Although the January transfer window has provided us with the customary drama and innuendo, today we can finally divert our attention away from the rumors and speculation to focus on something real: Premier League football.
There are eight games on tap for us today; let’s run the rule over the match-ups.
Brighton vs Chelsea
Circumstances seem relatively “bright” for Brighton today. They rarely lose at home, and Chelsea are out of sorts. On Wednesday it took PKs for the Blues to break the 1-1 tie in the FA Cup match with Norwich, and prior to that, they had gone three straight games without scoring at all. Even worse, Pedro and Alvaro Morata were both shown red cards in the midweek Cup match, so two of Chelsea’s top weapons are suspended today. Even so, I can’t imagine Chelsea leaving Falmer Stadium with anything less than full points.
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace
Arsenal have gone five games without a win, and their performance against Bournemouth last weekend was a shambles. Their last victim before the slump began? Crystal Palace. The Gunners beat them 3-2 at Selhurst Park on December 28, with Alexis Sanchez accounting for two of his team’s three goals. But the Eagles have soared since that loss, drawing with City before going on to win two of their next three. And they won’t need to deal with Sanchez this time around — he has left Arsenal’s camp and will probably not come back (expect news).
With their team 8 points adrift of 4th place and in genuine danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League again this year, Arsenal fans have reached their wits’ end with Arsene Wenger. Should the Gunners lose to Palace in front of the already-disgruntled home crowd today, Wenger may need bodyguards and an armored motorcade to escape the park alive.
Burnley vs Manchester United
Burnley have reaped only 3 of the last 18 points available to them, now owning the 2nd-longest current winless streak in the Prem. Somehow they still cling to 7th place in the table.
A win today will be crucial for United’s title hopes. And yes, at 12 points behind the top-of-the-table Citizens after 23 games, those hopes look slim. But on this very date exactly 22 years ago, United were 12 points behind league-leading Newcastle after 23 games, and the Red Devils went on to win the league. If they’re going to have any chance of pulling off a similar feat this season, they will have to extend Burnley’s skid today.
Everton vs West Brom
The bloom appears to be off the rose for Sam Allardyce: Everton are winless in 2018 and have lost their last four matches. I think the Toffees will see today’s home match against 19th place West Brom as an opportunity to stop the rot, since no team is worse on the road than the Baggies — they’ve won only one of their last 20 league road games. Perhaps new Toffee Theo Walcott will play a role: The bookies give him 7/2 odds to score.
Leicester vs Watford
I wasn’t enthusiastic about Claude Puel’s appointment at Leicester, but his results speak for themselves. The Foxes are unbeaten in 2018 and have climbed to 8th place in the table — their highest position since winning the title two years ago.
Watford, on the other hand, have collected just 5 points from their last ten games — the worst run over that period of any team in the league. Their only win during that stretch came on Boxing Day against — you guessed it — Leicester.
Stoke vs Huddersfield
Stoke are winless and scoreless in their last three, so new boss Paul Lambert will be looking to lift the Potters out of the relegation zone with a win in his first game in charge. Job #1 will be to tighten up at the back, since Stoke have conceded more goals than any other team in any of Europe’s big five leagues (50 goals shipped).
The Terriers often leave their scoring boots at home when they travel, having blanked in 8 of 11 away games this season. And they haven’t won a top-flight game at Stoke since 1950. When you toss in the “new manager bump” phenomenon, Potters fans have reason to be hopeful today.
West Ham vs Bournemouth
West Ham are enjoying a fine run of form, with their impressive 4-1 win over Huddersfield last weekend extending their unbeaten run to 4 games. But the Hammers haven’t won back-to-back league games in over a year, and Bournemouth are coming off a huge win at Arsenal last weekend.
Do Bournemouth have another upset up their sleeves today? Who knows, but one thing we should be able to count on is goals. The last five meetings between these two teams have produced 23 goals. That 4.6 goals/game average is the highest of any EPL fixture that has been played at least five times.
Manchester City vs Newcastle
The league’s runaway leaders finally stumbled last weekend: Jurgen Klopp’s gunslingers put an end to Manchester City’s 22-game unbeaten streak in a thrilling 4-3 shootout at Anfield. Adding insult to injury, this week Pep Guardiola was forced to give up on transfer target Alexis Sanchez, who now looks poised to go to cross-town rivals United instead.
Newcastle can be a tough nut to crack. In the reverse fixture, City only won by the slim margin of 1-0. But even though City have a comfortable 12-point cushion over the 2nd-place Red Devils, and despite the fact that the gaffer will have one eye on the Carabao Cup fixture on Tuesday, I don’t think Pep will take any chances today. The bookies don’t think so either: City are 2/15 favorites to win.
How does your squad look? Did you take a chance on Theo? Can Newcastle give City another black eye today? Come on in and tell us what you think.