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Football

City, Liverpool at home as Premier League title race, top four heat up

Cardiff City vs Everton

Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff

Tuesday, 26-02-2019 @10:45pm

Referee: Kevin Friend

Cardiff City loanee Oumar Niasse is ineligible to face his parent club Everton, so Kenneth Zohore could make his first start in five months. Aron Gunnarsson is expected to return, while Lee Peltier and Bobby Reid will be checked after illness and Victor Camarasa (calf) could be fit.

Everton defenders Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines are available after respective knee and rib injuries. Yerry Mina remains a doubt, while Kurt Zouma serves a one-match ban.

Cardiff’s last league victory over the Toffees was back in 1956. Since then, they have drawn four and lost four. However, Everton are winless in six top-flight visits to Cardiff since a 2-0 triumph in March 1929.

Huddersfield Town vs Wolves

The John Smith Stadium, West Yorkshire

Tuesday, 26-02-2019 @10:45pm

Referee: Dean Coote

Huddersfield have won 11 of their last 13 league games against Wolves, including the last four without conceding a goal. Wolves have not won a top-flight game away to Huddersfield since recording a 1-0 victory at Leeds Road in April 1972.

Huddersfield are without defender Tommy Smith, who begins a three-game ban following his sending off at Newcastle. Adama Diakhaby is out with a hamstring problem, and joins Isaac Mbenza, Danny Williams and Abdelhamid Sabiri on the sidelines, but Alex Pritchard is fit and Eric Durm may return from injury.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has reported no injury concerns. Joao Moutinho is fit despite requiring stitches after being caught in the face by an opponent’s elbow at Bournemouth.

Leicester City vs Brighton and Hove Albion

King Power Stadium, Leicester

Tuesday, 26-02-2019 @10:45pm

Referee: Lee Probert

Leicester coaches Mike Stowell and Adam Sadler will be in charge on Tuesday following the sacking of Claude Puel. Left-back Ben Chilwell, who missed the defeat by Crystal Palace, is available after injury.

Brighton will assess the fitness of several players, including Glenn Murray and Jurgen Locadia, who are both back in training after respective calf and ankle injuries. Lewis Dunk and Jose Izquierdo are also in contention, and Solly March returns. Central defender Leon Balogun remains sidelined by a shoulder problem and Florin Andone completes a three-match suspension against the Foxes.

This is the 33rd meeting between the sides – Leicester could go four matches unbeaten against Brighton for the first time. Brighton’s only victory at the King Power Stadium in the past six attempts was by 4-1 in a Championship match in April 2014.

Newcastle United vs Burnely

St. James Park, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Tuesday, 26-02-2019 @11pm

Referee: Craig Pawson

This is the 100th league meeting between the sides. Newcastle are attempting to do the league double over Burnley for the first time since the 1954-55 season. Burnley have not won at Newcastle in five attempts since April 1976.

Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could feature for the first time since suffering the recurrence of a thigh complaint in early January. Ki Sung-yueng, Paul Dummett and Joselu were all named as substitutes at the weekend after recovering from injuries.

Ciaran Clark and Rob Elliot are Newcastle’s only two absentees. Burnley have no fresh injury concerns. Robbie Brady and Johann Berg Gudmundsson returned from muscle problems as substitutes against Spurs.

Arsenal vs Bournemouth

Emirates Stadium, London

Wednesday, 27-02-2019 @10:45pm

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Arsenal are perceived to be the outsiders in the race to secure fourth spot in the table by the end of the campaign, but Unai Emery’s side currently hold that position after a run of four wins from five league outings.

Their only defeat during that period came away at Manchester City and with the club also making progress in the Europa League, it is perhaps harsh to expect the Gunners to only claim a place in that same competition next season. Arsenal have not necessarily always faced top opposition during their recent schedule, but this is a team who have had to deal with several injuries in defence and Emery has done terrifically to keep his team in the hunt to feature in the Champions League during the next campaign. The North London outfit now only find themselves seven points adrift of fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur – a team who have been receiving widespread plaudits – but prevailing on Wednesday and in the derby on Saturday will close the gap even further.

There is little doubt that Arsenal are going to have to improve away from home in order to challenge Spurs, but 35 points have come from their last 13 home outings and it is a run which matches each of Liverpool and Manchester City.

Arsenal face a set of potentially season-defining fixtures at the start of next month with Manchester United and a European double-header with Rennes also coming by March 14, and it increases the importance of recording maximum points against Bournemouth.

Emery has faith in frontmen Aubameyang and Lacazette, but the Spaniard is now making an obvious effort to try to reintegrate Mesut Ozil back into the fold. Starts for the German in the Premier League have recently been few and far between, but Wednesday’s game could be a platform for the club’s biggest earner to remind Emery that he has still has plenty to offer.

Bournemouth have not found themselves close to becoming embroiled in a relegation battle throughout the season, but Eddie Howe will be disappointed with how his team have fared. The Cherries enjoyed a strong start to the campaign, but 11 defeats have come from their last 17 matches in the Premier League without any question marks being raised over Howe’s future at the Vitality Stadium. That is not to say that there necessarily should be with Howe having worked wonders since promotion to the top flight, but Bournemouth have not made the progress which was perhaps anticipated after finishing in ninth place in 2017.

There have been times where Bournemouth have been unplayable – Chelsea have first-hand experience of that – but that success was followed by a 2-0 defeat at Cardiff City and it further highlighted the lack of consistency from a talented squad. Bournemouth took a step in the right direction with a hard-earned point against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend, although they created the better of the chances and had the rub of the green with a number of decisions from the referee. Howe will be aware that his side need to develop a killer instinct on a more regular basis to reach the heights which he will believe are realistic, and back-to-back clashes with Arsenal and Manchester City are ideal games to demand more from his team.

Both managers are likely to consider a number of changes to their side given the next round of fixtures at the weekend.

Emery will have one eye on the North London derby, and that could see the likes of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Aaron Ramsey drop down to the bench after their recent time on the sidelines and Granit Xhaka may be given a rest. Ozil should come back into the team and Denis Suarez is in line for his first start since a loan move from Barcelona, while Aubameyang should return in attack.

Bournemouth boss Howe is without Jefferson Lerma due to suspension so Andrew Surman should be restored to the starting lineup, while Diego Rico and Charlie Daniels may get the nod at left-back. Howe may not feel that Dominic Solanke can play three times within a week after barely featuring all season, and that could allow Lys Mousset some game-time from the opening whistle. Brooks and Wilson remain unavailable, while Steve Cook is currently dealing with a groin problem and may not be risked.

Wednesday’s showdown will represent just the ninth competitive meeting between the two clubs, with Arsenal registering six wins in comparison to just the one triumph for Bournemouth. Arsenal have prevailed in each of the three Premier League meetings for the loss of just one goal, with Bournemouth’s sole success coming on the South coast at the start of 2018. The Gunners have never failed to score in any of their previous clashes with the Cherries.

Southampton vs Fulham

St. Mary’s Stadium, Hampshire

Wednesday, 27-02-2019 @10:45pm

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Southampton host Fulham in the Premier League on Wednesday in a crucial clash at the bottom end of the table.

Both sides slumped to defeats in their last outings, adding extra incentive to the encounter at St Mary’s Stadium, with both clubs sitting in 18th and 19th in the league respectively.

For Fulham, even a win would leave them in the bottom three and still four points off their south coast opponents, while Southampton desperately needs points to keep up the pace with sides above them.

Ralph Hassenhuttl has a near fully fit squad to choose from for the match but is without Mario Lemina, who is still nursing an abdominal strain he picked up in December, while Danny Ings remains sidelined.  Hassenhuttl welcomed back Michael Obafemi against Arsenal on Sunday, however the Irishman managed only 20 minutes before suffering another hamstring strain and needing to be replaced, all but assuring his absence on Wednesday.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa made his return from injury in the Cottagers’ defeat to West Ham, while there were debuts for new signings Lazar Markovic and Havard Nordtveit, as Claudio Ranieri has a full strength team available for the vital relegation battle.

The two clubs have faced off many times over the years, with 73 clashes between the sides taking place – leading in the head to head battles are Southampton, who have 27 victories to Fulham’s 21. This fixture back in November was Ranieri’s first in charge of the Cottagers, as he oversaw a 3-2 win at Craven Cottage to get his reign off to the perfect start. Aleksander Mitrovic’s brace and an Andre Schurrle strike were enough to see off a Stuart Armstrong double on the day to hand the capital club their second league victory of the season. Prior to that meeting, the Saints had a good record against the men in white, being unbeaten in the previous six matches, a run that stretched back to 2004.

Crystal Palace vs Man United

Selhurst Park, London

Wednesday, 27-02-2019 @11pm

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Crystal Palace centre back Mamadou Sakho will miss Wednesday’s game because of the knee injury that forced him off against Leicester. Fellow defenders Martin Kelly and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be assessed.

Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be without as many as nine first-team players. Ander Herrera, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Phil Jones and Nemanja Matic are all ruled out, while Marcus Rashford (ankle) is a doubt. Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia remain absent, but defender Marcos Rojo is expected to be involved.

Crystal Palace have yet to beat Manchester United in the Premier League after 19 attempts (D4, L15). It’s a competition record for most matches versus a single opponent without ever winning. The Eagles have scored just seven goals in those 19 fixtures. Palace are without a victory in 21 league games against United since a 3-0 home win in May 1991, when John Salako scored twice. They are looking to avoid defeat in both league meetings in a single season for the first time since 1989-90.

Manchester United have won seven successive away matches in all competitions, their best run since April 2002. They have lost just one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 14 games in charge. Their tally of 26 points in 10 league games under the Norwegian is at least five more than any other club prior to the midweek fixtures. The Red Devils have kept an unrivalled five clean sheets in the Premier League since Solskjaer took over. They have been awarded nine Premier League penalties this season, the most of any top-flight team.

Chelsea vs Tottenham 

Stamford Bridge, London

Wednesday, 27-02-2019 @11pm

Referee: Andre Marriner

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri says he has not decided if he will pick goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga after he refused to be substituted in the League Cup final. Forward Callum Hudson-Odoi and midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be handed starts.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is again without Eric Dier due to tonsillitis. Fellow midfielder Dele Alli is not yet ready to return from his hamstring problem.

Tottenham ended their 30-match winless run away at Chelsea in the corresponding league encounter last season. However, they lost at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup semi-final second leg last month. Spurs have won three of the past four Premier League meetings, as many as they had in their previous 20 attempts. Tottenham are looking to win three consecutive league games against Chelsea for the first time since a run of five between March 1961 and September 1963. The last time Chelsea lost both league games in a season to Tottenham was in 1970-71.

Chelsea have lost six of their last 14 top-flight fixtures, a run that began with a 3-1 defeat by Tottenham on 24 November. Their three most recent league games have produced a total of 15 goals. They beat Huddersfield 5-0, but lost 4-0 and 6-0 at Bournemouth and Manchester City respectively. The Blues are unbeaten in all four Premier League home matches this season against other established top-six teams (W2, D2). Maurizio Sarri’s side have only scored 18 goals in their past 15 league matches, compared to 27 goals in their first 11 fixtures this season. Gonzalo Higuain was directly involved in all four Juventus goals in their 4-3 aggregate victory against Spurs in last season’s Champions League clash, scoring three and setting up the other.

Tottenham have taken 15 points from six London derbies this season; only Arsenal, with 16 in eight games, have earned more. They have gone a Premier League record 31 consecutive fixtures without a draw since April. It’s the longest top-flight run since Portsmouth’s 38-game streak in 1928-29. Spurs could lose four consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time since a run of seven in a row under Harry Redknapp from December 2008 to February 2009. Mauricio Pochettino has won four Premier League games against Chelsea as Tottenham manager – more than every other Spurs boss combined. However, Pochettino has lost eight times to Chelsea, more than any other opponent in his managerial career.

Liverpool vs Watford

Anfield Stadium, Liverpool

Wednesday, 27-02-2019 @11pm

Referee: Graham Scott

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino has a chance of playing despite being forced off at Manchester United with an ankle problem. Should the Reds decide against risking him, the Brazilian would be likely to return in Sunday’s Merseyside derby with Everton. Naby Keita will be monitored after a recent illness, but defenders Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez remain out.

Watford could name the same side which began Friday’s 5-1 win against Cardiff. This match comes too soon for full-back Kiko Femenia, who is back in training after a hamstring injury, but he is expected to be their only absentee.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last six league meetings with Watford (W5, D1), scoring 20 goals and keeping four clean sheets in that run. The Hornets’ two most recent trips to Anfield ended in a 6-1 defeat in November 2016 and a 5-0 loss in March 2018. Watford have lost 10 of their 11 league games away to Liverpool, with the exception a 1-0 victory in August 1999 courtesy of a Tommy Mooney goal.

The Reds have scored more than once in just two of their nine league and cup games in 2019. They have registered a total of three shots on target in their previous two matches – one against Manchester United and two versus Bayern Munich, failing to score in either match The Merseysiders have dropped nine points in their last seven league games, having missed out on just six points in their first 20 matches this season. Liverpool have lost just one of their last 26 league and cup home matches in the month of February (W19, D6) – that was a 2-0 defeat by West Bromwich Albion in February 2013. Jurgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten in 34 Premier League games at Anfield since losing to Crystal Palace in April 2017 (W24, D10). Mohamed Salah, who is one shy of 50 Premier League goals for Liverpool, has six goals and one assist in three games against Watford. Sadio Mane has three goals and three assists in four matches versus the Hornets.

Man City vs West Ham United

Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Wednesday, 27-02-2019 @11pm

Referee: Scot Attwell

Manchester City are without Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte, both of whom suffered muscle injuries in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final win. John Stones and Gabriel Jesus remain sidelined, while Benjamin Mendy is nearing fitness and will be assessed.

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini has reported no new injury concerns. Manuel Lanzini is again likely to feature as a substitute, having made his comeback from a long-term knee problem in Friday’s win against Fulham. Defenders Fabian Balbuena and Winston Reid have returned to light training but are not yet fully fit.

Manchester City have won 10 of their 12 league games against West Ham at the Etihad Stadium (D1, L1). The Hammers’ only league win there came in September 2015, when current boss Manuel Pellegrini was in charge of the home side. Under Pep Guardiola, City have won all six of their league and cup games against the Hammers, scoring 22 goals and conceding just three.

The reigning champions have won 13 of their 14 top-flight games at the Etihad Stadium this season. City have scored two goals or more in each of their last 15 home league matches – the longest such run in the top flight since Tottenham did so in 16 consecutive games in 1965. After scoring three goals against both Arsenal and Chelsea, Sergio Aguero can become the first player to score Premier League hat-tricks in three consecutive home appearances. Aguero has ended on the winning side in each of the last 23 league games he has started at the Etihad Stadium, scoring 29 goals and assisting seven more.

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