London Soccer Shorts…

Thursday, December 22

Premier League

Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion – Selhurst Park

Following their superb comeback at Manchester City, Palace will be keen to get one over old adversaries Brighton when the pair go head-to-head at Selhurst Park on Thursday evening.

Each of the last four Premier League meetings at Palace’s home have ended 1-1. However, Roy Hodgson’s men have won just one of their last ten league outings and are currently three places above the relegation zone.

Hodgson has further injury concerns ahead of the Seagulls visit. Joel Ward hobbled off at the Etihad Stadium and joined a lengthy list of casualties, including Cheick Doucoure, Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, Rob Holding, Sam Johnstone, Odsonne Edouard and Jefferson Lerma.

Friday, December 22

Sky Bet League Two

Crawley Town v AFC Wimbledon 

Three wins and a draw from their last six League Two outings have pulled AFC Wimbled0on back into play-off contention, and they will be quietly confident of extending their unbeaten sequence to three matches when they head to erratic Crawley on Friday evening.

The Dons played out a goalless draw at Salford City last time out, despite mustering twenty shots at goal during the contest. Speaking to www.afcwimbledon.co.uk, boss Johnnie Jackson, said: “I have to say that the performance was outstanding. We’ve come to a tough place and dominated. 

“We created plenty of chances and limited them to next to nothing. I’m really proud but frustrated that we didn’t put the finishing touches on what we deserved. It’s what the lads out there would’ve deserved and the supporters who travelled.

“Defensively, it was as good as you’ll see. Matt Smith is a real threat for them, one of the top scorers in the league. 

“We knew he’d pose problems for us but our two centre-halves were brilliant up against him, to the point that they made changes to bring different threats on. 

“We dealt with those as well, I can’t ask for much more from the lads. If we keep playing at the level that we’re playing at, it won’t happen often – it can’t.”

Saturday, December 23

Premier League

West Ham United v Manchester United – London Stadium

West Ham United returned to Premier League winning ways with a 3-0 thumping of Wolves, and they might fancy their chances of taking a sizable scalp when erratic Manchester United head to the London Stadium.

Michail Antonio is the only absentee from David Moyes’ squad. The Hammers will leapfrog United with a win over Erik ten Hag’s men.

Fulham v Burnley – Craven Cottage

Raul Jimenez will be missing through suspension when free-scoring Fulham take on relegation-threatened Burnley at Craven Cottage.

Fulham boss, Marco Silva is also sweating over the fitness of Calvin Bassey, while Adama Traore and Tim Ream are unlikely to return until the turn of the year.

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Spurs face a resurgent Everton looking to win their third Premier League match on the bounce.

Ange Postecoglou will be without the suspended Yves Bissouma and Destiny Udogie, while a lengthy injury list consists of Ivan Perisic, Rodrigo Bentancur, Micky van de Ven, James Maddison, Ryan Sessegnon, Manor Solomon, Giovani Lo Celso and Alfie Malik Whiteman.

Brennan Johnson could return after leaving the action with a head injury during the Lilywhites 2-0 victory over his former club, Nottingham Forest.

Liverpool v Arsenal – Anfield

Victory for Arsenal at second-placed Liverpool will guarantee them top-spot at Christmas.

A comfortable 2-0 victory over Brighton at the Emirates launched the Gunners back to the summit, with Liverpool playing out a stalemate with old adversaries Manchester United at Anfield. 

Jorginho could return for the North Londoners after a foot injury ensured he missed the Seagulls clash. However, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Jurrien Timber, Fabio Vieira and Takehiro Tomiyasu all remain in the treatment room and will miss the trip to Merseyside.

Sky Bet Championship

Blackburn Rovers v Watford – Ewood Park

Watford head to Ewood Park looking to make further ground on the play-off contenders against a Blackburn side that has lost three of their last five.

The Hornets return to Lancashire just a week after coming from behind to wallop Preston by five goals to one. Watford boss, Valerien Ismael told BBC Three Counties Radio: “I’m very pleased with the performance, with the attitude. It was a very strong away game.”

Queens Park Rangers v Southampton – Loftus Road

QPR hope for a return to winning ways but will find it tough when high-flying Southampton head to Loftus Road.

The R’s recent unbeaten sequence was concluded at Hillsborough last weekend when fellow strugglers, Sheffield Wednesday snatched the points in stoppage time.

QPR boss Marti Cifuentes, was unimpressed, telling BBC Sport: “The last ten minutes of the game we were not good enough.

“I thought we were well in control for much of the game but we knew Sheffield have improved a lot and play with an aggressive pressing style and the last few minutes they played more direct.

“But we should have controlled that situation better and had a better grab on the game as it developed.

“We then had a chance when it was 1-1, but if you do not take your opportunities you give the other team hope.”

Stoke City v Millwall – Bet365 Stadium

Without a win in six, relegation-threatened Millwall head to the Potteries hovering two points above the dropzone to face a Stoke city side that are one point and a place better off.

The Lions looked set to end their wretched run after Brooke Norton-Cuffy fired them ahead against fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town last time out. However, again they were left frustrated after Delano Burgzorg netted from the spot seven minutes into stoppage-time for the visitors.

Speaking to BBC Radio London, Millwall boss, Rob Edwards said: “It was a tight, edgy game because two teams in a difficult position, difficult runs of form, and people talking about how important this result would be when two teams face each other.

“There was nothing in it in the first half, a cagey game, and that’s really understandable.

“The second half we came out, we upped it, were the better team, got the goal and you could see 

“We didn’t get it and unfortunately when you’re in these moments where there is an underlying edginess to what you’re doing you can be susceptible to any sort of half-chance going against you.

“The manner of the goal sums it up – we gave a set-piece away unnecessarily and it falls to the edge of the box and it’s a deflection onto a hand and a penalty.”

Sky Bet League One

Bolton Wanderers v Leyton Orient – Toughsheet Community Stadium

Orient might fancy their chances of upsetting the applecart against a Bolton side that has wobbled of late.

The O’s returned to winning ways thanks to two late goals at Cheltenham Town last time out. Meanwhile, high-flying Bolton have suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Portsmouth and Bristol Rovers.

O’s boss, Richie Wellensm, was relieved to see his side claim the points in Gloucestershire: “I’m pleased for the supporters, I hope they have a good weekend,” he told www.leytonorient.com.

“We’ve had so many good days here, we want to give them more. But they have to understand we’re a work in progress, we’re getting more experience at this level and more belief, but we still need a couple more players to add to the squad.

“We give them a good day, the fact we won in the 90th minute feels great but I’m really balanced in my opinion of what I’ve seen, I’m trying to stay performance-related.”

Charlton Athletic v Burton Albion – The Valley

Charlton are looking to to extend their unbeaten League One sequence to seven matches when struggling Burton Albion visits The Valley.

Corey Blackett-Taylor’s second-half goal salvaged a share of the spoils at Barnsley last time out: “For pretty much the majority of the game today, performance-wise, we were excellent,” Addicks boss, Michael Appleton told www.charltonafc.com.

“Created numerous opportunities, had them on the back foot for a lot of the game. So I’ve got to be delighted from that point of view.

“You can always tell when players know they played well, and they know they played well today.”

Sky Bet League Two

Sutton United v Mansfield Town

Bottom of the table Sutton United begin life without their legendary manager Matt Gray after his departure following last weekend’s 8-0 defeat at leaders Stockport County.

The defeat at Edgeley Park left Sutton six points adrift at the foot of the table, and life doesn’t get any easier as they now face a Mansfield town side that has lost just one of their twenty league outings to date.

A statement from the Board of Directors, posted on www.suttonunited.net, explained;

“Matt will forever have a large place in Sutton United’s history as the manager who took us into the Football League for the first time in our 123-year existence, and to a Wembley final and within a point of the play-offs in our first season at this level. 

“However, this season’s results have been disappointing and our league position, as we approach the halfway mark of the season, led us to decide with great reluctance that a change is necessary.”

Monday, December 24

Premier League

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea – Molineux

Chelsea head to the Black County hoping to find some consistency in their league form but boosted by a victory over Newcastle United – on penalties – which carried them through to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

Christopher Nkunku could feature for the Blues after Mauricio Pochettino handed him his Chelsea debut as a second-half substitute. However, the Argentine still has numerous injuries to contend with and will be without Wesley Fofana, Carney Chukwuemeka, Trevoh Chalobah, Lesley Ugochukwu (unspecified), Ben Chilwell, Reece James (hamstring), Marc Cucurell, Robert Sanchez and Romeo Lavia.

London Soccer Shorts will return in the New Year…

Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk