Chelsea, Manchester City seek pre-Christmas consolidation

LONDON - With the frantic Christmas fixture schedule looming on the horizon, Chelsea and Manchester City will look to consolidate their positions as Premier League pace-setters in this weekend's matches.


Newcastle Utd   vs   Chelsea          2:45pm   

Hull City              vs   West Brom       5pm         

Liverpool       vs         Sunderland                                                 

QPR                     vs   Burnley                            

Stoke City           vs   Arsenal             

Tottenham         vs   Crystal Palace                  

Man City             vs   Everton    7:30pm   


West Ham     vs   Swansea City   3:30pm   

Aston Villa     vs   Leicester City    6pm


Southampton   vs   Man United     10pm

LONDON - With the frantic Christmas fixture schedule looming on the horizon, Chelsea and Manchester City will look to consolidate their positions as Premier League pace-setters in this weekend’s matches.

The two teams enjoyed breezy wins in mid-week, Chelsea beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 and City winning 4-1 at Sunderland, and while the London club remain six points clear of the champions, both sides look a class apart.

Chelsea visit Newcastle United on Saturday, when they will attempt to set a new club record by extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 24 matches.

Jose Mourinho’s side will welcome back top scorer Diego Costa after he sat out the Tottenham game through suspension, although he was barely missed in Wednesday’s match at Stamford Bridge.

“We know that we can score at any time,” said French striker Loic Remy, who scored Chelsea’s third goal against Spurs after replacing Didier Drogba in the second half.

“The squad is really strong and that makes the difference between us and the other teams. We will keep going to try and keep the distance from our closest opponent.”

Newcastle have gone two games without victory, having previously won five matches in a row, but they have been beaten only once at home this season - by City on the opening weekend.

Following a poor run of results, City appear to have rediscovered the form that swept them to last season’s title, having won their last four games in all competitions, scoring 12 goals in the process.

The second game of that run was a rousing 3-2 win at home to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League that gave Manuel Pellegrini’s side a fighting chance of reaching the last 16 ahead of next week’s showdown with Roma.

Saints aim for rebound

Third-place Southampton lost ground on the top two after going down 1-0 at Arsenal on Wednesday and now find Manchester United breathing down their necks ahead of the two sides’ confrontation at St Mary’s on Monday.

United currently trail Chelsea by 11 points but although midfielder Marouane Fellaini is eager to bridge that gap, he acknowledges that Louis van Gaal’s side must first safeguard their position in the top four.

“I think we wait for a mistake (from the leading teams), but we have to look after us,” he said after his side’s 2-1 win at home to Stoke City.

“After Boxing Day (26 December), we have a lot of games and we have to keep winning. Southampton as well, they are better in the table than us and we’ll see on Monday as well.”

Arsenal’s victory over Southampton kept them within two points of the top four ahead of their trip to Stoke on Saturday.

Alexis Sanchez continued his fine start to life in England with an 89th-minute winner against Southampton and team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain believes the Chilean forward’s will to win is becoming contagious.

“He has brought that winning mentality to the side and I think it definitely rubs off on a lot of players,” said the England midfielder.

“He has been brilliant for us and a breath of fresh air, so hopefully he can stay in the form that he is in and we can help him out to keep producing goals like he has been.”

Two other teams with designs on a top-four spot face off at Upton Park on Sunday, when fifth-place West Ham United entertain seventh-place Swansea City.

Liverpool, five points adrift of the top four after a 3-1 win at Leicester City, welcome Sunderland to Anfield on Saturday.