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.
The Premier League finishes the year with a flurry of exiting fixtures on match-week 19. Here are five burning questions for the upcoming set of matches.
Can Liverpool distance themselves from Manchester City?
The Reds are currently only a point ahead of their rivals and six behind league leaders Chelsea who play earlier that day. A win for Liverpool will put distance between themselves and the rest of the pack, whilst a win for City will see them leapfrog the Reds. What both sides can not afford is a draw however, especially if Chelsea beat Stoke. That will see the gap to the top extend to eight points, and with the chasing pack looming, they can ill afford dropped points.
What we are likely to see is plenty of attacking action. Both sides are known for their devastating attack, but they are also known for their defensive weaknesses. It will be an interesting tactical battle too between Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, two of the most renowned managers in World Football.
Goals will be expected, but which side will net the most? Liverpool will be favourites wit the home advantage and better form overall, but City look improved in recent weeks and they could very well take a valuable point or three on Saturday.
Will it be lucky 13 for Chelsea?
12 straight wins for Chelsea have seen the Blues open a six point gap at the top of the Premier League. Now Antonio Conte is setting his sights on a Premier League record for most consecutive wins. Arsenal hold the record with 14 over two seasons, but they also hold the record in one season with 13 back in 2002. Chelsea can match that very record with a home win against Stoke on Saturday, and it is to be expected.
The Blues will have Diego Costa and N’Golo Kante back after the pair missed the Bournemouth game through suspension. It could be argued that these two have been the most influential players in this winning run, particularly Costa who is the Premier League’s leading scorer. It is difficult to see when this streak will end, but Stoke will no doubt be looking to do just that. The Potters have picked up some better form after a poor start, but they do come in off a thrashing at Liverpool in mid-week.
If Chelsea do what is expected, then they will not only match a Premier League record, but they will also extend their lead over at least one rival team as Liverpool and Man City play each other later that day.
Who can take advantage of Liverpool or Man City dropping points?
Three teams could close the gap on Liverpool or Manchester City this weekend, and position themselves for a title charge.
Manchester United can not leapfrog anyone this weekend, but a win at Middlesbrough would be their fifth in a row. They are finding the right form at the right time and are starting to look like a title challenging side. They will close the gap to at least four points on the top four by the end of the weekend with a win.
Sunday is very much North London day as both Tottenham and Arsenal are in action. Both could occupy a top four spot in City lose away at Liverpool and they are able to win. A draw could see the Gunners move into third with Spurs literally right behind them. Either way, a win for both of these sides will mean a Happy New Year for the club and supporters. Spurs travel to Watford in Sunday’s early kick off, that will be immediately followed by Arsenal hosting Crystal Palace who are now under the guidance of Sam Allardyce.
How will the relegation battle look heading into the new year?
The bottom three sides all failed to pick up a single point on Boxing day, and results around them meant that many clubs have distanced themselves from the scrap… for now.
Swansea took drastic action and sacked Bob Bradley after just 11 games in charge. Ryan Giggs, Alan Pardew and Chris Coleman have been heavily linked with the task of saving the Welsh side from the drop. The Swans have a winnable game against Bournemouth on Saturday, though they will likely play this match without a manager.
Hull remain bottom, and they will kick off the weekend’s action as Friday Night Football returns with their game at home to Everton. The Toffees have re-found their form as of late and currently sit seventh in the table. This is a difficult game for a poor Hull side, though a winnable one if Everton fail to show up.
Sunderland are the only bottom three club that can move clear of the relegation zone if results go their way. The Black Cats travel to Turf Moor to face one of the Premier League’s best home sides in Burnley. The Clarets have an excellent record at their fortress and could move nine points clear of danger with a win.
17th placed Crystal Palace face Arsenal on Sunday and could be in the bottom three when the weekend’s play is finished. Champions Leicester are dangerously close to the drop zone, but they will be hopeful they can defeat West Ham at the King Power on Saturday.
Will Southampton or West Brom move closer to a European spot?
There is only one game left to cover and that is the mid-table clash between Southampton and West Brom. Both sides are aiming for a European qualification finish, and a win will go a long way toward achieving that very goal.
Southampton sit in eighth whilst West Brom are just one place and one point behind in ninth. If Everton fail to beat Hull then both sides have a chance of climbing a place with a win. This match will also feature a nice contrast in styles as Southampton’s more fluid style of play goes up against West Brom’s more rugged and defensive tactic.
It will be an interesting game at St. Mary’s. Which side will come on top?
Hull 1-2 Everton
Burnley 2-0 Sunderland
Chelsea 2-0 Stoke
Leicester 2-2 West Ham
Man United 3-1 Middlesbrough
Southampton 1-0 West Brom
Swansea 1-1 Bournemouth
Liverpool 3-2 Man City
Watford 1-2 Tottenham
Arsenal 3-1 Crystal Palace
The Premier League continues 30th December- 1st January
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