The people that benefit most from the Premier League not having a winter break, are the fans. With the festive period kicking off this weekend Mark Young has predictions for some of the eye-catching fixtures, with Rich Laverty the contender this week.
Last week’s predictions could have been better, but with a goal here, a goal there and a possible lifted shot from Raheem Sterling, some of the big price predictions may have come in.
Liverpool’s Sanchez Regret Could Haunt Them
Liverpool 1-3 Arsenal
Liverpool’s supposed revival kicked off with a convincing win at Championship club Bournemouth, in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday, but they could still pay the price for failing to secure a top target in the summer – when Arsenal come to visit on Sunday.
Liverpool were linked with Alexis Sanchez until the Gunners stepped in, and he’s proved to be a revelation ever since signing from Barcelona.
Liverpool have struggled for goals and clean sheets this season and despite how bad some Arsenal fans may have you believe their season is going, they have actually won five out of their last six games – including last weekend’s impressive thrashing of Newcastle.
Brendan Rodgers’ team were missing chances and conceding easy goals at Old Trafford last weekend, and Alexis Sanchez will be licking his lips at the prospect of causing Liverpool’s defenders trouble. Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud will also look to cause problems for the shaky Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel, as well as for Brad Jones in goal.
Arsenal are still struggling to field a defence, with fitness concerns over Laurent Koscielny, but Wenger and co. should still have enough with their firepower to overcome a confidence stricken Liverpool team.
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal (Soz KB)
It’s time for both to put down a statement and for that reason, neither will. The home side’s attack clicked against United and were only denied by De Gea whilst Arsenal will have no problems scoring but plenty of issues conceding.
Match Result: Arsenal 31/20
Correct Score: Arsenal 3-1 20/1
The Strikerless Slickers against the Slick skills
Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace
Manchester City kick off the Premier League weekend with what should prove to be a fairly routine victory, at home to Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace.
One of the few doubts for City is that they can’t actually field a senior striker with; Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic all ruled out through injury – leaving Spaniard Jose Pozo to lead the line.
That means City will have to rely on their creative midfielders; Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri to step up – like Frank Lampard did at Leicester City last weekend. Add to those four the industry and ability of James Milner and City should have enough for a win.
Palace’s threat comes from the skill of Yannick Bolasie and Manchester United loanee, Wilfried Zaha, who demonstrated their slick footwork in an away draw with Spurs a fortnight ago. However, City will be expected to deal with them and secure an easy victory to kick off the Christmas period.
Manchester City 3-1 Crystal Palace
Should be a relatively simple routine home win for title-chasing City but Palace have caused teams plenty of problems lately. With Kompany missing, Bolasie and Zaha could continue to cause issues but a in-form City will prosper.
Best Odds: (Source: Oddschecker 19/12)
Match Results: Manchester City 3/10
Correct Score: Man City 2-0 6/1
Newcastle’s North East Revenge
Newcastle 2-0 Sunderland
Newcastle United have conceded eight goals in two trips to North London this week, but they can rectify that by beating North East rivals Sunderland on Sunday.
Alan Pardew’s team have had a great spell recently, including five wins on the bounce and a huge win against the previously unbeaten Chelsea. However, a 4-1 loss at Arsenal and a 4-0 defeat against Tottenham in the Capital One Cup can’t be too good for morale, can it?
What works in Newcastle’s favour is that despite Sunderland’s good record against the Magpies, they can’t seem to score many goals – with only 14 netted so far this season.
On the flip side they don’t concede many either, unless they play against Southampton on an incredibly unlucky afternoon.
Tim Krul is missing through injury as is Rob Elliot. Third-choice goalkeeper Jak Alnwick is also a doubt. Steven Taylor’s return from suspension – after his red card against Chelsea – will be a boost as he looks to partner Fabricio Coloccini and further consolidate the Magpies’ rearguard.
Papiss Cisse was rested in midweek and should be the spark that will blow the roof off St James’ Park, along with the returning Moussa Sissoko, and secure the Christmas bragging rights.
Newcastle 2-1 Sunderland
Too close to call, almost. Neither particularly inspire confidence but home advantage may just be the key here. Sissoko’s back and Cisse should be fresh to bag the winner (off the bench).
Match Result: Newcastle 21/20
Correct Score: Newcastle 2-0 19/2
Can they do it on a cold windy night in Stoke?
Stoke 1-1 Chelsea
Chelsea travel to the Britannia Stadium on the Monday before Christmas but Mark Hughes and his team will not be feeling festive enough to give Jose Mourinho a gift.
Stoke will be looking to earn their own Christmas present by getting something from Chelsea, who have started to look a little shaky on their Premier League travels with a recent defeat at Newcastle and a goalless draw at Sunderland.
Their home form is undoubtedly brilliant and Stoke will be looking to take advantage of the Blues when they visit for what promises to be a feisty encounter. Eden Hazard has been the difference for Chelsea in recent weeks but Diego Costa returned to the score sheet at home to Hull last week.
In their last home game, Stoke beat Arsenal 3-2 after racing into a three-goal lead – courtesy of Peter Crouch, Bojan and Jonathan Walters.
Stoke have fared well in big games this season, with a win at the Etihad and were denied a point against Manchester United after heroics from De Gea.
The Britannia will be rocking and Stoke will seriously fancy their chances of earning a point.
Stoke 1-2 Chelsea
A classic Chelsea performance. Sneak a couple of goals in early on, concede one late on before throwing John Obi Mikel into the mix. Stoke’s onslaught against Arsenal a rare home surprise, so Chelsea should sneak it.
Match Result: Draw 3/1
Correct Score: Draw 1-1 15/2
United’s Second Home
Aston Villa 1-4 Manchester United
Aston Villa away always seems to be a good confidence boost and three points for Manchester United – with the Red Devils only losing once since the turn of the century.
Out of their last five trips to Villa Park, United have won four of them and scored six in their last two visits. Even David Moyes’ United won convincingly last season, with Tom Cleverley getting on the score sheet in a 3-0 win.
There shouldn’t be too much difference on Saturday afternoon, as United go in search of their seventh win in a row.
Louis Van Gaal’s philosophy seems to have finally settled, and despite injuries still being a huge problem, they have firepower in abundance. Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney are on fire and Radamel Falcao is chomping at the bit for more game time.
Phil Jones and Johnny Evans should finally be able to build a solid defensive partnership in front of United’s player of the season so far – David De Gea.
Aston Villa will cause a threat through Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor, but the momentum that six wins on the bounce has generated, will have United firing at the beginning of a Christmas period that could see them emerge as dark horses for the title. But it all has to start at Villa Park.
Aston Villa 0-2 Manchester United
No reason why United shouldn’t continue their winning run at Villa Park, a happy hunting ground for them in recent years, albeit it’s a blow for them that Tom Cleverley can’t play. Falcao to score.
Match Result: Manchester United 4/6
Correct Score: Man Utd 4-1 33/1