After the battering most of us took at the weekend, the best thing for everyone is jump straight back into it, writes Gary Lemke. With the ‘festive season’ upon us, it’s also that time of year when there’s frenzied activity in the English Premier League.
The craziness starts with two matches tonight, six tomorrow night (Wednesday) and two more on Thursday night. Then, the weekend sees another full round.
It’s the time of year when the depth of squads gets tested to its fullest and historically those teams who do well in the coming fortnight go on to contest for places in Europe come the end of the season.
There’s also that “bottom at Christmas” bogey that lurks. Traditionally the team that’s bottom of the table at Christmas is relegated. There can not be anything much bleaker than that for Sheffield United who have to beat Manchester United and Brighton in their next two matches to avoid being bottom.
A development in the last couple of days is that the lockdown in England means that the only clubs who can now enjoy some home fans in their stadium is Liverpool, Southampton and Brighton. The London clubs are amongst those who have to play behind closed doors again.
After the last round of upsets, here’s an updated list of the most popular results seen so far:
1-0: 24 times
2-1: 16 times
2-0: 13 times
1-1: 13 times
3-0: 11 times
3-1: 8 times
Onto this week’s round.
Wolves 1 Chelsea 2: The hosts have hit a slump and have lost their last two, while Chelsea’s unbeaten streak came to an end at Everton last week. In their last 10 League head-to-heads, Chelsea have won seven and Wolves two.
Man City 3 West Brom 0: Here I’m relying on “common sense” but much of that has been thrown out the window this season. City drew 0-0 with Manchester rivals United at the weekend while West Brom lost 2-1 at Newcastle. This could well be one of those “on the rebound” responses from the hosts.
Arsenal 2 Southampton 2: Would you believe that the Gunners have lost 7 of their last 10 games? This is a tricky call. Many is us who have been backing them have obviously been doing so on sentiment. They were again poor in losing 1-0 to struggling Burnley at the weekend, while Southampton have moved up to fourth in the table.
Leeds 1 Newcastle 1: This looks close, with 14th meeting 12th. The hosts have lost their last 2 while Newcastle have won their last 2. Leeds have actually performed better away from home this season. Any of the three results is possible.
Leicester 2 Everton 1: Leicester snapped a two-game losing streak by winning their last two. Everton meanwhile bounced back to form with a vital 1-0 win over Chelsea. Leicester, after a dozen matches, are one of only two teams in the League to not have drawn a game so far. That could change here.
Fulham 1 Brighton 1: Both are hovering around the relegation mark on the table although Brighton’s earlier form was that of a mid-table side, not bottom-feeders. Fulham scrapped well in the rain to hold Liverpool to an upset draw last round, while Brighton were thumped by Leicester.
West Ham 2 Crystal Palace 1: A London derby without the fans. Their last 10 head-to-heads have yielded four wins for West Ham and two for Palace, although Palace won both their League encounters last season 2-1. Yet another in a tough season of calls where all three results are possible.
Liverpool 2 Tottenham 1: The match of the round, between the top 2 sides on the table after 12 games. Liverpool have that amazing Anfield record to protect and have won all 6 of their home League games so far this season. But, Tottenham themselves are flying and after losing to Everton in the first game of the season, are unbeaten in their last 11. Something has to give here, surely?
Aston Villa 1 Burnley 0: Burnley moved out of the relegation zone by beating Arsenal away last round so will be buzzing ahead of their trip to Villa. But still, Burnley have scored 6 goals from their 11 games and I have the feeling here that one goal can nick all 3 points.
Sheffield United 0 Man United 2: The visitors couldn’t have a Christmas present more gift wrapped if they tried. The hosts’ only point of the season so far came in October, courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Fulham.,They’ve done nothing to suggest all season that they’ll be able to take a point even off a misfiring Man United here.