Fri, Jan 18, 4:34am by Kevin Pitstock
Week 23 of the English Premier League is a reverse fixture of the Week 6 fixtures. The Manchester Clubs maintained their dominance atop the Premier League table with each of the clubs booking a win in week 22. Chelsea played two matches and did manage to gain a point, as they won 4-nil against Stoke and then played to a two-two draw against Southampton. Tottenham and Everton lost ground to the leaders, as they each played to a bore draw in Week 22.
Liverpool destroyed Norwich on the back of a Suarez hat trick in a 5-2 mauling of Norwich. Interestingly, Suarez has back-to-back trebles in league play against Norwich. He has seemingly solved Norwich’s defence. With his current form and Norwich’s recent struggles (winless in their last five), Suarez is ripe to run the show in front of their home crowd.
City were the winners at Craven Cottage, as Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko led City to a come from behind 2-1 victory over Fulham. Dzeko lived up to the hype, as he came off the bench and grabbed the match winner on his first touch.
Vincent Kompany had his red card rescinded. Thus, he is available for the home run-in. Fulham striker Bryan Ruiz is struggling with a hamstring injury and he is questionable to play in this match. His possible omission from the side potentially hurts Dimitar Berbatov’s productivity, as he is more of a threat when partnered with Ruiz than he is without the Costa Rican in the starting XI.
City are without the Toure’s, as they are on International duty in the African Cup of Nations. Defenders Micah Richards and Maicon are set to miss out with knee injuries. Sergio Aguero is also expected to miss out due to injury. Expect the starting XI of City to feature Dzeko and Tevez partnered up top with Nasri, Milner, and Silva adding to the attack from the midfield.
QPR are unbeaten in their last two matches, which includes a 1-nil shock win on the road against Chelsea. Harry Rednapp secured two of his transfer targets in French striker Loic Remy (from Marseille in Ligue 1 and Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim. Whilst the QPR acquisitions will certainly help their cause in the relegation race, it is unlikely that these players will make an immediate impact. Remy has yet to score in twelve appearances for Marseille this season and he has struggled with injury.
West Ham played a mid-week FA Cup replay in which they dropped the match 1-nil against hosts Manchester United. West Ham have mustered two wins at Upton Park in their last six matches and they need a win here to stop their skid.
Stephen Fletcher found the net in the 51st minute. His goal was enough to lead Sunderland past Wigan 1-nil at the Stadium of Light in their previous meeting.
Sunderland struggle to find the net in away fixtures, as they have accumulated ten goals in eleven road matches. Fortunately for Sunderland, Wigan struggles nearly as much with goals on their own home grounds, as they have scored thirteen in eleven matches.
Wigan come off a 1-1 draw against Fulham, whilst Sunderland enters this fixture off a 3-nil home win against West Ham United. Sunderland have won three of their last six matches, whilst Wigan have managed a win and a draw in their own last six. Sunderland are the better bet in this match up in a low scoring affair.
Stoke won the reverse leg, as they lived up to their reputation at home and kept a clean sheet against a potent Swansea attack. Stoke are struggling in recent weeks whilst the Swans are soaring. Swansea are on a five match unbeaten run in the EPL whilst Stoke have dropped the last two. Swansea are tough at home and Michu has been in top form. He was rested in the mid-week FA Cup match. Look for Michu to frustrate the visitors and Stoke’s defensive woes to continue.
These two clubs played to a 2-2 draw at the Madejski. Demba Ba bagged a double for Newcastle. Considering the striker has transferred away to Chelsea, Newcastle must call on others to carry the load this weekend. Newcastle have struggled defensively and they have signed Mathieu Debuchy from Lille in response to their defensive issues. He is expected to play in this match in an effort to stop their skid, as Newcastle have won one in their last six matches played. Papiss Cissé will lead the attack for Newcastle now that Demba Ba has left the club.
19th place Reading have not won away from home this season and they have the least amount of goals on the road this season, having scored a mere eight in eleven away matches. Despite being outplayed for eighty minutes, Reading found support and fired home three unanswered goals in a span of ten minutes to hand West Bromwich Albion a shock 3-2 loss. Reading hope to ride the high from their strong close to secure their first road win of the season.
Villa Park was the site of their first encounter of the season and the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Villa were playing much better football at this point in the season, as Darren Bent secured the draw for Villa in the 80th minute to answer a second half goal from Shane Long.
Despite having talented striker Christian Benteke, Villa look to be the most likely side to be relegated. They sit in eighteenth place on 19 points and they boast the worst goal differential in the league.
West Brom have slipped to 7th place on the table and are losers of three straight matches. Their match with Villa will provide ideal circumstances to turn their misfortunes around.
Chelsea took down the reverse leg of this fixture by defeating Arsenal at the Emirates. Juan Mata and Fernando Torres scored for the Blues en route to a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. These two sides are the biggest underachievers in the top flight this season. Both sides added numerous players in the summer and they were both widely expected to contend for the title. Despite adding to their squad in the summer, both sides also allowed their leading scorers from last season to leave, as Chelsea let go of striker Didier Drogba, whilst the Gunners sold Robin Van Persie to Manchester United.
Third place Chelsea sit thirteen points behind league leading Manchester United, whilst Arsenal is in a disappointing sixth place – 21 points behind United. Arsenal were shut out last week against Manchester City, as Laurent Koscielny picked up a red card in the ninth minute for pulling down Edin Dzeko in the box. Dzeko was in on goal and Koscielny simply rugby tackled him. Arsenal were down to ten men, which allowed City to control the match and grab the result.
Chelsea had two matches last week, as they picked up a win at Stoke via a four goal performance from the Blues. They followed their convincing win at the Britannia by scoring two goals in the first half to jump out to a head start against Southampton. However, Southampton came surging back in the second half, as Chelsea’s defence imploded. The implosion allowed Southampton to earn a 2-2 draw and denied Chelsea two wins on the bounce.
Frank Lampard has four goals in Chelsea’s last six matches, which is not bad for such a crowded midfield. Lampard and Juan Mata are listed at 8.00 to score the first goal of the match, whilst midfield threat Eden Hazard is at 10.00. Any of these three are ripe for the picking in the first goal scorer market, keeping in mind that Lampard delivers on most spot kicks for the Blues.
Tottenham got the shock result when these two teams met at Old Trafford through a Gareth Bale goal, a Clint Dempsey strike and an own goal contributions from United defender Johnny Evans. Nani and Kagawa found the goal for United but their efforts were not enough, as United dropped this match 3-2 in front of their home fans.
Considering Emmanuel Adebayor is off to International duty in the African Cup of Nations, Clint Dempsey should get the start behind Jermain Defoe. Both Defoe and Dempsey are threats down the middle, whilst Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will threaten with their pace from the flanks.
United will surely field their “best XI” with Rooney and Van Persie both available for this run-in. Valencia and Kagawa will surely feature in the midfield along with Cleverley and Carrick. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, and Johnny Evans will be available for the centre of the defence, as all three rested in the midweek FA Cup replay. United strikers Danny Welbeck and Chicharito Hernandez will likely start on the bench and be available to add firepower in case United play a flat first half.
Everton stomped on Southampton by a 3-1 margin with goals coming from Leon Osman and a double from Nikica Jelavic. The Saints mounted an impressive comeback to earn a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge mid-week, whilst Everton come off a bore draw against Swansea.
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