14 December, 2012 - 14:36

Premier League Preview: Matchday 17

Premier League Preview: Matchday 17

Nearly halfway through the Premier League 2012-2013 season it looks almost certain that the title race has been reduced to two clubs. Chelsea’s inconsistency due to the managerial merry-go-round is likely to hinder the London club to pose a serious challenge to the Manchester sides. Interim Rafa Benitez may have instilled confidence in his compatriot Fernando Torres, but had too little time to rebuild the team and turn things around.

However the battle for the Champions League places may be the toughest and the most interesting one for years. Besides Chelsea and two Manchester clubs at least three teams are prepared to fight for Champions League qualification. Everton, Tottenham and Arsenal have enough quality to break into the top four.

Despite recent drop in form Everton have been excellent this season with Fellaini being their most powerful weapon. Should the towering midfielder not leave the team in January, the Toffees will have what it takes to qualify for Champions League.

Tottenham gradually began inculcating André Villas-Boas’ ideas and Spurs’ recent excellent performances prove that the team is on the right track. Gareth Bale and Jermaine Defoe in particular seem to be thriving under his rule. Tottenham have also received a boost with the news that Parker and Assou-Ekotto return after a long-term absence due to injuries.

Arsenal have recently suffered humiliating defeat to fourth-tier Bradford on penalties which saw them eliminating from the League Cup. They have also lost 0-2 to Swansea at the Emirates stadium and dropped to the mid-table mediocrity. However in a bid to fix the situation the board has offered Wenger to increase the transfer budget up to £40 million which hopefully would be enough for Arsenal coach to bring fresh momentum to the team.

Newcastle United vs Manchester City

Currently Newcastle are just two points over the relegation zone and they desperately need bounce back from their poor run form and start winning. Claiming the scalp of disorientated Man City may be the good start of the Magpies’ revival.

The threat of the dismissal hangs like a proverbial sword of Damocles over Mancini’s head after the early Champions League exit and the infamous 2-3 defeat in the Manchester derby. Man City board has reportedly given the Italian an ultimatum – should Man City lose in any of three forthcoming Premier League games, then he may be shown the door.

Probable line-ups:

Newcastle United: Krul; Williamson, Simpson, Coloccini, Santon, Tioté; Gutierrez, Anita; Marveaux, Ba, Cissé
Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasić, Clichy; Rodwell; Silva, Touré, Nasri; Tévez, Agüero

Footballtop.com prediction: 1-2

Manchester United vs Sunderland

After securing a somewhat lucky 3-2 victory over their main rivals Man Utd are six points clear at the top of the table and are looking to stretch their lead at the expense of the modest bottom-dwelling Sunderland. Sunderland hardly capable to put up a good fight against in-form Man Utd, taking into account the return of Nemanja Vidić who hopefully will bring reliability and composure into sloppy Man Utd defense.

Probable line-ups according to goal.com:

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Vidić, Ferdinand, Evra; Scholes, Carrick, Cleverley; Welbeck, Van Persie, Young
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, O’Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Johnson, Larsson, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon; Fletcher

Footballtop.com prediction: 2-0

Tottenham Hotspur vs Swansea City

Tottenham have again demonstrated that they are not able to roll with the punches in the clash against Everton last week. After three consecutive wins the Spurs let the victory slip through their hands in the dying stage of the game at the Goodison Park. Andre Villas-Boas has undoubtedly has learned his lesson and will instruct his team to fight to the bitter end against silky Swansea. However the best league goal-scorer Michu undoubtedly can wreck on the staggering Tottenham defense.

Probable line-ups:

Tottenham Hotspur: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen; Lennon, Sandro, Dembélé, Dempsey; Adebayor, Defoe
Swansea City: Tremmel; Davies, Chico, Williams, Rangel; Guzman, Routledge, Ki Sung-Tueng, Dyer; Michu, Graham.

Footballtop.com prediction: 2-2

Stoke City vs Everton

Everton’s recent record against the top clubs is remarkable to say the least. They drew 1-1 the match with Man City at the Etihad Stadium and beat 2-1 Tottenham at the Goodison Park in the extra time. However The Toffees should also prove their Champions’ league ambitions in the match against the stubborn Stoke.

Probable line-ups according to goal.com:

Stoke City: Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Cameron; Walters, Whelan, N’Zonzi, Adam, Kightly
Everton: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Naismith, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini; Jelavic

Footballtop.com prediction: 1-1

Here are other fixtures of the Matchday 17:

Saturday, December 16

Queens Park Rangers vs Fulham
Norwich City vs Wigan Athletic
Liverpool vs Aston Villa

Sunday, December17

West Bromwich Albion vs West Ham United

Monday, December 18

Reading vs Arsenal

Photo: zimbio.com, sportinglife.com

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Author: Basil Naumov

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