Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 28th 2014 Contents A53
December 28, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Chelsea's captain John Terry, centre, celebrates scoring his side's first goal with his teammates Cesc
Fabregas, left, and Diego Costa during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and West
Ham at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, on Friday.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney applauds supporters after the English
Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Newcastle at Old
Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, on December 26, 2014. AP PHOTOS
English Premier League season
is approaching its halfway point
and a number of storylines are
beginning to take shape.
Chelsea and Manchester City
are unstoppable forces and will
fight it out for the title.
Manchester United s resurgence,
based on its glut of attacking rich-
es, is offering a tantalizing glimpse
of what to expect next season with
its defense sorted out.
And the fight for the final
Champions League place could
involve five or six teams and be
the most thrilling in years.
The second part of the festive
fixture pileup takes place on Sun-
day, when squad strength is set
to come into play as 18 of the
league s 20 teams play their sec-
ond matches in the space of 48
Chelsea holds a three-point lead
over City heading into a tricky-
looking away match at Southamp-
ton, which has recovered from a
blip and is back in the top four.
With City on a seven-match
winning streak and at home to
there is a chance of a twist in the
Third-place United is unbeaten
in eight matches, winning seven
of them, but faces a test of its
new-found credentials in an away
match at Tottenham---one of a
slew of teams in the chasing pack
in the hunt for European football
next season. Elsewhere, West Ham
meets Arsenal in a match pitting
fifth vs sixth respectively, while
Liverpool hosts Swansea in anoth-
er game between two teams in the
top nine and in reach of the top
Here are some things to know
about the 19th round of games,
which marks the mid-point of the
Scoring goals at one end and
keeping them out at the other,
John Terry is a player reborn at
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
sees "my John of 2004, 05, 06"
in the recent displays of the for-
mer England captain, who has
been a rock in the team s superb
start to the season.
Terry has scored goals in each
of his last two games and helped
Chelsea keep clean sheets in six
of its last seven matches.
Terry was Chelsea s captain
during Mourinho s first spell as
manager at Stamford Bridge, help-
ing the team to back-to-back Pre-
mier League titles in 2005 and
Key to Chelsea s obduracy in
defense is the form of holding
midfielder Nemanja Matic, who
has been one of the star players
in the Premier League this season
and a brilliant protector of the
"He s been a revelation for
us," Terry said.
Southampton was Chelsea s
nearest challenger only a month
ago, before a defeat to Man City
sparked a run of four league loss-
es that burst the bubble at St
Mary s Stadium.
The south-coast side is back in
form after successive wins against
Everton and Crystal Palace, scor-
ing three goals in both games, and
could give Chelsea problems.
"For everybody, Chelsea are the
biggest test," Southampton man-
ager Ronald Koeman said. "In my
opinion, they are the best team
in the Premier League until now,
but we believe in ourselves and it
will be a great game."
Southampton has struggled
against the top teams this season,
though, losing to Liverpool, City,
Arsenal and Man United.
Wayne Rooney has dropped
back into central midfield as Man
United manager Louis van Gaal
looks to find a spot for all his
attacking players---and the Eng-
land captain is responding with
some of his best form in years.
Rooney scored twice in Friday s
3-1 win over Newcastle to take his
team-high tally to nine goals for
He has scored eight times in his
last eight games for club and
country, and is keeping up his
scoring form despite playing in
midfield for United.
"It s a role that I ve played many
times and I know I can play," said
Rooney, who has played behind
Radamel Falcao and Robin van
Persie for the last two games. "The
manager has given me even more
license to get forward and get into
the box from that role.
Comparing himself to United
great Paul Scholes, Rooney added:
"As Paul did many times over his
career, he could see the ball when
it was wide and see the space and
run into it."
It s been a tough season for the
Merseyside clubs---but while Liv-
erpool appears to be on the rise,
nothing is going right for Ever-
The blue half of Merseyside has
lost four of its last six Premier
League games to drop to 12th place
in the standings.
The team is 13 points behind
where it was last season after 18
games, with its regression perhaps
due to its involvement in the
Everton lost 1-0 at home to
Stoke on Friday during which
defender Phil Jagielka, American
goalkeeper Tim Howard and
winger Kevin Mirallas were injured
and are all set to miss Sunday s
trip to Newcastle.
"It is a pivotal moment in the
season for us," Everton manager
Roberto Martinez said.
Crystal Palace fires
manager Neil Warnock
LONDON---Crystal Palace fired
Neil Warnock after only four
months in charge yesterday,
becoming the first English Pre-
mier League manager to lose his
job this season.
The 66-year-old Warnock s
second spell in charge of Palace
ended with the London club in
the relegation zone after just one
win in 12 Premier League matches.
Palace said that Warnock s assis-
tant, Keith Millen, will be in
charge for Sunday s game against
Queens Park Rangers as caretaker
One of the most outspoken, col-
orful characters in English football,
Warnock was hired on a two-year
deal in August after Tony Pulis
quit Palace just two days before
the opening match.
"The club would like to put on
record its thanks to Neil for all
his hard work and energy over the
past four months," Palace said on
its website a day after a 3-1 loss
Warnock was previously in
charge at Palace between 2007
His firing comes after the Pre-
mier League had reached the
packed Christmas fixture program
without a manager being dis-
missed for the first time since the
Plotlines emerge as Premier
League reaches halfway
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