Okay, so Liverpool’s showdown with Manchester United at Anfield turned out to be anything but a classic, but there is reason to be optimistic Premier League fans!
The title race is wide open, teams do know how to defend after all and we’re only halfway through the 2020/21 season. But if that isn’t enough to get the juices flowing, maybe the serving of six additional clashes in ‘gameweek 19’ before a weekend of FA Cup fourth round action will come to the rescue.
For those of you of a fantasy football persuasion, you’ll be particularly interested and if you’re not, well, you’re probably interested anyway if you’re reading this. So, let’s not waste any more valuable time, let’s dive into 90min’s previews and predictions.
West Ham midfielder Declan Rice has emerged as a target for Manchester United, who plan to challenge Chelsea for his signature in the summer.
Previewing West Ham’s Premier League game with Burnley at the London Stadium
Player ratings from West Ham’s narrow 1-0 win over Burnley at the London Stadium.
Chelsea vs Manchester United will see second place take on the leaders in the WSL on Sunday – how to watch, team news, recent form & prediction.
West Ham vs West Brom
To kick things off there’s a good old fashioned reunion (of sorts) down in the east end of London, as Sam Allardyce takes West Brom to former club West Ham.
Albion’s boss was in charge of the Hammers for four years, famously leading them back into the Premier League after a late Ricardo Vaz Te goal at Wembley, helping to re-establish them as a top flight side.
How good is Tomas Soucek?
This is a question that’s crept up more and more over the past few months, as the Czech international becomes a seemingly more integral part of West Ham’s team each and every week.
In short, he’s very good in the air – winning more aerial battles in the Premier League than anybody else to date – and has excellent stamina for a box-to-box midfielder.
He also scores goals, to the delight of fantasy football managers everywhere.
He’s now tasked with saving West Brom’s skin after a miserable start to life post-promotion, and the weekend win away at Wolves will have done wonders for confidence. But confidence is high at West Ham under David Moyes, particularly now Michail Antonio is back fit and leading the line. He was on the scoresheet against Burnley at the weekend, and has a great chance for more joy here.
Prediction: West Ham 3-1 West Brom
Leicester vs Chelsea
Leicester’s ascension into Champions League contenders last season surprised some, but there’s no doubting the credentials of Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes after their superb first half to the season.
Third in the table and just two points off top is where Leicester find themselves; a position that Frank Lampard and Chelsea may think they should be in, given the amount of money they splurged on signings in the summer.
True, it takes time to bed players in, but Lampard is under the pump at Stamford Bridge and needs to gel his side quickly if they’re to have any hope of pushing for a top four finish. Leicester’s indifferent home form should give them reason to be optimistic, but the form guide suggests Jamie Vardy and co. could be set for another Tuesday night party.
Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Chelsea
Manchester City vs Aston Villa
If you hadn’t already noticed, Manchester City are back in the goals and very much back in form under Pep Guardiola.
Now just two points behind neighbourhood rivals United, City could go top of the league – albeit for a couple of hours – if they’re able to swat aside an Aston Villa side who have been riddled with COVID-19 related problems over the past couple of weeks.
Will Phil Foden play?
You never really know what Guardiola is going to do with his team selection, but the Spaniard is a big fan of rotation in January. Many felt Foden was undroppable after scoring four goals in his previous six games, but he was left on the bench against Crystal Palace to ensure he could be fresh for what is potentially a tougher test.
Expect him to start against Villa, yes.
The Villans have had to close their training ground, postpone a number of games – it will be 19 days since their last Premier League fixture – and haven’t taken to the field since their nursery was picked apart by a unnecessarily strong Liverpool in the FA Cup third round. All of those indicators point to another home win.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Aston Villa
Fulham vs Manchester United
Should City emerge victorious at the Etihad Stadium, the pressure will then be on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United to reclaim top spot with a win over improving Fulham.
The Red Devils have been exceptionally good on the road, so on paper you’d think this is a banker three points against a team neck deep in a relegation battle. But Scott Parker’s Cottagers are showing that they are made of stern stuff, and were unlucky not to keep Chelsea at bay over the weekend following Antonee Robinson’s red card.
A point was recently picked up against Spurs, too, but this may be one step too far against a side who will have the top of the table carrot dangling in front of them at kick off.
Prediction: Fulham 1-2 Manchester United
Liverpool vs Burnley
Few people would have ever imagined that Liverpool – with that front three – would be struggling in front of goal; but the reality is that Jurgen Klopp’s side have now gone three Premier League games without a goal, and appear to no longer be the dominant force of last season.
Yes, yes, yes, injuries have played a massive part in the Reds’ drop off, and there’s no disputing that Jordan Henderson and Fabinho’s presence in central defence rather than central midfield has had a detrimental impact. But here, all eyes will be on messieurs Salah, Firmino and Mane to get Liverpool firing against a Burnley side who are, well, doing what they usually do.
Sean Dyche’s will (probably) hope that grit, determination and being an all round pain in the arse can salvage a point, but Liverpool – and Klopp – will be pumped and ready to break their duck.
Prediction: Liverpool 4-0 Burnley
Aston Villa vs Newcastle
What time is kick off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Villa Park
TV channel? Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
Predicting and previewing Aston Villa’s second game of the week when they haven’t played their first is a little different, but we’re all used to things being a bit weird by now, eh?
By our calculations, Villa will have been knocked off in the week by a reinvigorated Manchester City side with eyes on the title, meaning they’ll be looking to get back on track against Steve Bruce’s turgid Newcastle.
The Magpies boss has had a rough time of it late, bemoaning some of the personal criticism he’s received from the club’s supporters, as well as laying into his players for being ‘absolutely sh*te’ against Sheffield United.
Throw in the fact that they’ll arrive in the Midlands five days after playing Arsenal at the Emirates, (result unknown at the time of writing) and things could be even grimmer. We know what that probably means…
Prediction: Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle