Friday, December 8, 2023

Premier League Preview Match Week 16

Aston Villa, fresh from its smashing victory over Manchester City, will try to extend its home winning streak to 15 matches when league leading Arsenal visits Villa Park. Villa’s winning home run will be tested by an Arsenal side which has lost only twice in its last 21 visits to Villa Park. The Gunners, in fact, are comfortable visiting any venue. Arsenal has the most points, wins and clean sheets in away matches of any Premier League team. Suspended Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta, however, will be absent from the touchline as the Gunners seek a fifth consecutive league victory. The manager received his third yellow card of the season while celebrating Declan Rice’s late winner against Luton Town last weekend. Aston Villa’s attack could present problems for Arsenal. Only Manchester City has scored more goals than Aston Villa this season. Ollie Watkins has eight goals this season and 20 goals in calendar year 2023, one short of the club record. Leon Bailey, who had the winner versus Manchester City, has five goals this season which matches the combined total for his first two seasons with the club.

The other two clubs in the top four should have easier times this weekend. Second place Liverpool visits reeling Crystal Place at a very unhappy Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace is trying to avoid a relegation battle, but its traditionally thin roster has struggled to compensate for injuries to key players such as Eberechi Eze, Cheik Doucoure and Micheal Olise. Olise, at least, is available for limited minutes as he makes a slow return from a muscle injury which has cost him most of the season to date. Liverpool has defeated Crystal Palace ten times in their last twelve meetings, drawing the other two contests.

Fourth place Manchester City will travel to Kenilworth Road to face newly promoted Luton Town. The Hatters, winners of just two matches this season, gave Liverpool a good tussle at home during the week, but Manchester City will be chomping at the bit to end a four-match winless run and will have both Rodri and Jack Grealish back from suspension. The last time the two sides met was 24 years ago in an English third tier match.

Tottenham Hotspur will be trying to avoid a fourth consecutive home loss when it hosts Newcastle on Sunday. Some of the glow from the club’s early season success has now dimmed for Spurs during a five-match winless run. Injuries have been a huge factor but the refusal of Manager Ange Postecoglou to adjust in any way to injuries or match circumstances is raising some eyebrows. Spurs has dropped 14 points from winning positions since the beginning of November. The possible injury absence of Son Heung-min on Sunday could present another need for adjustment by the Australian manager. Son will be a match day decision on his availability after suffering a back injury during the week, Newcastle, meanwhile, was shocked at Everton during the week and have the league’s fifth worst away record this season, winning just once away from the friendly confines of St. James Park. The match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could have ramifications for European places. Seventh place Newcastle is just a point behind fifth place Spurs.

Sitting between those two clubs in the table is Manchester United which hosts Bournemouth on Saturday. The match at Old Trafford will feature two clubs on strong runs of recent results. Only Arsenal has a better league record than Manchester United since the beginning of October. Only Arsenal and Liverpool have more points from their last six matches than the Cherries.

West Ham is on a four-match unbeaten run as the Hammers travel to Fulham for a London derby on Sunday. The Hammers have won five and drawn one of their last six meetings with the Cottagers.

Manager Steve Cooper’s job could be on the line when Nottingham Forest travels to Wolverhampton. The Tricky Trees have tumbled down the table with four straight losses and are just four points from the drop zone. Worse yet, the Trees have just one win away from home this season. Wolves’ leading scorer Hwang Hee-Chan is an unhospitable host, scoring seven goals in his last eight league matches at Molineux Stadium.

Masked by the cloud of their 10-point penalty assessment by the league is the fact that Everton are an improved side this season whereas their Sunday opponent, Chelsea, is not. Excluding the 10-point deduction, Everton is six points better after 15 matches than a year ago. Chelsea’s Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, has accumulated 5 points less than Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter garnered over the first 15 matches of last season. Everton have won eight of their last twelve matches across all competitions.

Bottom of the table Sheffield United hosts Brentford on Saturday. What normally would be a mismatch is tempered somewhat by the injury absence of Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo and his club leading seven goals for the Bees.

Nineteenth place Burnley visits Brighton where the Seagulls will have both Lewis Dunk and Mahmoud Dahoud back from suspension. Brighton will be trying to stay unbeaten for a club record seventh league home match. Burnley has lost five consecutive league away matches. 

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