Premier League Preview Week 14
The first weekend of full Premier League action returns after the trials and tribulations of the FA Cup third round. Manchester United went top of the league on Tuesday night after a 1-0 win over Burnley. The Red Devils leapfrogged rivals Liverpool but the two face each other this weekend for what should be one of the games of the season.
There are also two derbies this weekend, one in West London as an improving Fulham and stuttering Chelsea, and another in the Black Country as Wolves take on West Brom. Leicester face Southampton as both sides continue their respective races for Europe while Aston Villa host Everton on Sunday afternoon, Villa’s first game for nearly two weeks.
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Fulham v Chelsea
Fulham have proven a tough team to beat in recent weeks. Scott Parker’s side are unbeaten in their last five and have lost just one in their last seven, picking up points against Liverpool, Southampton and Leicester in this run. However, the West Londoners have only recorded two wins in these seven matches including a 2-0 win over QPR in the FA Cup. Having conceded only two goals in their last five games, Scott Parker will be encouraged by his team’s recent improvement.
After beating Morecambe 4-0 in the FA Cup last weekend, Chelsea now has two wins from their last eight matches. The Blues made an excellent start to the season, but have drifted off in recent weeks, particularly in the Premier League. Frank Lampard’s side are winless in their last three and have only won four points from the last 18 available. Three consecutive losses away from home in the league will also cause concern for Lampard.
Fulham have a fully fit squad and no fresh injury concerns. Reece James, N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christensen could all return for Chelsea this weekend.
Chelsea would have been sure favourites to win this fixture a month ago. However, it will be a close encounter this weekend and Fulham may have enough to earn a point at Craven Cottage.
Leicester v Southampton
Leicester extended their unbeaten streak to five following a comprehensive 4-0 win over Stoke in the FA Cup last weekend. Brendan Rogers’ side have also lost just once in their last nine games in all competitions. However, the Foxes home form has been inconsistent this season as they have picked up just three wins at the King Power Stadium in eight matches including just one in their last four.
While Southampton are still picking up points in the Premier League, the wins have dried up for them recently, winning just one in their last five. The Saints’ 1-0 win over Liverpool last time out, however, was impressive and Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side will take confidence from this match into the upcoming tie with Leicester. Southampton have also proven a tough team to beat away from home in 2020/21, losing just one game on the road all season.
Dennis Praet (thigh) is ruled out for Leicester. Jamie Vardy (groin) and James Maddison (knee) are likely return while Cengiz Under (ankle) and Ricardo Pereira (groin) remain doubtful. Southampton will be without Michael Obafemi (muscular injury), Moussa Djenepo (thigh), Nathan Redmond (groin) and Jannik Vestergaard (knee). Mohamed Salisu (muscular injury), Oriol Romeu (calf), Che Adams (concussion) and Alex McCarthy (coronavirus) are also doubtful.
This will be a closely contested match and both teams will be eager to keep chase with the top four this season. Southampton’s extensive injury list may cause problems and Leicester could take advantage of that this weekend.
Aston Villa v Everton
Aston Villa’s progress this season has been disrupted by recent cancellations and squad issues and the first team players have not played for two weeks. However, this may give Villa an edge this weekend as key player will have been rested. Dean Smith’s side have lost just once in their last six league games, which has seen them keep chase with the European places. But their home form has been inconsistent this season and Villa have only won once in their last five at Villa Park.
Everton have got their season back on track after a tricky patch of form in late November to early December. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have lost just two in their last eight in all competitions and win six of these fixtures. In the Premier League, they have lost just one in their last seven and won five of their last six. Everton’s recent away from has been excellent with four wins in their last five on the road – only Man United have a better recent away record than the Toffees.
Wesley (knee) and Trézéguet (coronavirus) will be unavailable for Villa. Everton will be without Fabian Delph, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Allan Marques Loureiro who all sustained thigh injuries recently.
Everton have been excellent recently and they will continue their good form against a Villa team who may be slightly off the pace given their recent fixtures postponements.
Liverpool v Man United
Despite beating Aston Villa’s youth team 4-1 in the FA Cup last weekend, Liverpool is in a tricky patch of form. Over the Christmas and New Year period, the Reds gained just two points from a possible nine and they failed to score in their last two matches. Home form, however, is often a different story for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who have won seven of their eight Premier League games at Anfield this season and scored 21 goals on home soil. Liverpool remains unbeaten at home in 67 league matches.
Man United have made up for their slow start to the season in emphatic fashion in recent months. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side are unbeaten in 11 Premier League matches, winning nine and drawing just two, form which led them to the top of the league this week. Away from home, United are the best team in the league this season. The Red Devils have dropped just two points from a possible 24, coming from a 2-2 draw away to Leicester on Boxing Day. United have scored 22 goals in their eight away games this season, more than any other team in the league.
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Diogo Jota, and Konstantinos Tsimikas are ruled out for Liverpool with knee injuries but Naby Keita and Joel Matip could return. Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof could return for United this weekend but Phil Jones (knee), Facundo Pellistri (coronavirus), and Marcos Rojo (calf) have been ruled out.
With both teams in emphatic form, and with so much to play for in this fixture, a score draw could be likely. Neither team will want to sacrifice their league position at this stage of the season.
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