St. Andrews, Birmingham
December 29, 2010; 1:30 AM IST – Live on ESPN
Birmingham host Manchester United at St. Andrews – a ground which has become some sort of fortress for the Blues as they have lost just once at home in 2010. United themselves battled hard on their previous trip to this ground as they managed only a 1-1 draw courtesy an own goal from Scott Dann.
Birmingham have struggled this season so far and find themselves just one place off the relegation zone. A big problem for the Blues has been their failure to convert more of their draws into victories. Alex Mcleish must be hoping that his side’s fortunes will change starting from this fixture as his team finds themselves in the middle of an unexpected “mid-winter break” as their previous two fixtures have been called-off due to the snowy weather in England.
St. Andrews – A Fortress? (c)Bruker:TuborgLight
Mcleish would be pleased to see the back of Alexander Hleb who is back in training after being out for a month due to a hamstring injury. The Belarusian could play a part in the game albeit as a substitute. Liam Ridgewell is also back and available to play after missing the match against Manchester City due to illness. The rest of the squad is fit for the game.
United, on the other hand, are currently leading the pack and have reached Christmas unbeaten in the league for the first time in their elusive history. The biggest problem for Sir Alex now is to keep his squad fresh during the festive period especially with injuries to his key players. The trip to St. Andrews could prove to be daunting for his team, having played a game against Sunderland just over 48 hours ago.
Sir Alex would be hoping for Nani and Fletcher to be fit after both missed the Sunderland game with a hip niggle and illness respectively. With Scholes out untill the New Year and Park gone to play for South Korea in the Asia Cup, Ferguson would have to call upon some of his fringe players to carry on the mantle. Rest of the squad is fit apart from Valencia and Hargreaves.
Stamford Bridge, London
December 30, 2010; 1:15 AM IST – Live on ESPN
After ‘not turning up’ against Arsenal at The Emirates, Chelsea has no time to sulk over the defeat. They need to get their act together, and really quick, with other title contenders running away with the points. It won’t be easy to play Bolton even at home, but the good form of Ivanovic and Terry will really help the home team’s cause. An unexpected knee injury to Nicolas Anelka before the Arsenal match means he will sit out for this one too. Chelsea can’t afford to rotate their squad to give the ‘younger players’ some match practice, they need to pick up points to get the confidence back.
Drogba, Malouda, Essien and Lampard are almost certain to start again withing 48 hours while other positions might be rotated. Bosingwa, who saw some some action against Arsenal, is expected to start this one while the men warming the bench at The Emirates might get some ‘field time’ to impress the boss.
Bolton Wanderers bounced back well in the last game to defeat West Brom after their 1-0 loss at the Stadium of Light. The win has taken them back to sixth place, just one point behind Tottenham and if things continue to be as good for Owen Coyle’s men, the Trotters might just be celebrating a spot in the Europa League come the end of the season. Up next, though, is a tough trip to Stamford Bridge where they could find it hard to emulate the same form.
Chung-Yong Lee would definitely be missing for the game as he, like Park Ji Sung, would be travelling to join Korea’s squad for the Asia Cup in Qatar. Apart from that Owen Coyle has all the players available from the last game.
December 30, 1:15 A.M. IST, Live on Star Sports
Liverpool host Wolves as both teams are eager to turn their season around. While Wolves are fighting for their premiership survival, Liverpool are anxious to get back in the battle for the European places.
Liverpool’s season has been a mixed bag so far and Roy Hodgson would be keen to turn things for the better especially with the fans calling for re-hiring of Rafael Benitez. The manager, like Alex Mcleish, would be happy about his players getting an extended break as Liverpool’s last league game was more than a fortnight ago.
Returning hero! (c) Mr. Phillip Chambers
The break has certainly helped Roy Hodgson and the team as it has given Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger time to recover from their injuries and both are expected to be involved in the game. Carragher is still out with a dislocated shoulder while Jay Spearing is also sidelined with a broken ankle.
Wolves, on the other hand, slipped to rock bottom in the league after their home defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Wigan. The team was booed off at half time during that game and Mick McCarthy has a tough job ahead of him if he has to turn around his team’s fortunes with the squad at his disposal.
There are no new injury worries for the manager from the last game, but he would surely make some changes from the last game with Fletcher coming into the frame in place of Evans-Blake.
DW Stadium, Greater Manchester
December 30, 2010; 1:15 AM IST
Wigan Athletic is known to be a team who can beat any side on their day and can be thrashed on the other and this season has been no different. While an away victory at Tottenham has been a highlight, conceding 10 goals in two games against Chelsea and Blackpool has certainly been a low point for the Latics. Nevertheless, a win away at Wolves in the last game has lifted them out of the drop zone and into sixteenth position in the table.
There was no substitutes used by Martinez in the previous game despite the tough festive period and it just goes to show how important that match was for the Latics. The gamble certainly paid off as they came out on top and all players finished the game unscathed. Hence, Martinez has no fresh injury worries going into the game and an extra day to recover than their rivals could prove to be helpful for the home side.
Arsenal, having got the better of the defending champions, needs to throw the ‘celebrations’ out of the window and try to continue with the winning streak away at DW Stadium. Wigan are a very decent side at home and Arsenal clearly needs to ‘turn up’ to beat the home team. Though, the Gunners have had great away form this season, these are the matches that they tend to lose in their race for the title.
With a lot of quality on bench against Chelsea, Arsenal can put all of them on the pitch against Wigan. Arshavin and Chamakh who didn’t start against the Blues are sure to do so at the DW. One of Cesc and Van Persie might be rested to accommodate Rosicky. Diaby is sure to start after the long injury layoff. The Frenchman can be a crucial player for Arsenal with tough matches coming up over the new year. Wenger can even afford to rest Song and add Denilson to the equation, but he needs to keep the balance of the team intact.
For a complete list of fixtures click here.