Doubtful: Swansea — Pablo Hernandez (thigh).

Betting: Reading 9/5, Draw 23/10, Swansea 6/4

Swansea City will travel to Reading on Boxing Day full of confidence after their draw with Manchester United on Sunday.

Michael Laudrup’s side have been in indifferent form so far this season but the result against the Red Devils on the weekend will give the Welsh team a significant lift as the busy Christmas period continues.

Reading, meanwhile, have found life in the Premier League extremely tough, enjoying just one win as they sit bottom of the table with nine points.

Despite their defensive frailties, Brian McDermott’s men have proven themselves more than adequate in scoring against the big sides and will be confident they can do the same against Swansea, particularly at the Madejski Stadium.

But even with a relatively effective attacking force, Reading’s leaky defence is still a major cause for concern and this will likely be their downfall against a Swansea side who are noted for their crisp, attacking style of play.

Verdict: Swansea

Sunderland v Manchester City

Out: Sunderland — Wes Brown, Lee Cattermole (both knee). Manchester City — Micah Richards (knee), Jack Rodwell (hamstring).

Doubtful: Manchester City — Aleksander Kolarov (leg), Samir Nasri (groin).

Betting: Sunderland 11/2, Draw 11/4, Manchester City 4/7

The search for the stylish Manchester City of last season is set to continue when the English Premier League champions go away to Sunderland.

City proved the league’s great entertainers on their way to a first championship title of the Premier League era in 2011/12, but they have struggled to hit the same heights so far this term.

The personnel remain largely unchanged, but manager Roberto Mancini has not been able to coax the same standard of performance from his expensively assembled squad

While there were glimpses of City’s free-flowing best in their 3-1 win away to Newcastle earlier this month, that form was nowhere to be seen at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as the heavyweight hosts laboured to a 1-0 win over struggling Reading.

Sunderland fans might have expected more from their team this season – they showed remarkable improvement when O’Neill replaced Steve Bruce as manager 12 months ago, but have failed to push on in the first half of 2012/13.

Scottish striker Steven Fletcher, prised from Wolverhampton Wanderers for a hefty fee of 12 million pounds in August, has proven a good acquisition, and netted the only goal in Sunderland’s 1-0 win away to Southampton on Saturday.

But he has received precious little in the way of support from team-mates, and Sunderland find themselves a lowly 15th on the table, just four points above the relegation zone.

City, irrespective of their sluggish performances, represent a major challenge for the home side on Boxing Day, but Sunderland can at least draw inspiration from the corresponding fixture last season, when Ji Dong-won’s injury-time goal saw them claim a dramatic upset win.

Verdict: Manchester City

Aston Villa v Tottenham (5.30pm)

TV: Sky Sports 1

(Sean Dempsey/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Out: Aston Villa — Darren Bent (hamstring), Richard Dunne (groin)

Doubtful: Aston Villa — Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh), Ron Vlaar (calf), Charles N’Zogbia (knee). Tottenham — Clint Dempsey (groin), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee)

Betting: Aston Villa 13/5, Draw 23/10, Tottenham 11/10

Aston Villa’s Lambert Babes will need to show strong character after the humiliating 8-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday.

The young Villains were completely outplayed at Stamford Bridge by a rampant Chelsea side and they now face a daunting task at home to Tottenham.

The eight-goal hammering, the club’s heaviest in the top flight, has not only pushed Villa deeper into the relegation mire — they are 16th, three points ahead of Southampton — but the mauling has given the Midlanders the worst goal difference in the Premier League at -17, one more than the bottom sides QPR and Reading.

On the positive side, Villa Park has been a reasonably happy hunting ground for Paul Lambert’s men with their eight home matches producing 10 points this season.

Tottenham, meanwhile, will be looking to strengthen their claims for a Champions League berth and add more Christmas woe to their opponents.

Andre Villas-Boas has steered his side to sixth place, level on points with Arsenal, Everton and West Brom and, with just one defeat in their past five outings, he will hope they can take full advantage of a bewildered Villa.

Verdict: Tottenham

Stoke v Liverpool (7.45pm)

TV: Sky Sports 1

Out: Stoke — Marc Wilson (ankle), Rory Delap (hernia). Liverpool — Martin Kelly (knee), Fabio Borini (foot).

Doubtful: Stoke — Charlie Adam (compassionate leave).

Betting: Stoke 21/10, Draw 11/5, Liverpool 11/8

Liverpool made it look easy in a 4-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, but their trip to face Stoke City is a different prospect altogether.

The win saw them climb to eighth on the table, five points outside the European qualification places, with continental competition next season still a realistic hope, provided they perform well in the second half of the 2012/13 campaign.

That objective however may be easier said than done, and a reality check looms with tonight’s trip to the  Britannia Stadium.

Now in their fifth consecutive Premier League season, Stoke have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with under manager Tony Pulis

They earned a point in a 0-0 draw away to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, doing well to blunt Spurs’ potent attack in front of their own fans at White Hart Lane.

And with Liverpool undeniably vulnerable away from home, Pulis and his powerful players will fancy their chances of bullying some of Rodgers’ more inexperienced talents.

Verdict: Draw

About the author:

TheScore Team

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