By Niall Clarke
- Five questions on our minds ahead of round 16 of the Premier League season
- Predictions for all 10 of the weekend’s games.
The busy Christmas period starts with a set of midweek Premier League fixtures. Here are five questions heading into the 16th round of the season.
Can Leicester keep it up?
Undoubtedly the story of the weekend was the incredible Leicester City display in their 4-2 win over Manchester City. The Foxes looked like their championship winning selves for the first time this season, with Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy putting in their best performances of the campaign. They were quick, hard working and ruthless against the Citizens, but the real question is, can they keep it up?
Leicester travel to Bournemouth on Tuesday in a difficult fixture. The Cherries have had a decent campaign so far and sit in a solid mid-table position. Despite the away loss at Burnley, Bournemouth have proved they are a difficult side to beat, something Leicester will find out in mid-week.
Was Saturday’s performance just a one off or the start of a turn-around in their season? Tuesday will give a good indication of the answer. Leicester will go into this match full of confidence and may be expecting a win, but this is a tough fixture that should not be taken lightly. With the Champions League not back until February, Claudio Ranieri can focus completely on the Premier League. This may see a complete return to form for last season’s champions.
Will David or Goliath triumph when bottom meets top?
It is always an interesting fixture when the team sitting at the top of the Premier League meets the team sitting at the bottom. Sunderland will be fighting for their lives to get out of their current position whilst Chelsea will be doing the same to keep theirs. Form would tell you that Chelsea should win easily but the Premier League is not as simple as that.
The Blues have won their last nine games with their change to the 3-5-3 formation proving to be a godsend. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are bang in form, and the formation has brought the best out of players such as David Luiz and Victor Moses. Their attacking style has been complimented with a solid defence on the whole, but there is evidence they can be somewhat shut out and they can be got at defensively.
West Brom did a good job at nullifying Chelsea’s attack and only lost to a moment of brilliance from Costa. Man City and Spurs showed that there are holes in the defence, they just failed to take their chances. Sunderland lack the quality of those three sides but they do have a proven goal scorer up front in Jermaine Defoe, and if they can keep tight defensively, the Englishman may need only one chance to upset the Blues.
Chances are Chelsea extend their win streak to 10 on the bounce, but it can sometimes be the most unexpected sides that end winning runs. David slayed Goliath in the story, will Sunderland slay Chelsea in the Premier League?
Can Everton put an end to Arsenal’s unbeaten run?
The Gunners have not lost a Premier League match since the opening day of the season which makes it 14 games since they last tasted league defeat. It is that kind of form that has established Arsenal well in the title race, they currently sit three points behind Chelsea in second. Alexis Sanchez has been key to their form with 11 goals and five assists thus far, only one goal behind Costa at the top of the scoring charts. It is arguable that the Chilean has been the best player of the season so far.
Everton will be hoping to put an end to their poor run by upsetting Arsenal and ending their unbeaten run on Tuesday. Despite a positive start, the Toffees have only won one game in their last ten and have failed to taste victory in their last five. That poor form has seen them fall from possible champions league hopefuls to mid-table obscurity. They will be hoping their own star striker Romelu Lukaku can continue his goal-scoring form as they bid for their first win since defeating West Ham 2-0 in October.
How will Manchester City respond?
To summarise it quickly, Manchester City were embarrassed by Leicester on Saturday. The Foxes played well but that does not take anything from the poor performance from City, especially at the back. The defence looks like a mess and the attack has not been good enough recently to make up for it. Pep Guardiola has a dilemma to sort out, and it needs to happen quick.
For the new three games, City will be without their top goal-scorer Sergio Aguero through suspension, but they still have enough firepower to get some big results. The Citizens are back in front of their home fans on Wednesday as they welcome an in-form Watford side who currently sit seventh in the table. City’s home form has actually been worse than their away form with sides such as Middlesbrough and Southampton able to pick up a point at the Etihad.
Watford will be confident of picking up a point or three of their own given their form and City’s recent defeats. It is up to the title challengers to respond to their recent losses.
What else is happening?
There’s plenty of Premier League action over the two days with all 20 sides in action. Liverpool will be looking to return to winning form as they travel to Middlesbrough on Wednesday. The Reds have only taken a point in their last two when they would feel they should have had six. Boro are a strong defensive side though, and will be difficult for Jurgen Klopp’s side to beat.
Manchester United returned to their own winning ways by putting in one of their best performances of the season to defeat Tottenham on Sunday. They travel to the struggling Crystal Palace who are in the midst of a relegation battle, both sides needing a result. Tottenham will look to respond to that very loss to United when they host another struggling side, Hull City, on Wednesday.
Speaking of struggling sides, Swansea will look to build of their big win over Sunderland when they face West Brom at the Hawthorns. Fellow relegation strugglers West Ham welcome Burnley to the London stadium. It will be a big two days in the battle to stay in the Premier League.
There will also be a mid-table match between Stoke City and Southampton at the Bet 365 stadium.
Bournemouth 2-2 Leicester
Everton 1-2 Arsenal
Middlesbrough 1-1 Liverpool
Sunderland 0-3 Chelsea
West Ham 1-0 Burnley
Crystal Palace 1-1 Man United
Man City 2-0 Watford
Stoke 2-1 Southampton
Tottenham 3-0 Hull
West Brom 2-0 Swansea
The Premier League continues 13th-14th December.
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