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Bruce looks to Tigers' old guard

Hull City

Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Kevin Hughes Aston Villa  By Kevin Hughes

Aston Villa desperately need a playmaking midfielder

Swansea manager Garry Monk heralded a second successive clean sheet as his side made it six points from six in the Boxing Day matchup against Aston Villa.

A Gylfi Sigurdsson, that's what Aston Villa need. The Icelandic midfielder's free-kick goal secured Swansea's Boxing Day 1-0 victory over the Villans and, at the same time as clinching three points for the Welsh club, reminded the visiting Midland side exactly what they are missing.

Villa don't have a player like Sigurdsson, and they badly need one. A midfield playmaker who covets possession and uses the ball to prise open opposition defences, to make the subtle differences which can affect games...

 By Lee Roden

Local pride at stake as Catalonia take on the Basque Country in friendly

Catalan Basque
The national flags of Catalonia and the Basque Country will be on display.

Organising the Catalan national team's annual New Year friendly is no simple task. La Liga's winter break provides a brief window for Spain-based players to work within, but other leagues have a less forgiving schedule. Those time constraints, combined with the delicate nature of playing against a national team FIFA does not recognise, means that Catalonia's big ambitions for the fixture are rarely met.

- Mitten: If Catalonia were independent

While the original idea this year was for the Catalans...

 By John Culea

Fantasy Preview: Week 19

Tottenham's Harry Kane would be a savvy choice as fantasy captain for gameweek 19.
Tottenham's Harry Kane would be a savvy choice as fantasy captain for gameweek 19.

Ten games over two days comprise Week 19 with one chance to check announced lineups before the week locks: Tottenham-Manchester United.

Sunday, Dec. 28

Tottenham (9-3-6) vs. Manchester United (10-5-3)

Harry Kane (6.4) and Christian Eriksen (7.4) are posting strong fantasy numbers.

Wayne Rooney (10.1) and Robin van Persie (9.7) are doing the same for United. The team is in third-place but only 2-4-2 on the road. Angel di Maria (9.1) is an injury doubt.

Southampton (10-2-6) vs. Chelsea...

 By Rob Train

Sergio Ramos a viable candidate for Ballon d'Or 2015

Shaka Hislop picks his ten best teams in the world based on their current form.

Before the financial crisis assaulted the Spanish economy, Christmas used to start somewhere around September. Adverts for El Gordo -- the largest festive lottery draw in the world -- would be smeared over Metro stations even earlier with the long-running pitch to punters: "What if it lands here?"

This year, it landed very much in the capital, and few would bet against the Ballon d'Or doing likewise when the draw is made in Switzerland in a couple of weeks' time. Speculation about who will win...

West Brom's struggles on both ends magnified in Man City loss

Champions Manchester City again made light of the absence of strikers as they cruised to a 3-1 win at West Brom.

Individual errors from some of their most reliable performers were the root cause for West Brom's 3-1 home defeat to Manchester City at The Hawthorns on Friday, as the pressure on head coach Alan Irvine continues to mount.

Man City were the toughest fixture in Albion's Christmas/New Year programme, but it was the manner of the first-half display that was concerning. Despite carving out three decent openings for themselves, West Brom's defensive frailties meant they were never in the game.

The Baggies'...

 By Ben Jacobs

Leicester need spirited outing against Hull

Mauricio Pochettino praises his players' desire, yet conceded they were perhaps fortunate to win 2-1 at Leicester City while Nigel Pearson "will not stick his head in the sand."

It might only be the halfway stage of the season, but Leicester can't afford to lose at Hull City. The Tigers sit one place above the relegation zone, and victory would move them nine points above the Foxes. Given Nigel Pearson's men have racked up only 10 points all season, that's an alarming gap.

Leicester showed plenty of endeavour in the 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham on Boxing Day, but they just weren't clinical enough. Leonardo Ulloa missed a simple header, Danny Drinkwater scuffed a shot...