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  1. #1
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    Default Premier League preview: Gameweek 12

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    West Brom v Chelsea

    West Bromwich Albion deservedly occupy the lofty position of fifth in the English Premier League ahead of Chelsea's visit on Sunday.

    Steve Clarke's men have lost only to champions Manchester City at home this season with their new manager enjoying an almost blemish-free start to life in the top flight.

    A win at The Hawthorns on Saturday would claw West Brom within a point of Chelsea.

    West Brom picked up their first away win of the campaign at Wigan on Saturday with James Morrison and a Gary Caldwell own goal earning them a 2-1 victory.

    Key to their success at home though has been their defensive record.

    In wins over Everton, Liverpool, Reading and Southampton, West Brom have kept clean sheets and a back four consisting of Liam Ridgewell, Gareth McAuley, Billy Jones and Jonas Olsson will be a tough nut to crack at home, even for the reigning European champions.

    Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea, meanwhile, will be without captain John Terry for an indefinite period.

    The skipper's comeback from his four-game ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand was bookended with the opening goal against Liverpool, his 50th for the London club, and an unsavoury fall under a challenge that led to a nasty knee injury.

    Di Matteo insisted Chelsea had the defensive cover to overcome the loss of Terry with David Luiz and left-back Ashley Cole, who both missed the Liverpool clash, set to return to face West Brom, while Frank Lampard is likely to watch on from the sidelines.

    Chelsea have slipped to third in the table, three points behind leaders Manchester United and one behind champions Manchester City, after making a flying start to the season.

    The four-time Premier League champions are winless in three games, a run that includes their controversial 3-2 defeat at home to title rivals United.

    An 82nd-minute goal from defender McAuley handed West Brom a shock 1-0 victory in March this year, a run stretching back to 15 top-flight games.

    The triumph was also West Brom's first clean sheet against Chelsea in top-flight football since 1979.

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    Default Newcastle v Swansea

    Newcastle v Swansea

    Newcastle United face the prospect of slipping outside of the top 10 if they lose consecutive games, when Swansea visit on Saturday.

    Alan Pardew's men have struggled to replicate last season's form, which saw them finish fifth - just five points shy of a UEFA Champions League place.

    After their disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to West Ham, Newcastle occupy 10th spot through 11 games.

    They are 11 points worse off this season than they were at the same stage last season.

    Newcastle opened the previous campaign with an 11-game unbeaten streak, a run that saw them trail Manchester United by a solitary point.

    Pardew knows yet another defeat on Saturday could severely hamper their quest for a top-10 finish.

    "This is a big game now," Pardew said.

    "We've put ourselves in a position where we don't want to be in mid-table.

    "We want to threaten the top half of the league. The West Ham result has knocked us back a bit."

    Swansea, on the other hand, are on track to better their 11th placing.

    The Welsh outfit have tasted defeat just once in five league games and are one point adrift of Newcastle.

    Swansea seem to have made a steady transition from old boss Brendan Rodgers, to manager Michael Laudrup.

    Following a run of three consecutive defeats, Swansea have returned to their brilliant best, claiming a point at home to Chelsea, while they were unfortunate to leave Etihad Stadium empty handed against defending champions Manchester City.

    However, history is against Laudrup's men in this particular fixture, as they have never defeated Newcastle in four previous meetings.

    On the injury front, Newcastle's chances should be given a boost when tough-tackling midfielder Cheick Tiote returns from a three-match ban, however captain Fabriccio Coloccini is still suspended.

    Swansea defender Chico Flores could return after two weeks out with a thigh injury but Kyle Bartley and goalkeeper Michel Vorm will not be back until the Christmas period.

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    Default Reading v Everton

    Reading v Everton

    Reading's task of ending their winless run of seven games in all competitions gets no easier on Saturday, as they prepare to host Everton.

    David Moyes' men sit in fourth place on the Premier League table, having suffered just one league loss in 11 matches to be in the Champions League places early in the season.

    Conversely, Reading have not won since their 3-2 triumph away to QPR in September, despite leading in five of their seven games in all competitions since - including coughing up a 4-0 lead over Arsenal in the League Cup.

    They are three points deep into the relegation zone, but have a game in hand on nearby Aston Villa, not that that would be of great relief to boss Brian McDermott.

    What McDermott would be pleased about is the likely omission of Everton striker Kevin Mirallas to a hamstring injury, with the former Olympiakos man credited with one goal and two assists in his first season in the English top flight.

    Also sidelined for Everton will be Victor Anichebe (knee) and Tony Hibbert (calf), while Darron Gibson (groin) is reportedly a possibility to return to the matchday squad.

    For the Madejski Stadium side, goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (shoulder) will miss, meaning Australian shot-stopper Adam Federici should retain his spot after keeping a clean sheet in their 0-0 draw with Norwich City.

    Jem Karacan (knee) is also on the sidelines, while former Newcastle midfielder Danny Guthrie (thigh) is a chance to return for the Royals.

    Reading have had eight different goalscorers in the 12 they have scored during their winless run, meaning they have certainly had enough avenues to put the ball in the back of the net - but it is at the back where they have struggled.

    They should fancy their chances of at least scoring against Moyes' men, as Everton have not kept a clean sheet in their past seven games in all competitions - and have only kept sides out twice in 11 Premier League games this term.

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    Default Norwich v Manchester United

    Norwich v Manchester United

    Norwich City will be out to beat Manchester United for the first time in seven years when the teams meet at Carrow Road on Saturday.

    The East Anglian club have not defeated United since 2005, when goals from Dean Ashton and Leon McKenzie handed the home side an unlikely 2-0 win.

    Norwich were relegated to the Championship at the end of that season, and later fell to League One before making a return to the top flight under the guidance of Paul Lambert.

    Lambert has since moved on to Aston Villa, with Chris Hughton handed the reins at Norwich to help sustain their Premier League status.

    Norwich are 15th on the table with 11 points, while league leaders United are two points clear of nearest rivals Chelsea, having won all but two of their nine games this season.

    But Norwich, unbeaten in their past four matches, head into the clash full of confidence, with wins over Arsenal and Stoke City to go with draws against Villa and Reading.

    "There is a great work ethic and a great belief around the place," midfielder Robert Snodgrass told the Norwich Evening News.

    "The boys have got a point to prove. They're all young, hungry lads and we have to keep building on it."

    United, who came from two goals down to stun Villa 3-2 at the weekend, are expecting a stern test at the venue where Ryan Giggs netted a stoppage-time winner last campaign.

    "I've got a lot of respect for Chris Hughton," manager Sir Alex Ferguson told the United website.

    "It's always the same when a manager goes to a new club. There's a different way of training, there are different ideas about players and maybe Chris is getting it together now."

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    Default Fulham v Sunderland

    Fulham v Sunderland

    Fulham can maintain the pressure on the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in Sunday's English Premier League clash with Sunderland.

    The London club are unbeaten in their past five matches and full of confidence following a thrilling 3-3 draw against Arsenal last weekend.

    Fulham trailed by two goals after 23 minutes at the Emirates before Dimitar Berbatov inspired the visitors with a brace and Mark Schwarzer saved a penalty at the death to secure a point.

    Berbatov has been instrumental since his arrival from Manchester United on transfer deadline day, with five goals making him an instant favourite among the Fulham faithful.

    Fulham, who have scored more goals than any other team apart from league leaders Manchester United, are undefeated in six league games when Berbatov has started.

    "Berba is more than important for us, both on and off the pitch," fellow striker Hugo Rodallega said.

    "He is a relaxed guy, very intelligent, but also a shy person. When he does speak, it is common sense. I am learning a lot from him and I think we can be very successful during our time here."

    Fulham are ninth on the table with 16 points, behind Arsenal on goal difference and one point adrift of Tottenham in seventh place.

    Sunderland, just three points above the relegation zone in 16th place, are under increasing pressure following losses to Everton and Aston Villa.

    And the Tyneside club could be without Lee Cattermole, Steven Fletcher and Phil Bardsley for the trip to Craven Cottage with all three nursing injuries.

    Cattermole missed the 2-1 defeat at Everton with a knee complaint, while Fletcher picked up a knock and Bardsley was absent with a hamstring injury.

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    Default Manchester City v Aston Villa

    Manchester City v Aston Villa

    Manchester City host Aston Villa in the English Premier League on Saturday in what shapes as a danger game for Roberto Mancini's side.

    City are two points behind leaders Manchester United on the league table and a win this week would see them keep pace with the Red Devils.

    But City, who play an important Champions League match against Real Madrid next week and go up against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on November 25, must be careful not to overlook their opponents this weekend.

    Villa sit 17th and are three points clear of the relegation zone after losing to Manchester United 3-2 last Saturday at Villa Park.

    Paul Lambert's side lost their last match against Mancini's side in the Premier League 1-0 on February 2 but won their most recent meeting in September, in the third round of the League Cup, 4-2 in extra time.

    Striker Andreas Weimann netted two goals in his side's loss to Manchester United and told reporters this week Villa has no reason to fear the reigning Premier League Champions.

    City remain undefeated in the Premier League this season after beating Tottenham 2-1 last Sunday at Etihad Stadium.

    Right-back Maicon and David Silva returned from injury to help Mancini's side to victory over Spurs and Joleon Lescott should be available for this week's game to further boost City's stocks after a back injury.

    Villa are still uncertain how long striker Darren Bent will be out of action with his ankle injury, following his setback in training two weeks ago.

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    Default West Ham v Stoke City

    West Ham v Stoke City

    West Ham United can continue their remarkable run in the Premier League, when they clash with Stoke City at Upton Park on Monday.

    Few favoured West Ham to take any points from a home clash with Manchester City and a trip to face Newcastle United. But the promoted side defied the odds with a scoreless draw against the champions followed by a 1-0 victory at St James Park.

    West Ham are sixth on the English Premier League table with 18 points, above the likes of European regulars Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

    Sam Allardyce's men also boast one of the best defensive records in the top flight, having conceded only 11 goals.

    "Everyone in the team defends," Ivory Coast international Guy Demel told the West Ham website.

    "Of course there is the back four and the keeper, but the whole team defends. When the first defender is the striker then everything works well."

    Stoke moved to 12th place following a gritty 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers last weekend.

    Forward Kenwyne Jones hopes the result will lead to further goals in crucial clashes against West Ham, Fulham and Newcastle.

    "We need to put a few results together, mainly wins," he told This is Staffordshire.

    "I think we need to get at least seven points from the next three games. Hopefully that will take us even further up the table because if we stay in this mode of drawing games it will become a bit too much coming down to the business end of the season.

    "Being 12th guarantees you nothing. We need to keep putting the results together so we can move further and further away from the pack below."

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    Default QPR v Southampton

    QPR v Southampton

    Queens Park Rangers and Southampton's fight for survival starts when the English Premier League's bottom two do battle at Loftus Road.

    Lady luck has not looked kindly upon either side in the opening 11 fixtures of the season with lapses in concentration, defensive blunders and late goals cruelling both teams on their way to only one win.

    QPR's 1-0 loss at Stoke coupled with Southampton's 1-1 draw at home with Swansea saw the London outfit slump to the bottom of the league with only four points.

    And despite Mark Hughes' side boasting nearly 60 percent of possession at the Britannia Stadium, substance over style is becoming the common mantra for QPR.

    "We can't keep on thinking that we're doing OK, because we're not winning Premier League games," Hughes said after the Stoke loss.

    "I'd rather play poorly and get the win, because that's what we need.

    "It is difficult for everybody because we are desperate to get that win everybody feels we deserve."

    But you have to feel for the eternally positive Southampton boss Nigel Adkins as much as his QPR counterpart Hughes.

    Southampton looked as defensively sound as they have all season against Swansea before Paulo Gazzaniga's lazy pass to defender Maya Yoshida gifted Nathan Dyer a chance to equalise, which he duly took.

    The Saints, too, have pieced together some attractive football for little reward other than their 4-1 drubbing of Aston Villa at St Mary's in September.

    Adkins' side are one point ahead of QPR on the table but tellingly, both sides have played seven of the league's top eight already, a fixture list not rivalled by any other club.

    Southampton's clean bill of health will be of some small comfort for Adkins with only back-up defender Frazer Richardson unavailable on Saturday.

    For QPR, Hughes will likely be without South Korean captain midfielder Park Ji-Sung (knee) again while striker Andy Johnson (knee) is looking at another four months on the sidelines.

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    Default Liverpool v Wigan

    Liverpool v Wigan

    Liverpool will be looking for just their second home victory of the season when they host Wigan at Anfield on Saturday.

    The Reds enter the clash in 13th place on the English Premier League table, having won just once in the league since the start of October.

    That triumph was way back on October 20 when they edged past a gallant Reading side 1-0, and Liverpool have drawn three consecutive matches since.

    Their latest effort was an impressive 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and Brendan Rodgers' side will take plenty of confidence from that result.

    Luis Suarez yet again found the back of the net against Chelsea and the prolific marksman now has eight league goals this campaign to be tied at the top of the scoring charts with Manchester United's Robin van Persie.

    Suarez was on target in the corresponding fixture last season, but that mattered little as Wigan downed Liverpool 2-1 in front of 44,431 fans.

    That victory helped keep Wigan in the top flight last season, so the ground should hold no fears for Roberto Martínez's side.

    Wigan actually enter this clash in a much better position than when they met Liverpool last season, sitting in 14th place on the table with 11 points.

    Those 11 points have Wigan placed one spot below Liverpool, so a victory here will have them leapfrog their rival.

    Somewhat surprisingly, Wigan have actually been better on their travels this campaign than they have at home, with two of their three victories coming away from the DW Stadium.

    Their first away triumph came against Southampton in the second week of the season, while an upset victory at White Hart Lane against Tottenham was produced on their last fixture on the road.

    Ben Watson scored the lone goal that day in London and it will be interesting to see if Martinez opts for the midfielder in his starting line-up once again.

    The star so far at Wigan this season has been striker Arouna Kone, with the Ivorian having netted on four occasions, one coming in the club's loss at home against West Brom last time out.

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    Default Arsenal v Tottenham

    Arsenal v Tottenham

    Tottenham can move four points ahead of Arsenal on the English Premier League table with a win at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

    Spurs, who have not finished in front of Arsenal since 1994/95, are seventh on 17 points and lead the eighth-placed Gunners by a point after Arsene Wenger's side were held to a 3-3 draw by Fulham last weekend.

    Andre Villas-Boas' squad have lost their past two league matches since beating Southampton 2-1 in October - they went down to Manchester City 2-1 on Sunday and were defeated 1-0 by Wigan on November 3.

    Arsenal face Tottenham for the first time since coming from two goals behind to rout Spurs 5-2 in February, but have had their own struggles this season - winning just four games out of 11 in the Premier League.

    Oliver Giroud scored twice for Arsenal in their match against Fulham and will be looking to back up his performance in his first North London Derby this weekend.

    The Gunners will hope a win against their London rivals can revitalise their season – Arsenal's last victory in the Premier League came on October 27 against QPR.

    Tottenham are likely to be without Kyle Walker, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon after all three suffered hamstring injuries in their match against Manchester City.

    Lennon and Walker withdrew from England's squad for their friendly against Sweden this week, while Defoe was left out.

    Spurs have battled through injury issues all season with midfielder Scott Parker yet to play a match and Younes Kaboul lining up for just one league game before his knee injury.

    The derby will offer a tantalising midfield battle with Tottenham's Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Gareth Bale going up against the likes of Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta.

    Arsenal's Jack Wilshire should also return to boost his side's midfield stocks after his one-match suspension.

 

 

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