By Niall Clarke
- Five questions on our minds ahead of round 19 of the Premier League season
- Predictions for all 10 of the weekend’s games.
It is a New Year and many teams will be hoping for a change in fortunes in 2017, but there is one that will look for much of the same. Here are five burning questions for match-week 20.
Can Chelsea break the record?
All eyes will be on White Hart Lane as Chelsea look to break a Premier League record by winning their 14th straight match. The Blues have been invincible since switching to a 3-5-3 formation, but this is arguably the toughest match of the run.
Spurs are a very difficult team to beat, they have only lost two matches so far this season and have conceded the least amount of goals along with Chelsea thus far. They had the Blues on the ropes at Stamford Bridge only a few months a go, but Antonio Conte’s side were able to turn the match around for a 2-1 win.
With a six point gap at the top, Chelsea will take comfort with the cushion they have, but the media attention on this potentially record breaking win will be unescapable. Will the pressure toll or will they rise to the occasion? The big players will have to perform, they need Diego Costa to continue his excellent form, they need the creativity of Eden Hazard and the positional ability of N’Golo Kante to overcome a strong Tottenham team.
Can the contenders keep up with the pace?
With Chelsea potentially dropping points for the first time in 13 games, there is potential for some of the title rivals to close the gap at the top of the Premier League.
Liverpool travel to struggling Sunderland who were labelled ‘useless’ by their manager David Moyes after a 4-1 defeat at Burnley last weekend. Jurgen Klopp’s side were not great in their win over Manchester City but a win is a win no matter how they come. Liverpool will be looking to make a statement when they travel to the Stadium of Light on Monday. They will temporarily close the gap to three points with a win, and that gap could remain the same by the end of the match-week.
Manchester City are ten points off the lead at the half way stage, and it seems like their title challenge is hanging on by a thread. However, if Spurs defeat Chelsea and City are able to secure a home win against Burnley then they are back in the hunt.
Arsenal could close the gap themselves to only six points. It will be one of the rare times Gooners might be rooting for a Spurs win. Arsene Wenger’s side have a tough away game at Bournemouth on Tuesday, it is one of those potential banana skins that can catch the top sides out. Will the Gunners avoid the upset?
Can any of the bottom three kick off the year with a win?
It is fair to say for Sunderland, Hull and Swansea it was no a happy new year. These three clubs currently occupy the relegation spots in the Premier League and look destined for relegation unless their fortunes change.
Sunderland welcome Liverpool to the Stadium of Light. The Reds sit second in the Premier League and are heavy favourites to win this match, but Liverpool can sometimes fail to show up and if that is the case on Monday, Sunderland have a big opportunity to gain a some vital points.
Hull have a difficult away game of their own as they travel to West Brom. It is unlikely Hull will be able to beat a organised Baggies side, but every point is valuable in the relegation battle and it is possible that the Tigers can gain a credible draw at the Hawthorns.
Swansea are in big trouble if they do not turn their form around. That will be the aim when they head to Crystal Palace in a crucial relegation scrap. The Eagles sit only one place about the drop zone themselves but have taken the action of bringing in Sam Allardyce to save them from relegation. Swansea will look to do the same when they appoint their new manager, but for now they must face the task of beating Crystal Palace away in order to lift themselves from the bottom of the table.
Will Manchester United make it six wins in a row?
A lot of focus has been on Chelsea’s incredible 13 match winning streak so that means many have overlooked Manchester United’s own winning run. Jose Mourinho’s side have won five games on the bounce, including a very late turnaround against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
The Red Devils’ streak has brought them right back into the hunt for a top four finish. The title seems out of reach, but if they continue this good run of form then who knows what might happen. United travel south to the London Stadium to face a mid-table West Ham side who have struggled to find form in their new home.
Can United make it six in a row and potentially close the gap on their rivals? Or will this winning run come to an abrupt end at the hands of West Ham?
What else is happening?
There is no rest for the wicked. Leicester will look to build off their win over West Ham when they face Middlesbrough at the Riverside on Monday. The winner will take a big step towards survival.
Middlesbrough 1-1 Leicester
Everton 2-1 Southampton
Man City 3-1 Burnley
Sunderland 0-2 Liverpool
West Brom 2-0 Hull
West Ham 1-1 Man United
Bournemouth 2-2 Arsenal
Crystal Palace 3-1 Swansea
Stoke 2-1 Watford
Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea
The Premier League continues 2nd-4th January.
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