Finally! We need not worry about another international break for the next five months, which means only one thing; nearly non-stop Premier League football. The Premier League returns this week with another blockbuster round of fixtures headlined by Liverpool hosting Arsenal at Anfield.
Ole Gunnner Solksjaer and Rafa Benitez are hoping to grab victories that will help relieve the enormous pressure on them and also probably extend their stays at their respective clubs. Let’s take a look at the fixtures lined up for this weekend and what to expect from each club.
[ For Fantrax managers here in the countdown hour, this is our one early match that should give us confirmed starting lineups before the Fantrax deadline. Watch the comments and join in the rapid analysis! ]
Inconsistent Leicester welcomes the Blues to the King Power Stadium in the opening match of game-week twelve. This season’s Foxes have been unable to replicate the kind of discipline and stability that saw them battle for Champions League spots last season. They’re currently ranked 12th after failing to win any of their last three matches. The Foxes’ defensive record doesn’t make for good reading; they’ve managed only one clean sheet in eleven Premier League matches this season.
League leading Chelsea is the most impressive team this season, continuing the form that won the Champions League last season. The Blues have been ruthless both in defense and attack, scoring the most (27) while conceding the fewest (4). The Blues were on a run of four consecutive Premier League victories before a late goal from Burnley’s Matej Vydra nicked a draw to an end the winning streak last game-week.
Leicester: Youri Tielemans - Calf injury (out), Wesley Fofana – Ankle injury (out), James Justin – Knee injury (out), Ryan Bertrand – Knee injury (out).
Chelsea: Romelu Lukaku – Ankle injury (out), Timo Werner – Thigh injury (out), Mateo Kovacic - Thigh injury (out), Marcos Alonso – Ankle injury (doubtful)
Prediction: 1 - 2
Aston Villa vs Brighton
Liverpool legend and former Rangers manager Steven Gerrard will take charge of the Villans for the first time when they welcome high-flying Brighton to Villa Park this weekend. Aston Villa put an end to its three year relationship with manager Dean Smith after five consecutive Premier League defeats that have left them 16th in the table. Gerrard will be hoping to oversee a quick turn around in form as the games are set to come thick and fast, and he will be happy to have Danny Ings back from a COVID-19 absence.
Brighton hopes to return to winning ways after dropping points at home against Newcastle. The Seagulls, who began the season in highly impressive fashion, are currently on a run of six Premier League games without a victory. Five draws and one defeat have seen them drop from 3rd to 7th.
Aston Villa: Bertrand Traore – Thigh injury (out), Marvelous Nakamba – Groin injury (out), Douglas Luiz – Thigh injury (doubtful).
Brighton: Steven Alzate – Ankle injury (out), Robert Sanchez – Red card (out 1 match), Dan Burn – Knee injury (doubtful), Danny Welbeck – Thigh injury (out).
Burnley vs Crystal Palace
The Clarets finally got their first win of the season against Brentford in late October, and they followed that up with an impressive draw against league leading Chelsea. Sean Dyche’s side remains in the bottom three but could climb out with a win.
The international break could hardly have come at a worse time for Crystal Palace, with the club just beginning to build momentum. Patrick Viera’s Eagles have enjoyed an upturn in form in recent weeks following an early season period of huge transformation in their style of play. They’re now a ball-playing side content to hold possession and patiently wait for spaces and lapses in concentration from their opponents. The upturn in form has also seen the Eagles move from relegation places to 10th.
Burnley: Ashley Barnes – Unknown (doubtful), Dale Stephens – Ankle injury (out)
Crystal Palace : Will Hughes – Lower back injury (doubtful), Eberechi Eze (in squad but unlikely to start), Joachim Andersen (in squad but unlikely to start), Nathan Ferguson – Calf injury (out).
Newcastle vs Brentford
Eddie Howe will be forced to miss the first game of his Newcastle managerial career; he’ll be absent due to COVID when the Magpies welcome Brentford to St James Park this weekend. Newcastle has endured a disappointing campaign that sees them occupying 19th. Newcastle is also the only side in the division yet to win a game this season.
Out of sorts Brentford will hope to get its Premier League campaign back on track this weekend after skidding to four straight defeats. A home loss against Norwich last time out should have set off alarm bells, as the Canaries had previously been one of only two teams yet to win a game this season.
Newcastle: Ryan Fraser – Unknown (doubtful), Paul Dummett – Calf injury (out).
Brentford: Mathias Jorgensen – Unknown (doubtful), Mathias Jensen – Unknown (doubtful), Mads Sorensen – Knee injury (out), David Raya – Knee injury (out), Krisstoffer Ajer – Thigh injury (out).
Norwich vs Southampton
Just when it seemed hopeless at Carrow Road, the Canaries’ fully deserved victory against Brentford reminded us that it isn’t over until it’s over. Just before the International break, bottom club Norwich won for the first time this season. They will now be eager to go two out of two when they welcome the Saints to Carrow Road this weekend. New manager Dean Smith will also be looking to begin his tenure with a win.
13th place Southampton has surprisingly had one of the best back lines in the Premier League this season. Alex McCarthy, Tino Livramento, Mohammed Salisu, Jan Bednarek and Kyle Walker-Pieters have combined for five clean sheets. The Saints are clear favorites to make it three wins out of three when they take to the field on Saturday.
Norwich: Grant Hanley – Groin injury (doubtful), Billy Gilmour – Thigh injury (doubtful), Todd Cantwell – Unknown (doubtful), Sam Byram – Thigh injury (out), Christoph Zimmermann – Ankle injury (out).
Southampton: Jack Stephens – Knee injury (out).
Watford vs Man United
Watford welcomes an out of sorts Man United team to Vicarage Road in what is expected to be an open match. Watford has continued on an inconsistent path despite appointing the experienced Claudio Ranieri as manager. The Hornets can go from sublime to ridiculous — their 2 – 5 victory over Everton the perfect example of the sublime, and a 1 – nil home loss to Southampton an example of the ridiculous.
Under-fire Man United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer will be eager to reduce the pressure on him by grabbing an important win against the Hornets to improve on a run of just one win in six Premier League games. The Red Devils have been poor in recent weeks, being well beaten by rivals Liverpool, Man City and Leicester. A defeat in this fixture might spell the end for Ole Gunner Solskjaer.
Watford: Peter Etebo – Thigh injury (out), Juraj Kucka – Suspended (out), Ozan Tufan – Unknown (doubtful), Christian Kabesele – Thigh injury (out), Ken Sema – Knee injury (out).
Man United: Raphael Varane – Thigh Injury (out), Paul Pogba – Thigh injury (out), Scott Mctominay – Unknown (doubtful), Edinson Cavani – Unknown (doubtful), Luke Shaw – Head injury (doubtful).
Wolves vs West Ham
Resurgent Wolves look to continue their upturn in form as they welcome the Hammers to Molineaux Stadium this weekend. They’ve rallied back from an abysmal early season wobble that saw them lose their first five games. Wolves bounced back by winning four out of the next six with the team finally coming to terms with the style of new manager Bruno Lage.
High flying West Ham will be eager to maintain their red-hot form which saw them defeat Liverpool last time out. The Hammers are currently on a run of four straight Premier League wins which has seen them leapfrog Liverpool into third position on the League standings. The Hammers have become a much more balanced team this season, with goals coming from multiple sources.
Wolves: Fernando Marcal – Calf injury (doubtful), Jonny Castro – Knee injury (out), Pedro Neto – Knee injury (out),
West Ham: Declan Rice – Illness (doubtful), Pablo Fornals – Unknown (doubtful).
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Liverpool plays host to Arsenal in the EPL blockbuster match of the weekend. The Reds are looking to bounce back from a 3-2 defeat at West Ham just before the international break. That defeat saw the Reds miss an opportunity to close the gap on first place Chelsea, instead dropping to fourth in the table.
Arsenal will be slightly confident of getting a result out of this clash after a recent upturn in form that has seen them rise to fourth. Mikel Arteta’s side is now unbeaten in the last eight matches, now just two points behind Liverpool. A win for Arsenal at Anfield will leapfrog the Gunners over Liverpool to take fourth place.
Liverpool: Roberto Firmino – Thigh injury (out), Naby Keita – Thigh Injury (doubtful), Joe Gomez – Calf injury (doubtful), Jordan Henderson – Groin injury (doubtful), Andrew Robertson – Thigh injury (doubtful), Curtis Jones – Head injury (out), Harvey Elliot – Ankle injury (out).
Arsenal: Granit Xhaka – Knee injury (out), Thomas Partey – Groin (doubtful), Sead Kolsinac – Ankle injury (out).
Man City vs Everton
Man City looks to return to winning ways at the Etihad by hosting Everton this weekend after going down to Crystal Palace in the Citizens’ last home match. City is currently second, has won three of the last four games with eight goals scored and three conceded. Pep Guardiola’s men have been near perfect this season but still find themselves three points behind Chelsea.
Everton, currently ranked 11th, has been in abysmal form lately. The Toffees have managed to win only one of their last six League fixtures. Rafa Benitez is beginning to come under pressure from the Toffee faithful who believe he isn’t the right man for the job.
Man City: Ferran Torres – Ankle injury (out), Aymeric Laporte – Suspended (out), Jack Grealish – Knock (doubtful), Kevin De Bruyne - COVID (out), Phil Foden - knock (doubtful)
Everton: Mason Holgate – Suspended (out), Abdoulaye Doucoure – Ankle injury (out), Dominic Calvert Lewin – Thigh injury (out), Yerry Mina -Thigh injury (doubtful), Andre Gomes – Calf injury (doubtful), Tom Davies – Knee injury (out).
Tottenham hopes that Harry Kane’s brilliant form for England can be transferred to club football when the Spurs take on Leeds this weekend. Kane’s league form this season has been profoundly underwhelming, but hearts will have been lifted after the Englishman scored seven goals in two games for the Three Lions during the international break. Antonio Conte will be eager to manage a confidence-boosting win in his second match for the club after settling for a drab draw against Everton.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds comes into this fixture on a three-game unbeaten run. Just before the international break, Leeds finally began to play the kind of high-energy football we became accustomed to last season. Bielsa was full of praise for his players after the one-all draw with Leicester, so he will hope they can replicate that kind of swagger and energy on Sunday against Conte’s side.
Tottenham: Oliver Skipp – Suspended (out), Pierre- Emile Hojbjerg – Knee injury (doubtful), Bryan Gil – Thigh injury (out), Ryan Sessegnon – Thigh injury (out), Christian Romero – Thigh injury (out).
Leeds United: Robin Koch – Groin injury (out), Patrick Bamford – Ankle injury (out), Junior Firpo – Unknown (doubtful), James Shackleton – Unknown (doubtful), Luke Ayling – Knee injury (doubtful).
What are your predictions for this game-week? Whom are you backing in the Liverpool vs Arsenal match? Please join us in our FPL & Fantrax virtual pub as we face our deadlines, post the lineups and share late-breaking news.