Trudging through the first half of the campaign, defending Premier League champion Manchester United square off against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon at Villa Park.
David Moyes has been under intense scrutiny in his first campaign taking over for Sir Alex Ferguson. The Red Devils haven’t exactly responded to the regime change well, falling to ninth on the table and 13 points back of first-place Arsenal, and remain winless in their last four league matches.
Back in 11th place, Villa is coming off a disappointing loss to Fulham, a squad that had dropped its previous six matches and has only bested last place Sunderland on the table.
United’s chances of turning around the season took a serious blow earlier this week. Striker Robin van Persie’s groin and toe knocks have troubled the Dutchman for much of the season, and now he’ll reportedly be sidelined for a minimum of four weeks after assisting on the Red Devils group stage winning goal in Tuesday’s final Champions League match against Shaktar Donetsk.
Van Persie is second on the club with seven goals and two assists in his second season.
Still Moyes side may get a boost from midfielder Michael Carrick’s possible return around Christmas. An Achilles injury kept the Englishman out of the last six contests, but he’s expected to return during United’s four-match stretch beginning on Boxing Day against Hull, followed by Norwich and Tottenham, and an FA Cup game versus Swansea.
Paul Lambert’s side, meanwhile, will be down a midfielder as Fabian Delph, who received a suspension for his fifth yellow card in the Fulham loss, is unavailable. Delph’s made 12 starts, netting one goal and an assist this year.
Villa may get back fullback Antonio Luna and striker Libor Kozak may be available on Sunday despite respective groin and toe injuries.
Time: Coverage begins Sunday at 8 a.m. ET. and kick-off is at 8:30 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network, which you can find on your cable or satellite provider here.
Live Online Stream: NBC Live Extra here.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1, Manchester United 1