Chelsea boss Antonio Conte will be out for revenge when his runaway leaders host bitter London rivals Arsenal tomorrow.
Chelsea vs Arsenal
The Blues suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the Emirates back in September, but they head into the lunchtime fixture with a nine-point lead over the Gunners. A 1-1 draw at Liverpool in midweek, coupled with Arsenal’s shock 2-1 defeat at home to Watford, means Chelsea can open up a 12-point lead over Arsene Wenger’s men.
“The best thing is to see ourselves,” Conte said. “We play another great team because Arsenal is a great team who can fight for the title. Don’t forget, we lost 3-0 away and I think this could be a great chance for us to show that in the second part of the season we are a totally different team compared to the previous game. We play at home, which is very important, but it will be a really tough game.”
Following their damaging loss against Watford, Wenger made the bizarre admission that his men were not “mentally” up to the challenge.
To make things worse, the Gunners go into tomorrow’s game at Stamford Bridge with a major midfield crisis after Aaron Ramsey’s latest injury setback in midweek.
Granit Xhaka is suspended, Mohammed Elneny is still at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt, and Santi Cazorla is a long-term absentee. Wenger expects Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to be available and the Frenchman may have no choice but to throw him back into the starting line-up, with Francis Coquelin his only available senior central midfielder. Although a winger, Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed in that position in the past.
“He’s a player who can be effective on the flanks and when he’s in a more central role,” said Wenger. “Looking back, he’s done very well when playing centrally in the past.”
Allardyce eager to build on first win | Crystal Palace vs Sunderland
These two may be about to go head-to-head in a relegation six-pointer, but that didn’t stop them doing business with each other on deadline day this week.
Dutch defender Patrick van Aanholt joined Palace from Sunderland in a £14million deal, but while the Black Cats had hoped to have spent some of that money on striker Leonardo Ulloa, they had a final bid of £7.5million turned down by Leicester. Both clubs, however, enjoyed good results in midweek.
Eagles’ boss Sam Allardyce won his first league game since taking charge with a 2-0 success at Bournemouth, while Sunderland kept their first clean sheet in the league since Christmas to move off the foot of the table following a surprising but well-deserved 0-0 stalemate at home to Spurs.
Home is where the heart is for Everton | Everton vs Bournemouth
The Toffees were disappointed to leave the Britannia with just a point for their efforts on Wednesday night, but will welcome the chance to return to winning ways when they host Bournemouth tomorrow afternoon.
With Ronald Koeman’s men in the mix for a Europa League berth next season, it is imperative they take maximum points against the Cherries.
Bournemouth have been boosted by the news that winger Ryan Fraser has signed a new deal that ties him to the club until 2020. However, Eddie Howe’s men haven’t won a competitive game since Hogmanay.
Hull hope to frustrate Liverpool | Hull City vs Liverpool
The hosts picked up a precious point at Old Trafford on Wednesday in their battle against the drop.
However, with Crystal Palace winning at Bournemouth and Sunderland earning a draw with Spurs, Hull remain second bottom of the table.
Visitors Liverpool, however, have been far from convincing of late. The 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Tuesday night will have lifted some of the gloom enveloping Anfield following last weekend’s FA Cup exit at the expense of Wolves.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are without a win in the Premier League this year, but they remain just a point adrift of rivals Tottenham and Arsenal in fourth spot. However, Reds fans won’t settle for anything other than three points tomorrow.
Striker Gabbiadini eyes starting role | Southampton vs West Ham
League Cup finalists Southampton will have new £14million striker Manolo Gabbiadini in their squad for the visit of West Ham to St Mary’s.
The 25-year-old, who joined from Napoli this week, scored 16 goals in 56 appearances for the Italian outfit and should provide some stiff competition in the Saints attack alongside Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez and Dusan Tadic.
The Hammers, meanwhile, must look to restore some pride following their midweek 4-0 defeat to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side have netted nine goals without reply in their last two visits to the London Stadium, so Slaven Bilic will be relieved to see the back of David Silva and co.
West Ham’s inconsistency has been their biggest problem this season –and that is yet to be resolved.
Winger Brady set to make Clarets debut | Watford vs Burnley
Burnley, it’s fair to say, have been one of the surprise packages so far in the Premier League this season, and now sit ninth in the table after Sam Vokes’ late winner earned them a 1-0 home win over champions Leicester in midweek.
For the visit to Vicarage Road, manager Sean Dyche could give a debut to Republic of Ireland international Robbie Brady, who signed for a club record fee of around £13million from Championship outfit Norwich City on deadline day.
The Hornets themselves pulled off a remarkable 2-1 victory at Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday that is sure to have been a real confidence booster to Walter Mazzarri’s squad. This one has all the makings of a real cracker with plenty of endeavour from both sides.
Tough one to call at the Hawthorns | West Brom vs Stoke City
A victory for hosts West Brom this afternoon could see the club move to within a point of seventh-placed Everton, depending on the outcome of the Toffees’ match with Bournemouth.
Tony Pulis has instilled a real winning mentality at the Hawthorns, with defender Marc Wilson joining the club on loan from Bournemouth until the end of the season.
Stoke, however, could move to within a point of their opponents with a win. Peter Crouch netted his 100th Premier League goal on Wednesday night.
Pochettino expecting Tottenham response | Tottenham vs Middlesbrough
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino admits he left Wearside a disappointed man after his side passed up the chance to close the gap on leaders Chelsea on Tuesday night.
Spurs, normally so potent in attack, could only muster a 0-0 at struggling Sunderland, and injuries to full-back Danny Rose and midfielder Mousa Dembele only added to Pochettino’s frustration.
The North Londoners should have no such problems tomorrow against struggling Middlesbrough, whose long winless run continued in midweek, despite them claiming a 1-1 draw with West Brom at the Riverside.
Boro sit 15th in the table, two points above the drop zone, but could be boosted by the inclusion of Algerian midfielder Adlene Guedioura, whom they signed from Watford on deadline day.
City look to keep title dreams alive | Manchester City vs Swansea City
Swansea have found their form just in the nick of time. Back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Southampton have seen Paul Clement’s men climb out of the relegation zone.
However, a trip to the Etihad is never the easiest of venues to visit in search of a third straight victory. Manchester City easily disposed of West Ham with a thorough display and looked to be back to their best – scoring goals for fun in the process.
Pep Guardiola’s side lie just outside the top four and automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League. If they have any hope of catching leaders Chelsea in the title race, victory here is essential.
Ranieri’s men in need of maximum points | Leicester City vs Manchester United
The champions are in desperate need of a win – on a run that has seen them plummet to 16th in the table and just two points above the relegation zone.
Claudio Ranieri’s men have won just two of their last nine Premier League outings, with their last triumph coming on the final day of last year.
Striker Leonardo Ulloa failed to negotiate a move on transfer deadline day, and has publicly said he will not play again for the club.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were held to a scoreless draw at home to Hull on Wednesday night – their third consecutive draw at Old Trafford in the Premier League since they edged past Middlesbrough 2-1 at the end of December last year. All to play for at the King Power!