LONDON (dpa) – Joint Premier League leaders Chelsea and Manchester City go into the weekend’s round of fixtures with a dual purpose of maintaining form and avoiding mistakes.
Chelsea host managerless Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge while City are away to out of form Everton. The leaders have 45 points each and an identical goal difference of 44-19.
Chelsea are likely to start with Diego Costa after he was a substitute in the FA Cup win over Watford last time out.
The club’s top goalscorer, Costa will fancy his chances against a Newcastle side reeling from the loss of manager Alan Pardew.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will want revenge over Newcastle after losing to them at St James’ Park last month, and to make up for the 5-3 defeat at Tottenham in the last league outing on New Year’s Day.
But Newcastle won at Manchester City earlier in the season and 17-year-old forward Adam Armstrong believes they can do the double over the league leaders.
“We’ve got to go for it,” Armstrong told local Newcastle paper The Shields Gazette.
“Chelsea came to St James’ Park and we were the underdogs but I thought we had our best game and won 2-1. Man City is a massive club with a huge stadium, but we went there and won 2-0.”
City take on an Everton side that has struggled for consistency so far this season. Manuel Pellegrini’s side won 3-2 at Everton in the run-in to their title triumph late last season but lost 1-0 there a month ago.
City will welcome back goalkeeper Joe Hart after two matches on the sidelines while Everton manager Roberto Martinez will have full back Leighton Baines fit again.
Martinez will be looking for more goals from Romelu Lukaku after the striker came off the bench to salvage a draw in the FA Cup tie with West Ham on Tuesday.
“We had played three times in six days and so someone like Rom, with his body and pace and power, sometimes it is impossible to play 90 minutes in every game,” Martinez told the Liverpool Echo.
“Every player wants to play every minute and no player will ever tell you they are not available. He is ready to perform now and give everything he’s got on the pitch.
“But it has been that type of season, as a team, where we haven’t got any momentum in the league going and clearly the individuals show that as well.”
Third meets fourth as Manchester United entertain Southampton, with Saints manager Ronald Koeman looking for revenge after losing at home to United last month.
United could have Angel Di Maria to start for the first time since an injury lay-off while Luke Shaw is battling to be fit.
Tottenham and Arsenal will be out to capitalise on any dropped points above them as they travel to Crystal Palace and host Stoke City respectively.
At the other end of the table, bottom side Leicester face Aston Villa while second-bottom Burnley are at home to fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers.