By Niall Clarke
- Five questions on our minds ahead of round 17 of the Premier League season
- Predictions for all 10 of the weekend’s games.
The Premier League is in the festive spirit as it treats us to a superb weekend of football. Here are five burning questions for match-week 17.
Can Man City leapfrog Arsenal?
The big game of the weekend sees Arsenal, who lost their first game since the opening weekend of the season in midweek, travel to Manchester City in a titanic battle between two title hopefuls.
City responded to their defeats to Chelsea and Leicester with a fine 2-0 win over an in-form Watford side in mid-week. The Citizens have gone off the boil since losing their first game of the season to Spurs, will the other North London side prove to be just as tricky?
It might be a good time to face Arsenal who’s confidence will no doubt have taken a knock after their loss to Everton. Arsene Wenger will take solace in the fact that Arsenal have not lost a league game at the Etihad since 2014, and they managed to take four points off them last season. This is a different Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, and despite their struggles they can still put in world class performances.
The winner could be second at the end of the weekend’s action, and if Chelsea lose at Crystal Palace, a winner would move closer to the Premier League table toppers.
What sort of craziness can we expect from the Merseyside derby?
Both sides come into the fixture off the back of a win. Liverpool hit a speed bump against Bournemouth and West Ham, but they responded with a 3-0 victory away at Middlesbrough. Everton were in a terrible run of form before they shocked Arsenal on Tuesday, but that is the type of performance and result that can turn a season around. Goodison Park was rocking for that match, and that was not even a derby! Expect the crowd to be right behind their side when Liverpool visit on Monday, and there is no doubt the away end will be buzzing too.
The derby atmosphere fires up the players too. Their tackles have that extra bite to them, and that brings out further reactions which leads to that extra bit of drama. Goals feel more important in these fixtures, and the result means more to the teams than three points.
The last four fixtures between these sides at Goodison Park have been draws. Will one side be able to seize the advantage and claim bragging rights and three valuable points?
Will Chelsea’s winning streak end?
The Blues have gone on an incredible 10 match winning streak which propelled them to the top of the table. Chelsea will remain top no matter what happens this weekend, and interestingly, Chelsea have gone on to win the title every time they have been top at Christmas.
It has not always been pretty, but the Blues have been able to grind out results even when not at their best and that is valuable when challenging for the title. Crystal Palace are in need of points too, and they will be aiming to put an end to Chelsea’s winning streak when they meet at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Palace are an interesting case. Their performances seem better than their results, but football is all about results and that is why they find themselves in the relegation battle. These are the games that can be dangerous for big sides as there will be no doubt that Palace will be fighting to move away from unwanted territory.
Chelsea look like they will not lose, but it can often be the side that you least suspect that deals the blow of defeat. Will Alan Pardew lead his side to an upset victory, or all Chelsea win their 11th consecutive game and potentially open a bigger gap at the top of the table?
Which sides will take a step towards safety?
Sunderland, Hull and Swansea currently occupy the relegation spots in the Premier League heading into the 17th round of fixtures and that is unlikely to change his weekend. However, there is still a lot riding on this busy period of fixtures, and sides can still take a step closer to the survival they are fighting for.
The bottom three are all in action on Saturday. Swansea travel to Middlesbrough as 18th meet 16th. The Swans could go level with Boro with a win, whilst the opposite will result in Middlesbrough moving three points clear of their rivals. Sunderland host Watford at the Stadium of Light, and Hull travel to London to face a West Ham side who seem to be finding some better form.
Leicester are also dangerously close to the relegation zone. They have a tough away trip to Stoke on Saturday. Burnley are not too far away either and could find themselves in this scrap if they are unable to gain anything at Tottenham on Sunday.
Will West Brom close the gap on Manchester United?
There is only one match left to cover and that is the Saturday tea time match between West Brom and Manchester United. The Baggies have looked excellent thus far and currently find themselves in sixth position, only one place behind their opponents.
Manchester United’s problem is too many draws, but they have managed to put together back to back victories in the past week. West Brom are a tough and stubborn side, they are also very difficult to break down, a problem United have had in many games this season.
West Brom can not pass their opponents with a win, but their dreams of European qualification will take one step closer to becoming a reality. This is going to be a hard 90 minutes for Manchester United, and an upset could be on the cards.
Crystal Palace 0-2 Chelsea
Middlesbrough 2-1 Swansea
Stoke 1-0 Leicester
Sunderland 1-1 Watford
West Ham 2-0 Hull
West Brom 0-0 Man United
Bournemouth 2-1 Southampton
Man City 2-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 2-0 Burnley
Everton 1-1 Liverpool
The Premier League continues 17th-19th December
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