City host United in Manchester derby, other EPL weekend fixtures
Manchester City vs Manchester United
Manchester City find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being 11 points adrift of the top after a stuttering start to the season by their lofty standards. Their hopes of a third-straight Premier League title appear all but over as Liverpool have collected six-straight wins and have only one draw from their opening 15 games. A 4-1 dismantling of Burnley at Turf Moor midweek slightly got their chase back on track but they will need to be nearly perfect for the remainder of the season, and a visit from a confident Manchester United will immediately test that. United were hugely impressive against Tottenham midweek, handing Jose Mourinho his first loss with the north London club. It was the ideal preparation for the first Manchester derby of the season, a game laced with importance and storylines as ever. For City its chasing down Liverpool, for United it’s all but ending that ambition for the noisy neighbours who now are their superiors. There’s been just one draw in the past seven matches, and the away side has won five of those games.
Bournemouth vs Liverpool
Liverpool’s sixth-straight win, a throttling 5-2 annihilation of rivals Everton in the Merseyside derby, cost Toffees boss Marco Silva his job and tightened their already vice grip on the Premier League title despite the season being just 15 games old. With just one blemish on their record, a draw with Manchester United, the Reds roll on and will travel to the nation’s south to play Bournemouth who have lost four-straight games. It could be a long day at the office for the Cherries who appear engaged in a battle for survival. Liverpool have won the last four matches between these sides and won this fixture 4-0 last season.
Everton vs Chelsea
Everton’s cataclysmic 5-2 loss in the Merseyside derby to Liverpool brought about the firing of Marco Silva; the worst kept secret in football. Silva has been on the hot seat for the better part of the season and the humiliation at Anfield was the final nail in his coffin. The Toffees are now in search of a new manager as they travel to west London to play Chelsea who have about as much optimism around the club as they have in years. Their transfer ban was reduced on Friday meaning Frank Lampard will have the club’s full financial force in January as they look to consolidate their top four position. They will be wary of an Everton side that may want to prove itself following the derby loss and the firing of their manager, and recent form says they’re in with a shot. Everton won this game 2-0 last season and earned a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.
West Ham vs Arsenal
Arsenal’s horrific season went from bad to worse on Thursday night as they lost at home to lowly Brighton 2-1, stretching their winless run to nine games, handing Freddie Ljungberg his first loss as manager and further poisoning an already toxic atmosphere around the Emirates. They truly are a club in crisis, particularly defensively where they appear to resemble a local amateur side rather than one of Europe’s elite. They travel to east London to face fellow strugglers West Ham in a fixture that always draws flair and fire, though that may be doured by the form of both sides. West Ham were unable to back up their huge win at Stamford Bridge over Chelsea with a win, falling 2-0 to Wolves to further entrench themselves in a relegation scrap. The Hammers won this game 1-0 last season, but Arsenal had won four of the previous five.
Tottenham vs Burnley
Tottenham suffered their first loss under Jose Mourinho midweek as Spurs fell 2-1 to Manchester United. They were obliterated in midfield by an underwhelming United lineup, at least on paper, and they will have to address that glaring issue in the January transfer window. They return back to London to host Burnley fresh off a 4-1 thrashing at home by Manchester City. Tottenham are now nine points shy of Chelsea in fourth and the chase for top four football appears a difficult one. Spurs won this fixture 1-0 last season but Burnley did beat them in February this year at home.
Aston Villa vs Leicester City
Leicester City’s stunning season rolled on midweek as Jamie Vardy made it seven-consecutive games scoring a goal, the second time in his career he’s done it. They cast aside a terrible Watford side 2-0 in a comfortable game for the Premier League’s second-place side, and they will be looking to continue that form as they travel north to play Aston Villa who are failing to establish themselves in England’s top flight. They didn’t offer nearly as much against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as they did against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and their horror three-game run continues with Brendan Rodgers’ red hot side coming to town. These sides last played in the EPL in the 2015/16 season where this match finished 1-1.
Brighton and Hove Albion vs Wolves
Brighton stunned Arsenal at the Emirates 2-1 on Thursday evening, the latest chapter in a horror novel for the Gunners, but a huge result for the Seagulls. The win gave them much-needed breathing room from the relegation zone and an air of confidence as Wolves come to the nation’s south fresh off a third win in four games. They are the side best keeping up with the top four at the moment and will want to keep pressing for a potential Champions League berth with their manager and star players starting to attract interest from Europe’s elite and Arsenal. Brighton won this game 1-0 last season.
Norwich City vs Sheffield United
Sheffield United made it four games without a win as they continue their freefall down the Premier League table following their hugely disappointing 2-0 loss at home to Newcastle. They’ll be wanting to snap that run against a struggling Norwich City who appear resigned to a season-long relegation scrap after backing up their 2-2 draw with Arsenal by losing 2-1 to fellow strugglers Southampton. This game may be a dire one for neutral fans. These teams have never met in the Premier League, but played in the Championship last season where this game finished 2-2.
Newcastle vs Southampton
Newcastle won 2-0 away to Sheffield United midweek in one of the surprise results of the weekday fixtures; and a hugely necessary one as they look to create a healthy distance between themselves and the relegation zone. Steve Bruce has managed to get the most out of a squad few believed would survive this season and a win over 17th place Southampton would further establish themselves midtable. The Saints have gone three-games unbeaten and have won two-straight to climb out of the relegation zone, at least for the time being. Newcastle won this game 3-1 last season.
Watford vs Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace made it back-to-back wins midweek defeating Bournemouth despite having only 10 men, a result that sent them back up the top half into 7th place. They have put a rough period behind them and look to be establishing themselves as a top half side again, and will be confident of consolidating that as they head to Watford to play the worst team in the Premier League. Watford have lost three-straight games and are seven points shy of safety, an increasingly fatal situation. There is history between these sides however, and maybe that can spur Watford on. Watford won both games between these sides 2-1 last season.