PREVIEW: EARLY-WEEK ENGLISH ACTION
JOHN KRETLOW - Saturday, December 24, 2011
Zak Whitbread and Norwich City meet Brad Friedel and Tottenham, while Clint Dempsey and Fulham make the short trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in a busy post-Christmas round of games.

Sunderland - Everton

Tim Howard and Everton travel to play Sunderland in a Boxing Day Premier League matchup as both teams look to establish some consistency in otherwise lackluster campaigns.

Sunderland are coming off a win over Queens Park Rangers, and have won two out of their last three games. Despite their recent successes, the Black Cats are still just three points above the relegation zone.

Everton beat Swansea City at Goodison Park during the midweek. Prior to that win, the Toffees had gone three games winless, and are eleventh in the standings, just six points above the relegation zone.

The Toffees look to be without Victor Anichebe and Jack Rodwell, while Sunderland could miss Craig Scotland, Marcos Angeleri, Simon Miglolet, Frazier Cambell, and Michael England.

Chelsea - Fulham

Clint Dempsey and Fulham travel to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea in a London derby on Monday, hoping to avoid feeling the sting of another heavy defeat.

The Texan started and played 85 minutes in Fulham's game against Manchester United and should start against Chelsea.

The Cottagers are looking to bounce back after a 5-0 loss to Manchester United this last week. Heading into the holiday season, Fulham are four points from the relegation zone and will want a win to relieve some pressure.

Chelsea are on a five game unbeaten streak in league play, but the London club is coming off two straight draws. The Blues are in fourth place and trail Tottenham two points for an automatic Champions League spot.

Fulham will miss Simon Davies, Steve Sidwell, Mark Schwarzer, and Zdenek Grygera.

The Blues will be without Michael Essien.

Norwich City - Tottenham Hotspur

In a battle between Americans, Zak Whitbread and Norwich City host Brad Friedel and Tottenham Hotspur in Tuesday Premier League action.

Whitbread started and went the distance in Norwich City's game against Wolverhampton and should be in the starting eleven once again.

Friedel is a regular starter for Spurs and barring unforeseeable forces of nature will be so once again on Tuesday.

The Canaries have only lost one game in their last five but are coming off two ties in a row. Norwich will go for the full three points at Carrow Road, but will be hard-pressed by the league's third-place team.

Spurs tied Chelsea on Thursday but have only lost once game in their last 14 in league play. Tottenham will undoubtedly go for the win and hope to start creeping closer to the Manchester teams at the top of the standings.

Norwich will be without Ritchie De Laet, James Vaughan, Elliot Ward, and Daniel Ayala.

Danny Rose, Michael Dawson, Thomas Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon, and Jermaine Jenas will miss for Spurs.

Stoke City - Aston Villa

Brad Guzan and Aston Villa travel to play Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Monday night.

Since Shay Given's injury, Guzan has done an impressive job through perhaps the team's most difficult run of games this season of filling in at ‘keeper for Villa, and with the Irishman still out, will start once again on Monday.

Since Guzan came in for Given, Villa has lost three out of four games. Those losses though have been to the Premier League elite, such as Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal, with the lone win against lowly Bolton.

Stoke is coming off a loss to league leader's Manchester City, but they do find themselves in a strong spot in the standings in eighth place.

Mamady Sidibé is injured and will miss for Stoke while Chris Herd and American Eric Lichaj are injured for Villa.

Birmingham City - West Ham United

Jonathan Spector and Birmingham City hope to get back to winning ways against Daniel Potts and West Ham United in Monday Championship play.

Spector started and went the distance in last week's loss to Crystal Palace. He should get the nod once again for Birmingham.

Daniel Potts made his first start for West Ham last week and could feature once again.

City are in 14th place in the standings but have two games in hand to the majority of the Championship. They trail Leeds United for the last spot in the playoffs by just six points.

West Ham beat Barnsley last week and hold one of the Championship's two automatic promotion spots. They currently trail leaders Southampton by two points, and look well on their way back to the Premier League.

Liam Ridgewell and Jordon Mutch are questionable to feature due to injury for Birmingham.

Notes

Stuart Holden is injured and will miss Bolton's Boxing Day matchup with Newcastle United

Conor Doyle hopes for playing time as Derby County takes on Leeds United.

Cody Cropper is injured and will not feature in Ipswich town's game against Leicester City.

Robbie Findley hopes to feature in Nottingham Forest's match with Peterborough United.

Frank Simek could see the field in Carlisle United's game with Preston North End.

Mike Grella hopes to feature in Brentford's game against AFC Bournemouth.

Anton Peterlin could see time in Walsall's match with Sheffield Wednesday.

John Paul Pittman and Crawley Town take on Gillingham in League Two play.

Jemal Johnson and Southend United play Aldershot Town.