A look back at what is happening in European football on Sunday with the Premier League, the only major competition in action with its Boxing Day program:
ASTON VILLA vs CHELSEA
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard will be out while self-isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus after seeing an outbreak in the squad lead to the postponement of last weekend’s game against Burnley. Romelu Lukaku and Callum Hudson-Odoi can return for Chelsea. The forwards were two of Chelsea’s eight players with COVID-19 but they are back in training. Defender Andreas Christensen is also in contention after a back injury. The Blues were angry that their game at Wolverhampton last weekend, which they drew 0-0, was not postponed like six other Premier League games have been. Thomas Tuchel’s side have slipped six points behind leaders Manchester City to third place after drawing in their last two games.
BRIGHTON vs. BRENTFORD
Forward Danny Welbeck is set to end a three-month injury absence for Brighton. Midfielder Pascal Gross and striker Neal Maupay are also expected to be available after missing Brighton’s loss to Wolverhampton, but defender Lewis Dunk is absent. Adam Webster has returned to training after injury and could be in contention and another defender, Shane Duffy, returns after serving a one-game suspension, but midfielder Yves Bissouma is suspended. Brentford forward Ivan Toney is pushing for a starting spot after resuming action against Chelsea in the midweek League Cup loss after a spell with COVID-19. The Bees have not played in the Premier League for two weeks after games against Manchester United and Southampton were postponed.
MAN CITY vs. LEICESTER
Jack Grealish and Phil Foden could return for leaders Manchester City after being left on the bench at Newcastle last week for breach of discipline. Defender Kyle Walker is hoping to return after a fitness issue while forward Ferran Torres, currently sidelined with a broken foot, appears to have played his last game for the club as he prepares to move to Barcelona. Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers will be hoping his players bounce back quickly after losing on penalties to Liverpool in the League Cup quarter-final. Other injuries were sustained in the process – forward Jamie Vardy played the last 20 minutes with a tight hamstring while defenders Caglar Soyuncu and Ricardo Pereira were forced to leave – which doesn’t make it easy task against the champions. Leicester have a decent recent record against City, with two wins in the last four meetings. But after two fifth consecutive places, Rodgers’ FA Cup winners have lacked their usual spark this season, winning just six of their 16 Premier League appearances to place ninth as they approach halfway.
NORWICH vs ARSENAL
Norwich manager Dean Smith is once again facing coronavirus concerns, with the last-place club awaiting PCR results to determine who will be available after seeing the previous game at West Ham canceled. Milot Rashica (groin) is not yet back in the running, while Mathias Normann (pelvis) is ready for a long period on the sidelines. Arsenal are set to be without striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a fifth game in a row following a recent internal disciplinary measure. Sead Kolasinac (ankle) is also absent while Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers and Albert Sambi Lokonga have all tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days. Arsenal forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, who have scored nine goals between them this season, are out of contract next summer and free to speak to foreign clubs in January. Arsenal travel to Norwich in fourth place with Emile Smith Rowe their top scorer this season with eight goals in all competitions.
TOTTENHAM v Crystal Palace
Tottenham coach Antonio Conte has no further injury issues, although Ryan Sessegnon is again sidelined with a muscle problem. Crystal Palace will be without James McArthur due to a hamstring injury. The south London club have not played for 10 days after last weekend’s Watford game was postponed due to opposition to a coronavirus outbreak and now Palace has infections in the squad . Tottenham are in seventh place, six points behind Arsenal, fourth, but with three games in hand, while Palace are 11th.
WEST HAM vs. SOUTHAMPTON
West Ham is expected to do without Michail Antonio after testing positive for coronavirus. Aaron Cresswell (ribs) remains uncertain as Vladimir Coufal serves a one-match suspension for his recent dismissal at Arsenal. Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has a decision to make in place of his goalkeeper following Fraser Forster’s return to training with Willy Caballero replacing in the last two games. Stuart Armstrong, Che Adams and Adam Armstrong have recovered from their recent injuries and are back in contention.
Three of the nine matches scheduled for Sunday have been postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks: Burnley against Everton, Liverpool against Leeds and Wolverhampton against Watford.
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