Friday, 17 December 2010

Premeirship Preveiw


.It continues to be a sticky period for Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti and the pressure is not subsiding as the Blues host fellow big-guns Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.  Chelsea have not won in the league since early November but the visit of the Red Devils could be just the tonic they need to rally the troops after a poor run. United dispatched of Arsenal on Monday night and if they can pick up a win at Stamford Bridge they will spend Christmas sitting pretty with a cushion at the top of the table, remaining unbeaten.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will still be reeling from that narrow defeat at Old Trafford and they take onStoke City at the Emirates. The Gunners have been touted as title challengers but last time out they looked as if they had scoffed one-too-many mince pies as they hardly created a chance against United. Their home form has not been tip-top of late but they will expect to beat Stoke, who have lost five from eight on the road so far this season.
Sam Allardyce became the second Premier League manager to be sacked earlier in the week when Blackburn's new owners opted to wield the axe in a surprising move. Rovers caretaker Steve Kean will take charge in the dugout at Ewood Park on Saturday, when lowly West Ham make the trip to Lancashire. The Hammers are in dire straits themselves and have not managed an away win all season. Another defeat for Avram Grant could spell the end for the Israeli coach and he may well join Allardyce in receiving his P45.
Liverpool put in an abject display on Wednesday night to draw 0-0 in the Europa League against FC Utrecht and give Roy Hodgson's doubters more fuel for the fire. Hodgson will be hoping his old side Fulham can provide him with some festive cheer at Anfield this weekend. Mark Hughes has failed to get the Cottagers firing on all cylinders this term and the West Londoners are languishing precariously close to the drop zone. A win for Liverpool, meanwhile, could see them move further up the table and slowly dispel their poor start.
A fiery Midlands derby is in store at midday on Sunday when West Brom take on Wolves at the Hawthorns. It is two local derbies in two for both of these sides as last time out Mick McCarthy's men earned a narrow victory over Birmingham while the Baggies lost out to Aston Villa. Wolves have not won away this season but will be desperate to climb out of the bottom three or they will be left feeling like Christmas turkeys with Albion earning the bragging rights.
Prior to that clash Sunderland and Bolton contest the first top-flight game of the weekend at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats are just one place below the Trotters in the table and both sides have been impressive during their respective campaigns. It could be a case of attack versus defence on Wearside as Sunderland have been solid at the back so far while Bolton are scoring goals for fun under Owen Coyle. 
Tottenham have been a breath of fresh air for the first half of the season and seem to be coping well with the rigours of combining a domestic fixture list with a busy schedule in the Champions League. Blackpool, meanwhile, have similarly surprised everyone with some remarkable performances and there is sure to be a full house at Bloomfield Road on  A win for the Tangerines would put them just two points behind Spurs and send Ian Holloway home a very happy man.
Alan Pardew endeared himself to the Newcastle faithful in his first game in charge following the controversial sacking of Chris Hughton, but he could be brought back down to earth with a thud when the Magpies go to Birmingham City. The Blues have only conceded six goals at St Andrews in the Premier League and are once more relying on a solid backline to see them through. Can they produce another masterclass in defence or will the travelling Toon earn an early gift or two?
Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier needed a win last time out and his side duly delivered. Another triumph against Wigan would further ease the pressure on the Frenchman, who has endured a tricky start to his reign. Wigan have a number of injury worries ahead of the match and have problems of their own. Their inconsistent form has seen many tip them for the drop and Roberto Martinez will want to see a marked improvement sooner rather than later.
The final Premier League game before Christmas sees Manchester City host Evertonon Monday night. All the talk this week has been about Carlos Tevez's transfer request although Roberto Mancini still suggests that he can win the homesick Argentinian round. If the pair can find some mistletoe then they can kiss and make up, but it remains to be seen whether Tevez will feature at Eastlands. Everton, meanwhile, are still struggling in front of goal but the Toffees have an excellent recent record over their wealthier opponents.

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