Chelsea top the standings going into a typically chaotic Boxing Day frenzy that offers a massive amount of tantalising options. Manchester City have done their part and kept pace with Mourinho’s in vogue Chelsea side. Pellegrini has showed his tactical proficiency in the absence of Sergio Aguero, managing to grind out results where Mancini’s men would have likely faltered. Liverpool gained the moral victory following an epic 2-2 draw with Arsenal that left both sets of fans deflated. Leicester need a result against Spurs or their New Year’s resolution will likely revolve around a managerial change. All in all, this should be another cracking Boxing Day fixture list with reverberations throughout the league’s structure.
Chelsea revelled in the physical gauntlet laid down by Stoke on Monday; a fact that will no doubt bode well for the Blues going up against Big Sam’s side. West Ham have managed to ‘break barriers’, according to Big Sam, in a season where they have managed to adapt their style to injury demands. Andy Carroll will look to intimidate Cahill and Terry while Downing looks to get beyond both Ivanovic and Azpilicueta. Chelsea should be able to match the physicality of West Ham; Matic will probably get the better of Song in midfield and allow for some go-forward ball. Ultimately the likes of Hazard and Willian should be able to see the league leaders through. Take Chelsea to win at a short 7/20.
Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace side have been plodding along in rather aimless fashion, struggling to score consistently. James McArthur has provided some support for both Fraizer-Campbell and Chamakh, while Bolasie and Jedinak provide a decent engine room for a side built for attrition. Southampton were excellent at the weekend as Koeman tinkered with his formation and reaped the rewards. He will also be bolstered by the return of the suspended Morgan Schneiderlin and Wanyama. Tadic is also involved in full training, which does not bode well for a Crystal Palace side devoid of subtlety. Common logic may favour the tough home side in this congested fixture list, but Southampton’s impressive list of returning players should see them over the line at 11/10.
Everton are in desperate need of festive cheer following a comprehensive defeat to a Southampton side thought to be in decline. Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy should be available for selection while Roberto Martinez still struggles to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku. Tony Hibbert and Osman are unavailable for the visit of Stoke, while Ross Barkley will face a tough test in the form of N’Zonzi. Stoke will sense the opportunity to get amongst a slightly fragile Everton side here. John Walters and Peter Crouch should prove troublesome for Distin and Jagielka while Bojan could exploit a somewhat static midfield. Take Stoke to win or draw at 17/20.
Leicester are slowly getting cut adrift and Nigel Pearson’s days are surely numbered if they can’t get at least a point here. In reality, their side probably requires a win to send a jolt of confidence throughout the team. Spurs scored some cracking goals against Burnley, with Erik Lamela finally lending some added credence to his substantial reputation. Spurs seem to have developed the ability to mix it in the gutter brawls that often found them wanting in seasons past, and I expect Pochettino’s men to end heap more pressure on a beleaguered Nigel Pearson. Spurs to win at 21/20.
Radamel Falcao seems to have finally found some traction with a goal in his first full ninety minute Premier League start. Wayne Rooney has adjusted well to a slightly deeper role while Juan Mata continues to entrench himself into the fabric of Manchester United. Marouane Fellaini will be a loss against a powerful Newcastle side desperate to bounce back following a dire Tyne-Wear showing. It was probably expected that Pardew’s side would ultimately plummet, but the manner of their recent defeats suggests a disturbing lack of urgency and cohesion. Ayoze looks dangerous while Sissoko is tireless through the heart of midfield. But take Manchester United to win both halves at 9/10, as Newcastle are there for the taking.
Gary Monk’s Swansea side have been surprisingly consistent this season under the auspicious tutelage of the young manager. He has managed to successfully complete a loan deal for Benfica’s Nelson Oliveira, effectively covering Wilfried Bony’s upcoming absence due to the Africa Cup of Nations. Monk is in a far more comfortable position than Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert, a manager seemingly resigned to a state of persistent speculation and doubt. Gabby Agbonlahor has won his appeal against his red card and will support the irresistible Benteke. Swansea may have a hard time breaking down Villa, particularly if Lambert plays the back three of Okore, Clark and Vlaar. Be bold and take Villa to win or draw at 19/20.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City side has built up a head of steam in recent weeks and have navigated the absence of Sergio Aguero brilliantly. David Silva and Yaya Toure have both returned to top form while Pellegrini looks to secure the future services of Frank Lampard in some last gasp transfer negotiations. Alan Irving’s West Brom side always seem to be in a state of limbo just above the drop zone; they are far too reliant on the pace of Berahino and Sessegnon, the former being played off the bench in the past three fixtures. I expect a tough battle of attrition here, similar to the City away fixture against Leicester, with the Sky Blues just coming out on top. Take City at 11/20.
Arsenal dodged a major bullet at Anfield in a game that perfectly displayed the worrying state of their midfield in the current injury crisis. Santi Cazorla was the only bright light in a game characterised by uncharacteristic spoiling tactics. Charlie Austin’s QPR season went into overdrive following his mesmeric hat-trick against West Brom. Harry Redknapp will do well to hold onto the prolific striker in the upcoming transfer window. Arsenal will not have to deal with the same speed in the middle of the park here and should run out comfortable winners at 1/4.
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