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OpEd

Chasing pack raise faint hopes of catching Pep’s City in title race

Sadio Mane was sent off in the First game against City this season.

Chelsea vs Leicester City
Stamford Bridge
Saturday, 06:pm
Referee: Mike Jones

Chelsea will have only new signing Ross Barkley missing when they host 2015/16 champions Leicester on Saturday.
The Blues who are 16 points adrift of leaders Man City still have an outside chance to retain the tittle this season but a battle to finish in the top four may be their more realistic cause.

Leicester have seen a stable raise up the table in the last few months under Claud Puel and will be boosted by the fact that they have had more rest as compared to Chelsea ahead of this fixture.

After a hectic festive period, Chelsea played Arsenal in the middle of the week which plays in the favor of the Foxes who last played a competitive match seven days ago as they drew 0-0 with Fleetwood Town in the FA Cup, a game which saw Puel make several changes.

The Foxes will have to do without captain Wes Morgan and fellow defender Danny Simpson who are both sidelined with injury but Christain Fucks, Jimmy Vardy, and Vincent Ibbora are available.

Chelsea defeated Leicester 2-1 at the beginning of the campaign coupled by a 3-0 victory for the Blues in the reverse fixture last season and will be confident that they can replicate those results again.

Crystal Palace vs Burnely
Selhurst Park
Saturday, 06:00pm
Referee: Mike Oliver

Crystal Palace have a growing injury list, with Jeffrey Schlupp and Andros Townsend the latest players facing spells on the sidelines.They are also without Scott Dann, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Ward, Jason Puncheon and Connor Wickham

Burnley’s new loan signing Georges-Kevin NKoudou is expected to play but James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield and Kevin Long require fitness tests.Top scorer Chris Wood and left-back Stephen Ward are continued absentees.

Palace seem to be picking momentum of late that has seen them climb two points outside the relegation zone but Burnely do not know what hit them as they have now gone six games in all competitions minus a win, five of them being in the league.

Palace have one win in the last six against Burnely and that can in at Turf Moore in 2015 and would like to change that stat as soon as posible having lost all the last three meetings between the sides.

Jurgen Kloop(left) and Pep Guardiola (right) will both hold nothing back when their teams clash on Sunday evening. Courtesy photo.

Huddersfield Town vs West ham United
John Smith Stadium
Saturday, 06:00pm
Referee: Jonathan Moss

Huddersfield new signings Terence Kongolo and Alex Pritchard are in line to make league debuts for the club. Michael Hefele and Phillip Billing are back in training but Chris Lowe, Martin Cranie and Collin Quaner will all miss out.

Marko Arnautovic is in contention for the Hammers after recovering from a hamstring strain, as is James Collins, however, Winston Reid is a doubt with a groin injury and Aaron Cresswell remains sidelined by a back problem.

David Moyes seem to already have started making wonders at West Ham as no team outside the top five has taken more points in the last seven games than West Ham have.

West Ham registered their first Premier League win of the season in September’s return fixture, inflicting a first defeat on David Wagner’s side.

Huddersfield have won 10 of their last 12 home league games against West Ham, but they have not hosted this fixture since November 1971.

It will be a battle in which both side target maximum points and I don’t see any of them being satisfied with a draw.

Jose Mourinho hopes his Man Utd side can keep within touching distance as they host Stock. Courtesy photo.

Newcastle United vs Swansea City
St. James Park
Saturday, 06:00pm
Referee: Graham Scott

Newcastle pair Rob Elliot and Chancel Mbemba are available after respective thigh and knee injuries. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Florian Lejeune and Jesus Gamez are still sidelined.

Swansea will assess Renato Sanches, who has a hamstring problem, and Tammy Abraham, who is nursing a hip injury. Angel Rangel is out with a calf strain but Ki Sung-yueng and Leon Britton are fit after a similar injury, and Leroy Fer is available after his red card against Wolves was rescinded.

With only nine points separating the bottom 11 clubs, any side putting together a three-match winning run will leap towards safety. But Newcastle look so jittery at home. They haven’t won there since October.

Swansea have got mixed results since they got a new manager, winning away to Watford then losing at home to Spurs. They got to the St. James park knowing that a god performance can easily lead to three points but with the congestion between eighth and 18th, Newcastle will also be hoping this can be a start to a run of results that will see them move up the table to a spot they can call safety.

Watford vs Southampton
Vicarage Road
Saturday, 06:00pm

Referee: Roger East

Watford captain Troy Deeney is available in the league for the first time since serving a four-match ban. Head coach Marco Silva remains without Younes Kaboul, Craig Cathcart, Isaac Success, Miguel Britos, Kiko Femenia, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah.

Southampton defenders Wesley Hoedt, Cedric Soares and Jeremy Pied have all returned to training after injuries and could be involved. Forward Charlie Austin remains out with a hamstring injury.

Watford and Southampton are the least in form sides in the league and both will be hoping to change that statistic as soon as possible.

Watford’s only win in the past eight top-flight home matches against Southampton came in December 1999.

There have been 34 goals scored in the last eight meetings between these sides at Vicarage Road in all competitions: 19 for Watford, 15 for Southampton.

West Brom vs Brighton
Hawthrons
Saturday, 06:00pm

Referee: Martin Artiknson

West Brom trio Jonny Evans, Kieran Gibbs and Matt Phillips are all available after overcoming respective foot, muscle and hamstring problems. James Morrison and Nacer Chadli both remain on the sidelines.

Brighton’s on-loan midfielder Izzy Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury in Monday’s FA Cup win over Crystal Palace. Steve Sidwell, who has not played this season because of a back problem, has injured his ankle in training.

Brom are yet to win under Allan Pardew in the league but last weekend managed to topple Exeter in the FA Cup and will hope they can reverse that momentum and bring it against Brighton on Saturday.
West Brom have never lost at home to Brighton in nine previous matches, winning five of those games. However, Brighton have won three of their last four meetings.
Each of the last three encounters have been won 3-1 by the home side.

Tottenham vs everton
Wembley Stadium
Saturday, 08:30pm

Referee: Craig Powson.

Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks will miss Saturday’s game against Everton because of an ongoing ankle problem. Defenders Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain unavailable but Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has no fresh injury concerns.
Everton’s new signing Cenk Tosun is expected to be involved. Defender Michael Keane is still sidelined because of a gashed foot, while midfielder Idrissa Gueye is ruled out with a hamstring problem.
Tottenham are unbeaten in 10 league meetings.They have 24 victories over Everton in the Premier League, more than against any other side.
Everton have gone nine league and cup games without a win away to Spurs since November 2008, drawing three times and losing six.

Tottenham seem to be rejuvinated after that 4-1 loss to City as it has seen them go on a run of five games minus defeat and in the due process won four games including one in the FA Cup.
However, Everton have found a new life under Sam Allardyce as the feeling that they are a top half team has come back into their minds.
We can also wait and see how everything unfolds when the two side clash later on Saturday evening.

Bournemouth vs Arsenal
Vaitality Stadium
Sunday, 04:30

Referee: Kevin Friend

Arsenal may have Mesut ozil, Jack Wilshire and Sead Kolasinac available as they have all recovered from their latest injuries but on top of Francis Coqueline who has left for Valencia, the game comes early for vice-captain Laurent koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Olivier Giroud and long term absentee Santi Cazorla.

For the home side, Only Jamie Defeo and Tyron Mings will be unavailable as Josh king and Junior Stanislas are expected to take part after overcoming illness.

The Gunners know that they have a long battle for top four ahead of them and will want fixtures like this which look winnable to be taken care of. However, a run of six games in all competitions coupled by one win in two at the Vaitality minus a win does not help their cause.

The two teams played out a thriller in the reverse fixture last season as Arsenal came from 3-0 down to earn a point in their 3-3 all draw nd the neutrals will be hoping that anything close to last season’s encounter will give their eyes the pleasure they want.

Ozil set to return for Arsenal away to Bournemouth. Courtesy photo.

Liverpool vs Manchester City
Anfield
Sunday, 07:00pm

Referee: Andre Mariner.

Liverpool welcome Man City at Anfield in one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season so far. The two are the most inform teams in the league and with both of them scoring for fun all season, entertainment will be aplenty.

Liverpool will not be helped by the fact that they have just sold one of their star players in Philip Coutinho to Barcelona for €142m and looking at his past experiences in games between the two sides where he has scored three goals in his last five starts, the Reds will indeed miss him.

The consolation for that is that they will have top scorer and current best player in Mohammed Salah, returning after missing the FA Cup tie against Everton and will hope that he can inspire them to the desired victory.

18 points separate the two sides and a win for the Citizens will surely put all Liverpool thoughts of an outside chance to the crown to be.

The first games saw City thrash Liverpool 5-0 and one their star players Sadio Mane was sent off in the process.

Liverpool will be without captain Jordan Henderson, Alberto Moreno and Nathanial Clyne for this fixture but Daniel Sturridge is in contention after recovering from a muscle injury.

The neutrals and Guardiola’s foes will hope Liverpool can put an end to City’s current 22 match unbeaten run but with the thing what the Spaniard’s team are doing, it will not be a surprise to many if they(City) leave Anfield unscathed.

Manchester United Vs Stock City
Old Trafford
Monday, 11:300pm

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

With Man City playing a day earlier, Man UTD will go into the fixture at home to Stock either further adrift of the run away leaders or with an opportunity to cub the lead at the top.

Mourinho’s men are currently 15 points behind City and they know that they can not afford any slip ups as falling further behind City will wash away any remaining hops of a tittle.

The teams behind them especially Chelsea and Liverpool are closing in by the day and a fight for top four is the last thing any United faithful will want.

United have been boosted by the news that Antonio Valencia will be returning for the game but Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Micheal Carrick are still out.

Stock City fired Mark Hughes last weekend following the shock FA Cup elimination at the hands of league II side Coventry and will have Eddie Niedzwiecki taking charge for the mean while.

The Care taker manager will have captain Ryan Showcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Eric Peiters all returning but Glen Johnson still remains a long term absentee.

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