Here’s a look at this weekend’s Premier League games...
Liverpool ready to turn up the heat
Liverpool vs Swansea City
Today, 12.30pm BT SPORT 1
Liverpool could count themselves a tad unfortunate not to have left Old Trafford last weekend with maximum points. Nevertheless, Jurgen Klopp’s side have the opportunity to narrow the gap on leaders Chelsea to four points with victory over visitors Swansea – at least for 24 hours anyway.
The red half of Merseyside are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League fixtures and will fancy their chances of extending that run against the league’s bottom club. New Swansea manager Paul Clement endured a torturous home debut in the dugout as his side were thrashed 4-0 by Arsenal last weekend and face the unenviable task of taking something from Anfield today. However, the addition of Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson should provide a welcome boost.
Cherries aim to hit the goal trail again
Bournemouth vs Watford
Bournemouth are conceding goals for fun so far in 2017. Nine in their last three outings to be exact and a worrying statistic for manager Eddie Howe. That said, visitors Watford are hardly firing on all cylinders at the other end with just two goals scored from their previous six Premier League appearances. The sides drew 2-2 at Vicarage Road in the corresponding fixture at the beginning of October, Bournemouth having gone ahead twice only to return to the South Coast with a point for their efforts. The Hornets, meanwhile, are seven points above the drop zone.
Toffees look to build on City win at Palace
Crystal Palace vs Everton
Sam Allardyce’s recent appointment to the Palace hotseat has been underwhelming to say the least. Having replaced the sacked Alan Pardew just a couple of days before Christmas, the former England manager has so far failed to win any of the five matches he has overseen. The arrival of Premier League winner
Jeffrey Schlupp from Leicester, though, is a shrewd bit of business and the Ghanaian should provide some impetus to Allardyce’s midfield.
Everton blew Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City away last Sunday and will fancy their chances of leaving London with all three points. Youngsters Tom Davies, and Mason Holgate are expected to retain their starting berths after impressive displays against City.
Last throw of the dice for Pep’s City
Manchester City vs Tottenham
Today, 5.30pm BT SPORT 1
Manchester City are out-of-sorts, make no mistake about it. Something or someone has rattled their cage where they are in danger of seeing their title aspirations filter out – if indeed they haven’t already.
Last weekend’s crushing defeat at Everton was Pep Guardiola’s worst result as a
manager and saw City slip out of the top four for the first time this season. They are now ten points off the pace of league leaders Chelsea ahead of the visit of a Spurs team that continues to flourish under Mauricio Pochettino. The North London side have hit the net 12 times since the turn of the year and have taken 21 points from a possible 24 in their last eight league fixtures. However, their only two defeats so far this season have come against two of the Premier League’s heavyweights in Chelsea and
Manchester United. City currently trail this evening’s opponents by three points and anything other than a win would surely see them eliminated from the title race. It really is do or die for the blue half of Manchester. Perhaps their players should focus more on what happens out on the pitch as opposed to their increasingly reliant social media accounts – defender Bacary Sagna the latest high-profile player to be issued with a fine by the FA for a comment he made on his Instagram page.
Spurs, on the other hand, are on fire at the moment with a plethora of stars to call upon – Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen all proving their worth in front of goal recently.
However, if Tottenham are to be considered genuine title contenders, as they were last season, they’ll have to show they can go to venues like the Etihad and come away with maximum points. It has all the makings of a real cracker, this one, so be sure not to miss it!
Middlesbrough in need of three points
Middlesbrough vs West Ham
With just two wins from their last 11 Premier League matches, Middlesbrough are in need of a morale-boosting win as West Ham make the trip to the north east. Back-to-back goalless stalemates against Leicester and Watford have Boro languishing just four points above the relegation zone in 16th.
The Hammers put the on-going saga of wantaway midfielder Dimitri Payet to one side to overcome Crystal Palace 3-0 last weekend, Andy Carroll’s quite wonderful second sure to be a contender for goal of the season.
Potters hope to stop United in their tracks
Stoke City vs Manchester United
The Britannia is a notoriously difficult venue for teams with Premier League title ambitions to visit. Manchester United, who have only recently found themselves back in the hunt, will be only too aware the threat of a Stoke side, who were impressive 3-1 winners at Sunderland last week, pose to Jose Mourinho’s men. Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney could be restored to the starting line-up having made quite an impact after coming on as a second-half substitute in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool. A win for the home side, however could see Mark Hughes’ side creep into the top eight depending on results elsewhere. Marko Arnautovic is one player the United defence will have to keep an eye on.
Sunderland need victories – and fast
West Brom vs Sunderland
David Moyes was subjected to a chorus of boos as Stoke breezed into a 3-0 first-half lead at the Stadium of the Light seven days ago. The former Everton and Manchester United boss is likely to come under fire should his players fail to deliver at the Hawthorns today. Hosts West Brom have fared well so far this season under the guidance of Tony Pulis despite last weekend’s 4-0 setback at Spurs. But it’s Sunderland where points are precious at this stage of the season with the Black Cats currently sitting second from bottom.
Saints and Foxes eye morale-boosting wins
Southampton vs Leicester city
St Mary’s Stadium
Tomorrow, 12pm SKY SPORTS 1
The first in a trio of Sunday fixtures, the champions, who have amassed 21 points from as many matches played, remain perilously close to the drop zone – just five points clear of 18th-placed Hull. Despite an energetic performance against Chelsea last Saturday, Leicester look shot-shy in front of goal despite the return of Jamie Vardy. With Riyad Mahrez away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, the Foxes lack that little bit of spark going forward.
Southampton, on the other hand, couldn’t build on their recent Football League Cup semi-final first-leg win over Liverpool as they went down to a Joey Barton free-kick at Burnley last weekend. The Saints haven’t won in the Premier League since mid-December – a 3-1 triumph at Bournemouth, but will fancy their chances here.
Arsenal look to build on Swans victory
Arsenal vs Burnley
Tomorrow, 2.15pm SKY SPORTS 1
Some anticipated an Arsenal slip-up at Swansea last weekend. That, in truth, was never going to materialise. Striker Olivier Giroud is in a rich vein of form just now and has found himself among the goals with five in his last five appearances. He has rightly been rewarded with a new contract and that should spur him on to greater things between now and the end of the campaign.
Burnley continue to be this season’s surprise package, currently holding down tenth spot, and are likely to give the Gunners a run for their money at the Emirates tomorrow afternoon. Manager Sean Dyche isn’t one to shirk a challenge.
Costa to make Chelsea return against Hull
Chelsea vs Hull City
Tomorrow, 4.30pm SKY SPORTS 1
Striker Diego Costa wants to stay at Chelsea and will be available for the visit of Hull City, says manager Antonio Conte.
The Spanish international was left out of last week’s win at Leicester after a fall-out with a fitness coach, amid widespread reports of interest from Chinese clubs.
“He is very happy to play with us. I don’t see any problem,” said Conte at a press conference on Friday.
The Humberside men, meanwhile, picked up a precious three points with victory over Bournemouth last Saturday but still remain in the relegation zone by the virtue of goal difference. The Tigers will do well to take anything from this clash, though.