Weekend Wanderings: Brighton take on Bournemouth as West Ham go head to head with Leicester City and Celtic v Rangers

Whether you think the football fixture list is a crime or not, there is no denying that the festive period is one of the most enjoyable times as a football fan. 

Just 48 hours after Boxing Day teams are ready to go back out onto the pitch again with more points for grabs. 

In short, particularly with the bottom half of the table so congested, every team in the Premier League needs them. 

Alasdair Hooper is back with all the games you can enjoy in this weeks edition of Weekend Wanderings. 

Brighton v Bournemouth (Saturday, 12.30pm) 

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Saturday begins with two south coast rivals who are teetering a bit too close to the relegation zone for their liking.

On Boxing Day Brighton’s efforts yielded no points – despite an impressive performance it was Tottenham that came from behind to win in north London. 

Despite the plaudits that have come the way of Graham Potter and the Seagulls, the team haven’t always got what they deserve. 

Similarly, Bournemouth’s form remains topsy-turvy and both sides go into the game locked on 20 points in 15th and 16th. 

You get the sense that the winner here will see this as a huge result in moving their season forward. 

West Ham v Leicester City (Saturday, 5.30pm) 

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Leicester have been brought down to earth relatively speaking after their defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City, but that should in no way detract from the phenomenal season they have enjoyed. 

What’s more, for a team looking to get back to winning ways, there is probably no better side to play against than struggling West Ham. 

Once again manager Manuel Pellegrini is on the brink after the team lost 2-1 to Crystal Palace on Boxing Day – a game they were winning. 

That result means the Hammers have now dropped 15 points from winning positions this season. Had they kept hold of those 15 points they would be in the Champions League positions. 

Instead the team’s mental fragility and unconvincing play means they are a point and a place above the relegation zone, which is miles away from where they intended to be after the summer investment. 

Many fans and pundits are asking the same question – how much longer can Pellegrini last?

Arsenal v Chelsea (Sunday, 2pm) 

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Sunday’s headline fixture sees two teams who need the points for very different reasons, as well as two young up-and-coming managers going toe-to-toe. 

For Chelsea, their surprise defeat to Southampton means it is five defeats in their last seven league games and they are only just clinging onto their place in the top four. 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta managed to pick up a point in his first game in charge but, as the game against Bournemouth showed, a lot of the same problems still seem to be lingering. 

The Gunners are still in the bottom half of the table – in 11th place – and if they are to salvage anything from this season Arteta and the players need to get to grips with things very quickly. 

Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers (Sunday 4.30pm) 

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With a 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League as this is written, the league title is very much Liverpool’s to lose. 

Their performance against Leicester on Boxing Day showed them at their scintillating best and the huge gap gives Liverpool the licence to change up their playing personell. 

However, they could have done with an easier opponent just 48 hours after that trip to the King Power. 

As Jurgen Klopp alluded to, their fixture list remains daunting and Wolves are more than capable of causing a shock upset. 

For many observers the question has been ‘will Liverpool lose in the league?’ but teams like Wolves are capable of spoiling that party. 

Celtic v Rangers (Sunday 12.30pm) 

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Up in Scotland there’s not much debate in what is the headline fixture – the latest edition of the Old Firm derby. 

With the two teams’ neck and neck for much of the season, Celtic have gradually opened up their gap at the top of the table to five points. 

Adding that to their win in the Scottish League Cup final earlier this month – a game Rangers probably deserved to win – and suddenly it looks like Neil Lennon’s players have the edge on their rivals. 

Now is the time for Rangers to make a major statement, a win would help to reel Celtic in that bit closer and, with a game in hand on their title rivals, Steven Gerrard’s team could suddenly be in the stronger position. 

But as the previous meetings have shown this game will be feisty, dogged and an intensely intriguing watch.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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