OPINION: Premier League Preview
Another treat for football fans as midweek Premier League take place in what has already been a busy footballing calendar in January.
NEWCASTLE VS MAN UNITED
Although Man United have won two matches on the trot, the pressure on Louis Van Gaal has not subsided especially after needing a late penalty to overcome League One side Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
United sit in fifth position, with all of the top four teams having scored at least 10 more goals than the goal shy Red Devils. United's inferior attacking system is the crux of the discontent around Van Gaal, even more worrying is that there has been nothing tangible to stir up optimism that things improve offensively.
Van Gaal has a pedigree in Europe and this cannot be denied, however from the outside, looking in, he does not have the resources available to implement his desired game plan, nor is he using his resources at hand appropriately.
After spending over 200 million pounds, one would think United should have a squad with depth in most areas.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. especially upfront where youngster Anthony Martial looks the most threatening.
They will travel to Newcastle, who are struggling and have a manager under severe pressure as well. Their last league win was against Spurs in mid-December; since then they have got one point from a possible 12 keeping them in the relegation zone.
Van Gaal will know that anything less than an attacking display with creativity and incisiveness will not be enough to quell the ongoing talks about his position.
In my opinion, for the sake of stability, it would probably be best for United to stick with 'LVG' for the remainder of the campaign, thereafter they could try and prise their desired target should they believe Van Gaal is on the man to take them forward.
In an ideal world, pep Guardiola ticks all the boxes required of a Manchester manager but they will face stiff competition from their 'noisy neighbours' City who seem to be in pole position to capture the in demand Catalan.
LIVERPOOL VS ARSENAL
Certainly the marquee midweek match, Liverpool go into the clash with a mountain of injuries. Defensively the injury crisis as hit been the hardest with Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel definitely out whilst Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure are doubtful.
Add to the list captain Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho and you'll understand why it is a worrisome time for manager Jurgen Klopp as they seek to make a push for the top four in the midst of an avalanche of fixtures.
They are six points away from top four spot, but they take on log leaders Arsenal who have been in championship form bar their shock loss against Southampton on Boxing Day.
The Gunners are still without Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, but have enough quality in their squad to overcome Liverpool.
The form of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott has been impressive of late, Arsene Wenger came in for a lot of flak for not making any outfield player signings this season but so far the veteran French manager must feel vindicated.
If Arsenal do manage to come away from Anfield with a victory, it will be another statement of their credentials as potential champions. Not only will a win maintain their grip on top spot but it will do a lot for momentum and belief within the squad that this could be the season they end the clubs 12-year barren run in the league.
SPURS VS LEICESTER
I would never have predicted at the start of the season that a mid-January fixture between Spurs and Leicester would involve both teams competing for unlikely a league title let alone Champions League qualification.
Having already had a dress rehearsal in their 2-2 draw on Sunday, both teams will feel they could have walked away with much more from the match.
Leicester unbelievably are still only two points away from Arsenal at the top of the log, having only taken one point from their last three matches manager Claudio Ranieri will hope this is not the end of their fairy-tale season.
Leicester could be without top scorer Jamie Vardy for the match which will no doubt be a blow as they look to score after going three matches without a goal in the league.
However, Spurs will be aware that Leicester have the best away record in the league having taken 21 points from a possible 30.
Spurs themselves are on a four match unbeaten run and in fourth place on the log. A win against Leicester will take them to a point away from their top four rival and opponent.
Optimism has wrapped White Hart Lane this season, their young side under Mauricio Pocchetino has shown a solidity and doggedness that one would not often associate with Spurs.
An indicator of how well they are doing is their goal difference, which is the best in the league scoring 34 (five goals off top scorers City) whilst having the stingiest defence conceding only 16 goals.
One could also argue that Spurs have the best defensive spine in the league with world-class keeper in Hugo Lloris in goal coupled with their Belgian centre back paring of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, throw in Eric Dier in the midfield an you have got a pretty good base to allow your attacking players to flourish.
Spurs will also welcome back the likes of Harry Kane and Erik Lamela to the starting line-up for this important tie after being rested for the FA Cup.
Very difficult match to call, I do believe there will be goals although Leicester have gone through a drought in front of goal.
Tuesday 12 January 2015
Bournemouth vs West Ham
Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace
Newcastle vs Man United
Wednesday 13 January 2015
Swansea vs Sunderland
Chelsea vs WBA
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Man City vs Everton
Southampton vs Watford
Stoke vs Norwich
Spurs vs Leicester
Carl Lewis is an EWN sports reporter. Follow him on Twitter.