Liverpool FC: Christmas Crack Me Up Challenge
Only one place to start this weekend and that is with the 170th league game between great rivals Manchester United and Liverpool.
The last three Premier League games between the sides have finished in a draw and I can see another share of the spoils at Old Trafford in Saturday’s early kick-off.
United were indebted to David de Gea – how many times have we said that over the last five years – as much as Nemanja Matic, who scored the late winner, for all three points at Selhurst Park on Monday but the win made sure United were still two points in front of Jurgen Klopp’s side at kick-off.
I think this is a big game for Alexis Sanchez – who has hardly hit the ground running at Old Trafford – and Jose Mourinho who has only won one of his eight previous meetings with Klopp.
Sanchez has been one of the best players in the Premier League over the last three or four seasons, but his creativity has been blunted since he made the switch to Old Trafford and his honeymoon period is over. This is a good opportunity for the Chilean to win over the sceptics.
No side have scored more away league goals than Liverpool (34) in the five big European leagues and I think the Reds will score at Old Trafford in what promises to be a feisty, entertaining clash between these two huge clubs.
Tip: Game to finish in a draw at 23/10
Brighton are unbeaten in their last five PL games but have only scored twice in their last eight away league games and I don’t expect to see many goals at Goodison Park.
Everton have picked up just nine of the last 33 points available and they folded tamely after taking the lead at Turf Moor last weekend.
The Seagulls go into the game just above the Blues in the table after 29 games and you would have got a big price about that scenario at the start of the season when there was renewed optimism around Goodison despite the loss of Romelu Lukaku.
Tip: Under 1.5 goals at 9/5
Swansea have failed to score just once in nine PL games under Carlos Carvalhal and a goal at the John Smith’s Stadium should be enough to guarantee the Swans at least a point against a Huddersfield side who haven’t won back-to-back home league games since November.
Both sides start the game on 30 points and a win for either side would be a big step towards maintaining their PL status – I think the sides will have to settle for a point however.
Tip: game to finish 1-1 at 11/2
No side has scored fewer home PL goals than Newcastle but one was enough to beat Manchester United in their last home game and I think the Magpies will keep all three points from what looks sure to be a tight, close affair.
Southampton are unbeaten in their last four away league games and will be a tough nut to crack but United can keep the points in another low-scoring encounter.
Tip: Newcastle to win at 17/10
Jamie Vardy has scored the winning goal in his three previous visits to the Hawthorns and the England striker’s pace looks sure to be a handful for West Brom who must win to stand any chance of playing PL football next term.
The Foxes are without a win in their last five and have scored just once in all five of those fixtures. The Baggies must attack as they chase maximum points and I think we will see goals at the Hawthorns.
Tip: Leicester to win and both teams to score at 17/4
Burnley returned to winning ways against Everton last weekend and I think they will get a point in the capital despite the fact that their last win at West Ham in a top-flight game came back in October 1973.
Michail Antonio and Ashley Barnes have both scored in their last couple of games and if we were to see goals at the London Stadium, it would be no surprise if one of these inform players made it three in three.
Tip: Game to finish in a draw at 85/40
Palace have won their last two PL games at Stamford Bridge and only Blackburn Rovers (1993/4 to 1995/6 inc) have won three successive PL games at Chelsea.
The Blues travel to Barcelona midweek and I expect Antonio Conte’s side to get back to winning ways. Having lost four of their last five league games they certainly need a confidence booster ahead of their Champions League tie, which hangs in the balance at 1-1 after Messi’s late equaliser in the first leg.
Tip: Chelsea to win to nil at 1/1
Arsenal have conceded in their last eleven PL games and lost their last three. Irrespective of the result in Milan in the Europa League, this is another massive game for the club and it is worth noting that Watford have won two of their last three games at the Emirates.
The Gunners are just shy of the best in Europe and the Premier League but they are the sixth best side in the division and I expect them to keep the points in an entertaining clash at the Emirates.
Tip: Arsenal to win and both teams to score at 17/10
Spurs played some excellent football over the two legs against Juventus but their lack of Champions League experience was perhaps the difference between the sides at Wembley midweek.
Spurs still have much to play for this season and I expect them to maintain their challenge for a top four spot at the Vitality Stadium against a Bournemouth side who have only kept one clean sheet in their last 16 league games.
Harry Kane scored a hat-trick on his only previous trip to Bournemouth and I expect Spurs to bounce back from their midweek defeat.
Tip: Spurs halftime/fulltime at 11/8
City do not have the best of records at Stoke winning just two of their nine visits in the PL, but I expect the league leaders to take another step to regaining the title.
City have already scored 83 goals this season and only 13 teams have ever scored more in a complete PL season which puts their goalscoring feats into some perspective.
Sergio Aguero has scored eight in eight against the Potters including a brace in his last couple of away games. The striker missed the midweek Champions League defeat to Basel in what was in effect a dead-rubber but he is likely to be back in the starting XI on Sunday.
Tip: City to win to nil at 20/21
Michael’s weekend wager: Spurs, Newcastle and Chelsea at 9/2