By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- The festive Premier League schedule swings into top gear on Boxing Day, as Watford host Chelsea in game of the week
- Manchester City look to bounce back away to Leicester City after the weekend’s shock loss to Crystal Palace
- Brighton & Hove Albion entertain Arsenal at the AMEX Stadium
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – With a Boxing Day festive bonanza on the menu, Chelsea will look to respond from their weekend defeat away to Watford at Vicarage Road in game of the week.
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Game of the Week: Watford vs. Chelsea (Boxing Day, 19:30)
Niall: After a shocking defeat at home to Leicester on Saturday, Chelsea will look to brighten their Christmas spirit with a response against a dangerous Watford side. The Hornets won away at West Ham at the weekend which moved them up to seventh in the table, only two points behind Manchester United in sixth. Watford have been impressive thus far and their quest for European football could take a big step forward with a win at home to here.
After a strong start, the Blues have dropped off a little in recent weeks and their top four status is under threat. Maurizio Sarri has to navigate the difficult Christmas period for the first time as manager so it will be interesting to see if any changes are made from their 1-0 loss.
The hosts did defeat the Blues in this fixture last season, but that was a different Watford and a different Chelsea. This will be a fun fixture with both teams looking for the win, but the spoils may end up being shared on Boxing Day.
Prediction: Watford 2-2 Chelsea
Neil: The wheels have fallen off the Chelsea machine in recent weeks, and after defeat to the Foxes, this will be a test for the visiting west Londoners who Watford will be keen to inflict more festive misery on Sarri.
The hosts themselves picked up an impressive win at West Ham who have hit form in recent weeks, and the Hornets will look to sting their illustrious visitors and – as Niall states – retain slim hopes of a top-six finish come May.
Watford’s season continues in undulating fashion, but the return to fitness of Gerard Deulofeu has been keen to the recent upturn in form. Indeed, the Spanish flyer will be key to unlocking Chelsea here.
This should be a post-Christmas cracker with goals on the cards, but I rather fancy the Blues to be a team scorned. Eden Hazard has not hit the heights since his early-season scoring habits, but the Belgian will look to this game as the fuel to relight his engine. Hazard will very likely be the catalyst for a narrow away win.
Prediction: Watford 1-2 Chelsea
Neil’s One to Watch: Leicester City vs. Manchester City (Boxing Day, 15:00)
Only the bravest of punters would have had backed Crystal Palace to beat the Citizens on their own patch, but that is how events transpired on Saturday afternoon – via Andros Townsend‘s spectacular 30-yard volley.
The task for Pep Guardiola‘s men is to make an immediate riposte, which the Spaniard will demand from his players. That however will not be an easy task at the King Power Stadium against a buoyed Leicester side, who took the scalp of one of the visitor’s title rivals in Chelsea.
When City have lost in the past, there has been a strong reaction and I expect nothing less here. Leicester themselves have a checkered run of results at home and that inconsistency could continue on Boxing Day.
I might ordinarily tip the hosts to at least score, but Guardiola will have had his troops working hard on Christmas Day undoubtedly and for that reason I can see an easy win here for City. That is not to say the Foxes wont have a go at their opponents and from a narrative perspective alone, this is one to watch.
Prediction: Leicester City 0-2 Manchester City
Niall’s One to Watch: Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Arsenal (Boxing Day, 17:15)
Despite three straight defeats, Brighton can climb towards the top half of the table if they manage to upset Arsenal in my one to watch for Boxing Day. Last weekend was certainly a round of upsets and there could be another Christmas ‘miracle’ when the Seagulls welcome the Gunners to the AMEX Stadium.
Brighton are a difficult side to beat at home and with their physical style of play they can cause the more technical Arsenal a lot of problems. Unai Emery’s men can propel themselves into the top four if results go their way on Wednesday, but that has to start with a win at Brighton.
After beating Burnley on Saturday, Arsenal are back in the win column following two games without a league victory, putting behind them the disappointing result at Southampton the week prior.
With many of the big teams away on Boxing Day, any risk takers may see a few upsets on the cards and this could be one of them. The Seagulls got the better of this fixture last season and although the Gunners have improved this term, this may prove to be a tough match for them.
Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Arsenal
Premier League Gameweek 19’s Game of the Week sees Watford host Chelsea at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day evening.
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