Intriguing Valentine’s Day duel set for Molineux
As the Premier League resumes with the second weekend of its staggered inaugural winter break, Chelsea will be aiming to get their top-four challenge back on track in the standout match against Manchester United while runaway leaders Liverpool will be confident of taking another step towards the title away at bottom club Norwich.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leicester City 8pm
Two other teams with top-four ambitions kick off the fixtures with an intriguing Valentine’s Day battle on the cards at Molineux.
While the visitors are in the ascendancy in the standings, third and 14 points ahead ninth-placed Wolves, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers will be well aware of the threat the home side pose.
Last season’s fixture produced goals galore with Diego Jota completing his hat-trick in injury time as Wolves came out on top of a seven-goal thriller, winning 4-3.
While, Wolves have won only one of their latest eight games, they will take heart from the fact that none of last eight matches between these clubs has resulted in an away win.
Southampton v Burnley 8.30am
Southampton will be hoping to buck the trend of their poor home form when they host hit-and-miss Burnley tomorrow.
Saints have the worst home record in the Premier League this season, with 11 points from 12 games, but their general form has improved since November to see them climb into thirteenth-place and more importantly seven points clear of the relegation zone.
However, manager Ralph Hasenhuttl will be concerned from conceding seven goals in their last two games, admittedly away to Liverpool and Tottenham, and the possibility of their strong form may just be wearing off.
Two places above but level on points with their opposition, Burnley will be out to extend their six-match unbeaten run against Southampton.
Norwich City v Liverpool 1.30pm
Norwich will be hoping Liverpool’s attention may be on their trip to Atlético Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, as they aim to claim another unlikely scalp, having beaten Manchester City 3-2 in September.
However, with 55 points separating them at either end of the table, it could prove a long weekend for the home side, with Jürgen Klopp’s side aiming to extend their 13-match unbeaten run against the Canaries, in which the league leaders have scored three or more goals in nine of those games.
While there are distractions on the horizon for Liverpool, they will be refreshed after their break and will be expected to comfortably pick up where they left off ... with another win.
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham manager José Mourinho will desperate for a little bit of history repeating itself when his side head to Villa Park.
Previous form points to Spurs continuing their charge towards the top four, being unbeaten in their last nine visits to the West Midlands club, having also won 13 of their last 15 against Sunday’s hosts.
Sitting just one place and a solitary place above the drop zone, Dean Smith’s side have been significantly better team at home, however, they struggle for clean sheets, having only kept four in the league all season and none since the turn of the new year.
Arsenal v Newcastle United 12.30pm
Just like their fierce North London rivals Tottenham, Arsenal are facing an opponent whom they have a fantastic recent record.
Tenth-placed Arsenal have won 13 of their last 14 matches against Newcastle, while the Magpies have lost 16 of their latest 18 away games against the Gunners.
However, Arsenal have drawn 13 of their last 22 games in all competitions and it’s only three wins out of nine for their new manager Mikel Arteta.
Steve Bruce’s side are unbeaten in their last eight matches but have drawn six of them, leaving them twelfth, joint on points with Sunday’s hosts.
Chelsea v Manchester United 4pm
Defeat for United will all but end their hopes of securing Champions League football, with fourth-placed Chelsea six points ahead of the visitors ahead of what could prove a crucial meeting in the capital.
While still in pole position for secure a top four place, Frank Lampard will be concerned with his side’s indifferent form, having picked up just 15 points from their last 12 league fixtures, while also winning just one of their last five since the turn of the New Year.
United manager will be hugely concerned by his side’s lack of firepower in the absence of the injured Marcus Rashford, though he has confirmed surprise January signing Odion Ighalo will be in the squad for the trip.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be desperate for a repeat of the side’s two meetings already this season, with United having triumphed in both clashes, thrashing the Blues 4-0 at Old Trafford on the opening weekend of the season, as well as a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in the last-16 of the Carabao Cup.
Manchester City v West Ham United 3.30pm
Both sides may have benefited from Storm Ciara scuppering this rescheduled fixture from Sunday.
The delay would have allowed Manchester City central defender Aymeric Laporte to get a few more training sessions under his belt, meaning he could be set for a return from injury, while West Ham will also have benefited from some time training together, especially at the back.
While the visitors, who find themselves in the relegation zone, will be desperate for the points, and Pep Guardiola acknowledging that his City side are not active in the title race, it is hard to look beyond the hosts claiming victory.
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