American Exports preview: Howard, Everton face Chelsea
AMSTERDAM – The Premier League's busy holiday card is the lone provider of action this pre-New Year's Eve weekend, highlighted by Tim Howard and Everton putting out the Goodison Park welcome mat for third-placed Chelsea.
All times listed in ET.
Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel – Tottenham Hotspur at Sunderland (Saturday, 7:45 am on Fox Soccer)
The veteran netminder should serve as Spurs' backup, but Dempsey is in the provisional squad with a chance to return from a groin nag. He finally bagged his first goal against Sunderland this past April. Continuing the comeback theme, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Moussa Dembélé and Scott Parker also beat their knocks to play. Tottenham have lost just once in their last four trips to the Stadium of Light.
Brad Guzan, Eric Lichaj – Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic (10 am on Fox Soccer 2Go)
After a decent streak, the Villans have been blown out twice in a row. No one can blame rising EPL star Guzan for their troubles, so he'll remain between the sticks to face Wigan for the first time. Lichaj is also likely to start, but the hosts must go without top gun Darren Bent and center back Ron Vlaar. Villa are unbeaten in their last five against the Latics, and they have dropped but one of their seven clashes in Birmingham.
Tim Howard – Everton vs. Chelsea (Sunday, 8:30 am on Fox Soccer)
The US No. 1 has faced Chelsea 22 times to date, more than any other club. He's definitely getting the hang of facing the Blues; Howard has emerged victorious from the last three league battles at Goodison and he's lost just twice in the last 11 overall meetings. A win this time could potentially move Everton up to third place, but they'll need to post it without star man Marouane Fellaini (red card suspension).
Sebastian Lletget – West Ham United at Reading (Saturday, 10 am on Fox Soccer 2Go)
The young midfielder will again hope for his EPL debut as the Hammers make the short trip west to Reading. Both promoted clubs are struggling as 2012 draws to a close, with West Ham winning just once in their last seven. They've also scored only one victory from their last seven tilts in this series.
Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron is suspended and will miss out on the visit of Southampton, while Maurice Edu is unlikely to see action owing to the Potters' impressive run.