Friday, December 10, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 16: Manchester City Home to Wolves; Gerrard Returns To Anfield; Wobbly Chelsea Hosts Leeds; Rangnick Hits The Road; Hornets Head To Beehive; Virus Plagues Spurs

Manchester City hosts Wolves this weekend as the league leading Citizens aim for a sixth consecutive league victory. Manchester City has conceded the joint fewest goals in the league this season while Wolves have scored fewer league goals than all but Norwich. Ironically, the two sides have historically averaged more goals per game when they meet than any other English League matchup of at least 60 occurrences since 1888. It is difficult to see Wolves posing a meaningful goal scoring threat on Saturday, however, after scoring but a single goal in their last five league matches. City could be without Phil Foden but has firepower to spare led by Bernardo Silva who leads all Premier League midfielders in goals, including six tallies in his last eight league matches.

Chelsea, which has matched Manchester City for fewest goals conceded in the league this season, has suddenly showed defensive cracks as they prepare for this weekend’s home clash with Leeds. The London club conceded three to West Ham in their last league match and Wednesday allowed three more goals in the Champions League versus Zenit St. Petersburg. Chelsea had not allowed more than a goal in any Premier League or Champions League match prior to those two results. Toppled from the top of the table last week, Chelsea will try to get back on track when Leeds visits Stamford Bridge Saturday. The visitors are riddled with injuries, missing such stars as Patrick Bamford (injured again after a brief cameo last weekend), Kalvin Phillips and Rodrigo.

Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard returns Saturday to Anfield, where he took the field more than 70 times as a player for the Reds. The Aston Villa manager has won three of four matches in his return to the Premier League as a manager. Liverpool, in the midst of a title chase, will have no qualms in dispensing with its former captain and his new charges. Liverpool is a single point back of Manchester City after four straight wins and has blitzed opponents all season with nine more goals scored than any other Premier League squad. Mohamed Saleh leads the league with his 13 goals. Just as daunting for visiting Villa is that, defensively, Liverpool has conceded just once in its recent winning run.

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick faces his first test away from Old Trafford when the Red Devils visit Norwich. The manager rested many of his stars in mid-week Champions League play but may be without Aaron Wan-Bissaka for Norwich after the right back was stretchered off from the match versus Young Boys. Forward Mason Greenwood, meanwhile, starred in midweek for the Red Devils and could crack the weekend lineup. The Norwich loss to Spurs last weekend ended a four-match unbeaten run for the club as it battles for Premier League survival.

Arsenal will welcome a return to the Emirates where it will face Southampton.

Only north London rival Spurs have won more home matches than the Gunners this season. Arsenal have lost three of their last four matches, all three defeats coming on the road. The Gunners will potentially face a rusty goalkeeper in the Saints’ Willy Caballero, recently signed to fill in for the injured Alex McCarthy. The Saints take to the road after having played well in two consecutive home draws versus Leicester and Brighton.

Following last week’s exhilarating London derby win over Chelsea, West Ham travels to Turf Moor to face Burnley. In their last five matches West Ham has defeated both Chelsea and Liverpool but needs to avoid a letdown versus the Clarets after already having dropped points this season against Brentford, Southampton, and Crystal Palace. David Moyes’ squad sustained another blow to their defensive corps when Kurt Zouma suffered a hamstring injury last week, joining fellow center back Angelo Ogbonna on the injured list. Burnley has been a tough matchup on home turf at Turf Moor, scoring three goals in each of their last two home contests. A third consecutive home goal trifecta Sunday would mark the first such streak of scoring prowess for the Clarets in over fifty years.

Crystal Palace hopes to end a three-match losing run when it hosts Everton on Sunday. The Eagles have lost at home just once this season and should prove a formidable test for an Everton side which snapped an eight-match winless run with its defeat of Arsenal on Monday. Former Eagle Andros Townsend will have a personal interest in securing a second consecutive victory for Everton.

Watford makes the short trip to Brentford for a Friday match which marks the first time the two clubs will meet in the topflight. Both the Bees and Hornets have been regularly feeling the sting of defeat, combining to lose 11 of their last 16 outings in aggregate. Watford is the only Premier League side not to register a clean sheet this season, extending a club record run of 26 topflight matches in which opponents have scored. Striker Ivan Toney is expected out for Brentford.

Tottenham Hotspur’s away match to Brighton has been postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in Antonio Conte’s squad which also forced postponement of its midweek Europa Conference League match. Newcastle, winners of their first match of the season last week, travel to King Power Stadium to face Leicester. A so far disappointing season for the Foxes has them 12th in the league table after their two successive top six finishes. 

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