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Page last updated at 18:35 GMT, Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Wednesday football as it happened


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By Phil Dawkes

2247: On behalf of all the people who have assembled here, I would merely like to mention, if I may, that our unanimous attitude, is one of lasting gratitude, for what the football has done for us today... and therefore I would simply like to say: thank you very much, thank you very much, that's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me. I'll see thee tomorrow night for Tottenham v Chelsea. But just in case I don't, have a Merry Christmas.

2247: Well, if you were feeling miserly before, you certainly won't be now. What a superb night of football. Seven games, 22 goals (one of them the 20,000th in the Premier League), a red card and £14 in my back pocket. And so...

Full time
FULL-TIME Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
David Ornstein reports: "Yossi Benayoun strikes late to give Arsenal the perfect Christmas present. Villa need Darren Bent back - and quick."

Full time
FULL-TIME Man City 3-0 Stoke
Alistair Magowan reports: "Relatively easy for Manchester City tonight, but can they convert being top at Christmas for the first time since 1929 into a trophy in 2012?"

Full time
FULL-TIME Newcastle 2-3 West Brom
Saj Chowdhury reports: "West Brom showed the sort of spirit Newcastle did during their 11-game unbeaten run. They were fortunate at times, but were also resolute in defence and canny in attack. Magpies fans need not panic yet - the effort's there, it's just that the luck isn't."

Full time
FULL-TIME Everton 1-0 Swansea
Peter Shuttleworth reports: "Leon Osman's second goal inside a week seals Everton's first win in four games - and their 1,800th league win in their history - as Swansea's away day blues continue at Goodison Park."

Full time
FULL-TIME Fulham 0-5 Man Utd
Tom Rostance reports: "An easy win for Manchester United who had the game sewn up at half-time. Fulham improved after the break but United still managed to find two late goals. Injuries to Phil Jones and Ashley Young will worry Sir Alex going into Christmas."

Full time
FULL-TIME QPR 2-3 Sunderland
Graham Chase reports: "Martin O'Neill saw his team pick up a second win in three matches in charge but they were pushed all the way by a determined comeback from Rangers. Defeats like this could cost Neil Warnock's side at the end of the season."

Full time
FULL-TIME Wigan 0-0 Liverpool
Marc Higginson reports: "As good a game as it gets for a 0-0. Liverpool should have had this game wrapped up by half-time. Fair play to Wigan, though. Those battling qualities will serve them well in the relegation battles to come."

2244: Here's an interesting fact to (almost) leave you with: Blackpool went down last season after racking up 22 points by Christmas. Eleven Premier League sides will have a lower tally on December 25 this year. It's going to get tense down there.

Text in your views on 81111 (UK)
Gee, Bristol, via text: "Liverpool needing a striker? Dare I suggest Tevez? Proven Premier League goalscorer. Discuss."

2241: Interesting to read a pre-match piece on the Villa website quoting Alex McLeish saying they have been working hard on cutting out conceding "stupid goals" from set-pieces. Back to the drawing board Alex.

2238: Don't forget that you can see that goal, along with 21 others from tonight, on Match of the Day on BBC1 at 2245 GMT.

2235: It's not all bad news. Dimitar Berbatov will be pretty pleased tonight. He is the 50th Manchester United player to score 50 goals for the club. Not a bad way to get it either, with a cheeky little back-heel.

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Arjuna, Leicester, via text: "Sir Alex Ferguson, please buy Cheick Tiote. Quality defensive midfielder and badly needed now - especially with Phil Jones injured."

2235: There are sides with bigger worries than Liverpool, though. Fulham fans are extremely disillusioned right now. Even more so after their side's heaviest home defeat in the top flight since a 6-0 loss to Leeds in 1968.

Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen, partly at fault for Aston Villa's equaliser before Benayoun's winner, on Twitter: "Great win today! It wasn't easy. Thanks to @YossiBenayoun15!! You saved me today mate!"

Arsenal matchwinner Yossi Benayoun on Twitter: "Important win. I'm so happy finally to score in the league after a long time...this goal is for Thomas Vermaelen!!"

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney: "It was a great win for us we played really well we took our chances. It was comfortable. In the second half we took our foot off the gas but we were always in control and we knew we were going to win the game. We have a lot of games coming up so it was nice to not run as much. We knew that if we could win we have two home games coming up. We need to keep pushing and if City slip up we'll be there. It's an amazing turnaround in our away form."

2228: With Luis Suarez due to miss the next eight games (pending an appeal) and Andy Carroll far from firing, Liverpool fans must be concerned at their lack of cutting edge. Tonight was the fifth time they have failed to score in a game this season. They have only scored 20 all season, that is 33 goals less than Man City.

RossColgan on Twitter: "Five glorious words for the lads out there. Midweek Match of the Day!"

QPR manager Neil Warnock: "We've had so many blows, daggers in the heart, but I'll sort it out in January. I can't accept certain things that are happening at the moment but we'll get on with it. We're exciting and entertaining but we lost poor goals and you can't do that in the Premier League."

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Nishal KS, Nottingham, via text: "Am I doing this right? My texts never get published."

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Ned, Hertfordshire, via text: "Any chance of a Wayne Rooney mention?? I mean four goals in three games and a 30-yard belter normally deserves one."

Fulham boss Martin Jol: "I am angry and disappointed. They had eight attempts on goal and scored five goals. They played around us on the flanks and we did not defend well. Nani scored a header which tells you all. We let ourselves down. We improved and could have scored a few but it is easy when you are 3-0 down. They have a lot of quality but we were not aggressive enough. Conceding early is not good for your confidence. It was too easy for them. We have to pick ourselves up because there are a lot of teams on the same amount of points."

Manchester City defender Micah Richards on Twitter: "Not happy with Dean Whitehead's challenge on me! Stud caught me right in the calf! Great win lads! Bring on West Brom."

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, on striker Luis Suarez: "We have always said we will support him and that will continue. The fans know he means a great deal to the football club and he has great respect for the fans. There is a great relationship there and that will not be broken."

AlexMiles18 on Twitter: "Don't know why Fulham fans are complaining - they are performing as a club of their size should."

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Anon via text: "Re Frustrated Liverpool fan: Torres back to Anfield for £25m?"

2215: So yet more injury woe for Manchester United. Just how pivotal is the loss of Phil Jones, who has been one of their best performers this season, going to be if indeed he is ruled out for a while?

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: "The performance in the first half was as good as we have played all season in fairness. You think the third goal would kill Fulham but they came out very aggressive in the second half. They changed the pattern of the game but on the counter we always looked a threat. We've got a couple of injuries. Phil Jones got an elbow to the jaw and we'll send him for an X-ray tomorrow. It doesn't look good. Rio will be back for the Blackburn game on New Year's Eve, Phil is a concern and Ashley is out for two or three weeks."

BBC Radio 5 Live
1257_will on Twitter: "Bet Anon via text is gutted he left Craven Cottage at half-time. Missed another two goals."

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis: "Manchester City are better than us, we'll take that one on the chin. It's one of best years from January to January in the club's history. We are striving to get better but it will take us longer than Manchester City because we haven't got £230m or £240m to spend."

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Frustrated Liverpoool fan via text: "Poor second half performance. Regardless of Suarez ban, we must sign a striker in January to put the ball in the net."

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini: "We are happy [to be top] but as I said three days ago it's important to stay top at the end of the season. But for our supporters I think it's a good Christmas. If we want to win the championship we should get 90 points because Manchester United keep winning."

Wigan's goalkeeping hero Ali Al-Habsi: "It's a big result for us. We have shown good team spirit in the last three games - three points against West Brom and points against two big sides in Chelsea and Liverpool. Everyone thought Wigan would struggle but we have shown we will fight to stay in this league."

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Paul, Ash, via text: "Come on Fulham chairman Mo - Jol has to go!!"

damienpapps on Twitter: "Man City top at Christmas for first time since 1929 - when the great depression started. There could be a trend there."

2206: Sunderland's battle against the drop is again bolstered to leave them three clear of 18th place, while Everton have solidified their mid-table spot, as have West Brom. Wigan continue to battle, but Swansea's defeat only brings them closer to trouble, where they are kept company by QPR. Fulham and Villa will be very concerned by the ever-reducing comfort zone of points between them and the bottom three.

2202: Arsenal's late winner over Villa means they have had a good night, with Liverpool's draw at Wigan and Newcastle's home loss to West Brom meaning the Gunners now have a two-point gap between themselves in fifth and Kenny Dalglish's side in sixth. Newcastle are seventh on 27.

2159: So where do all these results leave us as regards the table? Well, Manchester City have 44 points and still lead by two from rivals Manchester United. Tottenham (34 points) and Chelsea (32), who play tomorrow, remain third and fourth but have two and one game in hand respectively.

Manchester United's Ryan Giggs: "It was very impressive, we've not scored as many as we'd like to but we'd been playing well. The second part of the season we always kick on and put in performances and that's pleasing. We don't want to rely on the forwards for goals, we need to share them around. I don't know if I can claim that one but I'll try. Phil Jones is a bit groggy, we'll just have to see how he is."

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Martin Keown on Manchester United's comprehensive 5-0 win at Fulham: "Sir Alex Ferguson is probably wearing his slippers - I don't think he had to get out of his dugout. It's key that they have got some goals back on Manchester City. It's been a great evening for them."

twill_87 on Twitter: "Has anyone pointed out that the Giggs goal means he has scored in every Premier League season since it started?"
They have now.

2155: And to bring an end to matters, Sunderland have beaten QPR 3-2 at Loftus Road.

2155: It is all over at the DW now. It finishes Wigan 0-0 Liverpool. It is also finished at Goodison, where Everton have beaten Swansea 1-0.

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Jason Roberts on the late dismissal of Villa's Alan Hutton: "He totally saw the red mist. You sit here thinking 'why would you do that?' But you get involved in the heat of the moment. Sometimes you watch yourself on telly and you think 'that's not me'."

2153: Still going at the DW Stadium, though, where it remains a delicately-poised 0-0 between Wigan and Liverpool. Wigan have been going for it. First Hugo Rodallega's header is deflected wide before Victor Moses almost finds a way through with a shot.

2152: And that is full-time at Craven Cottage. Fulham 0-5 Manchester United. I'd call that comprehensive. Where now for Martin Jol?

Man Utd goals: A rapid-fire double strike from United, makes things embarrassing for poor Fulham. Firstly, Wayne Rooney picks up the ball in midfield and smashes in from 30 yards off the far post. Then Antonio Valencia does a one-two with Nani before squaring for Dimitar Berbatov, who back-heels in casually (really? Berbatov being casual you say? Never!)

2148: GOALFLASH Fulham 0-5 Man Utd (Dimitar Berbatov)

Sunderland goal: A corner from Kieran Richardson is glanced goalwards to the far post by Wes Brown, where Alejandro Faurlin is powerless to prevent it hitting the net, despite a desperate header. QPR have it all to do again.

2146: GOALFLASH Fulham 0-4 Man Utd (Wayne Rooney)

2145: GOALFLASH QPR 2-3 Sunderland (Wes Brown)

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Adrian, Nottingham, via text: "Phil - I've been racking my brains to no avail and need putting out of my misery. Is the 'you boy' line a Dickens reference?"
It is indeed. From A Christmas Carol no less.

2143: Seasoned goal-getter Tim Cahill and rookie goal-poacher Denis Stracqualursi are thrown on for Everton as David Moyes' men look to finish off Swansea and secure their first win over a newly-promoted club at Goodison this season.

2142: Fulham almost grab a consolation at Craven Cottage, but Anders Lindegaard saves well from Andy Johnson's drive. He's never conceded in the Premier League, Lindegaard. Mind you, this is only his fourth league game for United.

2141: Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers goes for broke as he throws on striker Leroy Lita, sacrifces midfielder Leon Britton, as the Swans search for an equaliser at Everton. To be fair, it hasn't looked like coming.

2140: And then there was four... matches that is. Still happening. Now.

BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Mark Lawrenson on Aston Villa allowing Yossi Benayoun to score from Robin van Persie's corner: "That's the ninth goal they have conceded from a set piece this season and I'm sure Alex McLeish works on that every day on the training ground. It will drive him mad - completely mad."

2138: No such woe for Manchester City, though. They have beaten Stoke 3-0 and remain top of the Premier League at Christmas.

2138: We've also had the full-time whistle at the Sport Direct Arena, where West Brom have continued Newcastle's poor recent run with a 3-2 win.

Red card
Aston Villa red card: After being booked for dissent, Alan Hutton slides through Thomas Vermaelen, leaving the defender floored and earns himself a second yellow and an early bath... well, a minute before his team-mates as the dismissal is pretty much the last act. Arsenal win 2-1.


2135: We're nearing full-time in the three 1945 kick-offs. As it stands three points are going to Arsenal, West Brom and Manchester City, with nowt for Villa, Fulham and Stoke.

2133: Liverpool are only beginning to recover from that missed penalty. Dirk Kuyt should score when he hooks over Charlie Adam's floated pass from just six yards out.

2133: Manchester United inches from making it 4-0 at Fulham. Nani feeds in Danny Welbeck, who attempts to chip the keeper but also clears the crossbar.

2128: What was I saying about twists to come a couple of minutes to go?

Arsenal goal: Arsenal look like they've snatched a late winner at Villa Park as substitute Yossi Benayoun heads home from Robin van Persie's corner. He gives boss Arsene Wenger the thumbs up in celebration.

West Brom goal: Shane Long's cross from right finds Peter Odemwingie on the left edge of the six-yard area. He heads into the path of Paul Scharner who finishes on the volley. Immediate retaliation from the Baggies.

2129: GOALFLASH Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal (Yossi Benayoun)

2129: GOALFLASH Newcastle 2-3 West Brom (Paul Scharner)

2128: With regard to Everton's goal, Brendan Rodgers will be disappointed his usually disciplined Swansea side conceded so easily at a set-piece - and the Swans are one of only two Premier League teams not to earn a point this season after going behind. Mind you, they almost equalise but Danny Graham heads straight at Tim Howard.

2127: Seconds after pulling level, Newcastle threaten again. Midfielder Haris Vuckic forces West Brom keeper Ben Foster to tip over his 25-yard drive. There are twists to come in games yet, I can feel it.

Newcastle goal: Substitute Hatem Ben Arfa tees up Demba Ba who arrows his fierce shot high past Ben Foster from just inside the area. Newcastle level. And once again we have a mini-blizzard of goals. Ding dong merrily on high.

2125: GOALFLASH Newcastle 2-2 West Brom (Demba Ba)

QPR goal: QPR are definitely back in this. Armand Traore's cross is headed back in by Heidar Helguson for Jamie Mackie to nod in. That's the Scottish striker's first goal since he broke his leg in January and what an important goal it could prove to be.

2123: GOALFLASH QPR 2-2 Sunderland (Jamie Mackie)

Everton goal: Everton midfielder Leon Osman is hardly the tallest of players but he breaks the deadlock against Swansea as he rises unmarked to head home Roysten Drenthe's right-wing corner. We now only have one goalless game. Not bad for a Wednesday night.

2121: GOALFLASH Everton 1-0 Swansea (Leon Osman)

QPR goal: Alejandro Faurlin's cross from the left beats Keiren Westwood and allows Heidar Helguson to slide in and finish ahead of Wes Brown. QPR back in it at Loftus Road.

2119: GOALFLASH QPR 1-2 Sunderland (Heidar Helguson)

2118: With so many goals flying in and so much action this evening it is probably worth flagging up that Match of the Day this evening is on BBC One at 2245 GMT - and BBC HD, and live on this website (UK users only). Don't miss out. You can re-live the moment I won a whole £14.

Text in your views on 81111 (UK)
Anon via text: "I left the Cottage before half-time. One shot and 30-odd% possession. Flashbacks of Lawrie Sanchez's reign. We were promised 'attacking and fluid' football. That I am yet to see. Martin Jol out."

2116: Fulham have improved in the second half against Manchester United. They probably couldn't have been much worse. Clint Dempsey sees a header saved and then Mousa Dembele fires a shot that goes narrowly wide. Then, John Arne Riise smashes a free-kick just wide. Not that it makes much difference, they are 3-0 down.

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Mark Lawrenson on Liverpool's missed spot-kick at Wigan: "I thought it was a penalty. It was a good save by Ali Al-Habsi but it was a poor penalty."

2113: In the wake of Sessegnon's second goal for Sunderland, referee Ander Marriner has to be replaced by fourth official Stuart Attwell.

2113: Good news all fans of all things entertainingly insane. Mario Balotelli is on for David Silva for Manchester City.

Sunderland goal: Under pressure from Nicklas Bendtner, Danny Gabbidon can only head back towards his own goal, allowing Stephane Sessegnon to race through and fool Paddy Kenny with a clever dummy before rolling the ball into an empty net.

Liverpool penalty: Exciting stuff at Wigan. Luis Suarez wins a penalty when his overhead kick is handled by Gary Caldwell, but Charlie Adam's spot-kick is saved by Ali Al-Habsi. The Oman keeper is playing out of his skin tonight.



2109: GOALFLASH QPR 0-2 Sunderland (Stephane Sessegnon)

2109: QPR close to an equaliser. Armand Traore crosses and Heidar Helguson heads at goal but Titus Bramble is on hand to clear off the line. Sunderland living dangerously, but still leading 1-0.

eggfriedPrice on Twitter: "Only 10,000 goals until you can use that graphic again!"

2107: Liverpool come close at the DW Stadium. Luis Suarez curls a free-kick goalwards from the left-hand corner of the box but Ali Al-Habsi is well-placed to tip over. Still 0-0 there.

2106: The game at the DW Stadium is the last of the 2000 kick-offs to get back under way. So we're back up to a full compliment of seven.

2105: The air punching went well. It is only £14. But then again, I am from Yorkshire.

Robrock33 on Twitter: "Phil, how's that air punch coming along?!"

2104: That Marc Albrighton goal will also benefit a good cause (as well as me) because Premier League sponsor Barclays will give Albrighton £20,000 to donate to a charity of his choice.

Injured Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley on Twitter: "Great half from the boys there! Not happy with the Dempsey challenge on Phil Jones."

2103: Two chances at the Sport Direct Arena. West Brom's Shane Long drifts into the area and rounds Tim Krul but his shots bounces back off the bar, while at the other end Leon Best forces a good low save from Ben Foster.

2102: Arsenal have two chances to hit straight back as Theo Walcott is denied by a brilliant Richard Dunne slide-tackle after racing clear and then Brad Guzan saves well from Per Mertesacker following a Robin van Persie corner.

Man City goal: Stoke lose the ball again once they regain it, and once it's fed to Samir Nasri on the right, his low cross finds Sergio Aguero, who tucks in from eight yards. "We score when we want," follows from the home fans.

Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray on Twitter: "United right on it and excellent first half. Fulham? As poor a 45 mins as I've seen from any team in the PL this season. "

2059: GOALFLASH Man City 3-0 Stoke (Sergio Aguero)

Champagne moment
Aston Villa goal: A long goal kick forward from Brad Guzan sees Thomas Vermaelen try to pass to Per Mertesacker but Marc Albrighton nips in and goes through to finish low. It's the 20,000th Premier League goal, but more importantly it has won me 14 English pounds. You boy, is the turkey in the shop as big as you still there? Fetch it for me and you shall have half-a-crown.

2055: GOALFLASH Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal (Marc Albrighton)

BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Martin Keown on Manchester United's 3-0 half-time lead at Craven Cottage: "Fulham cannot cope with United in the final third. Most of the home fans are probably thinking about going home and doing some Christmas shopping instead."

Half time
Everton 0-0 Swansea
Peter Shuttleworth's HT snapshot:
"A game of few openings at Goodison Park but Swansea's Brendan Rodgers will be the happier manager at half-time. Everton had the only chances but a half to forget on Merseyside."

2053: But it's nearly Newcastle who get the goal as Demba Ba fires just wide from 20 yards.

2052: Well this is all shaping up very nicely. In the office sweepstake I need Villa to get the next goal. Ie. the 20,000th. I shall maintain my impartiality, though. You won't even see my air punch if it happens.

EricSevan on Twitter: "Man United looking like their playing a training game. What odds on the combined scores of Manchester clubs hitting double figures?"

2050: The three 1945 kick-offs are all back under way.

Half time
Fulham 0-3 Man Utd
Tom Rostance's HT snapshot:
"All too easy for Manchester United, who are in utter control as Fulham are giving them far too much respect all over the field. Ryan Giggs looked almost embarrassed with the amount of space he had to score the third goal, and this could turn into a huge win for United unless Fulham buck their ideas up."

Half time
Wigan 0-0 Liverpool
Marc Higginson's HT snapshot:
"It's a real edge-of-the-seat match at Wigan. Liverpool should have been 3-0 up after a frenetic opening half hour, but the home side have worked their way back into it and look capable of scoring every time they go forward themselves."

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Ade via text: "Does anyone know whether Jordan Henderson has touched the ball yet this season?"

jwrbunbury on Twitter: "There is a strange correlation between Newcastle's decline in form and the renaming of St James' Park to Sports Direct Arena."

Half time
QPR 0-1 Sunderland
Graham Chase's HT snapshot:
"The hosts have created next to nothing despite shading the possession and, after standing firm against unrelenting early pressure, Sunderland are good value for the lead they gained through Nicklas Bendtner's goal. Neither Joey Barton or Lee Cattermole have been booked, somehow."

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Phil, Wallasey, via text: "Everton can't buy a goal - maybe Father Christmas might pop up at the far post from Drenthe's crosses?"

Man Utd goal: Nani is invited to pretty much walk into the Fulham box before squaring for Ryan Giggs and his shot from 15 yards loops over David Stockdale and into the net via a deflection off Phillipe Senderos. Next goal will be the 20,000th in the Premier League.

2043: GOALFLASH Fulham 0-3 Man Utd (Ryan Giggs)

2043: This time Ashley Williams is penalised for handball, on the edge of the area. Leighton Baines blazes his free-kick over the bar.

2042: More action from the DW Stadium. Victor Moses suddenly thinks he is George Weah when, after winning the ball through sheer determination in his own half, he embarks on a powerful run that ends with a shot that is beaten away by Jose Reina.

2041: So many goals I'm forgetting whose scoring. It was of course a West Brom goal earlier, before the 2034 entry, not Newcastle.

2040: Hold on. Chance at Goodison. Leighton Baines' low cross is fired goalwards by Magaye Gueye, but it is saved one-handed by Michel Vorm and the striker goes to follow-up with an effort that is blocked by the arm of Ashley Williams. Ball to hand? I've seen them given.

BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Martin Keown after Nani put Manchester United 2-0 ahead at Fulham: "When United go into the final third they are so sharp."
Text in your views on 81111 (UK)
Scott via text: "Phil, I think your sleet has just turned into a blizzard. More goals please."

2036: Sunderland are now looking comfortable, dealing with a series of Joey Barton free kicks and still offering the greater threat on the break. Paddy Kenny's shouting match with his defender Danny Gabbidon has summed up the frustration of the hosts.

Half time
Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal
David Ornstein's HT snapshot:
"An opening 45 minutes completely dominated by Villa ends with Arsenal taking a lead into the break. It's a funny old game. Plenty of chances for the hosts but this is why they've failed to score in four of their past five games. No cutting edge. Unlike Arsenal and that man Robin van Persie."

Half time
Man City 2-0 Stoke
Alistair Magowan's HT snapshot:
"To say Manchester City are on top is an understatement. Stoke have barely broken out of their own half for the last 30 minutes."

Half time
Newcastle 1-2 West Brom
Saj Chowdhury's HT snapshot:
"Newcastle will be kicking themselves following a poor first-half defensive performance. West Brom have had two chances and scored from both. I have a feeling there will be more goals in this game."

2034: It is now half-time in all three 1945 kick-offs.

2034: Newcastle go close to equalising again when Haris Vuckic rattles the bar with a stunning strike from 20 yards.

West Brom goal: Chris Brunt swings a free-kick to the far post. Jonas Olsson heads the ball back across the six-yard area and Gareth McAuley, unmarked, nods in. We are now two goals away from the big 20,000th in the Premier League.

Man Utd goal: Ryan Giggs takes a short corner on the right to Antonio Valencia and accepts a return pass before swinging in a cross that Nani nods into the far corner. Wayne Rooney is millimetres away from connecting to make it his goal, the little tinker.

2029: GOALFLASH Newcastle 1-2 West Brom (Gareth McAuley)

2029: GOALFLASH Fulham 0-2 Man Utd (Nani)

2029: Liverpool are hitting back in force at the DW Stadium. Ali Al-Habsi is earning his brass tonight. He has made two good saves in recent minutes, firstly from Dirk Kuyt, then Glen Johnson. Then, Mohamed Diame draws another save from Jose Reina. How it's still 0-0 is anyone's guess.

BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Pat Nevin on Manchester City's second goal against Stoke: "Goodness knows what Stoke are going to do now. It's Catch 22. If they go and chase City they will get picked off."

2026: Wow, Wigan's Mohamed Diame nearly scores the goal of the season as he crashes a shot into the side of Pepe Reina's goal from 40 yards out. That would have been something special.

ianashworth80 on Twitter: "When will Lerner wise up....McLeish will take Villa down!!"

Man City goal: Stoke's defensive tactics are taking their toll as they give the ball away again on the edge of the box, and Adam Johnson picks up the pieces to smack a left-footed shot in from 25 yards. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

2024: Nothing of any significance to report from Goodison Park, where chances are very much at a premium at the moment. Thankfully, we've got others bringing the goods. Speaking of which...

Newcastle goal: Ba's scores his 12th of the campaign. Gabriel Obertan wins a free-kick 20 yards from goal following a surging run towards the area. Ba takes responsibility and curls in a tremendous strike.

2022: GOALFLASH Man City 2-0 Stoke (Adam Johnson)

2022: More action from Craven Cottage. Again Manchester United get in down the left with no resistance at all but when Patrice Evra crosses in, Wayne Rooney is unable to connect properly. Fulham immediately break away and Bryan Ruiz exchanges passes with Clint Dempsey but is denied by a fine Phil Jones challenge just as he was about to shoot. Jones has to leave the action soon after.

Sunderland goal: Simple goal for the Black Cats. Kieran Richardson's corner is headed in by Nicklas Bendtner unmarked. Simple but effective.

2019: GOALFLASH Newcastle 1-1 West Brom (Demba Ba)

2019: GOALFLASH QPR 0-1 Sunderland (Nicklas Bendtner)

alKoks on Twitter: "So Mancini goes all pint-sized guys upfront against Stoke's GIANTLOADED line-up. Perplexing."
Man City goal: From a short corner, Yaya Toure crosses to Gael Clichy whose shot is saved and Sergio Aguero is on hand to tuck in at the far post. There is a suggestions of offside but the goal counts and the Argentine has his 14th goal of the season. I'm not suggesting it's snowing goals yet, but we've definitely got some sleet.

2015: GOALFLASH Man City 1-0 Stoke (Sergio Aguero)

2015: The post is struck at Loftus Road and it is the visitors, Sunderland, who hit it. Sebastian Larsson delivers a free-kick and Nicklas Bendtner heads against the upright. Still 0-0 there.

2013: Liverpool twice go close at the DW Stadium, with Jordan Henderson and Martin Skrtel testing Ali Al-Habsi with shots. At the other end, Conor Sammon and Jordi Gomez almost fashion an opening. Opinion is split on the terraces regarding Luis Suarez. The striker is getting loud backing from the Liverpool supporters, and plenty of jeers from the Wigan fans.

2012: QPR are dominating after a feisty start at Loftus Road. A couple of Joey Barton set-pieces have offered their biggest threat but this is already looking like it will be an exciting evening.

JamesMChilvers on Twitter: "Lets see if Swansea's Michel Vorm can keep invorm."

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Martin Keown on Danny Welbeck's opener for Manchester United at Fulham: "It was almost like a training ground goal. You have got to mark in the box. It was a poor goal to concede so early in the game."

2010: Prior to the goal at Fulham, there was a notable incident to inform you of. Clint Dempsey clattered Phil Jones with a stray elbow and the England man hit the deck in pain. Jones required treatment on the pitch. Referee Mark Halsey didn't give a foul, but Dempsey was lucky not to be shown a card.

2009: In all this excitement I neglected to tell you that the match at Goodison Park has kicked off. Well, it has.

Man Utd goal: Dreadful defending from Fulham and it costs them. Nani is allowed to run fully 50 yards down the left wing unchallenged and is able to pick out Danny Welbeck unmarked in the middle. He slots home left-footed from six yards. All too easy.

West Brom goal: A lovely through-ball by Chris Brunt with the outside of his foot splits the Newcastle defence and Peter Odemwingie collects before slipping his shot past Tim Krul from just inside the area.

2006: GOALFLASH Fulham 0-1 Man Utd (Danny Welbeck)

2005: GOALFLASH Newcastle 0-1 West Brom (Peter Odemwingie)

2005: Meanwhile, at the Etihad, after a very quiet opening period, Manchester City hit the woodwork when Adam Johnson cuts in from the right and his deflected shot smacks against the bar. It's warming up now, I promise you.

Arsenal goal: A neat Cruyff turn by Theo Walcott sees him get by Ciaran Clark, who pulls back the winger in the box for a clear penalty. Robin van Persie smashes his 33rd goal of the calendar year into the roof of the net from the spot. Arsenal lead and it is 10 more to go until the 20,000th Premier League goal.

2001: GOALFLASH Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal (Robin van Persie)


2000: One of those games, at Loftus Road, is under way. As is another at Craven Cottage. And at the DW Stadium.

1959: Having brought you very little in the 15 minutes of action, you'll be glad to know that there are four more games ready to bring the goods in just a few minutes. Just remember, I never said we wouldn't have 20,000th goal. It's not my fault. Oh god, what have I done?

1957: Bit of a flat atmosphere at Manchester City at the moment, especially after the liveliness of the Arsenal match. City with lots of possession, but yet to threaten.

Daveof91 on Twitter: "Re 1944: I bet McLeish has picked the mascot. Can't be any more ponderous than Heskey..."

1955: Wojciech Szczesny called into action again to dive on a Gabriel Agbonlahor cross with Villa players lurking to convert. At the other end Brad Guzan claims well from a corner. Open game at Villa Park and Agbonlahor looks dangerous.

1953: Bad news for the Baggies at Newcastle. West Brom lose defender Steven Reid, who lands awkwardly following an aerial challenge with Leon Best in the area. It looks like an ankle injury. He is replaced by Billy Jones.

1952: First real chance of the night goes to Villa. Charles N'Zogbia's cross is headed goalwards by Gabriel Agbonlahor but Wojciech Szczesny palms it away. Good chance, good save.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish on the team and him wearing T-shirts with Luis Suarez on the front: "For anybody that doubted the support there is for Luis Suarez from the club, they are under no illusions now."

BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Jason Roberts on Liverpool players wearing T-shirts in support of Luis Suarez during their warm-up: "I understand it is a show of solidarity but I'm not sure about the message itself. I wonder if all the players are happy with it. As a player I would be uncomfortable."

1947: Solid start from Francis Coquelin at Villa Park. His first involvement is to throw the ball straight out of play.

1946: And the third of the 1945 kick-offs, at Etihad, is under way as well.

1945: We're under way at Villa Park. And also at the Sports Direct Arena.

1944: Right, we're moments away from the start of tonight's action - in three of the matches, anyway. There are players shaking hands all over the place. And the mascot getting in on the action at Villa Park. Either that or Alex McLeish has gone off message with his team selection.

QPR v Sunderland
Graham Chase reports:
"QPR manager Neil Warnock feels his team will released a great deal of pressure if they can pick up three points. He said: 'You're looking over your shoulders, but a win takes you into the top half, it's that close. We've played some tough games of late so we must scrap for points now.' Martin O'Neill is not asking for much from his goal-shy Sunderland side. 'In the penalty area, you have got to be a bit selfish if there's a shot on,' he said. 'Don't try something ridiculous, just throwing a leg at it or something like that, but you have got to take a bit of responsibility.'"

Wigan v Liverpool
Marc Higginson reports:
"Who needs David Silva or Juan Mata when you have got Jordi Gomez? So says Roberto Martinez, who should know a thing or two about talented Spanish midfielders. 'Technically he (Gomez) is very gifted, in the mould of Juan Mata or David Silva, and it took our fans a bit of time to understand his game, but now I think you can see that understanding,' the Wigan boss said. Liverpool defenders… you have been warned."

Fulham v Man United
Tom Rostance reports:
"Fulham boss Martin Jol knows his side will have to be extra disciplined against the champions this evening. 'Manchester United have that extra quality and you can't give them space,' he said. 'If you make a mistake they will punish you.' Sir Alex Ferguson is a big fan of Jol - and has revealed that he wanted him as assistant seven years ago. 'I spoke to him about joining us as assistant manager,' Ferguson said. 'It was unfortunate for Martin but it never stopped his career progressing.'"

Newcastle v West Brom
Saj Chowdhury reports:
"Newcastle boss Alan Pardew said his summer was partly ruined by the 3-3 draw against West Brom in May, a match which the Magpies led 3-0. "It was a shame, and it came on the last day of the season as well. I had to suffer that on my holidays," he said. West Brom boss Roy Hodgson once again deflected speculation linking him with the England post, with his current Baggies deal ending in the summer. "We will see how things pan out but neither I nor the club have got any concerns in that respect about the contract," said Hodgson."

Everton v Swansea
Peter Shuttleworth reports:
"David Moyes is wary of Swansea's visit as Everton have a poor record against the promoted teams this season after being beaten by QPR and held by Norwich. 'Swansea as a club have done great. I don't think they are under-estimated by Premier League teams because they are probably the highest passing team outside the top one or two,' he said. Brendan Rodgers will hope his Swansea City side can reach two Premier League landmarks at Everton tonight - a first away win and reaching 20 points. 'If we can do that then it will be a terrific first part of the season,' he said.

Aston Villa v Arsenal
David Ornstein reports:
"It may be festive season but Alex McLeish has warned his Aston Villa side against 'giving away gifts', especially from set-pieces. He wants them to cut out 'stupid goals', stop the 'phenomenal' Robin van Persie and contain the 'formidable' Gunners. Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger says his players must 'respond quickly' to losing at Manchester City but admits 'you are always on your toes when you go to Villa' because of the 'passionate' atmosphere."

Man City v Stoke
Alistair Magowan reports:
"Kolo Toure says Manchester City have a special plan for dealing with Stoke's aerial threat. 'They will be even more motivated because we beat them in the FA Cup final,' Toure said. 'But we have found a way to deal with them.' Stoke have been boosted by keepers Asmir Begovic and Thomas Sorensen signing new deals. Stoke boss Tony Pulis said: 'It's important to have good competition for places in all areas of the squad and nowhere is it better than there.'"

1939: It's not just the Liverpool players with a Suarez T-shirt on. Manager Kenny Dalglish is also sporting one.

DavidM33 on Twitter: "I find the Liverpool player's t-shirts highly embarrassing and terribly ill-advised."

1937: Of course, there's one more Premier League match before Christmas - it's tomorrow when Chelsea and Tottenham meet at White Hart Lane. Chelsea captain John Terry has been in the news today after it was announced he will face a criminal charge of using racist language towards QPR's Anton Ferdinand in October. The England captain has vowed to clear his name and hopes to play in the friendly against Netherlands in February.

1936: It's time for a re-e-fresh on your page. This will bring up a Midweek score video for your viewing pleasure. You're welcome.

1934: Liverpool's players are all warming up wearing T-shirts with an image of Luis Suarez printed on the front - including the striker himself.

1933: The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that keeper Neil Etheridge is on the bench for Fulham. Was it 28 or 728 caps he had for the Philippines?

BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5live pundit Martin Keown on Anders Lindegaard replacing David de Gea in the Manchester United goal at Fulham: "United are not really sure which one is the number one keeper. They're both decent but I wouldn't say either is outstanding. So I think the swapping and changing will continue for the rest of the season."

Wigan v Liverpool
Marc Higginson reports:
"Liverpool have opted to give Craig Bellamy a rest, replacing the forward with Dirk Kuyt. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has resisted the temptation to tinker with his team and names an unchanged side from the one that held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw."

Aston Villa v Arsenal
David Ornstein reports:
"There are four changes for Aston Villa from Sunday's home defeat by Liverpool as Carlos Cuellar, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ireland and Gabriel Agbonlahor - back from suspension - replace James Collins, Fabian Delph, Nathan Delfouneso and Emile Heskey. Arsenal make two changes from their loss at Manchester City - midfielder Francis Coquelin starting out of position at right-back in place of Johan Djourou and Emmanuel Frimpong deputising for the suspended Alex Song."

Man City v Stoke
Alistair Magowan reports:
"Manchester City make three changes to the team which beat Arsenal. At the back Gael Clichy and Joleon Lescott come in for Pablo Zabaleta and Kolo Toure, while Adam Johnson replaces Mario Balotelli. A five-man midfield perhaps? For Stoke, Peter Crouch is out but it looks like a three-man attack with Jonathan Walters, Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones all starting."

Newcastle v West Brom
Saj Chowdhury reports:
"Newcastle make one change from the side that drew at home to Swansea, with Haris Vuckic in for the suspended Yohan Cabaye. Italian Davide Santon retains his place in the left-back slot despite the return to fitness of Ryan Taylor, who starts on the bench. West Brom's Jerome Thomas replaces James Morrison, who is unavailable because of a hamstring injury."

Everton v Swansea
Peter Shuttleworth reports:
"Everton have dropped Tim Cahill and Magaye Gueye and recall Dutch winger Roysten Drenthe and fit-again Seamus Coleman. Swansea, however, are unchanged from the side that held Newcastle to a goalless draw at Sports Direct Arena on Saturday despite right-back Angel Rangel being available again after an ankle injury."

Fulham v Man United
Tom Rostance reports:
"Fulham boss Martin Jol names an unchanged side from the XI which beat Fulham on Saturday, so out-of-sorts Bobby Zamora remains on the bench. Ryan Giggs returns to the starting line-up for Manchester United, who have Anders Lindegaard in goal. The versatile Phil Jones - hugely impressive in midfield at QPR on Sunday - starts in the back four as Rio Ferdinand misses out with a knock."

QPR v Sunderland
Graham Chase reports:
"Rangers made just one change from the team beaten 2-0 by Manchester United, with Paddy Kenny replacing Radek Cerny in goal. Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill made two alterations to the side that lost 1-0 at Tottenham. Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner, who were dropped after they arrested after cars were damaged in Newcastle city centre last week, are back in the team at Loftus Road."

Wigan v Liverpool line-ups
Al Habsi, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Stam, Jones, Diame, McCarthy, Moses, Gomez, Sammon. Subs: Pollitt, Crusat, Watson, Di Santo, McArthur, Rodallega, Lopez.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Adam, Downing, Kuyt, Maxi, Suarez. Subs: Doni, Carroll, Coates, Carragher, Shelvey, Kelly, Bellamy.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

Fulham v Man Utd line-ups
Stockdale, Baird, Senderos, Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Ruiz, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Dembele, Johnson. Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Gecov, Duff, Hughes, Frei, Zamora.
Man Utd: Lindegaard, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Nani, Rooney, Welbeck. Subs: De Gea, Berbatov, Park, Hernandez, Young, Rafael Da Silva, Fryers.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Man City v Stoke line-ups
Man City:
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Barry, Toure Yaya, Johnson, Silva, Nasri, Aguero. Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Milner, Savic, Toure, De Jong, Balotelli.
Stoke: Sorensen, Huth, Woodgate, Upson, Wilson, Walters, Palacios, Whitehead, Shotton, Jones, Jerome. Subs: Begovic, Fuller, Diao, Pennant, Delap, Etherington, Arismendi.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

QPR v Sunderland line-ups
Kenny, Young, Gabbidon, Connolly, Traore, Barton, Faurlin, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Mackie, Helguson. Subs: Cerny, Hill, Hall, Taarabt, Campbell, Bothroyd, Smith.
Sunderland: Westwood, O'Shea, Bramble, Brown, Bardsley, Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, Richardson, Sessegnon, Bendtner. Subs: Carson, Gardner, Kilgallon, Colback, Ji, McClean, Elmohamady.
Referee: Andre Marriner (W Midlands)

MattWislon on Twitter: "Swansea have never beaten Everton...that will be three points for Swansea tonight then."

GeorgeMiles6 on Twitter: "If Heskey scores the 20,000th Premier League goal tonight, my Dad will give me £50."

1917: In all likelihood we are also set to witness a momentous landmark tonight. No, not an attack of self-doubt from Mario Balotelli but the 20,000th Premier League goal. We're only 11 away as it stands, so unless this is one of the worst night's of football known to man*, that should be bagged by someone in the aforementioned seven fixtures.
*Dear fate, under no circumstances was this designed to tempt you in any way. Don't make me look a mug.

Everton v Swansea line-ups
Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Neville, Drenthe, Osman, Saha. Subs: Mucha, Stracqualursi, McFadden, Distin, Cahill, Gueye, Barkley.
Swansea: Vorm, Richards, Williams, Caulker, Taylor, Routledge, Gower, Britton, Allen, Sinclair, Graham. Subs: Tremmel, Dobbie, Monk, Lita, Moore, Rangel, Agustien.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

BREAKING TEAM NEWS: Ryan Giggs returns for Manchester United, with Rio Ferdinand ruled out with a knock, so Phil Jones reverts to a defensive role. Anders Lindegaard starts in goal with David de Gea on the bench.

Text in your views on 81111 (UK)
Adam, London, via text: "Loving the 'Fezziwig' Scrooge reference. Keep them coming. May I suggest 'What a remarkable boy!' for the first goal scored by a young 'un tonight."

Aston Villa v Arsenal line-ups
Aston Villa:
Guzan, Hutton, Dunne, Cuellar, Warnock, Albrighton, Ireland, Clark, Petrov, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor. Subs: Marshall, Collins, Delfouneso, Delph, Bannan, Weimann, Williams.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Coquelin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Walcott, Ramsey, Frimpong, Arteta, Gervinho, van Persie. Subs: Almunia, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Squillaci, Arshavin, Chamakh, Benayoun.
Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire)

Newcastle v West Brom line-ups
Krul, Simpson, Perch, Coloccini, Santon, Obertan, Vuckic, Tiote, Gutierrez, Best, Ba. Subs: Elliot, Williamson, Ben Arfa, Abeid, Ryan Taylor, Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi.
West Brom: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey, Thomas, Mulumbu, Scharner, Brunt, Odemwingie, Long. Subs: Fulop, Dorrans, Dawson, Jones, Thorne, Cox, Fortune.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

Everton v Swansea
Peter Shuttleworth reports:
"David Moyes will hope his Everton improve their stuttering home form tonight against a Swansea team that have the worst away record in the Premier League this term. The Toffees have earned just four points in their last five games at Goodison Park and have not enjoyed a clean sheet at home all season. Swansea have never beaten Everton either but they have kept eight shutouts this season, equal most with Manchester United. And Everton and Swansea are two of the lowest scorrers - so don't expect a classic."

Fulham v Man United
Tom Rostance reports:
"Manchester United head to Fulham looking for a second win in London this week as Sir Alex Ferguson's men try to keep pace with leaders and city rivals Manchester City. United have won six of their eight away games this season but have not won at Fulham on their last three visits. Martin Jol's home side easily beat Bolton at the weekend but remain goalshy - scoring just 18 goals all season. Expect a tight evening at Craven Cottage."

QPR v Sunderland
Graham Chase reports:
"Both sides have managed just one win in their last seven Premier League matches and while the Black Cats are just a point above the relegation zone, QPR are only two points above that. As Martin O'Neill takes charge of Sunderland for the third time, victory for either team would make the table look far more attractive going into Christmas."

Wigan v Liverpool
Marc Higginson reports:
"Forget carol singing, Liverpool need [Andy] Carroll scoring with Luis Suarez facing an eight-match ban. Should the wise man that is Kenny Dalglish opt to give his young star a chance to shine bright tonight, he will come up against a Wigan side which have lost just one of their last five matches against their north west rivals. A 1-1 draw against Chelsea brought some festive cheer to the DW Stadium, and Roberto Martinez will be happy to play Scrooge again if it means picking up some vital points in the relegation battle. Victory for the Reds could see them head into Christmas in one of the European places. A return to continental competition is surely Dalglish's New Year's resolution after all."

Aston Villa v Arsenal
David Ornstein reports:
"Having won just two of their last nine matches - failing to score in four of the past five - all Aston Villa want for Christmas is a victory. They haven't managed one at home to Arsenal since December 2008 and recent form doesn't bode well. The Gunners turned their season around with an eight-game unbeaten run, but that ended at Manchester City on Sunday. Could they be vulnerable tonight?"

Man City v Stoke
Alistair Magowan reports:
"Manchester City may be forgiven for thinking they have weathered the tough spell after losing to Chelsea, by seeing off Arsenal on Sunday. But tonight's game against back-in-form Stoke will be no festive stroll, with the Potters winning four top-flight league games on the trot for the first time in 44 years. Stoke's Ryan Shawcross is missing through suspension, but will manager Tony Pulis put his faith in Jonathan Woodgate having subbed him in the first half against Wolves last time out? "

Newcastle v West Brom
Saj Chowdhury reports:
"Newcastle fans will be quick to tell you that their side are currently experiencing a 'blip' rather than, as some doomsayers are pronouncing, 'freefall'. Admittedly, the Magpies have now gone five matches without a win, but signs of a return to earlier form was evident against Swansea, when they created umpteen chances without finding the net. They need to remedy the profligacy as do West Brom. The Baggies do have a good recent away record, having lost just one of their last five. However, they have not won a league match at the ground formerly known as St James' Park since 1977."

1908: In conclusion, why would you want to be anywhere else right now than reading this, possibly with a mince pie and some eggnog* to hand. Muppets Christmas Carol isn't even on, so you've got absolutely no excuse.
*Okay, maybe not eggnog, because it's what evil would taste like.

johnmcgrorry23 on Twitter: "I signed Francis Coquelin on loan for Celtic in Football Manager and he was solid. So Arsenal have nothing to worry about."

BREAKING TEAM NEWS: Luis Suarez starts for Liverpool against Wigan.

1906: At the bottom of the table, tonight, we have QPR taking on Sunderland in a Blackburn v Bolton-lite encounter that both will be desperate to win. Finally, Everton play Swansea with both currently mid-table but keeping an eye on affairs over their shoulder.

Text in your views on 81111 (UK)
Richard, Nuneaton, via text: "Re 1840: Dont you mean 'reindeer us happy'? Sorry."

1904: However, despite Manchester City's achievements this season, Infostradalive inform me that it is rivals Manchester United who will finish with the best Premier League record in 2011. Currently they have won 25 of their 36 matches this year, picking up 81 points - seven more than City, who only have two matches left to play in 2011.

BREAKING TEAM NEWS: Slovenian youngster Haris Vuckic makes his full league debut for Newcastle, replacing the suspended Yohan Cabaye in central midfield

1900: If Man City avoid defeat tonight, it will be the first time they will top the table on Christmas Day since 1929. Don't get too carried away yet though City fans. That season, they finished 12 points behind eventual champions Sheffield Wednesday.

BREAKING TEAM NEWS: No Mario Balotelli in the Manchester City starting XI. The striker is on the bench.

1857: With Tottenham and Chelsea off-duty until tomorrow, both Manchester clubs can focus on their own little tussle at the top with United at Fulham and City hosting Stoke. Sixth-placed Liverpool and fifth-placed Arsenal are also in action, at Aston Villa and Wigan respectively, while Newcastle can capitalise on any slip-ups when they play West Brom.

BREAKING TEAM NEWS: Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor returns for Aston Villa against Arsenal, for whom Francis Coquelin plays at full-back.

1852: Last night was primarily about matters at the bottom of the table, with Blackburn sealing the Christmas bottom spot courtesy of defeat at home to Bolton and Wolves salvaging a precious point against mid-table Norwich. Tonight, though, we'll be covering issues across the Premier League table. As Quint from Jaws would say, we've got the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

Stevie_C1977 on Twitter: "The person happiest with Suarez's eight-game ban = Andy Carroll. He may actually get a game!"

1845: As it's the season for giving and sharing, why not get in touch with me with your views, insights or even just a festive hello. Bah humbugs will not be tolerated. You can Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, Tweet me @phildawkes or text in via 81111 (UK).

1840: Yes, it is as busy as a Fezziwig Christmas bash tonight with 14 Premier League teams taking to the field in the hope of bringing a final bit of festive cheer to their merry fans. They have the power to render us happy or unhappy, to make our support light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil… The happiness they give, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune. And in most cases, it did.

1835: Four days until Christmas Day and hopefully you've not gone all Scrooge as a result of hellish shopping experiences. Just in case, tonight you will be visited by seven Premier League matches. Three will come at 7.45pm, with the remaining four when the clocks strike 8. God bless us, every one.

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Premier League table snapshot

As it stood on 21 Dec 2011 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Man City 17 38 44
2 Man Utd 17 28 42
3 Tottenham 15 13 34
4 Chelsea 16 15 32
5 Arsenal 17 8 32
6 Liverpool 17 7 30
7 Newcastle 17 1 27
8 Stoke 17 -10 24
9 Norwich 17 -4 21
10 West Brom 17 -7 21
11 Everton 16 -2 20
12 Aston Villa 17 -4 19
13 Fulham 17 -5 18
14 Swansea 17 -5 18
15 Sunderland 17 0 17
16 QPR 17 -14 16
17 Wolves 17 -13 15
18 Wigan 17 -15 14
19 Bolton 17 -17 12
20 Blackburn 17 -14 10

see also
Wednesday's football photos
21 Dec 11 |  Football

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