Premier League Week 17 Preview
Things are getting interesting at both ends of the table
The big news this week in the Barclay’s Premier League has undoubtedly been Jose Mourinho’s sacking at Chelsea following their 2-1 defeat at Leicester, his side’s 9thof the season. Has a change in fortunes ever materialised so quickly? Let’s not forget that it was only in May that the Portuguese boss was celebrating his third title in charge of the Blues. Leicester’s win propelled Claudio Ranieri’s side back to the top of the table, while Chelsea’s defeat left the Londoners precariously close to the drop zone – only one point separates them and Norwich City in 18th. Spurs missed the opportunity to leap into the top four after their defeat at home to a resurgent Newcastle, meaning Aston Villa are now seemingly cut adrift at the bottom of the pile. Yet only four points separate Sunderland in 19th and Bournemouth in 14th, the latter of whom claimed their second famous victory in a week by defeating Manchester United 2-1. Here we take a look at some of the most intriguing games coming up this weekend.
Chelsea V Sunderland, Saturday 19/12/15 at 15.00 GMT
How can we look elsewhere? The Blues are currently one point clear of the relegation zone and, even more amazingly, manager less, after the sacking of ‘The Special One’ himself. Who could possibly have envisaged such a spectacular fall from grace? The truth of the matter is that when Sunderland visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday, they do so in a relegation ‘6 pointer,’ as this match will feature the sides currently occupying 16th and 19th in the table. It is inconceivable that Chelsea could be relegated, and surely it is only a matter of time before they pull away from the lower reaches of the table, but then again, it was also inconceivable that they would be in this position in the first place. Sunderland had staged a mini-revival before two straight defeats put them immediately back in trouble, while the home side have only secured victories over fellow strugglers Norwich and Aston Villa in the last ten. Last season the Blues wrapped up a comfortable 3-1 win, but right now, last season seems a long long time ago. Sunderland have no new injury concerns, while the home side should be able to welcome back the 2014/15 Premier League player of the year Eden Hazard, who was taken off after only 31 minutes with a hip injury during the loss at Leicester on Monday night, a match which, as it turned out, was the final nail in Jose Mourinho’s coffin.
Chelsea 1.30, Draw 5.50, Sunderland 13.00
Manchester United V Norwich City, Saturday 19/12/15 at 15.00 GMT
With Mourinho gone, the next high-profile manager under serious pressure is United boss Louis Van Gaal, with some pundits already suggesting that the Red Devils should cut their losses with the Dutchman and plump for the ex-Chelsea boss. One thing is for certain, after successive defeats at Wolfsburg in the Champions League, a result which ended United’s participation in the completion, and Bournemouth in the league last weekend, the home side must get back to winning ways, especially against a side who, with the dramatic upturn in form at Newcastle, have found themselves sucked into the relegation places. Andre Wisdom and Matt Jarvis are still out for the Canaries, while United have doubts surrounding Chris Smalling, Ander Herrera, Matteo Darmian and Jesse Lingard, as well as long-term absentees Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw. It’s almost a full-blown injury crisis at Old Trafford, but Wayne Rooney could return from an ankle injury. A win here could cement United’s position in the Champions League places and give their under-fire boss some breathing space, yet a defeat could leave Van Gaal seriously starting to look over his shoulder…especially with a certain Portuguese coach fresh out of work.
Manchester United 1.44, Draw 4.75, Norwich City 8.50
Arsenal V Manchester City, Monday 21/12/15 at 20.00 GMT
While Leicester may be top of the league, according to most commentators, the two real contenders for the crown of Premier League champions will be meeting on Monday night. Whether or not that is disingenuous to the Foxes remains to be seen, but what is for certain is that both Arsenal and Manchester City possess the credentials to win the title, and the Gunners in particular look in the type of form capable of delivering a title to N7 for the first time since 2004. As usual, however, it is injuries that threaten to curtail Arsenal’s season. As of writing, the Gunners almost look incapable of naming a midfield, with Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky ruled out long term, while Alexis Sanchez and Mikel Arteta are major doubts for Monday’s game. Yet despite a host of missing players, the Gunners have been sensational of late, with Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud in particular central in firing them up to second in the table, as well as the last 16 of the Champions League. City also have their injury concerns. Very rarely has Manuel Pellegrini been able to select from a fully fit squad and key figures including captain Vincent Company, Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero have all been missing for significant portions of the campaign to date. City could welcome back all of those players for Monday’s trip to London, although their game fitness in a match of such importance and intensity could be a concern. Of course City have the strength in depth to cope and the form of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne in particular will have been a fillip. This is a mouth-watering encounter and the victors here could well be heralded as Champions-elect come May. Of course Leicester may have something to say about that.
Arsenal 2.45, Draw 3.50, Manchester City 3.00
Full weekend fixtures
Everton V Leicester, Saturday at 12.45 GMT
Southampton V Tottenham, Saturday at 15.00 GMT
Stoke V Crystal Palace, Saturday at 15.00 GMT
West Bromwich Albion V Bournemouth, Saturday at 15.00 GMT
Newcastle V Aston Villa, Saturday at 17.30 GMT
Watford V Liverpool, Sunday at 13.30 GMT
Swansea V West Ham, Saturday at 16.00 GMT
All odds courtesy of Bet365 and correct asof 12.00 GMT on Friday 17th December.
By: Steven Paget