SportsNet - December 2012
The Week 16 losses by the 49ers and Giants have thrown a monkey wrench into the NFC playoff picture, where the 13-2 Falcons have locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Packers (11-4) were given a Christmas gift by the Seahawks and will play a home game at Lambeau Field in January. The scramble is on for the wild card spots keeping the Bears, Giants and Cowboys playing for their playoff lives.
Has the Rafa revolution well and truly begun at Chelsea or the result of sterner tests will determine the fate of Rafa Benitez's Chelsea. On evidence of the 8-0 mauling that Aston Villa found at the hands of Chelsea, the answer is a bit of both. While Chelsea have surely put paid to any rumours of fatigue after their club world cup travels, stiff challenges stilla await them in an extremely congested Premier League period. Norwich City is next for Chelsea and the Canaries have been in a decent run of form themselves. What does the match have in store for them ?
Last Meeting: Chelsea 4- 1 Norwich City
Norwich City current sit pretty in top half of the Premier League table with 18 points in their bag. Their unbeaten run in last ten matches came to an end against West Bromwich Albion and Chris Hughton's side would be interested in restoring their formidable record at home this season.
However, they have not beaten Chelsea in the last 18 years and that should weigh on their minds, especially considering the recent resurgence of the Blues.
Liverpool will come to Britannia Stadium with great confidence level. Their last showdown with Fulham is a really massive confidence boost for them. They put Fulham in a deep misery after netting 4 goals without reply. But the host, The potters, is not in a bad shape either. They have been undefeated for 6 times in a row until today. So, looking from the confidence level of these 2 sides they are both in a good shape. Of course Tony Pulis and Brendan Rodgers will try to do everything to gain 3 points, so who will get the last gift in 2012?
After a costly slip-up against Swansea City on Sunday, Manchester United will be keen to return to winning ways as they host Newcastle United for the eagerly anticipated Boxing Day showdown.
Having won seven of their eight home games this term, the Red Devils are billed as the prime favourites to secure the three vital points, although the Magpies are more than capable of pulling a shock at the Theatre of Dreams.
In the corresponding fixture last season, the game ended in a 1-1 stalemate, with Javier Hernandez and Demba Ba chalking up their names on the scoresheet.
United manager Alex Ferguson is set to make some major changes to his side, with the likes of Javier Hernandez, Darren Fletcher and Danny Welbeck, all expected to start for the Red Devils.
Rafael could return after missing out the clash against the Swans with a hamstring injury, although, Nani, Anderson (both hamstring) and Kagawa (knee), are all, expected to sit out.
Newcastle, on the other hand, will be without the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Steven Taylor (both hamstring), Yohan Cabaye (groin), Ryan Taylor and Dan Gosling (both knee).
Just goal difference separates Stoke City and Liverpool in the Premier League table ahead of their Boxing Day clash at the Britannia Stadium.
The Potters boast an unbeaten home record, but Liverpool visit the Midlands on the back of a confidence-boosting 4-0 win over Fulham.
One-time Anfield favorite Michael Owen could make his first appearance since October, while another former Red Peter Crouch is in contention for a recall to the home starting XI.
Charlie Adam, who moved to Stoke from Liverpool in a £4m switch last summer, will again not feature following the death of his father.
Liverpool's Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling both began the victory over the Cottagers on the bench, but the latter is likely to feature from the start on Wednesday. However, Welsh midfielder Allen could miss out completely due to a pelvic injury. Daniel Sturridge seems poised to arrive on Merseyside in January, but until then, Luis Suarez is the Reds' only recognized striker and will lead the line against the tightest defense in the division.