This past week was a busy one with a midweek fixture list in the Premier League. Here’s what to watch out for on Matchday 14.
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
Crystal Palace come into this game on the back of a 1-1 draw at West Ham. Yet facing the champions might not prove as daunting as it might do for other teams. The South London side have enjoyed a good record when facing the so-called Big Six – losing at Chelsea, but beating Manchester United at Old Trafford and holding Spurs to a draw last week. With the return of Wilfried Zaha, Palace bring a lot of bite even if the bark of the fans have been silenced due to COVID-19.
Liverpool will be wanting to continue their good form at Selhurst Park on Saturday after their dramatic late win against Spurs on Wednesday. The games are coming thick and fast, which is putting added strain on a side hit with injuries.
Diogo Jota is the latest player to succumb to the injury bug and his six-week layoff is a blow to Jurgen Klopp. However, youngsters such as Rhys Williams and Curtis Jones are stepping up to the mark to ease their injury woes. Though Selhurst Park holds painful memories for Liverpool, what better way to banish such memories than a win.
Prediction – Crystal Palace 0-1 Liverpool
Liverpool to sneak a win on the road.
Southampton vs Manchester City
Southampton have been the surprise of the season so far. Their first two games bringing defeats, they have gone on an excellent run to propel them up to third. Their 1-1 draw at Arsenal in midweek has shown what a good manager Ralph Hasenhüttl is, mixing in the once goal-shy Che Adams, with the veteran Theo Walcott enjoying a renaissance and goalscoring lethality of Danny Ings.
Photo: @GabFoligno / Michael Steele / AFP
Defence has been shored up, the memories of the start of last season abolished, meaning European football next season is an attainable dream for Southampton. After an inauspicious start, Manchester City had been showing the defensive solidity that has propelled them up the table. Even so, their 1-1 draw to second from bottom West Brom was a setback.
Despite having a monopoly on possession, as well as chances created, they were unable to find a winner, giving credence to the rumors that Pep Guardiola will look for a striker in January. Southampton will prove a staunch test for Manchester City.
Prediction – Southampton 0-2 Manchester City
Three points for Manchester City.
Everton vs Arsenal
Everton have seemingly recovered from a slump in form with impressive back to back wins against Chelsea and Leicester City. However, their Saturday evening fixture against the Gunners will provide an opportunity for Everton to show this isn’t a fleeting wonder before dying out.
Carlo Ancelotti will hope this fixture is not a repeat of last season at Goodison Park where they played a dire 0-0 – arguably the worst game of the season. Such a repeat would not be in the spirit of Christmas. As for Arsenal, three points is something they are in dire need of after their 1-1 draw against Southampton.
The Gunners may have avoided defeat, but under Mikel Arteta have had their worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 1974-75 season. Ill-discipline is also a worry with three red cards in five games, Gabriel Magalhães the latest to fall foul with two yellow cards in the space of four minutes. Arsenal must clean up their act or suffer more pain.
Prediction – Everton 1-1 Arsenal
Points to be shared at Goodison Park.
Newcastle vs Fulham
Newcastle come into Sunday’s game on the back of a heavy 5-2 defeat at Leeds in midweek. Steve Bruce said earlier in the week how his side had shown resilience after a turbulent summer, yet did admit failings when it has come to their lack of creative play. That defensive resilience faltered at Elland Road on Wednesday, much to Bruce’s fury.
Despite the reverse, Fulham represent a chance for Newcastle to eradicate Wednesday’s heavy defeat, three points a must when playing at home against a side around the relegation zone. Fulham come into this game on the back of a goalless draw against Brighton in midweek. Such a result was better than a defeat for the Cottagers seeing it was a relegation six-pointer.
Photo: Dave Shopland/BPI/Shutterstock
Their away trip to Newcastle represents an opportunity for Fulham to lay down a marker to the rest of the teams in the bottom six. If Scott Parker’s players can replicate their performance against Liverpool there is no reason why they can’t against Newcastle.
Prediction – Newcastle United 1-1 Fulham
A vital point for the Cottagers.
Brighton vs Sheffield United
Another six-pointer game for the Seagulls and one they must win if they want to stay clear of the relegation pack. The result against Fulham has shaped their outlook ahead of the upcoming festive period where points are a vital necessity instead of a must.
The Seagulls must notch up their first home win in the league or face a difficult 2021. However, Graham Potter leaving out veteran goalkeeper Mathew Ryan is a risky one, a decision that can decide relegation or survival in the Premier League. Though Sheffield United are going through a very difficult season. The stats are quite brutal – bottom of the league, no wins in the top flight this season and favourites for relegation.
Already rumours have surfaced of useful first-team players like Sander Berge being linked with a move away in the summer irrespective of the league position. Their solitary point in 13 games makes it the worst ever start for a English top-flight side. The Blades need to sharpen up or be relegated.
Prediction – Brighton 1-0 Sheffield United
Brighton to get their first home league win.
Tottenham vs Leicester City
The game of Matchday 14. Their result against Liverpool was a tough blow for Spurs, losing in the final few minutes in a game where José Mourinho felt they should have at least got a point. It will only increase the scrutiny among those critics who feel Spurs lack the capability to win the league.
This game against Leicester is yet another test, but as said before in recent weeks their defence has held up firm, with the joint fewest goals conceded with 12. The Foxes were wounded against Everton in midweek and three home defeats in the league this season puts a question mark on whether they can push for the Champions League spots.
Facing Spurs is a test of their Champions League aspirations, but there are reasons to be hopeful. James Maddison has been fantastic in midfield, Wesley Fofana an inspired signing, and Jamie Vardy getting better with each season. The key is whether they stop being susceptible to unexpected defeats.
Prediction – Tottenham 1-0 Leicester City
Spurs to get back to winning ways.
Manchester United vs Leeds United
Manchester United continue their revival after beating Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Thursday. However, a three-day turnaround might force manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to rotate his squad, especially with the busy festive period.
Breaking into the top six has for now justified the club’s faith in Solskjaer when many were calling for the Norwegian’s head. The festive period will determine if that will remain a good decision.
Photo: @GabFoligno / Shaun Botterill – AFP
Leeds United come into this game on the back of a thumping win against Newcastle. Pulling away with a 5-2 win, after the scores were level with less than 15 minutes remaining, underscores their attacking potency. The home side had 25 shots on goal and a win was needed after just one win in six games.
Playing Manchester United at Old Trafford was always a historic fixture for Leeds and rest assured Marcelo Bielsa will have a plan to try and achieve a memorable win.
Prediction – Manchester United 2-1 Leeds United.
A close game at Old Trafford.
West Brom vs Aston Villa
Slaven Bilić became the first managerial casualty in the Premier League this season, which was ironic as it came a day after holding Manchester City to a draw. Yet there is no room for sentimentality in the Premier League and the appointment of Sam Allardyce highlights the pragmatism behind West Brom’s thinking.
Allardyce knows how to spring teams out of relegation troubles like at Sunderland. Importantly, he can help bring a defensive solidity much needed, they have conceded the most goals in the league with 26.
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith will be hoping this West Midlands derby won’t result in multiple yellow or red cards for his players. 38 fouls, two red cards, and multiple yellows – Wolves/Aston Villa was thunderous and West Brom vs Aston Villa will be just as full-bloodied.
Smith will at least have the returning Douglas Luiz from suspension. Defence could be what separates the two teams in a derby and in Emiliano Martínez, Aston Villa have a goalkeeper that has kept six clean sheets in the league.
Prediction – West Brom 0-1 Aston Villa.
Bragging rights for Villa.
Burnley vs Wolves
After a morale-boosting win at Arsenal last week, Burnley continued their undefeated streak with a hard-fought goalless draw at Aston Villa. Burnley now face a monumental festive period, as their next three games after facing Wolves are Leeds, Sheffield United and Fulham.
All of these games are six-pointers, so getting a result against Wolves on Monday could do wonders for the Tykes’ hopes in the battle against getting out of the relegation zone. But everything is possible in football – many didn’t think Burnley would go to Arsenal and nick a win.
Photo: Pool – AFP / Getty Images
After a disappointing defeat to Aston Villa last week, Wolves showed real character in coming from behind to defeat Chelsea in midweek. In Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto, they may have found the short term solution to the absence of injured Raul Jiménez. Neto’s winner in injury time was fantastic and showed a composure that belies his young age.
Furthermore, manager Nuno Espírito Santo might stick with type, reverting to playing three central defenders after experimenting with a back four in their last four games. Sometimes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
Prediction – Burnley 1-1 Wolves
A crucial point for Sean Dyche.
Chelsea vs West Ham
Back-to-back league defeats at Everton and Wolves has led to Frank Lampard understandably air his concerns that his team are fatigued. While that may be the case in dealing with domestic and European games, there is also a concern at players misfiring such as Timo Werner and injuries in Hakim Ziyech.
These league defeats mean Chelsea now stand outside the top four and place a modicum of pressure on Lampard after the amount of money spent in the transfer window. And that will be more of a concern for those at the top at Chelsea.
West Ham will be looking to lay down a statement result at Stamford Bridge after being held to a draw at Crystal Palace. Sébastian Haller’s fantastic bicycle kick equaliser was undoubtedly the highlight of the game and the Ivorian striker is beginning to show part of the form at Eintracht Frankfurt a few years ago.
It is nearly a year since David Moyes took over, with the Hammers in relegation trouble. It is testament to Moyes that he has shaped a cohesive side that now sits in the top half of the table when many made them favourites for relegation.
Prediction – Chelsea 1-1 West Ham
Fatigue to hinder Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
By: Yousef Teclab
Featured Image: @GabFoligno – Jon Super / AFP – Michael Regan / Getty Images