Everyone has eye on the big one: Liverpool vs Arsenal, a table-top battle between first visiting second hoping to retain the top spot while Anfield uproar urges Klopp’s men forward with glorious purpose.
And Nuno is back — Forest lost patience and panic-sacked Steve Cooper, so maybe Forest will get a new-manager bounce at Wolves? YMMV!
The Premier League promises us a pack of action as we countdown to Christmas, but new injury worries have risen from midweek cup matches wedged into the already-packed schedule.
Crystal Palace vs Brighton
This is the lone early-kickoff match, so (FWIW) Fantrax managers will see confirmed lineups for Palace and Brighton before the transfer deadline.
In five of the last eight face-offs between Palace and Brighton, they’ve ended up with a 1-1 draw. There’s a chance we might see a similar result at Selhurst Park, especially after Palace’s comeback against Man City at the Etihad. Brighton probably won’t play as timidly as against Arsenal, but injuries and fatigue might still be a headache.
Injuries for Palace: Ward joins the list with Doucoure, Rak-Sakyi, Holding, Johnstone, Edouard, and Lerma. Ayew returns; Eze likely back in starting XI.
Brighton’s Veltman injured, adding to their list with Enciso and March. Lamptey, Estupinan, and Fati recovering from thigh issues. Uncertainty surrounds Webster’s return from a knock.
Aston Villa vs Sheffield United
Villa stayed unbeaten in nine, defeating Brentford after going down to ten men. The Villans have triumphed over Fulham, Man City and Arsenal at home, plus away at Tottenham, also securing wins against AZ and Legia Warsaw in the Europa Conference League.
Sheffield United lost 2-0 to Chelsea, winning only one of the last six and just two all season. The Blades have struggled away, losing eight of nine and failing to even score in three of the last four.
Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Buendia are injured, Kamara is suspended, Traore and Hause doubtful.
Sheffield United’s Basham and Davies are out, with doubts over Jebbison, Brewster, and Norrington-Davies.
West Ham vs Man United
Man United faces defensive challenges with no clean sheet in three games, while West Ham extends its streak to nine matches without one. Man United’s narrow wins dominate, with eight of nine victories secured by a single goal. Jarrod Bowen shines for West Ham, scoring ten goals this season. History favors Man United, winning seven of the last ten against West Ham
Outs & doubts:
Man United’s Dalot has a one match ban after his red card against Liverpool. Mason Mount, Malacia, Eriksen, Lindelof and Harry Maguire are still out injured.
For West Ham: Micheal Antonio suffered a knee injury while playing for Jamaica isn’t expected to be back soon.
Fulham vs Burnley
After a 3-0 loss to Newcastle, Fulham aims to recover against Burnley. Buoyed by recent home wins, Fulham looks confident for Saturday’s game despite Raul Jimenez’s absence. The Cottagers seek revenge after Burnley’s 2-0 win in their last Premier League encounter, and a home win appears promising given Fulham’s recent goal-scoring form and Burnley’s recent struggles. Burnley, coming off a 2-0 loss to Everton, faces a tough challenge on the road.
Injuries sideline Burnley’s Aaron Ramsey, Luca Koleosho, and Jack Cork.
Raul Jimenez starts a three match ban after being sent off for serious foul play in the match against Newcastle on 16-Dec, Adama has lacked match fitness and Dibley-Dias is also out with a hamstring injury.
Luton Town vs Newcastle
Luton and Newcastle have different aims this season. Luton just hopes to survive, while Newcastle eyes another Champions League spot. Luton, with five home defeats, is the underdog.
For Luton, Marvelous Nakamba is suspended, while Reece Burke and Cauley Woodrow are doubtful.
Newcastle, coming off a 3-0 win over Fulham, has Joelinton back and looking fit. Antony Gordon and Alexander Isak are doubts.
Nott’m Forest vs Bournemouth
Forest is 16th with three wins, and Steve Cooper has been sacked, so Nuno Espirito Santo returns to the EPL this weekend as the new manager of a squad going through a rough patch — Forest has no wins in the last five game-weeks (four losses and one draw).
Taiwo Awoniyi is missing for Forest while Murillo and Serge Aurier are doubtful.
Bournemouth hopes to get Max Aarons back for this game, but the Cherries must still do without Tyler Adams, Alex Scott and Ryan Fredericks.
Tottenham vs Everton
Spurs, led by Ange Postecoglou, are on a winning streak, fueling hopes for a top-four push. Key players are returning, adding to the optimism and setting the stage for a crucial showdown.
Meanwhile, Sean Dyche’s Everton comes in strong, winning four in a row to overcome a ten-point deduction, adding extra excitement to the match.
Spurs miss Micky van de Ven, James Maddison & Rodrigo Bentancur out long-term, plus Giovani Lo Celso is uncertain. Yves Bissouma’s suspension complicates the selection situation.
Everton’s Andre Gomez, Coleman, Abdoulaye Doucouré and Vitaliy Mykolenko have been ruled out.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Arsenal, leading the Premier League, faces a tough match at Liverpool, historically challenging for them. Liverpool aims to rebound after a goalless draw with Man United to close the gap on Arsenal. Arsenal’s defensive struggles against Liverpool and Liverpool’s recent goal drought add intrigue to the clash.
For Liverpool, Joel Matip and Andrew Robertson are still sidelined, along with Diogo Jota, Ben Doak, and Stefan Bajcetic. Ryan Gravenberch had a hamstring issue but is expected to be back against Arsenal. Mac Allister has a 50% chance of playing due to a knee wound suffered on 6/12 against Sheffield United.
Arsenal's Jurrien Timber and Takehiro Tomiyasu are out. Jorginho missed the Brighton game with a foot injury but has a 75% chance of playing. Unfortunately, Thomas Partey and Fábio Vieira are ruled out.
Wolves vs Chelsea
The 10th place Blues (22 points) travel to Molineux Stadium northwest of Birmingham to challenge 13th place Wolves (19 points). Wolves are recovering from a 3-0 loss to West Ham, while Chelsea progresses to the EFL Cup semifinal despite conceding early to Newcastle in the midweek playoff.
Wolves miss suspended Jonny and injured Sa, Hodge, & Neto.
Chelsea has a significant injury list: Cucurella, Sanchez, James, Madueke, and Chalobah are out while doubts linger over Ugochukwu, Chilwell, Lavia & Chukwuemeka.
Notable return from injury: Big-money summer-signing Christopher Nkunku came off the bench and scored in Chelsea’s midweek EFL Cup win over Newcastle. He will be “available” against Wolves and is expected to claim a starting striker slot as soon as he is fit enough (though festive fixture congestion may force managed minutes for a little while yet). YMMV.
How is your Christmas / holiday / solstice / festivus season going? Will you be watching some of the EPL action spread across GW-18 & GW-19 with us? How are you keeping up with the rapid-fire deadlines? Have you been caught by cup-action injuries and/or suspensions? Do you have questions for NMA’s “experts”? Please log in and post to the comments below!