By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- The Britwatch Football team are back, as Wolverhampton Wanderers host Liverpool in game of the week
- Manchester United begin the post-Mourinho era away to Cardiff City
- Everton host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday in final game before Christmas
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – The hectic festive schedule swings into gear this weekend for gameweek 18, as Wolves and Liverpool meet at Molineux on Friday evening.
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Game of the week: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Liverpool (Friday, 20:00)
Niall: Table-toppers Liverpool face a difficult trip to face Wolverhampton Wanderers as they look to remain unbeaten in the Premier League in our game of the week. Wolves are a bit of a strange side. They play better against the top six than the rest of the league it seems and their results suggest that. Out of the five they have faced thus far, only Spurs have defeated the newly-promoted side.
Liverpool might be the best team in England at the moment. They are the only unbeaten team left In the league and as a result top the table, one point ahead of second placed Manchester City. The Reds are coming into Friday’s match on a high note after soundly beating Manchester United 3-1 on Sunday, but this will prove to be a difficult test.
Wolves are one of the best teams outside of the top six and Molineux has proven to be a difficult place to visit for even the likes of City and Chelsea, however there just seems to be something about Liverpool that suggests they will get the job done. With their attacking power and new found solidity at the back, they may scrape a narrow win against a tough Wolves team that will be one of their bigger tests of the season.
Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Liverpool
Neil: It may surprise many that this is our pick this weekend, but this should be a fascinating contest in the Black Country. As Niall states, the hosts have been a handful for the top six sides this season so far – in some cases, more than – and this should be no different for Jurgen Klopp‘s men.
After a rocky patch also, with Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men having hit form approaching Christmas, this game could seriously threaten the Reds’ unbeaten league run this campaign.
Liverpool were dominant against United last Sunday and the scoreline did not flatter them one bit, but they will get a sterner test here there is little doubting that.
With their next game five days away, Klopp will likely resist the temptation to rotate his squad with easier looking fixtures over the festive period ahead of their blockbuster clash with title rivals City at the Etihad on January 3.
For that reason I expect the visitors to take the spoils with the sheer attacking verve and pace they have – especially after Mohamed Salah‘s hat-trick last weekend – but Wolves will make them sweat for all three points, if indeed they achieve that.
Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-3 Liverpool
Neil’s one to watch: Cardiff City vs. Manchester United (Saturday, 17:30)
The post-Mourinho era begins in south Wales on Saturday, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes charge of Manchester Uniited as they travel to Cardiff City, hoping for an instant impact.
That however, may be easier said than done against a Bluebirds side that is in decent form – at home at least. Neil Warnock‘s side have won their last three games at home on the trot and will be licking their lips at a Red Devils defence that lacks backbone.
Since the Norwegian took over the Old Trafford dugout with caretaker duties in Manchester in midweek, United’s traveling army of fans will be hoping to see even a glimpse of progress that had been badly lacking under the Portuguese in recent months.
On paper, this game would point to any easy win but even if any early honeymoon period beds in for Solskjaer, Cardiff have become a tough nut to crack on their own patch.
That, I think will reflect on this weekend’s game and I can see goals here. The priority for United will be to avoid defeat which I feel they will, but I don’t get the impression the visitors will be returning across the border with full Premier League spoils.
Prediction: Cardiff City 1-1 Manchester United
Niall’s one to watch: Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Sunday, 16:00)
Sunday’s only offering is an interesting one as Tottenham Hotspur look to keep their title aspirations alive when they travel to Goodison Park to face Everton.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are currently six points behind league leaders Liverpool, but by the time they face Everton they may have the chance to close that gap. At the moment it does look like a two-horse race, but Tottenham are capable of picking up a good run of form that may put them in the mix.
With Manchester United struggling and sacking Mourinho, Everton have a chance to break into the top six under their own Portuguese manager Marco Silva. The Toffees are two points behind the Red Devils in eighth. Their form book does not read good though with only one win in their last five matches.
Spurs have won four in their last five in all competitions so come into this match with the better form of the two sides. The Lilywhites also did the double over Everton last season, including a 3-0 win at Goodison Park, so everything seems to be pointing towards a Tottenham win. It will be closer than last season though as under Silva Everton have improved from last year. It will be an entertaining game either way and could be decided by the odd goal or end in a stalemate.
Prediction: Everton 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League Gameweek 18’s game of the week sees Wolverhampton Wanderers host Liverpool on Friday evening, at Molineux.
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