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Premier League Week 21 Preview
To many football fans there is something inherently romantic about evening matches played under floodlights. And when you are talking about the pace and passion of the English top flight, combined with the vociferous encouragement of English football supporters, ‘night’ games really are a spectacle to behold. This Tuesday and Wednesday night see a full round of fixtures in the Barclays Premier League, and throws up some exciting contests which will affect matters at both ends of the table.
Newcastle United V Manchester United, Tuesday 12/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
There was a time and a place when this fixture really was not only a certain source of exciting, positive football, but also when it was integral to the title-race. It seems that those days are gone on both counts. While Newcastle are floundering in the relegation zone, Manchester United, and more specifically there embattled boss, Louis Van Gaal, are the subject of ridicule due to the mundane nature of their tactics and performances. Tuesday night in fact sees two coaches under increasingly scrutiny, especially after poor FA Cup performances which left the home side out and the away team hanging on. It’s hard to say who needs the result more, as a defeat for either side could leave them looking a long way from achieving their objectives this season, which seems to be survival for the Magpies and a Champions League spot for the visitors. Newcastle currently sit two points from safety, whilst United are three points off the top four, so a victory here is imperative for both teams. United, unsurprisingly, have had the edge in recent meetings, with the Red Devils only having lost twice in 26 games against the team from Tyneside. The last home win at St James’ Park was back in 2012 when Phil Jones put through his own net to cap a 3-0 win. Earlier in the season these two teams played out a forgettable 0-0 draw, so more will be expected this time from all concerned. Bastian Schweinsteiger definitely misses out for the visitors, while the home side should be able to welcome back skipper Fabricio Coloccini as well as midfielders Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita.
Newcastle united 5.00, Draw 3.70, Manchester United 1.80
Liverpool V Arsenal, Wednesday 13/01/16 at 20.00 GMT
There is a huge game at Anfield on Wednesday night between two of the biggest names in English football, yet in League terms, these two sides enter the match in completely different frames of mind. Arsenal have been in destructive form and go into the game sitting prettily on top of the table, two points clear of Leicester and three points ahead of Manchester City, who host Everton the same night. The Gunners know that any slip ups here could mean they relinquish top spot, but they will be in confident mood after a run of five wins in their last six games in the league. The home side, meanwhile, face an injury crisis which threatens to further deepen a league slump which has seen Jurgen Klopp’s team win only two of their last six, and lose three times in the same period, failing to score each time. Indeed, the Reds have only managed 22 goals in their 20 league games to date, so the area for improvement is clear to the Liverpool boss, who needs his strikers to start producing sooner rather than later. Arsenal have been tricky opponents for Liverpool in recent times, with the Merseyside team only having won two of their last 15 league encounters with the Londoners. Their only win at Anfield in that period came in 2014, when they ran out 5-1 victors thanks to a brace from both Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel – two players who will not be available for Wednesday night’s game for differing reasons. Daniel Sturridge also bagged that day, but will again be absent through injury, as will, hold your breath, Jordan Ibe, Dejan Lovren, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Divock Origi, Danny Ings, Jordan Rossiter, Joe Gomez as well as the aforementioned Skrtl. Arsenal, to be fair, also have six key first team players unavailable, so it’s a battle of the walking wounded at Anfield this week.
Liverpool 2.87, Draw 3.40, Arsenal 2.60
Tottenham Hotspur V Leicester City, Wednesday 13/01/16 at 20.00 GMT
As a consequence of these two sides playing out a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup on Sunday, Mauricio Pochettino and Claudio Ranieri now face two further games against each other in the space of ten days. And considering the two previous matches this season have both resulted in draws, and only four points separate the two teams, picking a winner here may be a difficult exercise. The fact remains that Wednesday night’s encounter sees second play fourth, so the context for the league in general is huge, but this is just another sub-plot in the on-running story that is Spurs V Leicester this season. Due to the 15 combined changes the coaches made for the cup match, Wednesday night’s teams will probably bear little resemblance to those that took the field on Sunday, so a host of star names are set to return. The ‘Gary Lineker derby’, as this match has been dubbed, sees a meeting between two sides who have scored a combined 71 goals this season, although Spurs also boast the meanest defence in the league – something that is not normally associated with the Londoners. Both Ryan Mason and Mousa Dembele are doubts for the home side, while Jamie Vardy should be fit to boost a Foxes team who have failed to score in their previous three Premier League games.
Tottenham Hotspur 1.75, Draw 3.80, Leicester City 5.25
Full list of Week 21 fixtures
Aston Villa V Crystal Palace, Tuesday 12/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
Bournemouth V West Ham United, Tuesday 12/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
Chelsea V West Bromwich Albion, Wednesday 13/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
Manchester City V Everton, Wednesday 13/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
Southampton V Watford, Wednesday 13/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
Stoke City V Norwich City, Wednesday 13/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
Swansea City V Sunderland, Wednesday 13/01/16 at 19.45 GMT
All odds courtesy of Bet365 and correct as of 15.00 GMT on 12/01/15