It’s beginning to look like Christmas, but will there be any crackers in the Premier League this weekend?
Man Utd will be starting life without Jose Mourinho as the wonders of the fixture computer throw up a return to Cardiff for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. Elsewhere, Liverpool’s unbeaten record will be on the line as they face in-form Wolves, while Man City will be looking for another home win against Crystal Palace to keep the pressure on the Reds.
Here are our Premier League predictions ahead of a gruelling week of festive football for all 20 sides.
Wolves vs Liverpool
Case for the home side: Wolves are fearless – as shown in their impressive results against ‘Big Six’ opposition this season. Nuno will send his side out fully in the belief they can upset another of the Premier League’s leading lights.
Case for the away side: Are Liverpool getting the credit they deserve at the top of the table? It’s almost Christmas Day and the Reds are unbeaten, but many pundits are still questioning whether they can stay the distance. They have come through every test so far – and Wolves will have to be at their best to stop a side high on confidence from steamrollering Man Utd.
Verdict: A potential banana skin for Liverpool – Wolves to claim another unexpected point against one of the elite. 1-1
Arsenal vs Burnley
Case for the home side: The right game at the right time for Unai Emery after his first disappointing week at the club. Burnley give far too many chances away for Arsenal not to capitalise.
Case for the away side: Some of the old Dyche magic appears to be back with Burnley successfully parking the bus in recent games even if they are still struggling to get out their own half. Damage limitation will be the order of the day for the Clarets.
Verdict: Arsenal to bounce back at the Emirates. 3-0
Bournemouth vs Brighton
Case for the home side: The Cherries are something of a bogey team for Brighton – it’s been 10 years since they have won this fixture regardless of which league the two sides have been in.
Case for the away side: The Seagulls look less of a soft touch on the road this season with shrewd summer signings allowing Hughton to shuffle the pack with the likes of Andone and Bissouma to call on and change a game.
Verdict: The barren run continues for Brighton. 2-1
Chelsea vs Leicester City
Case for the home side: It’s been a solid couple of weeks for Maurizio Sarri with Chelsea recovering their winning habit after ending Man City’s unbeaten record. They should be confident of continuing their recent run against a badly out-of-form Leicester City.
Case for the away side: Claude Puel has been a man under pressure before in the Leicester hotseat, but has always managed to find a result where he needs one. Can he go back-to-basics here and nick a point to start rebuilding confidence?
Verdict: Chelsea to make it a Blue Christmas for Claude Puel. 2-0
Huddersfield vs Southampton
Case for the home side: No team battles harder than Huddersfield, and David Wagner will be desperate to avoid another damaging home defeat with the Terriers recently dropping valuable points against Newcastle and Brighton. Can they come flying out of the traps and exploit a vulnerable Saints defence?
Case for the away side: A win might just have changed everything for Ralph Hasenhüttl, with positive vibes now running through the camp after their gutsy 3-2 victory over Arsenal. Back-to-back wins at this stage could be a massive psychological boost as they take on one of their relegation rivals.
Verdict: More woe in West Yorkshire for the Terriers. 1-2
Man City vs Crystal Palace
Case for the home side: City will be expecting them to make it 10 from 10 at the Etihad but Pep Guardiola will be wary of an Eagles side that caused them plenty of problems when the two sides met at Selhurst Park last season, where Palace missed a late penalty to miss out on all three points.
Case for the away side: A win without Wilfried Zaha was just what the doctor ordered for the Eagles last weekend. Now he’s escaped that unwanted stat Roy Hodgson will be hoping his pacy Eagles attack can cause problems for City on the counter.
Verdict: City to turn on the style at the Etihad. 4-0
Newcastle Utd vs Fulham
Case for the home side: For all the limitations of the squad he has to play with, Rafa Benítez’s Newcastle are an extremely well-drilled unit. A tight, scrappy game would play into their hands against a Fulham side likely to suffer from self-inflicted errors.
Case for the away side: A fired-up Aleksandar Mitrović could be their biggest asset as he looks to prove a point against Benítez and make it an uncomfortable Christmas for the Magpies.
Verdict: Superior organisation to hand Newcastle the victory. 1-0
West Ham vs Watford
Case for the home side: The Hammers are one of the form teams of the division and finally look like a side capable of mounting a genuine push for the European places. Could they be the best of the rest?
Case for the away side: Just as you start to write them off, the Hornets tend to bounce back with a surprise result from nowhere. The win against Cardiff was too close for comfort in the end, but could they punish a Hammers side still capable of an off-day.
Verdict: Happy Christmas for the Hammers. 2-1
Cardiff City vs Man Utd
Case for the home side: Ole Gunnar Solksjaer couldn’t have picked a more awkward fixture to begin his caretaker stint as Man Utd manager as he heads to the club where he endured a miserable nine months back in 2014. Neil Warnock will be all too aware of the added focus on this fixture, and will have his side fired up for all three points.
Case for the away side: After weeks of soap opera, can Solksjaer bring a sense of calm to the Utd dressing room? Expect the likeable Norwegian to play good cop in his first few days at the club – and that might be enough to lift the Reds to a much needed victory.
Verdict: A scrap, but it’s the three points that will matter for Solksjaer. 1-2
Everton vs Spurs
Case for the home side: The Toffees have lost at home just once this season. That’s form which is keeping them nicely poised in the chasing back below the top six, albeit too many draws are proving costly.
Case for the away side: Spurs will be on cloud nine after a famous win over rivals Arsenal in midweek, and will be aware any dropped points even at this stage might be terminal for their title chances.
Verdict: Honours even as Everton draw again at Goodison. 1-1
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