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Arsenal pose first real test for Liverpool’s Premier League title aspirations

Brighton vs Everton
American Express Community Stadium, East Sussex
Saturday, 29-12-2018 @6pm
Referee: Andy Madley

Brighton have won just two of their 14 meetings with Everton, with their last victory coming at home in the First Division in 1982. Everton have lost on only two of their seven visits to Brighton (W2, D3). The home side has scored in 13 of the 14 fixtures between these sides, with the only exception a goalless draw at Brighton in the First Division in 1980.

Brighton have no new injury concerns for the visit of Everton, but goalkeeper Mat Ryan is absent on international duty. Centre-back Lewis Dunk returns from suspension and is expected to resume his partnership with Shane Duffy for the first time since 4 December.

Everton forward Richarlison is set to return to the starting line-up after scoring as a substitute at Burnley. Ademola Lookman is in contention after missing two games with an ankle injury.

Fulham vs Huddersfield Town
Craven Cottage, London
Saturday, 29-12-2018 @6pm
Referee: Kevin Friend

Midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is Fulham’s only injury concern, but he could return from an ankle problem to face Arsenal on New Year’s Day. In an otherwise fully-fit squad, manager Claudio Ranieri is expected to pick only one of Ryan Sessegnon or Andre Schurrle in attack.

Huddersfield Town have no new injury concerns but a raft of long-term absentees remain out. Aaron Mooy, Tommy Smith and Abdelhamid Sabiri are among those still sidelined.

This is the first top-flight meeting at Craven Cottage between these sides since 1952, with Fulham having never lost to Huddersfield at home in this division (W2, D1). Huddersfield’s 1-0 win in the reverse fixture in November was their first victory in 12 league matches against Fulham (D4, L7). Fulham have lost just one of their last 10 home league games against Huddersfield, winning five and drawing four.

Leicester City vs Cardiff City
King Power Stadium
Saturday, 29-12-2018 @6pm
Referee: Simon Hooper

Leicester, who were victorious in the reverse fixture this season, last won consecutive games against the Bluebirds in September 2010. However, the Foxes have won four consecutive top-flight matches against Cardiff by an aggregate score of 11-0. The Foxes could equal their longest top-flight winning streak against a single opponent of five against Aston Villa (1958-1961) and West Ham (1965-1966). The Bluebirds have only had longer losing runs in the top division versus Birmingham City (six, 1956-1961) and Aston Villa (five, 1928-1953).

Leicester boss Claude Puel has no fresh injury concerns to contend with in his squad. The midfield duo of Matty James and Daniel Amartey remain long-term absentees.

Cardiff boss Neil Warnock received a boost with the news that goalkeeper Neil Etheridge is not in the Philippines squad for the Asian Cup. Callum Paterson faces a late fitness test, but Aron Gunnarsson and Harry Arter are expected to return.

Tottenham Hotspurs vs Wolves
Wembley Stasium, London
Saturday, 29-12-2018 @6pm
Referee: Scott Attwell

Tottenham’s Dele Alli faces a late fitness test on the hamstring injury that ruled him out on Boxing Day. Serge Aurier is back in training, but Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Victor Wanyama remain on the sidelines.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has confirmed Diogo Jota is not yet fit enough to return. Leander Dendoncker and Kortney Hause will be assessed after they missed the draw with Fulham because of illness.

Wolves have won just two of their previous nine Premier League meetings with Tottenham. They are without a win in their last five meetings since a 1-0 victory at Molineux in February 2010. Wolves have won just one of their last 12 away games at Tottenham in all competitions.

Watford vs Newcastle United
Vicarage Road, Watford
Saturday, 29-12-2018 @6pm
Referee: Roger East

Watford are without Christian Kabasele, who was hospitalised after colliding with a goal post against Chelsea, though he escaped serious injury. Andre Gray, Will Hughes, Adalberto Penaranda and Sebastian Prodl were all unavailable on Boxing Day and could again miss out.

Newcastle are set to recall striker Salomon Rondon, who was rested in the 4-0 defeat at Liverpool. Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is available after recovering from a thigh problem. Defender Ciaran Clark and goalkeeper Karl Darlow remain sidelined, while South Korea international Ki Sung-yueng is away on international duty.

Watford have won four of their last five Premier League meetings with Newcastle, after failing to win any of their first four against the Magpies in the competition (D2, L2). Newcastle have never won a top-flight game away to the Hornets, losing four and drawing four matches in either the Premier League or First Division. Newcastle have lost their last three games at Vicarage Road in all competitions.

Liverpool vs Arsenal
Anfield Stadium, Liverpool
Saturday, 29-12-2018 @8:30pm
Referee: Michael Oliver

The biggest fixture of the Premier League weekend pits tittle chasing Liverpool at home to Arsenal on Saturday evening. The Kops have been flying in the League since day one and head into the game unbeaten in all their 19 games so far this season. The 4-0 victory over Newcastle was testament of how Jurgen Klopp’s side can be at times and it propelled them four points clear at the summit.

Against Arsenal, they come up against one of the sides that nearly beat them in the first round. The Gunners dominated proceeding at Emirates in the 1-1 draw at the start of November but have since let down their guard, winning only four of their 8 games since then. Unai Emeryy’s side go into the game having won only one of their last three Premier League games (D1 L1) and on the back of a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Brighton last Wednesday.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could opt to freshen up his side, with Fabinho and Naby Keita amongst the contenders for a recall to the starting line-up. James Milner and Dominic Solanke are both ruled out, but Alberto Moreno has recovered from a back problem.

Arsenal are short of defenders with Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin still out and Nacho Monreal’s fitness uncertain. Shkodran Mustafi is nearing a return from a hamstring injury, although this game may come too soon for him. Captain Laurent Koscielny should be fine despite suffering a minor foot issue in the draw at Brighton.

Arsenal are winless in their last five league games at Anfield (D2, L3), conceding at least two goals in each of those matches (17 in total). Liverpool are unbeaten in their last seven matches against the Gunners (W3, D4). 

Liverpool are only the fourth Premier League team to be unbeaten at the halfway stage of a season, along with Arsenal in 2003-04, Manchester United in 2010-11 and Manchester City in 2017-18. The Reds are 16 points better off than at this stage last season. The Merseysiders are unbeaten in their last 20 matches in December in all competitions (W16, D4), winning the last nine. They are also are undefeated in 30 Premier League home games, their longest such sequence since a run of 31 between December 2007 and August 2009. A clean sheet would see Liverpool set a new record for fewest goals conceded (seven) after 20 top-flight games.

Arsenal are winless in their last three away league games, and have claimed just one victory in their last five on the road (D3, L1). The Gunners are winless in 19 Premier League away fixtures versus sides from the established top six (D7, L12), with their last such victory a 2-0 triumph at Manchester City on 18 January 2015. They have won just one of their last 12 Premier League away games against sides starting the day top of the table, losing the last six in a row by an aggregate score of 17-2. Arsenal have conceded in each of their last nine away Premier League games, two short of their longest run without a shut-out in the division (set in 2010).

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea
Selhurst Park, London
Sunday, 30-12-2018 @3pm
Referee: Craig Pawson

Callum Hudson-Odoi will face a late fitness test after picking up a hamstring injury of his own at Watford, while Alvaro Morata is fully fit.

Hodgson reported no new injuries for Crystal Palace, with Wayne Hennessey (back), Cheikhou Kouyate and Martin Kelly (adductor) back in contention. Christian Benteke is the only player still unavailable.

Crystal Palace have won two of their last four league encounters with Chelsea (L2), as many wins as they’d registered in their previous 18 combined (W2 D4 L12). Chelsea lost in this exact fixture last season (1-2) – they’ve never suffered consecutive away defeats against Crystal Palace in league competition. Chelsea are winless in their last five away Premier League London derbies (D2 L3), their longest run without a win on the road since a run of eight between December 2010 and September 2012. Crystal Palace have won more points in their last three Premier League games (7) than they had in their previous 11 in the competition (6). Chelsea are looking to win three consecutive Premier League away games for the first time under Maurizio Sarri, last doing so in April when Antonio Conte was in charge. Chelsea star Eden Hazard has been involved in more goals than any other Premier League player coming into this weekend (19 – 10 goals, 9 assists). Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson has enjoyed three victories in his last four home games against Chelsea in the Premier League (L1), achieving wins with Liverpool in November 2010, West Brom in March 2012 and with the Eagles in this fixture last season.

Burnely vs West Ham United
Turff Moor, Burnely
Sunday, 30-12-2018 @5:15pm
Referee: David Coote

Burnley are set to be without Robbie Brady and Steven Defour. Brady has missed the last two games after picking up a knock in the defeat by Tottenham, while Defour is still struggling with a calf problem that has sidelined him since the start of December. Matt Lowton also misses out through suspension after picking up five bookings this season. Johann Berg Gudmundsson returned from a hamstring problem as a substitute on Wednesday and could start, but Aaron Lennon, Stephen Ward (both knee) and Nick Pope (shoulder) remain sidelined.

West Ham hope Pablo Zabaleta can recover from illness in time for Sunday’s trip. The injury-hit Hammers could only fill six of the seven substitute berths at Southampton, leaving Pellegrini hoping that Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic might shake off hamstring issues to face the Clarets. Winston Reid (knee) is out until late January, with no timescale for returns on Jack Wilshere (ankle), Ryan Fredericks (ankle), Fabio Balbuena (knee) and Manuel Lanzini (knee), with Carlos Sanchez (knee) and Andriy Yarmolenko (Achilles) both out until April.

Burnley have picked up just one win in their last nine meetings with West Ham in all competitions (D2 L6), winning 3-0 in the Premier League at the London Stadium in March.  This will be the 10th Premier League match between these two sides, with West Ham winning six times (D1 L2). Both teams have found the net in each of the four Premier League matches between Burnley and West Ham at Turf Moor (12 goals in total, 3 per game). Burnley have conceded 41 goals in their 19 Premier League games this season – two more than they shipped in the whole of the 2017-18 campaign.Burnley have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games (D2 L9), conceding 30 and scoring just eight in that run.

Southampton vs Man City
St. Mary’s Stadium, Hampshire
Sunday, 30-12-2018 @5:15pm
Referee: Paul Tierney

Mario Lemina is a doubt for Southampton after picking up a stomach problem while Ryan Bertrand (back) is out. Pierre-Emile Hobjerg will return after serving a one-match suspension in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to West Ham, while Michael Obafemi remains out of action after picking up a knock in training.  

Manchester City could again be without Fernandinho for the trip to Southampton while Fabian Delph is suspended. Fernandinho has missed City’s last two league outings – both defeats – with a thigh problem and will again be assessed, while Delph is beginning a three-match ban for his sending off at Leicester. David Silva is back in action after coming off the bench on Boxing Day but Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Claudio Bravo (Achilles) are still unavailable.

Southampton have won just one of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Manchester City (D2 L8), winning 4-2 in this exact fixture in the 2015-16 campaign. Manchester City have won their last four Premier League games against Southampton by an aggregate score of 12-2. They have never won five in a row against Saints in the Premier League. Southampton have never lost five consecutive league games against Manchester City. They also haven’t suffered three consecutive home league defeats against the Citizens since April 1994. Man City have lost three of their last four Premier League games (W1) – as many as they had in their previous 70 in the competition (W55 D12 L3). Man City have lost their last two Premier League games, despite scoring first in both. Only four sides have ever lost three in a row after scoring the first goal in the competition (Blackburn in April 2007, Sunderland in February 2011, Wolves in April 2012 and Leicester in December 2014). After a run of six consecutive clean sheets, Man City have conceded in eight of their last nine Premier League games. The Citizens have conceded a goal with their first shot faced in three of their last four league games. Only once in Man City boss Pep Guardiola’s managerial career has he lost three league games in a row, back in May 2015 with Bayern Munich.

Man United vs Bournemouth
Old Trafford, Manchester 
Sunday, 30-12-2018 @7:30pm
Referee: Lee Mason

​Manchester United welcome Bournemouth to Old Trafford on Sunday as they look to make it three successive Premier League wins under new interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.  The dark cloud surrounding United disappeared almost overnight following Jose Mourinho’s departure earlier this month, and Solskjaer has managed to create a feel good factor around the club with two resounding wins, albeit against struggling Cardiff and Huddersfield.

After losing their first ever league match with Bournemouth in December 2015, Manchester United are unbeaten in each of the last six Premier League games against the Cherries. Bournemouth have never beaten United at Old Trafford in all competitions, losing six times and drawing one and scoring just two goals. In total, Bournemouth have won just two of their 15 previous matches against the Reds in all competitions.

Manchester United forwards Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial all face late fitness tests. Caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed Chris Smalling is not likely to return from his foot problem until the middle of January.

Bournemouth will be without club captain Simon Francis for up to nine months following the knee injury he suffered against Tottenham. He joins Lewis Cook, Dan Gosling and Adam Smith on the sidelines.

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