We kick off Week 12 with a bottom of the table clash between newly promoted Bournemouth and a hardly recognizable Newcastle. With just 1 win in 11 matches, Newcastle have been hard pressed to find many positives this season. Conversely, Bournemouth have been ravaged with injury, and despite playing with heart, have often come away empty handed. This is an opportunity neither side can pass up as 3pts would boost either faltering campaign.
Leicester City then face a stern test against a resolute Watford at the King Power Stadium. With just 1 loss this season (against joint leaders Arsenal) the Foxes can dare to dream. With Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in outstanding form, along with solid contributions from many others in the squad, Leicester City have been defying the odds. But Watford must be given credit as well as the newly promoted club as only conceded 10 goals this season. That's good enough to be ranked 5th best in that statistic so far this season. Odion Ighalo has been a breath of fresh air in the league and although Watford have only manged 10 goals scored, they find themselves sitting comfortably on 16pts from 11 matches.
It's 3 straight 0-0 draws for Manchester United across all competitions, but a home clash against West Brom could be the remedy. There has been a lot of talk about Wayne Rooney lately, much of which I find a bit harsh (even as a Liverpool supporter). United haven't been playing like the Red Devils of seasons past, but they are still just 4pts off the top sitting in 4th. Tony Pulis has a knack for getting his sides organized defensively, but United should really win this one at home. If they can't get their offensive mojo working, another 0-0 draw seems likely.
Norwich City v Swansea looks like an interesting fixture on paper. The Swans will be hoping their dynamic duo of Gomis and Ayew can rediscover their goal scoring form, which has cooled off at a troubling rate. Norwich City can take heart after giving City a good run in last week's fixture. But both teams are in need of 3pts to get their seasons moving upward. Not sure who will shine in this one as both sides have struggled to get the bottom line as of late.
Sunderland can feel they did just about enough at 2-2 to come away with something at Goodison Park, but after that, you have to scratch your head and wonder what went wrong? Southampton are making a visit to the Stadium of Light and if their performance is anything like the first 45min against Bournemouth, the Black Cats are in for another arduous afternoon. Big Sam has his work cut out for him and getting Sunderland's defense organized is still looking like the number one priority. You just feel this might take longer than expected, so don't be surprised if Pelle, Mane et al. stick a few goals in the net.
West Ham are an enigma right? For a team capable of beating Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City already this season, it was a shock to see them lose 2-0 to Watford. If you can't pick up the quote "easy points" against the smaller clubs, what good does it do to beat the big boys? Regardless, West Ham still find themselves in a great position on 20pts and if the trend of punching above their wight continues, that could be 3 more come the final whistle. Everton, however, are coming off the back of a 6 star destruction of Sunderland, largely thanks to contributions from Deulofeu, Lukaku, and the man of the moment, A. Kone. It will be a real contest for both sides and should be one of the more exciting matches for Saturday.
We wrap up Saturday's fixtures with Chelsea making the trip to the Brittania Stadium to face Stoke City. In any other season you'd be hard pressed to suggest Chelsea could possibly lose this one, but this isn't an ordinary season for the Blues is it? Jose Mourinho has received backing from the club and players, but the pressure must be immense for the current league Champions. The revival must start against Stoke City, there is no other option. 6 losses in 11 matches is already likely to keep Chelsea out of the top 4 (no other team has reached that spot with the current number of points). Jose must rescue this season before Chelsea hit the panic button. As for Mark Hughes, his side should be relishing this encounter and must be confident of further damaging an already down Chelsea.
Official: Schmeichel, Clyne, Alderweild, Kolarov, Sanchez, Mahrez, Payet, Sterling, Bony, Lukaku, Vardy (c)
Bench: Cech, Cabaye, O'shea, R. Taylor
Fantrax: Stekelenburg, Bertrand, Moreno, Debuchy, Willian, Tadic, De Bruyne, Ozil, Bony, Pelle, Vardy
Let us know who you picked for your teams! Good luck in Week 12!