Chelsea vs. Fulham

After a hectic ending to the January transfer window for Chelsea, they welcome Fulham to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Friday night.

The Blues spent in excess of £300 million during the month, but need a mammoth turnaround to make the top four this season.

Match preview

Chelsea's Mykhaylo Mudryk reacts on January 21, 2023

After the high-profile signings of Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk earlier in January, Chelsea blew those transfers out of the water with a record-breaking fee to bring World Cup Golden Boy Enzo Fernandez to the Bridge on deadline day.

The £106.8m spent on the Argentine means it is an all-time English record transfer fee, and having played five games for Benfica post-World Cup, Fernandez will be ready to make an immediate impact in the side.

With that signing taking their spending for the season to over £600 million, the Chelsea hierarchy are certainly putting a lot of faith in Graham Potter to turn their fortunes around after a woeful season on the league front especially.

This fixture will be a rematch from the thrilling encounter at Craven Cottage three weeks ago, which saw Fulham win 2-1 as Felix was sent off on debut for Chelsea.

That result left Potter in big trouble as it meant they had gone on a run of just one win in 11 domestic matches.

A win over Crystal Palace and a goalless draw at Anfield followed to ease the pressure on the manager, but this is yet another must win match for a club in the media spotlight given their recent spending, who are inexplicably down in 10th.

Even though only three sides have conceded fewer goals, Chelsea’s problems lie mainly in attack, and not signing an elite-level, out-and-out striker, despite the astronomical figures they have paid out, could backfire.

Kai Havertz, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic are among a long list of Chelsea attacking options who have performed below expectations this season, as that quintet of players have notched just 14 goals between them in the league.

The red card to Felix was an extraordinary welcome for him to the Premier League, but the brief glimpses seen of the Portuguese international, and that of Mudryk at Anfield, suggests that the duo could make the difference for Chelsea in the second half of the season.

They very often have the edge over Fulham in this West London derby at Stamford Bridge too, as Fulham’s only wins here came in 1964 and 1979, neither of which were in the top flight.

Since beating Chelsea in the reverse fixture, Fulham have lost both league matches and been forced into an FA Cup replay by lower-league opposition.

Willian celebrates scoring for Fulham against Chelsea on January 12, 2023

However, it would be unfair to suggest they have played poorly, as they were very unlucky to lose at St. James’ Park as Aleksandar Mitrovic had his penalty ruled out for an unfortunate double kick, before Newcastle United netted a very late winner.

Another narrow defeat to Tottenham Hotspur saw them play slightly below their very high levels of recent weeks, but an Antonio Conte side can be difficult to break down.

Manager Marco Silva made a few changes for their cup tie versus Sunderland and produced a fantastic spectacle in which both sides could have won.

Having 22 shots on goal, 12 on target and 69% possession shows that despite failing to win the game, Fulham are still capable of dominating the play even with some fringe players in the side against an in-form Championship outfit.

If they can pull off a famous win here at Stamford Bridge, they would move into sixth before the rest of the league play.

It would also be the first time in the club’s history that they have completed a league double over Chelsea, and it would certainly have their fans dreaming of a first European adventure since 2011.

Team News

Chelsea's Joao Felix tackles Fulham's Kenny Tete on January 12, 2023

With the signing of Fernandez going through around the deadline on Tuesday night, he will be eligible to play here, but whether Potter will opt to throw him straight into the side is debatable.

Felix is still suspended after his red card in the reverse fixture, with this being the third and final game of that ban he has to serve.

After an exciting cameo against Liverpool, Mudryk could come into the side possibly to take the place of either Hakim Ziyech or Conor Gallagher, who both saw late transfers fall through on deadline day.

One player who did leave though was Jorginho, as the Italian midfielder joined London rivals and league leaders Arsenal, and with N’Golo Kante and Denis Zakaria both injured, Potter will hope to welcome back Mateo Kovacic for this one.

The Croatian midfielder missed the trip to Anfield with a calf problem, but the manager expects him to be fine to return to the side.

On the contrary, Fulham have virtually no injury worries coming into the game, with Neeskens Kebano the only current absentee.

Fulham were also busy on deadline day, as they were able to bring in Serbian international Sasa Lukic from Torino, who will link up with his compatriot Mitrovic in the squad.

Cedric Soares also came in on loan from Arsenal to offer more cover at right-back, with Kevin Mbabu seemingly not in Silva’s plans as back up.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Arrizabalaga; Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Badiashile; Azpilicueta, Kovacic, Hall, Cucurella; Mount, Mudryk, Havertz

Fulham possible starting lineup:
Leno; Tete, Diop, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed, Andreas Pereira; Decordova-Reid, Mitrovic, Willian

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Valencia

La Liga holders Real Madrid will be looking to return to winning ways when they welcome managerless Valencia to the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night.

Los Blancos are one of only two Spanish top-flight clubs who are yet to lose on home soil so far this season, while Los Che have only won one of their eight league away matches this term.

Match preview

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior in action with Real Sociedad's Pablo Marin on January 29, 2023

Real Madrid have suffered a major blow in their quest to retain the La Liga title after dropping points in four of their last seven top-flight matches.

A 2-1 away defeat against Villarreal in their first league fixture of 2023 was followed by a routine 2-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao, but Los Blancos were then forced to settle for a goalless stalemate at home to Real Sociedad last weekend.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side currently sit five points behind league leaders Barcelona, but they could find themselves eight points adrift before they have even kicked a ball on Thursday should the Catalan giants beat Real Betis on Wednesday.

Real Madrid can ill-afford to drop any more points during the second half of the campaign, but Ancelotti and co will be confident of bouncing back with a victory over a struggling Valencia outfit.

Los Blancos have already beaten Los Che this month, albeit on penalties with a 4-3 triumph in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals following a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes.

The 35-time La Liga champions have also won 11 and drawn five of their last 16 meetings with Valencia at the Bernabeu, last losing against them on home soil back in March 2008 – a game which saw David Villa score a brace in a 3-2 win for Los Che.

Valencia coach Gennaro Gattuso reacts on January 11, 2023

After just seven months in charge at the Mestalla, Valencia confirmed on Monday that head coach Gennaro Gattuso has left the club by mutual consent.

The 45-year-old has departed the club after just 22 games in charge, less than half as many as his predecessor Jose Bordalas and six fewer than Gary Neville during his brief stint back in 2016.

Valencia ultimately came to the decision to part ways with Gattuso after the Italian won only two games out of eight in all competitions since the World Cup break, losing three of his last four league fixtures including Sunday’s 1-0 away loss against Real Valladolid – a game which saw Cyle Larin net a 90th-minute winner.

Los Che have subsequently slipped to 14th in the La Liga standings and they are one of four teams with 20 points, sitting just one point above the relegation zone, albeit with a game in hand.

Valencia have struggled throughout this season, but their form away from home in particular has been a major concern for almost a year, as they have won only three of their last 16 matches on the road, dating back to March 2022.

Voro Gonzalez has taken the reins as interim boss for the seventh time in his career – the first of which back in 2008 – and the 59-year-old is tasked with steering his Valencia team to an unlikely victory against a Real Madrid side whom they have beaten just twice in their last 13 meetings across all tournaments.

Team News

Real Madrid's Ferland Mendy pictured on September 3, 2022

Real Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy is set for around two months on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring injury in the Copa del Rey win over rivals Atletico Madrid last week, while wideman Lucas Vazquez and defender David Alaba remain out with respective ankle and calf problems.

However, midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and right-back Dani Carvajal are available for selection after spells out through injury, and Ancelotti has confirmed that the former “will start” against Valencia.

Eduardo Camavinga, who operated a left-back last time out, will continue in his defensive role on Thursday in the absence of Mendy and Alaba, while Luka Modric is expected to return to the first XI after beginning on the bench last time out.

2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema – who has scored in each of his last seven La Liga matches against Valencia, netting nine goals overall – is set to lead the line and could be supported in attack by Vinicius Junior and one of Rodrygo or Federico Valverde.

As for Valencia, Jaume Domenech and Nico Gonzalez are both ruled out with respective knee and foot injuries, while Thierry Correia has missed the last four matches with a muscle problem and remains doubtful.

Voro may decide to make changes to the starting lineup, with the likes of Mouctar Diakhaby, Hugo Guillamon, Justin Kluivert and Ilaix Moriba all pushing for recalls after beginning on the bench against Valladolid.

Top scorer Edinson Cavani has failed to score in his last three appearances, but the 35-year-old is expected to continue as the central striker, while Samu Castillejo and Samuel Lino will hope to retain their places on the flanks.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Nacho, Militao, Rudiger, Camavinga; Kroos, Tchouameni, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr

Valencia possible starting lineup:
Mamardashvili; Foulquier, Comert, Diakhaby, Gaya; Musah, Guillamon, Moriba; Kluivert, Cavani, Lino

Preview: Real Betis vs. Barcelona

Barcelona will look to increase their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points when they travel to the Estadio Benito Villamain to face Real Betis on Wednesday.

The two teams secured slender 1-0 away victories in the top flight last time out, with Barca beating Girona and Betis coming out on top against Getafe.

Match preview

Real Betis' Nabil Fekir celebrates scoring against Barcelona on January 12, 2023

After losing three successive matches in all competitions, albeit two of those on penalties, Real Betis returned to winning ways with a narrow one-goal victory over relegation-threatened Getafe on Saturday.

In a contest which lacked quality in the final third, the deadlock was eventually broken in the 86th minute by Borja Iglesias, who converted from the penalty spot to end his seven-game drought without a goal.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won only three of their last nine La Liga matches, but they are still in contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League as they currently sit sixth in the table and just three points behind Atletico Madrid in fourth with a game in hand.

Betis head into Wednesday’s fixture seeking revenge against Barcelona after losing 4-2 on penalties in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals three weeks ago following a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes.

Indeed, Betis have lost seven of their last eight meetings with the Catalan giants, conceding at least three goals on six of those occasions, with their only victory during this run coming in December 2021 – a 1-0 away victory courtesy of a late strike from Juanmi.

Barcelona's Pedri celebrates scoring against Girona on January 28, 2023

October 26 was the last time that Barcelona tasted defeat in any competition – a 3-0 Champions League home loss to Bayern Munich – and since then they have put together a 13-game unbeaten run, including victories in each of their last eight matches.

Xavi’s side have come out on top by a 1-0 scoreline in their last three games against Getafe, Real Sociedad and Girona respectively, beating the latter on Saturday thanks to a second-half strike from substitute Pedri, who has now scored three goals in his last four appearances.

After rivals Real Madrid dropped points at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday, Barca have moved five points clear at the top of La Liga after 18 matches, and they will now seek to extend their lead with back-to-back fixtures against Sevillian opposition in the form of Real Betis and Sevilla.

Barcelona’s improvements in defence have been a significant factor behind their success in La Liga this season, keeping 14 clean sheets in 18 games and conceding only six goals in the process, with three of those conceded in the El Clasico loss to Real Madrid in mid-October.

The Catalan giants will be confident of securing maximum points at the Estadio Benito Villamain on Wednesday, as they have won eight of their last 10 away visits to Betis across all competitions, including their last five in a row in La Liga.

Team News

Real Betis's Aitor Ruibal in action with Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele on January 12, 2023

Real Betis’ only injury concern is with winger Juan Cruz, who has not played since early October due to a hamstring injury.

Nabil Fekir and Juanmi were fit to return to the substitutes’ bench last time out after recovering from muscle problems and they will be in contention for recalls to the starting lineup on Wednesday.

January signing Abner will be pushing to make his first home start at left-back ahead of Juan Miranda, while midfield lynchpins William Carvalho and Guido Rodriguez are set to continue in front of the back four.

As for Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele could be sidelined for at least three weeks after coming off in the 25th minute of the win over Girona with a thigh injury.

However, the Catalan giants can welcome back Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres from suspension and the attacking duo could be recalled to the first XI.

The likes of Pedri, Sergio Roberto and Jordi Alba, who all began on the bench against Girona, started in the Super Cup clash against Betis earlier this month and could be included from the opening whistle again on Wednesday.

Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Silva; Sabaly, Pezzella, Felipe, Miranda; Rodriguez, Carvalho; Henrique, Fekir, Rodri; Iglesias

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Alba; Gavi, De Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Torres

Preview: Luton Town vs. Cardiff City

As Luton Town chase the dream of a first-ever Premier League appearance, they host a Cardiff City side desperate to avoid the drop on Tuesday evening at Kenilworth Road.

Luton Town were forced into a replay of their FA Cup tie against Grimsby Town on Saturday as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home, while Cardiff City were beaten by Millwall 1-0 in their last outing.

Match preview

Luton Town manager Rob Edwards during the match on January 28, 2023

After finishing in the promotion playoff places in the Championship last season, Luton Town once again have their sights set on a position in the playoffs in their attempt to acquire Premier League football.

The Hatters are currently seventh in the league table with games in hand on the sides above them and could lift themselves into the playoff positions with a win against Cardiff City.

When suffering a disappointing defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion, Rob Edwards needed a response from his team. This was duly served when his side bounced back with a substantial 2-0 win away against Wigan Athletic, placing them behind Norwich City in sixth only by goal difference.

With only eight points separating third from 16th in the Championship, it is vital that Luton Town do not slip up against opposition lingering towards the bottom of the table, as the implications of a poor run of form could see them slide down the table at a significant rate.

The potential return of Carlton Morris to the side will be a serious boost for Luton Town’s chances of victory in this match, as the forward has been a vital scorer and provider in the Championship this season, dispatching 11 goals and assisting five in his 26 Championship appearances.

Cardiff City's Jaden Philogene-Bidace celebrates scoring their first goal on January 8, 2023

Meanwhile, Cardiff are in a serious battle against the relentless tide of a relegation battle and will be desperate to acquire a result in this matchup.

Cardiff currently occupy the 21st position in the Championship and are three points clear of Huddersfield Town and Blackpool, however both teams have a game in hand on Cardiff and if they were to win those it could cause some serious complications for the Bluebirds.

A major shortage of goals has been the issue for Cardiff this season, as they have the worst goal return in the division with a woeful record of only 21 – the second lowest in the division in comparison is fellow relegation candidates Huddersfield Town, who have only scored 25 goals this season.

Although, not all is doom and gloom at Cardiff, as new manager Sabri Lamouchi takes charge of his first game as boss in this fixture after Mark Hudson was sacked following the 1-1 draw against Wigan Athletic.

Sabri Lamouchi is expected to install a similar style to which he deployed at Nottingham Forest, establishing discipline and shape into the backline and making Cardiff a strong unit defensively that will look to quickly distribute the ball forward in transitions and counter-attack on opponents.

Team News

Tom Lockyer in action for Luton Town on September 30, 2022

Luton are expected to make two changes to the side that drew with Grimsby Town in the FA Cup on the weekend.

James Bree is no longer at the club after joining Premier League side Southampton with Alfie Doughty set to be Luton’s first-choice right wing-back for the remainder of the season.

It is believed that Allan Campbell will retain his place in the side in favour of youngster Louie Watson in the midfield three.

In-form forward Carlton Morris is also expected to return to the side after suffering from with a calf injury to replace Harry Cornick.

Due to the new managerial appointment of Sabri Lamouchi, it is unclear who the Frenchman will pick in his opening lineup, however, it is predicted that he will make two changes to the team that lost to Milwall in their last fixture.

It is expected that Lamouchi will remain with the 4-2-3-1 formation that Cardiff City are familiar with this season.

Sheyi Ojo and Kion Etete are both set to be dropped for this affair to be replaced by Rubin Colwill and Isaak Davies with Callum Robinson leading the line.

Curtis Nelson will no longer play for the club after his contract was terminated.

Luton Town possible starting lineup:
Hovrath; Doughty, Osho, Lockyer, Potts, Bell; Mpanzu, Watson, Campbell; Morris, Adebayo

Cardiff City possible starting lineup:
Allsopp; Ng; McGuinness, Kipre, O’Dowda; Wintle, Rinomhota; Philogene-Bidace, Colwill, Davies; Robinson

Preview: Villarreal vs. Rayo Vallecano

Top-four hopefuls Villarreal will be bidding to continue their impressive run of form in La Liga when they welcome Rayo Vallecano on Monday night.

The home side are currently fifth in the table, level on points with fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, while Rayo have also been impressive this season, picking up 26 points to sit in ninth position.

Match preview

Villarreal's Etienne Capoue celebrates scoring against Real Madrid on January 19, 2023

Villarreal are unbeaten in La Liga since the start of November, winning four of their last five in the league, picking up 13 points in the process, which has left them just outside the top four in Spain’s top flight.

The Yellow Submarine were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Celta Vigo on January 13, but they managed to return to winning ways last time out, beating Girona 1-0 courtesy of a late penalty from Dani Parejo.

Villarreal’s Copa del Rey challenge was ended by Real Madrid on January 19, but they are in the knockout round of the Europa Conference League, having topped Group C ahead of Lech Poznan.

The team’s main focus for the rest of the season will be the league, though, and Quique Setien’s side are currently fifth, level on points (31) with fourth-placed Atletico on the same number of matches (18).

Villarreal have a record of nine wins, four draws and five defeats in the league this season, while they have the second-best defensive record behind Barcelona, conceding just 13 times.

The Yellow Submarine have also won their last three top-flight games against Rayo, including a 2-0 victory in the corresponding match during the 2021-22 campaign.

Rayo Vallecano's Santi Comesana celebrates scoring against Real Madrid on November 7, 2022

Rayo earned a return to La Liga through the Segunda Division playoffs in 2020-21, and they finished 12th in Spain’s top flight last term, with the club securing back-to-back campaigns at this level of football for the first time since 2016.

Los Franjirrojos have won seven, drawn five and lost six of their 18 league matches this season to collect 26 points, which has left them in ninth position in the table.

Rayo are only two points behind sixth-placed Real Betis, while they have a healthy gap of nine points to the bottom three, and there have been no signs thus far that a relegation battle could be a possibility in the final months of the campaign.

That said, Andoni Iraola’s side have only managed to win one of their last five matches in the league, which was a 1-0 success away to Real Valladolid in the middle of this month.

Last weekend, the capital side suffered a 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad, with Alexander Sorloth and Ander Barrenetxea on the scoresheet for the visitors to Estadio de Vallecas.

Team News

Villarreal's Gerard Moreno celebrates scoring their first goal with Samuel Chukwueze on January 7, 2023

Villarreal have a number of injury problems at the moment, with Raul Albiol, Francis Coquelin, Kiko Femenia, Alfonso Pedraza and Giovani Lo Celso again set to miss out here.

As a result, it would not be a surprise to see Setien select the same side that took to the field for the first whistle against Girona last time out.

Jorge Cuenca could continue in the middle of the defence, while it is set to be the same front three, with Samuel Chukwueze joining Gerard Moreno and Yeremy Pino.

As for Rayo, Oscar Valentin remains on the sidelines with a muscular problem, but the visitors are otherwise in strong shape heading into Monday’s contest.

Head coach Iraola is expected to resist the temptation to shuffle his pack from the loss to Real Sociedad, although Santi Comesana could come in for Unai Lopez in the middle of the park.

Radamel Falcao is among the options for change in the final third, but it seems likely that Sergio Camello will again be given the nod through the middle for the capital outfit.

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Reina; Mandi, Cuenca, Torres, Mojica; Capoue, Parejo, Baena; Chukwueze, G Moreno, Pino

Rayo Vallecano possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; Balliu, Lejeune, Catena, F Garcia; Comesana, Ciss; Palazon, Trejo, A Garcia; Camello

Preview: Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Having both suffered respective derby defeats at the weekend, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur aim to bounce back in a Premier League clash of the titans at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday evening.

Pep Guardiola’s men suffered a 2-1 loss to Manchester United last time out, while the Lilywhites were comprehensively beaten 2-0 by North London rivals Arsenal.

Match preview

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola pictured on January 11, 2023

Boldly claiming that he “does not care” about the destiny of the Premier League title as his side fall further adrift of the Mikel Arteta-led Arsenal, Pep Guardiola could have arguably felt hard done by at Old Trafford, where Man United came back from a goal behind to close the gap on their noisy neighbours.

Jack Grealish headed home to put the champions in the ascendancy, but after Marcus Rashford was controversially deemed not to have been interfering with play from an offside position, Bruno Fernandes swept home before Rashford completed the turnaround late on.

Having entered the rare territory of back-to-back defeats – also going out of their prized EFL Cup at the hands of Southampton last week – Man City remain second in the rankings but are now eight points adrift of Arsenal on the same number of games, although they will temporarily reduce that gap to five with success on Thursday.

However, Man United and Newcastle United are now only one point behind City, who could even drop to third if the Red Devils overcome Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, but the wounded champions are normally a force to be reckoned with on their own turf following a humbling loss.

Then again, the hosts have failed to beat Brentford and Everton in their last two at the Etihad – having won 11 top-flight games in a row on home soil beforehand – but only once has Guardiola ever gone three home games without a league win as manager, which came all the way back in December 2016.

Antonio Conte in charge of Tottenham Hotspur in January 2023

Only upcoming opponents Man City and Arsenal can now compete for the title, according to dejected Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, who had no complaints after witnessing his side suffer a wholly deserved North London derby defeat to the Gunners on Sunday evening.

Hugo Lloris – who keeps making rods for his own back this season – scored an inexplicable own goal before Martin Odegaard’s effort completed the job in the first half, but things turned ugly at the full-time whistle, as a spectator made his way onto the advertising boards and managed to kick Arsenal number one – and number one wind-up merchant – Aaron Ramsdale in the back.

Apparently also facing a hefty fine after Richarlison’s set-to with Ramsdale, Tottenham’s bid for Champions League qualification – and indeed their efforts to persuade Conte to agree a new contract – are faltering, as they occupy fifth position in the standings and are currently five points behind Man United having played a game more.

Securing just three victories from their last nine Premier League games is hardly form befitting that of a top-four challenging team, but in a reversal of those numbers, Conte’s men have struck an eye-catching nine goals in their last three Premier League away matches, and Spurs getting one over Guardiola is nothing new.

Indeed, the Lilywhites managed to do the double over the champions last season – spectacularly prevailing 3-2 at the Etihad – making it four wins from their last five Premier League games against Man City, but it would take a brave soul to confidently back the North Londoners to repeat recent history here.

Team News

Manchester City's John Stones reacts on December 31, 2022

Working without two of his primary centre-backs in Ruben Dias and John Stones for the derby, Guardiola has revealed that both men will be in contention to start this one alongside Kevin De Bruyne, who sparked concern when he missed training on Tuesday for personal reasons.

While Guardiola may decide to name Dias and Stones on the bench – with the former waiting for his first post-World Cup minutes – he is blessed the luxury of a well-rested Aymeric Laporte, and the Spain international could now force his way back in as ‘Pep roulette’ comes to the fore.

Ilkay Gundogan, Jack Grealish and Julian Alvarez should also be in contention for starting roles at the Etihad, where Erling Braut Haaland will aim to avoid going three games without a goal for just the second time in the top five European leagues.

As for Tottenham, Conte has also witnessed his treatment room empty in the past couple of weeks, with Dejan Kulusevski returning to the first XI in the North London derby and carrying the fight to the Gunners in the second half.

Rodrigo Bentancur (groin) was not risked on Sunday, but the Uruguayan is in with a strong chance of making his comeback at the Etihad, although Lucas Moura (tendon) remains out as he ticks down the final few months of his Spurs contract.

Neeeding just two more goals to bring up 200 in the Premier League, Tottenham talisman Harry Kane is also one effort away from equalling Jimmy Greaves’s long-standing record of 266 for the club, and he has fond memories of the Etihad following his brace on the champions’ turf last term.

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Akanji, Laporte, Cancelo; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; Silva, Haaland, Grealish

Tottenham Hotspur possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Romero, Dier, Davies; Doherty, Hojbjerg, Bentancur, Perisic; Kulusevski, Kane, Son

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Match Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United

Manchester United will go in search of their 10th consecutive victory in all competitions when they meet Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in Wednesday’s Premier League fixture.

The Red Devils overcame bitter rivals Manchester City 2-1 in Saturday’s derby, while Patrick Vieira’s side fell short in their local clash with London counterparts Chelsea, losing 1-0.

Match preview

Crystal Palace's Jordan Ayew celebrates scoring against Bournemouth on December 31, 2022

It was not for the want of trying, as Crystal Palace forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into several saves and worked Thiago Silva’s 38-year-old legs to the extreme, but the efforts of the Eagles counted for nought as Chelsea just edged Sunday’s London derby.

Kai Havertz headed home the only goal of the game with 64 minutes gone, which condemned Crystal Palace to a miserable third successive loss in all competitions, having seen their brief FA Cup run come to an end at the hands of Southampton last week.

There was much to like about this Palace side under Vieira during the autumn period, but as the weather has got colder, results have proven harder to come by for the Eagles, who sit 12th in the table and six points off the top half, albeit with a game in hand on Chelsea.

While admitting that his side’s performance left him frustrated, Vieira had a few gripes with referee Peter Bankes at Stamford Bridge, but officiating annoyances must now take a backseat as the Eagles boss aims to pick up just Palace’s second win from their last six Premier League contests.

Four of the Eagles’ last five in the top flight have ended in defeat – failing to find the back of the net in all of those losses and only beating Bournemouth in that time – but not since September 2017 have the hosts lost three in a row at Selhurst Park without scoring once.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag during the match on January 10, 2023

The latest bizarre interpretation of the offside rule came to the fore in Saturday’s Manchester derby, where Jack Grealish headed Man City into the lead before Bruno Fernandes controversially levelled after Marcus Rashford was deemed not to have been interfering with play.

The England international then scored a perfectly good goal in the dying embers to turn the Old Trafford clash on its head and seal a ninth successive victory in all tournaments for Man United, whose fans may allow themselves to dream of Premier League title glory after closing the gap on the reigning champions.

Ten Hag’s men dropped down to fourth in the rankings on Sunday after Newcastle United – who are only ahead on goal difference – left it late to beat Fulham, but Man City are only a point clear of their rivals, and a nine-point gap to leaders Arsenal is by no means insurmountable.

Of course, the Gunners could potentially increase their lead over Man United to double figures when the Red Devils visit the Emirates at the weekend, but victory on Wednesday would be enough to lift Ten Hag’s side into second for the time being.

Not since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2009 have Man United won 10 games in a row in all tournaments, but Ten Hag watched on from the stands with a glum expression as Palace beat the Red Devils 1-0 at Selhurst Park in the final weekend last season, and the hosts have only lost twice in their last six showdowns with their esteemed visitors.

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Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial celebrate a goal against Nottingham Forest on December 27, 2022

Injury was added to insult for Palace in their defeat to Chelsea, as ever-present centre-back Joachim Andersen came off with a calf problem in the first half, although Vieira is not sure of the severity of the Dane’s issue just yet.

Anderson joins long-term absentees James McArthur and Nathan Ferguson in the infirmary, but Vieira has no other concerns to work around for Wednesday, where Wilfried Zaha will line up from the off against his former employers.

Zaha has already scored three Premier League goals against Man United and could set a new record for players to have previously played for the 20-time English champions with a fourth, while Andersen’s place in the backline should be filled by James Tomkins.

Man United did not come out of their clash with Man City unscathed either, as Anthony Martial had to come off at half time with an unspecified issue, while Marcus Rashford took a whack to the hip but managed to carry on until stoppage time.

Donny van de Beek, Axel Tuanzebe and Jadon Sancho remain out of contention for the visitors, who are also unlikely to have Diogo Dalot back from a hamstring injury just yet, meaning that a start for ex-Eagles right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka should be in order.

Antony can expect a recall to the frontline if Martial’s latest problem renders him unavailable, while Lisandro Martinez was again restricted to a substitute outing in the derby as he builds up his fitness following the World Cup, but the Argentine ought to come into contention for a start here.

Burnley loanee Wout Weghorst should also come into contention for his full debut with Martial a doubt, but the Dutchman will likely be named on the bench here.

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Guaita; Clyne, Tomkins, Guehi, Mitchell; Schlupp, Doucoure, Eze; Olise, Mateta, Zaha

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Fred, Casemiro; Antony, Eriksen, Fernandes; Rashford

Preview: Napoli vs. Juventus

The standout game of the weekend in Serie A comes early, as Napoli welcome Juventus to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Friday.

The two sides currently occupy the top two positions in the Serie A table entering the weekend’s action.

Match preview

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia celebrates scoring for Napoli on October 12, 2022

Napoli, who remain top of the standings, returned to winning ways by beating Sampdoria comfortably last weekend.

It was the sort of dominant performance they needed after a sub-par display at San Siro against Inter Milan in their first match after the World Cup break.

Inter restricted the Partenopei to very little in a 1-0 defeat that seemingly blew the title race back open again.

However, after a weekend of very favourable results which saw AC Milan, Inter and Lazio all concede stoppage time equalisers, Napoli have extended their lead at the top to seven points.

This Napoli side are the perfect embodiment of the modern Serie A, as they are arguably the most free-flowing side in Europe’s top five leagues.

No players in the division have as many goal involvements as their dangerous duo of Victor Osimhen (12) and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (11).

Their record of scoring 59 goals in 23 matches this season illustrates why they are so far clear at the top and why they progressed through their Champions League group without much fuss.

This will be a fascinating test of Napoli’s title credentials though, as they failed at Inter just over a week ago and now have Juventus and Roma to come at home in the next fortnight.

The seven-point gap looks healthy, but Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli faltered with Juve in strong pursuit both in 2015-16 and 2017-18, so current boss Luciano Spalletti’s biggest test is still to come.

Juve certainly are charging, after such a woeful start which saw their home support turn their backs on the side, they now find themselves second.

Juventus' Danilo celebrates scoring their first goal with Nicolo Fagioli on January 7, 2023

A remarkable run of eight consecutive wins without conceding a single goal has seen them surge up the standings.

This is the first time they have won eight on the spin since 2018, back when Massimiliano Allegri was last in charge, on their way to winning an eighth straight Scudetto.

They left it late to beat Udinese, but a piece of brilliance from the returning Federico Chiesa set up Danilo for another 1-0 win.

The Juve faithful will be delighted to welcome back arguably the best player in the division in the form of Chiesa as they look to progress further on an unlikely title challenge which is now well on the cards.

That win over Udinese was not the first time they have left it late since returning to action in the last week either.

Their first game back saw them see off Cremonese by a solitary goal to nil once again, with an injury time free kick from Arkadiusz Milik required to win all three points.

Only Cagliari in 1966-67 have kept more clean sheets at this stage of any Serie A season than Juventus have in this campaign, as Allegri’s side have kept 12 clean sheets after just 17 games.

In the last 15 Serie A seasons, only on one occasion has the side with the best defensive record not won the Scudetto, and Juventus have let in only seven goals all season, six fewer than the next best, league-leaders and upcoming opponents Napoli.

The front page of Gazzetta at the weekend went with the headline ‘La Juve Fa Paura’ – ‘Juve is scary’.

The belief in Italy is that the Old Lady are showing signs of returning to their old selves, winning ugly and being excellent defensively, the qualities they showed before the mess of the past two seasons and despite all the chaos going on at board level within the club.

Team News

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti reacts on January 8, 2023

There are no new injury concerns for Spalletti to worry about, so the only changes to his Napoli side could all be tactical.

Elif Elmas took the place of Piotr Zielinski in midfield for the trip to Samp and clinched the win with a penalty in a good performance, so the Macedonian may keep his place.

Mathias Olivera will battle with Mario Rui for the starting spot at left-back, while Kosovan Amir Rrahmani could come back in to replace Juan Jesus in the centre of defence.

On the other hand, there is an eye-watering list of injury absentees for Allegri and Juventus to deal with once again here.

Dusan Vlahovic (groin), Paul Pogba (knee), Leonardo Bonucci (tendon) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) are all out, while Mattia De Sciglio and Bremer are doubtful.

Natural full-backs Danilo and Alex Sandro were used as makeshift centre-backs against Udinese with Bremer and Bonucci absent and Federico Gatti left on the bench.

They were able to welcome Angel Di Maria back into the fold, though, after his World Cup exploits with Argentina, while Italy’s absence from the tournament allowed Chiesa more time to settle back in after his awful knee injury.

This could be the fixture where one of Italy’s Euro 2020 heroes makes a long-awaited first start since he suffered that ACL tear a year ago.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Kim Min-jae, Rrahmani, Olivera; Zambo Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Danilo, Rugani, Gatti; McKennie, Rabiot, Locatelli, Miretti, Kostic; Di Maria, Milik

Preview: Fulham vs. Chelsea

An intriguing West London derby takes place in the Premier League on Thursday evening, as Fulham play host to Chelsea at Craven Cottage.

Marco Silva’s side remarkably find themselves three places and three points better off than their near neighbours in the standings, albeit having played a game more.

Match preview

Tim Ream celebrates scoring for Fulham against Crystal Palace on December 26, 2022

In recent times, very rarely have Fulham fans been able to proudly say that their beloved team occupies a higher position in the English football pyramid than Chelsea, but the Cottagers are firmly in the European mix after a wonderful streak of festive form.

Since returning from the World Cup break, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Leicester City have all fallen to Fulham’s superiority in the Premier League, and Hull City were no match for a rotated Cottagers side in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Strikes from Layvin Kurzawa and Daniel James either side of the half-time whistle secured a 2-0 win and a place in the fourth round for Fulham – where they will host Sunderland – and Silva’s side enter Thursday’s capital clash sitting pretty in seventh place in the top-flight table, just five points below fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Now aiming to win four consecutive top-flight matches for the first time since the 1965-66 season, Fulham prepare for a gruelling run of January fixtures versus Chelsea, Newcastle United and Tottenham before also making the journey to Stamford Bridge for another meeting with the Blues in early February.

Despite posting just two home defeats all season long so far, Fulham have hardly defined consistency at Craven Cottage – winning just two of their last six in front of their own fans – but their situation is certainly a more favourable one than their out-of-sorts opponents.

Chelsea head coach Graham Potter during draw with Nottingham Forest on January 1, 2023.

There is seemingly no immediate danger of under-fire Chelsea boss Graham Potter being given the boot, but while the Englishman’s project is still struggling to take off, disgruntled Blues supporters made their feelings crystal clear during their FA Cup elimination at the hands of Manchester City.

Three days prior, Chelsea had given the English champions a good run for their money in a 1-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge, but City simply tore the Blues to shreds on Sunday, as Riyad Mahrez bagged a brace alongside Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez’s efforts in a 4-0 romping.

Those who braved the journey to the Etihad Stadium and stayed until the last bellowed out Thomas Tuchel and Roman Abramovich’s names as Potter’s slippery slope continues, and any positive energy emanating from early January transfer business is counting for little.

Fighting to even salvage their European status let alone a place in the Champions League, Chelsea lie smack-bang in the middle of the Premier League table in 10th place, coincidentally 10 points adrift of the top four and 10 clear of the relegation zone.

With an abysmal five defeats on their record from their last seven competitive games in all competitions, Chelsea also make the short journey to Craven Cottage with only one win from their last eight in the Premier League, and not since beating Aston Villa on October 16 have they claimed all three points on the road.

On a brighter note, Chelsea have a seven-game winning run against Fulham to protect on Thursday – as well as 21-game unbeaten run in all tournaments – but as Potter has quickly learned, all good things must come to an end.

Team News

Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring for Fulham on October 20, 2022

The 78th minute of Fulham’s victory over Leicester last week was one that Cottagers supporters wanted to forget, as it saw star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic incur his fifth booking of the season – ruling him out of the visit of Chelsea through suspension.

However, Silva has no other fresh concerns to work around for Thursday’s derby, where Neeskens Kebano will remain out with his Achilles injury, but Shane Duffy will hope to return following an illness. Meanwhile, Manor Solomon made just his second appearance in Fulham colours since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk against Hull and will pine for a more active role in this game.

Solomon’s prospects of starting are slim to none, though, as Silva reintroduces Willian into the final third alongside Mitrovic’s deputy, Carlos Vinicius.

In contrast, Chelsea’s injury list has hit double figures again, with none of Ben Chilwell, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Edouard Mendy, N’Golo Kante, Reece James, Armando Broja or Wesley Fofana ready to return from their problems just yet.

Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling are also sidelined with the issues they picked up against Man City in the week – the former is set to be sidelined for a number of weeks – but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should shake off a back issue to make the squad.

With Potter’s options severely limited, the duo of David Datro Fofana and Benoit Badiashile can feel confident of earning their Premier League debuts, albeit most likely as substitutes.

Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marc Cucurella and Denis Zakaria are among those in line for returns to the first XI after being benched at the Etihad.

Fulham possible starting lineup:
Leno; Tete, Ream, Adarabioyo, Robinson; Reed, Palhinha; De Cordova-Reid, Pereira, Willian; Vinicius

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Koulibaly, Silva, Cucurella; Kovacic, Zakaria, Jorginho; Ziyech, Havertz, Mount