London- Arsenal and Leicester will be looking to make the most of the fixture list as they begin the new year with home matches, while most of their rivals face tricky-looking away trips.
Top on goal difference, Arsenal take on a struggling Newcastle side while Leicester, the surprise package of the first half of the season, play Bournemouth who are hovering just above the bottom three.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hailed his side’s increasing maturity as they finished 2015 on top, chasing their first Premier League title since 2004.
“The team has grown in stature, is more mature, more reliable and we won the FA Cup and the Community Shield,’’ Wenger said on Wednesday.
“We are in a strong position in the Premier League so hopefully 2016 will be better.
“We are mature enough and we have the requested quality to fight and compete. The most important thing is to feel, at the end of the season, that we have given absolutely everything to be successful.
“After that, if somebody has been better than us, we will accept it, but we want to fight to show that we have a chance.’’
First up will be Newcastle who sit third-bottom and have scored just five league goals away from home this season.
Leicester welcome Bournemouth to the King Power Stadium having bounced back from defeat by Liverpool on Boxing Day by holding title-rivals Manchester City to a goalless draw three days later.
Manager Claudio Ranieri believes their clash with Bournemouth, however, could be even more of a test than Manchester City, because of their inconsistency.
“Against Bournemouth it will be more, more, more difficult,’’ the Italian said. “They are in good condition, they press a lot and move the ball very well.
“I remember the match there and against Arsenal the first half an hour they played very well. It will be a difficult match.’’
Manchester City, three points behind in third, travel to ninth-placed Watford, a side who have already beaten Liverpool this season.
City will be without captain Vincent Kompany, who is set to be out for a month after aggravating a calf problem on Boxing Day.
Tottenham, just one point behind in fourth, face a tough trip to Everton but Blues manager Roberto Martinez said he has been impressed by the London side’s improvement under manager Mauricio Pochettino.
“I have been a big admirer of this Spurs side,” Martinez said. “I think what Pochettino has achieved is a really, really strong team.
“It is no surprise to me how consistent they have been and how difficult they are to play against. That’s why I expect Tottenham to have, if anything, an even stronger second half of the campaign.’’
Fifth-placed Crystal Palace are also at home but they face champions Chelsea, desperate for improvement and points under caretaker manager Guus Hiddink.
Manchester United will try to win for the first time in nine matches by beating Swansea at Old Trafford while Liverpool, level with them on points, chase a third straight win when they travel to West Ham.
Bottom side Aston Villa, 11 points from safety, are at second-bottom Sunderland, Stoke visit West Bromwich Albion and Norwich host Southampton in the weekend’s other matches. (dpa/NAN)