A preview of this weekend’s matches involving the region’s clubs
Saturday, November 30
Burnley v Crystal Palace – Turf Moor
Crystal Palace head to Burnley without Joel Ward after the defender limped out in the early stages of last weekend’s Premier League clash with Liverpool.
“His injury – I’m afraid – will keep him out for a number of weeks, but he’s the only one at the moment,” Palace boss, Roy Hodgson told www.cpfc.co.uk.
Hodgson offered better news regarding Mamadou Sakho, adding: “Mamadou has been fine for a while. The last two weeks he’s been training so it’s just a question of getting back, if you like, to the full fitness level he wants to achieve and to do that he’s got to play some matches.”
Palace are without a victory in five Premier League outings and face a Burnley side sitting in seventh place and looking for a third-straight top-flight win.
Chelsea v West Ham United – Stamford Bridge
Chelsea are sweating over the fitness of striker, Tammy Abraham after the frontman landed awkwardly and was stretchered to hospital during the Blues pulsating UEFA Champions League draw in Valencia.
“It’s much better, much better than when it happened,” he explained to Chelsea TV.
“At the time I was fearful of the worst, obviously, but when I got in I was able to walk again, move about. Hopefully, it’s not too long.
“I’ll have a scan tomorrow – or an X-ray, to see what the news is but hopefully it’s just bruising because at the end of the day I think it was a knee to my hip area, so hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”
West Ham will be without the suspended Issa Diop, while manager, Manuel Pellegrini must decide whether to stick or twist regarding the position of goalkeeper, Roberto, who has made a series of high-profile blunders since replacing the injured Lukasz Fabianski.
Speaking about his beleaguered stopper, Pellegrini said: “He knows about his performances – he played for big teams – he cannot be happy at this moment. It is what has happened and he must try to improve.”
Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Jose Mourinho will be looking for his third successive victory since replacing Mauricio Pochettino in the Spurs hot seat.
The North Londoners face an AFC Bournemouth side, who themselves are experiencing a tough patch having recorded a single Premier League victory in seven outings.
Tottenham have offered the proverbial ‘bit of everything’ since Mourinho’s appointment, scoring seven goals over the two matches with West Ham and Olympiacos – winning both, but displaying defensive lapses which against better opposition could prove costly.
Nevertheless, the Lilywhites displayed character and spirit to roar back from a two-goal deficit in that Champions League encounter with the Greek Champions last time out. The new boss explained that more of a ‘good cop’ reaction during the interval was required to help his side get back on track.
“I felt that the player’s self-esteem and self-confidence,” he explained.
They were playing at home with not the best results – probably with the Bayern game behind their thoughts.
“I felt that they were in need of some love at that time and not The Critical One. I felt there needed to be more of an emotional balance.
“After that, we talked about a few tactical details, tactical position adjustments but it was more about their confidence, their difficult situation and to go for it.”
AFC Bournemouth boss, Eddie Howe, has recently been linked with managerial posts at West Ham, Everton and to a lesser extent, Arsenal.
Speaking after the Cherries 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers last time out, Howe explained: “In the first half we weren’t particularly good.
“They scored from two set plays and we’re disappointed with the second one. The first one was sensational, but we’re not very pleased with the second – we should have defended that one much better.
“In the second half, we were down to 10 men but I thought we were excellent. Arguably we deserved to get something from the game.”
Southampton v Watford – St Mary’s Stadium (5:30pm)
Daryl Janmaat highlighted the return of Troy Deeney as key if Watford is to build momentum and haul themselves off the bottom of the Premier League.
Speaking to www.watfordfc.co.uk ahead of Saturday’s relegation six-pointer with Southampton at St Mary’s, the Dutchman explained: “It’s so important having Troy Deeney back in the squad.
“It’s good that he’s back and hopefully the other injured players can also come back soon so that we can have a full squad and go from there because we’re much stronger with everyone fit.
“We know all about Troy, he’s important, he’s a vocal guy and he’s the captain so it’s good to have him around again. I don’t think I’ve ever had a teammate before who has been at the same club for almost 10 years – that’s a long time in football! He is really important for the club and to play an entire decade here just proves that. It’s good for him and good for the club. He is the face of Watford.”
The Hornets head for the south coast with just a single league victory to their name this season. Meanwhile, the Saints sit one point and one place above the Hertfordshire outfit although they will have taken heart from a decent display which saw them come within a whisker of a victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last weekend.
Sky Bet Championship
Charlton Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday – The Valley (12:30pm)
Manager, Lee Bowyer, has called upon the Charlton Athletic fans to help his injury-hit side get through their recent winless sequence when Sheffield Wednesday are the visitors to the Valley on Saturday.
The Addicks are without a win in six Sky Bet Championship matches, although Bowyer remained bullish about his side’s performances: “If you look at the no wins in six then you could say that we’re experiencing a turbulent patch. But if you look at the positives, we’re in every game still,” he told www.cafc.co.uk.
“Under all the circumstances with the budget and the amount of players that we have out, I can’t say I’m happy because we aren’t winning, but the way we’re performing is acceptable. Even though the results aren’t right, our performances are still good.”
On the importance of the Valley faithful, the Charlton chief enthused: “They always play a massive part in my eyes. They have done from the minute that I took over. They played a massive part when I asked them to come and be part of this journey, and they’ve jumped on board. Again, the other night they didn’t stop singing. They were singing at the right times and they could tell when we were tiring a bit and when we needed a bit of help from them.
“Saturday’s going to be the same – we’re going to need them to get through this difficult period. We all have to stick together, and I know that on Saturday, they’re going to play a massive part like they did last weekend at home against Cardiff. They knew it was going to be tough for us against a good Cardiff side, but they played their part in us getting a valuable point.”
Birmingham City v Millwall – St Andrews
Millwall defender, Jake Cooper, believes his side are showing a number of the qualities required to push for a play-off berth come the end of the campaign.
The Lions picked up four points from their last two outings – a notable single-goal success at Swansea City followed by a battling draw with an equally dogged Wigan Athletic side: “If they had offered us four points from the last two games, I think most people would have taken it, so we can’t be disappointed,” he told www.millwall.co.uk.
“We’re happy with the return and we go into another great game on Saturday against Birmingham, where we believe we can get another three points.”
Cooper added: “We look more confident in the way we’ve been playing so we will go there looking good and strong, and I’m sure we can come away with the three points if we prepare ourselves properly.”
Brentford v Luton Town – Griffin Park
Brentford will fancy their chances of closing the gap on those occupying the play-off places when struggling Luton Town are the visitors to Griffin Park on Saturday.
The Bees frustratingly slipped to a single-goal defeat at Blackburn Rovers during the week – a result which left them three points shy of the top six
“I think we performed well enough – not top – but well enough to get something out of the game,” Boss, Thomas Frank explained.
“What we need to learn is when we perform well enough, we need to get a draw once in a while or nick a win because it seems as though we have to perform top to get the win.”
Frank added: “I think sometimes it’s margins, in terms of we hit the post and it doesn’t go in. Sometimes it’s maybe a bit of experience, maybe play the chances a bit cooler, don’t rush it. But we know the atmosphere in the Championship, it’s a very quick game and physical.”
Luton arrives in the capital one place above the dropzone and buoyed by a 2-1 success over Charlton Athletic last time out. Prior to that, the Hatters had lost five on the bounce, a rin which including a 3-0 setback at fellow strugglers, Reading.
Derby County v Queen’s Park Rangers – Pride Park
Queen’s Park Rangers manager, Mark Warburton, will be demanding a vast improvement from his out of sorts side when they travel to much-fancied Derby County.
Warburton used www.qpr.co.uk to apologise to the R’s fans following Wednesday evening’s 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Nottingham Forest, explaining: “I want to apologise to the fans, you don’t want to lose at home anyway but in that manner, it wasn’t acceptable.
“You can’t capitulate like that at home and concede three goals of that nature. We can praise the players when they are doing well but they must take the criticism when it comes their way.”
Warburton will be without Lee Wallace, at Pride Park – the defender is serving a one-match ban after receiving a red card during the second half of that defeat to Forest.
Sunday, December 1
Norwich City v Arsenal – Carrow Road (2pm)
Arsenal begin life without Unai Emery with a potentially tricky trip to Carrow Road
The misfiring Gunners haven’t won in the Premier League since AFC Bournemouth were beaten by a goal to nil at the Emirates Stadium in early October, while Thursday evenings Europa League defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt stretched the North Londoners winless run to six matches – their worst sequence since 1992 – and sparked the dismissal of the under siege Spaniard.
In a statement published by www.arsenal.com on behalf of the Arsenal board and owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Josh Kroenke explained: “Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand. We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.”
“The decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required.
“We have asked Freddie Ljungberg to take responsibility for the first team as interim head coach. We have full confidence in Freddie to take us forward.
“The search for a new head coach is underway and we will make a further announcement when that process is complete.”
Host’s Norwich currently occupy one of the relegation places. However, the Canaries were boosted by a 2-0 victory at fellow strugglers, Everton, last time out.