Having successfully navigated the bumper fixture pile-up over the festive period the final ball has now been kicked in the Premier League for 2012. This final weekend produced a fantastic 41 goals and with a rest period for some looming due to F.A Cup clashes next week we can turn our attention to the New Year’s Day games that will be viewed through bleary eyes and sore heads worldwide!
The day’s early kick-off takes place at the Hawthorns where West Brom will try to maintain their “fortress” reputation at home against Fulham. The Cottagers convincingly swept the Albion aside with a 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage in September as Dimitar Berbatov showed his new home fans what to expect from his casual, but decisively clinical, style of play. However Fulham have since managed to find themselves standing precariously close to the abyss of the bottom 3, having earlier looked like mounting a charge at the European berths. Martin Jol’s side have now only managed to deliver 5 points in their last nine outings, dropping an astonishing 22 available points along the way. Despite West Brom’s poor spell towards the end of November they have managed to stay within touching distance of Arsenal and Everton as they finished the year in 7th position. A great deal of credit must be given to the invigorated tenacity that Steve Clarke seems to have instilled within the ranks of the Baggies, without any real disruption or complaints, and it is this new attitude that has seen them lose only twice and concede a mere 7 goals in front of their own fans. Both sides lock horns here on the back of a defeat however and with the January window creaking open for business expect to see a hard fought contest by two clubs, who for their own season goals and expectations, will be desperate to see in the new year with nothing other than victory.
It is fair to assume that Roberto Mancini’s resolution for this year will be the aim to avoid dropping any more points, as their red neighbours look consistent and relentless having fractured an impressive seven point gap between the pair. City welcome the gritty Stoke to Manchester in the return fixture that previously saw Tony Pulis’s men snatch a point, having taken the lead through Peter Crouch. The flamboyant Man City side have managed to score 13 goals in their last 7 outings, however this period has also seen them concede 9 and accumulate only 13 points from a possible 21, which included defeat to rivals Manchester United enhancing their lead further. City will have to make do without the lively Samir Nasri after his career-first red card against Norwich and it would seem that there will be no resolutions to be found for the extrovert Mario Balotelli who remains absent. If Stoke could turn some of their draws into wins throughout the second period of this season then they will be in with a strong chance of securing European football next year. The potters resilience to being completely broken down has resulted in an impressive 11 draws and having last tasted defeat away at Norwich at the start of November don’t be surprised to see City’s waves of attacks met with Stoke’s own brand of stonewall defending. Pulis may dislike the press that is attributed to his charges style of play however its success is plain to see and a victory here would springboard them to within touching distance of the top 5 spot. Stoke were pushed hard for their most recent draw against Southampton and they are likely to have the hard-working Charlie Adam return to the lineup after taking time out due to the recent the death of his father.
Wigan Athletic’s last outing saw them vanquish a thoroughly demoralised Aston Villa side at Villa Park, however it’s problems back at home that is causing the greying of Roberto Martinez’s follicles, having acquired only 9 points from a possible 30 in front of their own fans this season. They welcome the New Year in by hosting league leaders Manchester United at the DW Stadium who disposed of the Latics earlier this year at Old Trafford with relative ease beating them 4-0. Form is key in success and the differences between both sides here couldn’t be more contrasting. United bring to the table an impressive 22 points out of a possible 24 with Wigan managing a mere 7 in the same 8 game period. The exploits of the strong Arouna Kone have been well received by Wigan supporters having netted 6 times this year, however returning to the 8 game time-frame shows the Latics only managing to find the net 10 times in comparison to United’s 21. However all is not lost as it has not gone unnoticed by many that United have conceded first more times this season than any in recent years, and if Wigan can get forward and exploit this early weakness then a smash and grab could be on the cards. However United have the ability, like all truly great teams, to generate a relentlessness that ,even when on the back foot, as they could consider themselves to be in the second half against West Brom, can ensure the opposition is punished for the slightest hesitation or lapse of concentration which is an ingrained feature that has been replenished season after season under the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. Wayne Rooney remains out of action with an ankle injury however the invigorated Robin Van Persie, who has scored twice since his recent attempted murder, will hope to continue in his successful goal scoring vein of form alongside the spritely Hernandez.
More previews to follow soon & don’t forget that all of the Premier League games feature in betinternet’s fantastic money back offer, so click here for more details how you can get money back!!!