Leeds United v Newcastle United
Sam Allardyce could scarcely have asked for a tougher start as he begins life at Leeds United but after a spirited 2-1 loss at the Etihad Stadium, he will be hoping his team can stun Newcastle United at Elland Road.
Allardyce went for a more structured approach for the visit to Manchester City and it’s hard to see that changing here given how his side performed on the day. That means we should again see Adam Forshaw start as the midfielder highest up the pitch, offering experience of the English game to a midfield largely lacking those qualities.
Forshaw has started just three league matches this season and has committed five fouls in those games, including two against Man City last weekend.
On Saturday, he will most likely be tasked with stopping Bruno Guimaraes pulling the strings, the Brazilian who has proven to be worth every penny spent on him just under 18 months ago, in what will likely be a man-for-man approach in midfield.
Guimaraes has been fouled three or more times in seven of his last ten appearances, meaning Forshaw will have to take one or two for the team.
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Chelsea finally got their act together last weekend, seeing off Bournemouth to record a first victory under the stewardship of Frank Lampard and they will have Nottingham Forest in their sights to make it back-to-back wins.
Forest are fighting back in their bid to survive, ending an 11-match winless run by beating Champions League chasing Brighton and Hove Albion and fellow strugglers Southampton in front of their own supporters. With Arsenal their remaining home match, they will see a trip to Stamford Bridge as another important fixture.
Key to their improved form has been the return of Taiwo Awoniyi. The Nigerian has had something of an up-and-down year as he adjusts to life back in England, scoring six goals and starting 14 matches. However, he has been trusted to lead the Forest line in their last four matches and is showing a different side to his game.
The 25-year-old has committed 12 fouls in his last 392 minutes of football, averaging a foul every 32.67 minutes of football played.
He will need to be at his destructive best as they take on a Chelsea team that like to build from defensive areas and commit their opponents. That has shown in recent games with fellow destructive forwards Gabriel Jesus and Dominic Solanke committing four and three fouls apiece in a bid to deny the Blues the chance to play forward.
Crystal Palace v Bournemouth
For a moment, these two sides looked prime candidates to be involved in the relegation dogfight but English managers at opposite ends of their careers have done fantastic jobs to haul them away from danger.
With both sides securing their league place for next season, they can head into this game with less pressure and looking to enjoy themselves.
Palace are certainly doing that with their attacking group of Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise, Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp all enjoying themselves.
Their form has been particularly bad news for opposition defensive players – all four opposing defenders and their most defensive-minded midfielders have committed a foul in at least four of their last five games and two or more in at least two of those.
I’m focusing on the right-back here. The opposing right-back has committed two, three, two, four and two fouls over the last five matches. Adam Smith is the regular right-back at Bournemouth and has committed a foul in nine of his last 13 matches and made a tackle in seven of his last eight. He will be heavily involved here.
Southampton v Fulham
Southampton are running out of time with defeat on Saturday officially confirming their relegation. They will be at pains not to suffer that fate in front of their own supporters.
They won’t have it easy, playing a Fulham side that hammered The Saints’ relegation rivals Leicester City 5-3 last time out and have also beaten Everton and Leeds United within the last month.
Fulham are a side that play a structured but fun style of football, utilising a buoyant attacking group of players and overlapping full-backs to hurt their opposition.
The right-hand side has been a fruitful avenue with Dutchman Kenny Tete and Welshman Harry Wilson linking up down that flank of late, the former an attack-minded full-back and the latter a tricky, slight left-footer. Wilson has been fouled four or more times in the last five games in which he has played more than a half of football.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles started at left-back last time out and he will have his work cut out here. The ex-Arsenal man hasn’t enjoyed the best of loan spells, being shifted across the pitch and finding himself at left-back in recent games. He has committed a foul in five of his last seven starts at full-backs, including three against Nottingham Forest last time out.
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
The Champions League spots may be out of reach but Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur will be keen to cement a Europa League spot for next season and with Brighton and Hove Albion having two games in hand on both sides, victory here will be important.
After seeing off Roy Hodgson last weekend, Ryan Mason will be looking for back-to-back victories and another big scalp as he goes up against highly decorated Spaniard Unai Emery.
Villa are the most fouled team in the Premier League, drawing a foul 12.9 times per 90 minutes. Villa particularly seem to cause trouble for opposition midfielders and left-backs and it’s the latter we will be focusing on here – they have drawn 15 fouls from opposition left-backs in their last five matches, including ten in the last two.
There’s plenty of reasons for that. John McGinn played right-midfield four games in a row and was fouled four, two, six and six times. McGinn stepped infield with Bertrand Traore replacing him and being fouled twice against Man United, having been fouled three times in 26 minutes the week before.
Ben Davies returned to the left-wing-back position for Spurs last time out and is likely to retain his spot after helping his side secure a 1-0 win. He committed three fouls in that game and has committed a foul in nine of his last 11 appearances, including each of his five starts at left-wing-back.
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