United host Newcastle, Chelsea eye title momentum at Norwich

Updated: December 26, 2012

Time to continue the overindulgence with yesterdays leftovers and a packed Premiership boxing day schedule. Rafa Benitez and his Chelsea team look to build some title momentum at Norwich, United are at Old Trafford hoping to gather 3 points, Manchester City will be looking to keep the heat on at Sunderland and Michael Owen will be hoping to stop the Liverpool resurgence by scoring against his old club.

Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic believes the Premier League leaders’ improving injury situation will have a significant impact during the busy Christmas period.

United, who saw their advantage over second-placed Manchester City trimmed to four points over the weekend, host Newcastle on Wednesday and then face West Bromwich Albion before travelling to Wigan on January 1.

Rio Ferdinand will be available again after being rested for the trip to Swansea, while Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa is set to return to training this week following a knee problem. That leaves only Rafael da Silva, Nani and Anderson on the injured list, in stark contrast to the host of problems that plagued the opening months of United’s campaign.

Newcastle’s 1-0 win over QPR last Saturday was only their second win in their last eight Premier League games which had dragged them close to the relegation zone.

Rafa Benitez has not ruled out hauling in the 11 point deficit United have as Chelsea look to gather some title momentum at Norwich. Chelsea will be in a confident mood following their 8-0 thrashing of Aston Villa and with Torres enjoying his best spell in a Chelsea shirt with 7 goals from his last 6 another 3 points must be the sole thought on the mind of the Chelsea manager. The goal spree against Villa ensured the west Londoners moved back into third place, 11 points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand. Brazilian defender David Luiz is likely to continue in midfield against Norwich as Chelsea bid to make it three successive league victories. John Terry is still absent for Chelsea so Branislav Ivanovic should partner Gary Cahill at the back once again. Norwich surrendered their 10-match unbeaten run against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, but have won their last five Premier League matches at home.

Gareth Barry is confident Manchester City will be able to chase down Manchester United at the top of the table as the champions prepare to face Sunderland on Wednesday. Roberto Mancini’s team have responded to their 3-2 defeat in the Manchester derby earlier this month with consecutive victories. That loss to their bitter rivals increased United’s lead to six points but second placed City managed to reduce the deficit to four over the weekend.

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson is a doubt to face his old club as City go in search of their first victory at the Stadium of Light for almost four-and-a-half years. City inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Martin O’Neill’s side in October, but they have taken just one point from their last three trips to Wearside, and their most recent victory was in August 2008.

Michael Owen is desperate to break his scoring duck against former club Liverpool and end an eight-year wait. The 33-year-old hit 118 goals during his prolific Anfield career but since leaving for Real Madrid in 2004, he has not been able to break through.

Stoke have kept nine clean sheets this season, which is more than any other team in the Premier League and gives them one of the best defensive records in Europe.

Liverpool and Stoke are level on 25 points however the Reds come into the game off the back of 9 points from 12 which has lifted them into the top half of the table following a difficult start to the season.

In other fixtures 5th placed Everton entertain 17th placed Wigan, Harry Redknapp and QPR need to find something against West Brom, Fulham host Southampton, Swansea are in London to take on Reading and Aston Villa fresh off the Chelsea drubbing take on Spurs that are hoping to climb back into the top 4.