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Can Arsenal Gun Down City?
Gunners travel to the Etihad, United to QPR, Chelsea to Wigan
Posted Dec 16, 2011 by Chris White
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Having suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season last week at the hands of Chelsea, leaders Manchester City come up against another London club this weekend. Arsenal make the trip to Manchester knowing that they need to keep their winning run going in order to stay in touch with the top teams after their disastrous start to the season. Elsewhere, the champions go to Loftus Road and Wigan, buoyed by a win last time out, welcome Chelsea to the DW Stadium.
Arsenal were dealt a blow this week with the news that left back Andre Santos will be out for three months with an ankle injury picked up against Olympiacos in the Champions League. City, meanwhile, have no new injuries to worry about ahead of the clash, but they could go into the game having lost their place at the top of the league.
Rivals Manchester United can take over at the top, if only for a few hours, when they play QPR at Loftus Road on Sunday lunchtime. United will still be without long-term absentees Nemanja Vidic and Anderson, although Tom Cleverley and Michael Owen are back in training, but they will not feature against the Hoops. Darren Fletcher will also be out of the game having taken an “extended break” from the game to deal with his ulcerative colitis. QPR will again be without first choice goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, so Radek Cerny should deputise having performed admirably against Liverpool last week.
Frank Lampard is pushing for a place in the Chelsea starting line-up having come off the bench to score the winning penalty against Manchester City on Monday night, and he could start along with Didier Drogba and the in-form Daniel Sturridge, who are both keeping Fernando Torres out of the side. For Wigan, it’s a case of finding some consistency and confidence, and a decent result against the Blues could provide that for them. The win at West Brom last weekend moved the Latics off the bottom of the table, but they could be dragged back down if results go against them.
Blackburn are one of those sides below Wigan, and they welcome West Brom to Ewood Park. Rovers have had a disastrous season despite several encouraging results, only for them to lose their next game in a one step forward, two steps back situation. Yakubu has found his shooting boots in recent weeks and they will need more of that if they’re to stay in the Premier League. For West Brom, they need an immediate response to the defeat last week to avoid being dragged into the relegation scrap.
After making a brilliant start to the season, Newcastle have struggled in recent weeks, and are having to play full backs in the middle of their defence because of injuries to Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini, and that cost them last week at Norwich. Swansea travel to the Sports Direct Arena, (St James’ Park), on Saturday knowing that a win is likely to move them into the top half of the table. The Swans are starting to find the back of the net, and if they can keep goals out then they will definitely stay up, and a win at Newcastle will give them the confidence that they can do it against the bigger sides.
Both Everton and Norwich have improved in recent weeks, the Canaries especially, and the two meet on Saturday at Goodison Park. The Toffees, as always seems to be the case, have struggled for goals, with their top scorer, Apostolos Vellios having scored just three times, and he can’t even get a start for the club. For Norwich, it’s not so much a case of scoring goals, but keeping them out. Grant Holt has fought his way back into the side, and looks part of a formidable partnership alongside Steve Morison up front. If boss Paul Lambert can get his hands on a solid centre half in January, they’re certain to stay up.
Fulham crashed out of the Europa League in midweek, so boss Martin Jol will be asking for a response from his squad when they play bottom of the league Bolton. Both have been inconsistent this campaign, with Bolton’s only run of form being in the form of defeats, 12 in their last 15 to be exact. A 5-0 thumping of Stoke has been followed by four successive defeats, and the pressure is on Owen Coyle to turn the season around fast. Fulham should see Bolton as the perfect opposition to get over their European disappointment.
Like Fulham, Stoke were in Europa League action in the week, and they went down 3-1 at Besiktas, but they had already qualified for the next round and could afford to rest several players ahead of their game away at Wolves this weekend. Having beaten Tottenham last week, Stoke go into the match in good form, while Wolves are struggling and looked hopeless against Manchester United last week and resigned to defeat from the moment United scored their first goal. Expect a battle at Molineux in this west midlands derby.
Two of the Premier League’s underachievers in recent years meet at Villa Park, as Aston Villa welcome Liverpool to the midlands. Both sides won last weekend but made hard work of it, with Liverpool continuing their struggles at home, edging past QPR, but in Luis Suarez they’ve got a striker who only needs a sniff of goal and he can change the game. Villa looked much better last week having changed to a 4-4-2 formation, giving much needed support to Darren Bent who has looked painfully isolated all season.
Tottenham suffered a disappointing defeat at Stoke last weekend, bringing an end to their impressive unbeaten run, and they have the chance to make amends when Martin O’Neill brings his Sunderland side to the Lane. A late Seb Larsson free kick gave O’Neill a victory in his first game in charge, but he still has plenty of work to do at the club – mainly finding a goal scorer. For Spurs, they look a threat every time they go forward, so Sunderland will need to ensure that their defenders are up to the challenge.
This weekend’s fixtures in full (3pm kick off unless stated):
Blackburn Rovers v West Brom
Everton v Norwich City
Fulham v Bolton Wanderers
Newcastle United v Swansea City
Wolverhampton v Stoke City
Wigan v Chelsea (5.30pm)
QPR v Manchester United (12pm)
Aston Villa v Liverpool (2.05pm)
Tottenham v Sunderland
Manchester City v Arsenal (4.10pm)