By Niall Clarke
- Five burning questions for match-week 23 of the Premier League season
- Predictions for all the weekend’s games
The Premier league returns with a bang as Liverpool host Chelsea in the pick of the games of match-week 23. Here are five questions on our minds for the upcoming fixtures.
Can Liverpool close the gap on Chelsea?
There is a sense that this game could be make or break for Liverpool. If they win they are right back in with a shout of winning the Premier League title, a loss would surely end their hopes of catching heir opponents Chelsea.
The Reds’ form has taken a turn for the worse lately and the gap between them and Chelsea has been extended to ten points as a result. Liverpool have also recently been knocked out of the EFL Cup by Southampton so they are keen to get back on track.
Chelsea on the other hand have recovered from the Spurs defeat and are right back to the form that saw them win 13 straight Premier League games. Despite the Diego Costa saga, the Blues continued to win and it seems their top scorer is back after the 2-0 win against Hull.
Liverpool will take confidence from the fact that they did defeat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but that was before the switch in formation. It will be interesting to see how the high pressing and attacking game of Liverpool matches up against the 3-4-3 Chelsea formation. You can see Liverpool having one of those games where they look irresistible, but they can also draw blanks and it is just as possible that Chelsea shut them out and nick a win. Either way this is a massive game for both sides, but especially for Liverpool who really need the three points.
Will the North London clubs take advantage of rivals dropping points?
With Chelsea facing a tough away day at Liverpool, there will be a big opportunity for Arsenal and Tottenham to close the gap at the top of the Premier League table or further the gap between themselves and the Reds.
Arsenal dramatically defeated Burnley last time out with a 95th minute Alexis Sanchez penalty securing a 2-1 win. The Gunners return home to face a Watford side who have been struggling for form after a good start to the season. It is difficult to see past Arsenal taking the three points as they should have too much quality for a Watford side who have not won in eight games.
Spurs would have considered themselves lucky to in a point at Manchester City, but it was a draw that saw them slip further behind Chelsea and saw Arsenal leapfrog them into second. Tottenham will be looking to close the gap again by going to Sunderland and getting back in the win column. This looks like a good match for Spurs on paper, but the Black Cats are fighting for their lives in the division. A win will be expected but this may be a tougher match than most realise, can Tottenham get the win and close the gap?
Will Sam Allardyce claim his first win as Crystal Palace boss?
When you are the manager of a club near the bottom of the Premier League, there is immense pressure on your shoulders every game to get a result. Since taking over as the Crystal Palace boss, Sam Allardyce has yet to taste victory, and as a result his side have slumped into the bottom three.
Palace travel to Bournemouth in a winnable game, but another one they will be expected to lose. There is hope however of getting the three points that could lift them out of the bottom three and closer to Premier League safety. That is the task that has been assigned to the former England manager, and it is an uphill one to say the least.
Will Big Sam lead his side to their first win in nine and their first since he took the reigns? Or will the Eagles suffer more dropped points in their fight for survival?
Will Hull upset Manchester United again?
It was less than a week a go that Hull defeated Manchester United 2-1 in the EFL Cup. The Red Devils would advance to the final on aggregate, but that and the positive performance against Chelsea show that Hull are a club possibly on the up. Marco Silva improved the way his side are playing, and it looks like the Tigers could achieve their aim of Premier League survival.
A win against Manchester United would be huge for their chances. It is unlikely, but they have proved they can do it at home in the EFL cup. It would be a win that could possibly lift the Tigers out of the relegation zone and into 17th place.
It is a difficult task though, and a United win will be expected. Jose Mourinho’s side have not lost in the Premier League since being beaten 4-0 by Chelsea in October, and it that sort of form that has seen them move closer to the top four. A win would not see them enter the Champions league spots, but it could see them leapfrog their neighbours Man City into fifth place if they fail to get a result at West Ham.
Will Hull upset the odds and inflict their second straight victory on Man United? Or will the Red Devils see off the threat of the Tigers and keep up their bid for a top four finish?
What else is happening?
As mentioned above, Manchester City travel to West Ham on Wednesday. The Citizens can ill afford more dropped points as Chelsea keep moving further and further away, and with Man United digging at their heels they need a win at the London stadium.
Everton will look to keep up their bid for European football when they travel to Stoke on Wednesday. West Bromwich Albion, who have similar aspirations, travel to a Middlesbrough side that are in need of a win to move clear of the relegation zone.
Leicester are also dangerously close to that fate too, and they have a tough away trip to Burnley to worry about on Tuesday. Swansea will look to build on their incredible win against Liverpool with another against Southampton.
Arsenal 3-0 Watford
Bournemouth 2-1 Crystal Palace
Burnley 1-0 Leicester
Middlesbrough 0-0 West Brom
Sunderland 0-2 Tottenham
Swansea 1-1 Southampton
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
West Ham 1-1 Man City
Man United 2-0 Hull
Stoke 2-2 Everton
The Premier League returns on Tuesday 31 January.
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