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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 3 September, 2014

Previews: here’s what you need to know ahead of this weekend’s Premier League action

City face Spurs and Arsenal host United in the pick of the games, but before that there are eight fixtures to be played out on Saturday.

Chelsea will welcome the return of Michael Essien.
Chelsea will welcome the return of Michael Essien.
Image: Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport

Saturday

Norwich v Chelsea, 12.45

Chelsea travel to Carrow Road well aware that this could turn out to be a profitable weekend for them in the race for a Champions League place.

The other four clubs in the top five play each other on Sunday as the Manchester sides face off against their London rivals so picking up three points at Norwich is crucial.

The Canaries are on a good run of form since the new year however, and will be confident of troubling the Pensioners despite losing to them in the corresponding fixture back in August.

Andre Villas-Boas is without two Ivorians in Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, while John Obi Mikel is out but new signing Gary Cahill is available and Micheal Essien made his long-awaited comeback against Sunderland and should play some part.

For Norwich, Ritchie De Laet has returned to Manchester United after an injury-plagued loan spell, goalkeeper Declan Rudd will be sidelined for three months and it’s still too soon for James Vaughan and Elliott Ward.

Teams:

Norwich (from): Martin, Whitbread, Ayala, Naughton, Johnson, Tierney, Fox, Pilkington, Crofts, Surman, Hoolahan, Morison, Jackson, Holt, Steer, Drury, Bennett, Wilbraham, Tierney, Lappin, Barnett.

Chelsea (from):  Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Romeu, Lampard, Ramires, Essien, Mata, Malouda, Meireles, Torres, Sturridge, Lukaku, Turnbull.

Everton v Blackburn

Everton haven’t picked up maximum points in the league since January 1 and will look to get their home record back on track having won only two of their last seven games at Goodison Park.

Steven Kean’s side had an excellent result against Fulham last weekend despite having former Toffee Yakubu, who is suspended for this game, sent off in the first half and have climbed out of the bottom three.

Chris Samba, whose transfer request was refused earlier this week, has an ankle knock and could be left but fellow defender Scott Dann could return from a a groin injury.

David Moyes has to deal with a string of his first team players being sidelined as Phil Jagielka (knee), Tony Hibbert (groin), Leon Osman (foot), Seamus Coleman (thigh), Sylvain Distin (hamstring) and Ross Barkley (knee) are all unavailable.

Teams:

Everton (from): Howard, Heitinga, Baines, Duffy, Neville, Gibson, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill, Drenthe, Fellaini, Saha, Donovan, Mucha, Anichebe, Stracqualursi, McFadden, Gueye, Vellios.

Blackburn (from): Robinson, Bunn, Dann, Samba, Lowe, Hanley, Givet, Nzonzi, Rochina, Pedersen, Petrovic, Dunn, Hoilett, Olsson, Goodwillie, Formica, Vukcevic, Slew, Blackman, Henley, Morris.

Fulham v Newcastle United

Newcastle began their spell without Demba Ba and Cheick Tote pretty well when a Leon Best goal handed Mark Hughes a defeat in his first game in charge of QPR and another win tomorrow will move them back into fifth with Arsenal not playing until Sunday.

Fulham, meanwhile, go in search of their third consecutive home win over the Magpies but their inconsistency was evident last week when they lost 3-1 to Blackburn even with the advantage of an extra man for the whole of the second half.

Belgian international Moussa Dembele, who has been one of their best performers this season, hurt his hip in that game and has failed to recover while Orlando Sa won’t return from a hamstring injury for another week.

Alan Pardew will hope Yohan Cabaye can pass a late fitness test but Peter Lovenkrands (calf), Steven Taylor, Sammy Ameobi (knee) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) are all out.

Teams:

Fulham (from): Stockdale, Etheridge, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Kelly, Frei, Sidwell, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Ruiz, Davies, Duff, Hughes, Baird, Kasami, Zamora, Johnson.

Newcastle (from): Krul, Elliot, Harper, Simpson, R Taylor, Santon, Ferguson, Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Kadar, Cabaye, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Gosling, Abeid, Vuckic, Best, Shola Ameobi.

QPR v Wigan

Two of the bottom three sides meet at Loftus Road and with just two points separating them, so this could prove a huge game in the relegation fight.

QPR may have won midweek against MK Dons in the FA Cup but you have to go back as far as November 19 to find their last Premier League win. Mark Hughes has been brought in because of just that and he will want to put things right having lost his first game to Newcastle.

They are without Adel Taarabt and Armand Traore due to the African Cup of Nations and Danny Gabbidon is a doubt with a hip problem. Joey Barton does return from suspension, however.

Wigan performed well against Man City on Monday night yet came away with nothing to show. Roberto Martinez hasn’t got Shaun Maloney (calf) or Mohamed Diame (AFCON) and David Jones is doubtful.

Teams:

QPR (from): Kenny, Cerny, Murphy, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Connolly, Hall, Hill, Orr, Young, Derry, Bartoon, Buzsaky, Smith, Mackie, Helguson, Wright-Phillips, Hulse, Campbell, Macheda, Bothroyd.

Wigan (from): Al Habsi, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Watson, Boyce, Caldwell, Moses, Gomez, McCarthy, Di Santo, Jones, Stam, McArthur, Lopez, Thomas, Sammon, Crusat, Gohouri, Rodallega, McManaman, Pollitt, Kirkland.

Stoke v West Brom

Recent history suggests that this game will go the way of the Stoke – in the past ten meetings between the clubs the Potters have won eight and drawn two.

Going into the game at the Britannia Stadium, they sit eight points ahead of a West Brom side who are aiming to avoid their fourth straight Premier League defeat.

Paul Scharner is a concern for the Latics as he struggles to shake off and achilles injury and Graham Dorrans may come in to replace him. For Tony Pulis, Ryan Shotton could be missing after hurting his foot in the draw with Liverpool and Rory Delap has been feeling cramp lately and it won’t be clear if he is fit until tomorrow.

Teams:

Stoke (from): Sorensen, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Pennant, Delap, Palacios, Etherington, Crouch, Walters, Begovic, Shotton, Upson, Diao, Jones, Whitehead, Whelan, Woodgate, Fuller, Higginbotham, Jerome.

West Brom (from): Foster, Fulop, Jara-Reyes, Olsson, McAuley, Dawson, Tamas, Mattock, Shorey, Mulumbu, Morrison, Thorne, Dorrans, Thomas, Tchoyi, Cox, Fortune, Odemwingie, Long, Bednar, Scharner.

Sunderland v Swansea

As well as being mid-table, Brendan Rodgers’s Swansea have won plenty of admirers through their attractive brand of football this season. They were terrific in Sunday’s win over Arsenal but that will soon be forgotten about if they don’t pick up any points at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Sunderland have looked revitalised since Martin O’Neill took over at the beginning of December but suffered defeat at the hands of Chelsea last time out.

They may have two centre-halves, Wes Brown and Titus Bramble, back after both returned to training but Matt Kilgallon, Jack Colback and Fraizer Campbell aren’t fit to feature.

Swansea could stick with the same starting XI after their excellent win, although loanees Josh McEachran and Gyfi Sigurdsson will be hoping to get the nod.

Teams:

Sunderland (from): Mignolet, Westwood, Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Bramble, Turner, Cattermole, Richardson, Gardner, Vaughan, Larsson, Elmohamady, McClean, Meyler, Sessegnon, Bendtner, Wickham, Ji.

Swansea (from): Vorm, Williams, Taylor, Caulker, Britton, Orlandi, Graham, Sinclair, Dyer, Dobbie, Routledge, Monk, McEachran, Lita, Moore, Bessone, Rangel, Allen, Tremmel, Agustien, Gower, Richards, Donnelly, Sigurdsson, Situ.

Wolves v Aston Villa

Mick McCarthy would dearly love to end a seven game winless streak at home to Aston Villa on Saturday as he could do with easing some of the pressure that comes with sitting a point off the relegation zone.

Alex McLeish, meanwhile, celebrates his 53rd birthday on match day and a win would be the perfect present.

Robbie Keane could potentially start against the club where he made his name at the age of 17 as McLeish mentioned that he was impressed by the link up play between the striker and Stephen Ireland.

Wolves have been boosted by the return of captain Roger Johnson and Kevin Foley and Matt Jarvis should also available for selection after missing their FA Cup defeat to Bristol Rovers.

Teams:

Wolves (from): Hennessey, De Vries, Foley, Stearman, Doherty, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Elokobi, Hammill, Hunt, Henry, Edwards, Guedioura, Forde, Jarvis, Kightly, Doyle, Ebanks-Blake, Fletcher, Frimpong, Jonsson.

Aston Villa (from): Guzan, Given, Hutton, Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Clark, Warnock, Bannan, Petrov, Ireland, Albrighton, Bent, Keane, Agbonlahor, Delfouneso, N’Zogbia, Weimann, Marshall, Johnson, Gardner, Stevens.

Bolton v Liverpool, 5.30

In Saturday’s evening fixture, Liverpool travel to the Reebok Stadium looking to keep up with the top six with a win over lowly Bolton. Wanderers have been awful at times this season and the prospect of losing their Premier League status is looming large.

Owen Coyle’s men are showing signs of improvement however, and have picked up seven points from their last five games but the Reds have won every one of the last ten league meetings between the sides.

Former Liverpool striker David Ngog should line out against his former side and Hungary goalkeeper Adam Bogdan will continue to deputise in goal, though Jussi Jaaskelainen is back in training.

Luis Suarez is still seeing out his eight-game band and Jay Spearing is a doubt. Jamie Carragher will also most likely lose out to Daniel Agger in defence.

Teams:

Bolton (from): Bogdan, Jaaskelainen, Wheater, Boyata, Knight, Eagles, Robinson, Muamba, Petrov, K Davies, Klasnic, Tuncay, M Davies, Pratley, Ngog, Blake, Reo-Coker, Steinsson, Ricketts, Riley, O’Halloran, Lynch.

Liverpool (from): Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique, Gerrard, Adam, Downing, Henderson, Bellamy, Carroll, Doni, Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Shelvey, Spearing, Rodriguez, Kuyt.

Sunday

Man City v Tottenham, 1.30

The first of two massive games on Sunday pits the league leaders against third-placed Tottenham.

City have a 100% record at the Etihad Stadium so the odds are stacked against Spurs, but only Manchester United have been better than them on the road this season.

The Toures, Yaya and Kolo, are off with the Ivory Coast  and captain Vincent Kompany is still suspended. Mario Balotelli and Micah Richards are fit again after missing the win over Wigan, however.

Emmanuel Adebayor has to sit this one out due to the terms of his loan move from City so Jermain Defoe and Rafael van der Vaart will lead the attack, and Ledley King is unlikely to be involved.

Teams:

Man City (from): Hart, Pantilimon, Richards, Zabaleta, Lescott, Savic, Rekik, Clichy, Kolarov, Johnson, Milner, De Jong, Barry, Nasri, Silva, Hargreaves, Dzeko, Balotelli, Aguero, Suarez, Razak.

Tottenham (from): Friedel, Gomes, Assou-Ekotto, Kaboul, Walker, King, Bassong, Bale, Modric, Van der Vaart, Parker, Livermore, Kranjcar, Defoe, Rose, Dos Santos, Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Lennon, Pienaar, Dawson.

Arsenal v Man United, 4pm

Who can forget what happened the last time these two teams met – an 8-2 win for United in one of the most embarrassing defeats of Arsene Wenger’s managerial career.

No doubt Sunday’s game will be more evenly-contested but, either way, fixtures between these two teams are always worth watching.

Injuries have made Wenger’s job a whole lot tougher as Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs, Francis Coquelin, Carl Jenkinson, Andre Santos, Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere are sidelined. Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh are at the African Cup of Nations, meanwhile.

Contrastingly, United welcome back defensive pair Chris Smalling and Phil Jones but Tom Cleverley will be another or two, Ashley Young is still out and Anderson suffered a setback in training so won’t be picked in the squad.

Teams:

Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Koscielny, Djourou, Mertesacker, Miquel, Song, Ramsey, Arshavin, Walcott, van Persie, Henry, Almunia, Rosicky, Arshavin, Squillaci, Benayoun, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Park, Yennaris.

Man United (from): De Gea, Lindegaard, Amos, Smalling, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evra, Jones, Evans, Fryers, Cole, Carrick, Scholes, Valencia, Park, Nani, Giggs, Rooney, Welbeck, Berbatov, Hernandez, Diouf.

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