Sunderland v Liverpool, 12:45
The speculation surrounding Liverpool and the chances they’ll spend this month has been intense, but if you look at the squad Brendan Rodgers has built there isn’t a lot of room for new players, at least not unless others can be sold. It’s fair to say not all of his signings have been a success, but the return of Daniel Sturridge could do something to mask the mistake he has made in signing Ricky Lambert and refusing to use Mario Balotelli, and buy the embattled manager a spot more time.
Sunderland midfielders Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell are struggling to bit fit in time for this one, but Ricky Alvarez and Emanuele Giaccherini are ready to play even if Sebastian Coates is ineligible against his parent club. Liverpool’s Adam Lallana, Joe Allen, Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan and Brad Jones all remain sidelined through injury, while Kolo Toure is now on international duty.
Burnley v QPR, 15:00
The glitz and glamour of Burnley versus QPR may not be immediately apparent from afar, but when you get up close to this match between two of the Barclays Premier League strugglers the heat and intensity may damn-near take your eyebrows off. Only two points separate them in the table, both teams only have one win from their last five games and almost all the bookies rate these as two of the favourites to be relegated, so this might end up being a weekend highlight for the competition alone, as well as the significance.
Burnley could be unchanged for a seventh straight league match, although Sam Vokes is pressing for a start. QPR could give a debut to forward Mauro Zarate, and although Sandro is still short of fitness, several key players who were rested last weekend will return.
Chelsea v Newcastle, 15:00
The team from the top take on the team exactly halfway up, or down the Premier League table, depending on your bent. Newcastle fans would have every right to be pessimistic after the last five years or so under the current owners, but as usual they’ll relish the trip down south and could provide some much-needed support to a team not expected to win today. Chelsea may have failed to win either of their last two games, but that only puts them in ‘wounded tiger’ territory rather than suggesting they’re there for the taking.
Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul is back, but Papiss Cisse and midfielder Cheick Tiote are both on Africa Cup of Nations duty. Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns ahead of their clash with Newcastle.
Everton v Man City, 15:00
There is going to be a lot of style and intelligent play on show this afternoon at Goodison Park, but for Everton fans this season the side has been worryingly free of the bite and fight that David Moyes used to instil in the squad. Gareth Barry is still trundling around trying to avoid being sent off, but aside from that the obduracy is gone, with the Merseysiders coming into the game thirteenth in the table and on a run of four consecutive Premier League losses.
Leighton Baines is fit for Everton and Antolin Alcaraz returns from suspension but Sylvain Distin has a groin problem and joins a long injury list. Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is available and both Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko are in the squad, but Yaya Toure is in Equatorial Guinea to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Leicester v Aston Villa, 15:00
Although they’ve not lost a game in their last two outings, Leicester City were fortunate to get a draw against a frankly crap Liverpool side and have only won one of their last ten Premier League matches, making them seem the idea opponents for virtually any other team in the table. Sadly for Villa their record over the last ten is only one game better, and with Paul Lambert’s side being away from home that will balance it out even more making this a potentially tight game, and vital contest in the context of the two seasons.
Mark Schwarzer could make his Leicester debut but Andrej Kramaric will not, and although Dean Hammond and Andy King are fit to return Danny Drinkwater is a doubt, Esteban Cambiasso and Jeff Schlupp are injured and Riyad Mahrez is away. Villa’s Ron Vlaar is out for up to six weeks, Fabian Delph is banned but Gabriel Agbonlahor, Nathan Baker and Kieran Richardson could return from injuries.
Swansea v West Ham, 15:00
After twenty games in the league, both West Ham and Swansea are in the top half of the table, ahead of sides like Liverpool and Everton, and if you’d offered that to the two managers prior to the season commencing they’d have snapped your hand off like a starving lion. Now comes the consolidation, and the decision from the board as to whether they’re going to push onward toward a European spot, and this match is vital with neither team having won recently and both requiring a boost to get back on track.
Swansea will be without Man City target Wilfried Bony and Ki Sung-Yueng, who are both away on international duty, Jonjo Shelvey is banned again and Jefferson Montero is still out with a hamstring injury. West Ham striker Diafra Sakho is out with the back injury, Cheikhou Kouyate is away with Senegal, but Alex Song is not having retired from international football.
West Brom v Hull, 15:00
Another ‘relegation six-pointer’ is due to take place today, and even with the large number of games between now and the end of the year there is a chance that this one could have a massive effect on who will stay and who will go from the Premier League at the end of term. Recently, Hull have won two of their last three games while the home side come in off a run of three losses and a draw, so it’ll be extremely close, but if Hull can win they could go as high as twelfth in the table.
West Brom head coach Tony Pulis has a near full-strength squad for his first Premier League game in charge, with Youssouf Mulumbu and Jonas Olsson as the only absentees. Hull defenders Michael Dawson and James Chester are expected to be fit, but Sone Aluko, Mohamed Diame, Gaston Ramirez, Andy Robertson and Liam Rosenior are all injured.
Crystal Palace v Spurs, 17:30
I’m willing to bet most Spurs fans assumed that this season, finishing in the top four would be a case of beating Arsenal, Liverpool and maybe Everton out of the running, so it will feel strange to see all of those teams below them in the league and still be fifth, looking up at Southampton of all people. Palace haven’t won a game in eight and recently installed a new manager, meaning they’ll be motivated in a number of ways, and this is going to be a much tougher London derby than it looks on paper for the visiting Spurs.
Crystal Palace’s Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak are both on international duty and James McArthur should be fit despite a rib problem. Tottenham will be without midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, who has joined Algeria at the Africa Cup of Nations, and both Ryan Mason and Erik Lamela are absent through injury.