While all the other top leagues are on a break, English traditionally give us some football entertainment in the most magical part of the year. The most interesting match of the Boxing Day will be between Liverpool who came back from Qatar as the world champions against the first followers Leicester. There will be nine games that day, and the last game of this round will be played the day after. The title defenders Manchester City are visiting Wolves, the team that had already beat them at Etihad in October. You can check the previews for these games, as well as for all the other games of this game week in this article, with betting predictions as an addition.
TOTTENHAM - BRIGHTON
After a good period at the beginning of his reign in Tottenham, Jose Mourinho is getting in some first troubles. In the last game week, the Spurs lost 2:0 at home against city rivals Chelsea, but the problem wasn't only the result. Tottenham were totally outplayed and probably the best picture of all that frustration was the exclusion of Heung-Min Son. The Korean starts a three-match ban for his straight red card for violent conduct and that will force Jose Mourinho to make at least one change. Now his team dropped to the 7th place, the Champions League spot is 4 points away and some serious changes should be done, even with the formation. We should also see some other starters compared to the game against the Blues, like Harry Winks, Danny Rose, Tanguy Ndombele and Christian Eriksen, while Ryan Sessegnon could make his Premier League debut. On the other side, Brighton didn't win in their last three games, and the schedule wasn't that difficult. The Seagulls fans were disappointed to see the minimum home defeat against Sheffield United, but for this clash, they have enough reasons to be optimistic. In the first game of this season, Brighton destroyed Tottenham 3:0, and the defence of the home team doesn't look that reliable. They can't definitely find that need, so in this game, we can expect a lot of goals.
Prediction: Over 2.75 goals @ 1.77
ASTON VILLA – NORWICH
If we exclude the EFL Cup game against Liverpool B team, Aston Villa lost last four games in a row. In three of them, they fell without any chance, and even against Chelsea, when they lost 2:1, they had to be thrashed. The things just got from bad to worse because Southampton won and left Aston Villa dropped in the relegation zone, and also because their important midfielder John McGinn suffered an ankle injury which should leave him out for around 3 months. That means Jack Grealish will take more central role, so the Villains won't be that dangerous upfront any more. This game will now be a classical „six-pointer“, what could mean both teams should be more careful. But, Norwich are in an even worse situation, with three points less than Aston Villa and only one win in the last 13 games. In the game against Wolves, they had a lead at the half time, but that lead wasn't enough to take at least one point. Their top scorer Teemu Pukki continues to play through the pain barrier, while Tim Klose, Josip Drmic and Ben Godfrey are still out. In some other situation, the careful play might be the best solution, but there is actually no time to waste. There have been over 2.5 scored in 11 of Aston Villa's last 13 games, while Norwich conceded at least two goals in 13 of their last 16 matches, so betting prediction for this game is pretty obvious.
Prediction: Over 3 goals @ 1.88
BOURNEMOUTH – ARSENAL
Bournemouth stopped the five-game losing streak in a surprising win against Chelsea, but in the very next game, they have proven it was just a coincidence. In the game against Burnley at Vitality, they didn't record a single shot on target, and Burnley weren't much better either. But, their only shot on target ended behind Cherries' goalkeeper Ramsdale in the 88th. Now, they will have another chance against the shaky team from London. One of the best players Callum Wilson will be back, but the injury list is still unbelievably long. There is a problem even at the left-back position due to the suspension of Diego Rico. Charlie Daniels and Nathan Ake managed to step in that position, but they are both injured at the moment. The only right solution would be the change of formation, but the coach Eddie Howe didn't confirm anything yet. On the other side, the new coach of Arsenal Mikel Arteta will have a fine chance to get the first win in his new position. The biggest question for him is Mesut Ozil going to be ready, because Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac, Dani Ceballos and Calum Chambers are already out. The Gunners have won last three head to head games, but most of us surely don't remember when they looked this bad. Mikel Arteta has a huge task in front of him, but his team simply possesses the too big quality to remain in the bottom half. The Cherries literally have half of their players injured and he must know how to take advantage of that situation.
Prediction: Arsenal to win @ 2.03
CHELSEA – SOUTHAMPTON
Chelsea were in a period of crisis, with four defeats in the last five games, Jose Mourinho had the chance to overtake them. The Blues won that game 2:0, but even more impressive was their display. Frank Lampard managed to beat his teacher and his team regained confidence just before one of the most difficult periods of the season. With this win, Chelsea now have four points more than the first followers Sheffield United, and also six more than the first serious contenders, in the long run, the Spurs. For the next game, Mateo Kovacic will be out due to an accumulation of bookings, but that won't be much of a problem for Lampard as Jorginho is going to return to the starting 11. In the last game, Lampard decided to play with three players in the defensive line, but now he should revert back to four. Southampton escaped the relegation zone with the win in Birmingham against Aston Villa. Danny Ings scored two goals and the whole team looked quite good, so it is probably the coach Ralph Hasenhuttl is going to name the same starting 11. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last nine meetings against Southampton, and during that streak, the Saints managed to earn only one point. They also didn't score a goal in the last three visits to Stamford Bridge. Everything goes in favour of Chelsea here and after the win against Tottenham, they should record another easy one.
Prediction: Chelsea -1.5 @ 2.03
CRYSTAL PALACE – WEST HAM
After four games in a row without a defeat and with only one conceded goal, Crystal Palace fell at St James Park late in the game. Despite that defeat, Roy Hodgson can be proud of his team in the recent period because they were heavily hit by injuries, so this was actually really good job. Now they want to restart that streak, but the game against the Hammers won't be easy. Mamadou Sakho has finished his three-game suspension and he should be a starter. There are still five players out injured, but Crystal Palace have already shown team spirit and ability to cover the losses. West Ham didn't play in the last game week, the game against Liverpool is rescheduled, so they had enough time to rest and prepare specifically for this game. With a win against Southampton, they escaped the danger zone, but the gap is still to tight for any relaxation. The goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is still questionable, but that position could become really problematic because the second goalkeeper David Martin is in the same condition. In the first head to head game of this season, Crystal Palace won 2:1, and now West Ham could do a similar thing. They will be fresh, and in this dense period of fixtures, every day of rest means a lot. The Hammers should be able to get at least a draw.
Prediction: West Ham +0.25 @ 1.93
EVERTON – BURNLEY
Carlo Ancelotti was appointed as the new Everton manager before the game against Arsenal, but he just watched the game from the stands of Goodison Park. That game was one of the most boring games of this whole season, and the Italian really didn't have something special to see. In the 11th minute Alex Iwobi was injured, so after Walcott, Schniederlin and Gomes there is one more important player on the injury list. It will be interesting to see how Ancelotti will line up this Everton, but probably he is going to play Moise Kean more than his predecessor. The team is psychologically lifted during this period under interim coach Duncan Ferguson, who managed to avoid defeats in 90 minutes against Chelsea, Manchester United, Leicester and Arsenal. Burnley is the weakest of all those, but they are aiming to prove they deserve to be in the top half. In the last game they won 1:0 with a late goal at Vitality against Bournemouth, what was their second win in a row. The other game also finished 1:0, and there is one interesting fact related to it. If Burnley concedes a goal, then they don't win games. Their seven wins so far were all with a clean sheet, what is really a respectable achievement. One of those was also against Everton in October when they won with the result you'll never guess – 1:0, of course. At that time, Everton is in the middle of the crisis, and now we could see something different. But, we can expect that both teams will play really careful.
Prediction: Under 2.5 goals @ 2.01
SHEFFIELD UNITED – WATFORD
Sheffield United have recorded the third win in a row. After beating teams from the bottom of the table, Norwich and Aston Villa, in the last game week, they beat Brighton in the away game. The current result, the 5th place, is something that not even the biggest fans of this team could imagine at this stage of the season when they earned the promotion. There is the one even better thing for Sheffield, and it's their clean bill of health. While they are without problems on that plan, Watford are without six first-team players. In this game, they won't count on Holebas, Welbeck, Cleverley, Janmaat, Prodl who are injured, and in this game, Doucoure will serve his suspension. Despite all the mentioned problems, they managed to skip the obstacle called Manchester United. While watching that game, you simply couldn't say that's the worst team of the league playing. They scored twice in a space of only a few minutes and Man United sank. Something has obviously turned around in the locker room, but Watford still have a huge job to do, just to get back in the race, and not to mention avoiding the relegation completely. This will be the first clash of these teams in the Premier League in Sheffield since 2007 when the home team won 1:0 thanks to an own goal of Chris Powell. The first game of this season ended as a goalless draw.
Prediction: Under 2.5 goals @ 1.81
MANCHESTER UNITED – NEWCASTLE UNITED
Manchester United were humiliated in the last game week when they lost against the bottom team, Watford. In the early period of the second half, the Red Devils' goalkeeper David de Gea made a beginners' mistake, and only a few minutes later Troy Deeney was confident from the penalty spot. It didn't need much time to start all the memes about the Manchester United as Robin Hood of Premier League – because of earning points against teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, and being the only team that managed to avoid losing against Liverpool and then dropping the points against some weaker sides. Newcastle game them a lot of troubles lately, they won only one of the last four head to head games, and the Magpies won the first game of the season at St James Park. The only positive thing from the last game was the return of Paul Pogba, and that was basically it. Jesse Lingard will probably sit on the bench as he has problems finding goals and assists. The away team have some problems with injuries, but in the last three-game they won nine points and conceded only two goals, so we can say that doesn't affect them that much. Steve Bruce is careful, he knows Solskjaer's team is going to try to bounce back after a disastrous defeat so we should see his team protecting their goal at first place.
Prediction: Under 3 goals @ 1.76
LEICESTER – LIVERPOOL
If there were any doubts is Liverpool the best team in the world at the moment, now those doubts are gone. After winning the Champions League title and European Super Cup, Liverpool now won World Club Championship. After beating Monterrey in injury time with Bobby Firmino's goal, the same player scored the lone goal in the final against Flamengo. Because of this campaign, Liverpool had to sacrifice EFL Cup where they played the kids from youth team and lost 5:0 against Aston Villa. Of course, that competition is not important at all for them, and everything they desire is the first Premier League title. With a game in hand (against West Ham), they have 10 points more than the next opponents and 11 more than the most dangerous competitors Manchester City. Leicester are slowly losing the pace, in the last game they lost 3:1 at Etihad and in a few weeks we will almost surely see them behind the Citizens. The great result they are achieving surely shouldn't be underestimated, but they simply can't be in the same sentence with Man City and Liverpool, and the next period should prove it. In the first game of this season, Liverpool won 2:1 with the spot-kick in the 95th minute, what was just one of the many late winners in the last seconds in this season. Jurgen Klopp has some problems with injuries, but nothing too serious. Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip are injured, so Joe Gomez will jump in. In such situation and in a game of that type, Leicester have nothing to lose. And that's what Reds like the most.
Prediction: Liverpool to win @ 2.05
WOLVES – MANCHESTER CITY
This is the only game of this game week which is going to be played the day after the Boxing Day. Wolves responded well to a late shocker against Tottenham, despite trailing by one goal in the last game against Norwich. Saiss and Jimenez scored to turn the game around, and now they overtook both Tottenham and Manchester United. Nuno Espirito Santo has no new injury problems, so he could prepare this game in the best possible way. Manchester City really have reasons to be afraid of Wolves, who beat them 2:0 at Etihad in the first game. In the last game against Leicester, they were dominant in a 3:1 win, which was their 4th convincing win in a row. But, the damage is already done, the difference between the title defenders and Liverpool is huge 11 points and from now on City should win practically all the games and hope that Liverpool drop enough points. One thing is sure, and that's Citizens won't give up this early. There are still some problems with injuries - David Silva looks better, but he is still not ready to play, and the same stands for Sergio Aguero. The Argentinian played last few minutes against Leicester, what isn't a proof he is going to be ready to start. There are no doubts Man City are really big favourites in this game, but the odds on their win are simply too low against the respectable team like Wolves.
Prediction: Wolves +1.5 @ 1.82
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