This weekend’s English Premier League slate is headlined by another Manchester-London showdown after last week’s drubbing of Manchester City by Chelsea.
This week it’ll be Manchester United facing a North London opponent in Tottenham at home. While both teams are looking up at their respective rivals, each seeks to get themselves back into the thick of things. For Tottenham, this means gaining ground on league leaders Chelsea, who now sit seven points above their fellow Londoners. For Manchester United, it means battling back into UEFA Champions League contention, as they currently sit six points behind Tottenham, in sixth place.
As for Chelsea, who are flying high after their 3-1 victory over Manchester City, they’ll need be aware of a trap game as West Bromwich Albion comes to town. The visitors have played surprisingly well as of late despite being tabbed by many for a near-bottom finish following a lackluster 2015-16 campaign. Currently sitting on 20 points, West Brom is just one point behind United in seventh place. Chelsea will seek to extend their three-point cushion over Arsenal with a win as the Gunners face Stoke City.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s Premier League schedule:
GAMES TO WATCH
Manchester United (21 points) vs. Tottenham (27 points), Sunday, 9:15 a.m., NBCSN
Injuries of note: Manchester United will be without both Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling. The two English defenders continue to be sidelined and are not expected back until the end of the month. Spurs will have Toby Alderweireld back in the squad. The defender has made his return in their midweek Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. Erik Lamela remains unavailable as he is still in Argentina attending to his brother, who is ill, while Vincent Janssen is still sidelined with an ankle problem.
Key to the game: The Spurs attack against the United defense. The last time the two sides played in May, United’s defense had been blown wide open for a 3-0 Spurs win at White Hart Lane. Now under Jose Mourinho, the Red Devils’ backline will have to sustain Harry Kane and company to give them a shot at victory Sunday. The Spurs’ attackers have scored eight times in their last two matches, five against Swansea last weekend and three at Wembley against CSKA.
Player to watch: Harry Kane. Kane has scored against 21 different opponents in the Premier League, but has yet to score against Manchester United in five appearances. The England National Team striker has scored seven goals in his last six Premier League appearances for Spurs. Kane could be facing Eric Bailly for the first time. The first-year Manchester United defender returned to action in Odessa on Thursday after being sidelined for over two months.
Quote: “We know how hard it is to play against Spurs. We’re playing at home, where we didn’t win for four games with four draws, so we just want to win this game and get to the top of the league.” – Paul Pogba
Arsenal (31 points) vs. Stoke City (19 points), Saturday, 10:00 a.m., NBCSN
Injuries of note: Arsenal could have Hector Bellerin back from an ankle injury, although his selection has not been confirmed.The Gunners will be without Santi Cazorla (Achilles), Per Mertesacker (knee), and Danny Welbeck (knee) when they host Stoke at the Emirates. Both Bruno Martins Indi and Marko Arnautovic have been cleared to play for the Potters. Martins Indi had a precautionary X-ray this week while Arnautovic had picked up an undisclosed injury last weekend. Ryan Shawcross will most likely be out while Geoff Cameron is still weeks away from fully recovering from an ankle injury.
Key to the game: Continued form. Arsenal have been in impressive form over the last few matches. Before their Champions League win at Basel on Tuesday, the Gunners had run rampant at London Stadium on the weekend in a 5-1 victory against the Hammers. The front line of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil could be joined by Lucas Perez, who netted a hat trick in the Basel match.
Player to watch: Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean star has done wonders playing as a lone striker in place of Olivier Giroud. The former Barcelona man has had 18 goals and seven assists in Arsenal’s last 25 Premier League matches. Sanchez scored twice and recorded an assist in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Stoke in January of 2015.
Quote: “We are playing well but have plenty of room for improvement. We want to develop as a team and that is what we have done since the start of the season. We had a difficult start but responded very well. I feel the team is on the way upwards.” — Arsene Wenger
Chelsea (34 points) vs. West Brom (20 points), Sunday, 7:00 a.m., NBCSN
Injuries of note: While Nemanja Matic is fit following a calf strain, Chelsea will be without team captain John Terry. Terry will miss the match with a muscular problem. Oscar is out with an undisclosed injury while David Luiz should be ready to go. James Morrison and Gareth McAuley are both doubts for Albion, as the decision to play could come down to hours before the match. Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill is not available due to his ankle injury.
Key to the game: Avoiding complacency. Chelsea have won eight Premier League matches in a row, including the victory last weekend at the Etihad against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. In their final home match before Christmas, Chelsea will have to make sure that they are just as ready for West Brom. While Tony Pulis’ side don’t look extremely threatening on paper, the Midlands club has been on a good run of matches. The Baggies will look to continue that run of play at Stamford Bridge.
Player to watch: Diego Costa. The scrappy Spanish international will enjoy the rough defending that comes when playing against a Tony Pulis side. Costa is currently tied for first with Alexis Sanchez for most goals in the league, at 11 a piece. Costa won the player of the month award as his side soared to a perfect month of November to go atop the league.
Quote: “This league has taught me that every game is very tough. Sunday is the type of game we can find difficult if we don’t put the same concentration, the same focus, that we had in the previous games.” —Antonio Conte
Leicester City (13 points) vs. Manchester City (30 points), Saturday, 12:30 a.m., NBC Sports Live
Injuries of note: Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is back in training and could make the squad against City. Nampalys Mendy will not be participating despite returning to training this week. Raheem Sterling is fit after missing two games with a groin problem, and City trio ofPremi Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are all on suspensions following last weeks’ events against Chelsea.
Key to the game: Rebound. Both Leicester and City have not had the run of games they should or thought they would have. Pep Guardiola’s side are coming off a draw against Celtic in European play but lost to Chelsea 3-1 last weekend at home. Leicester will also attempt to rebound from a bad week. The Foxes were defeated 5-0 at Porto in their last Champions League group match. Both Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez will benefit from rest and should be they key to a Leicester victory.
Player to watch: Riyad Mahrez. With Sergio Aguero on suspension, the 2016 Premier League Player of the Year will be key for the Foxes at the KP. The Algerian put on a show in Leicester’s 3-1 victory in Manchester last season, and his performance could decide whether or not the Foxes can replicate that performance again. While his play has not replicated that of last year’s magical title winning season, the winger can return to center stage with a good showing at the King Power.
Quote: “Maybe the (Leicester) players were so focused on the Champions League, the first experience in their lives, the travel, the music, everything. Sometimes you are not focused on the Premier League. But now they have qualified they have two months to focus on the Premier League. The players are there, the defensive structure is quite solid and the goalkeeper is really good.” — Pep Guardiola
Watford (18 points) vs. Everton (20 points), Saturday, 7:30 a.m., NBCSN
Swansea City (9 points) vs. Sunderland (11 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live
Burnley (14 points) vs.Bournemouth (18 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live
Hull City (11 points) vs. Crystal Palace (14 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live
Southampton (17 points) vs. Middlesbrough (15 points), Sunday, 9:15 a.m., NBC Sports Live
Liverpool (30 points) vs. West Ham (12 points), Sunday, 11:30 a.m., NBCSN/Telemundo