Last weekend we witnessed yet another action-packed round of Premier League games. The title race is as open as ever, with the top seven clubs of the English top-flight having a gap of just six points among them, and the Manchester clubs also have a game in hand.
However, this month of December is known to be the most intense, matches being played every three or four days while outside cups take a holiday. With Covid-19 having squeezed breaks out of other months of the schedule, managers such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are pushing to have five substitutes per match the way other European leagues are doing this season. It is not just the players and the coaches who have this hectic schedule; our fantasy managers (and writers and editor) must also power up to stay on top of the game.
Let’s check out the game-week 12 fixtures to figure out what we can predict happening:
Friday, December 11
Leeds v West Ham
[ For Fantrax managers, these will be our only two confirmed early lineups before the deadline. ]
Leeds has been consistent enough to provide entertaining football but suffered immensely at the back, conceding too many goals. However, Bielsa’s side does have lethal striker Patrick Bamford who has scored eight goals, and Raphinha has also showed positive signs lately. Bielsa has announced his prelim starting-XI to face West Ham, a strange tactical approach, but David Moyes will look to get his team in shape after suffering last week’s 3-2 comeback loss to Manchester United. Ryan Fredericks still has groin issue while Andriy Yarmolenko is training now after being Covid-19 positive.
* Leeds is undefeated in its last nine meetings with West Ham in all competitions (W5 D4).
* Marcelo Bielsa’s side is winless in its last four games at Elland Road since winning the home opener 4-3 against Fulham.
* This is the first Premier League meeting between Leeds and West Ham in 17 years.
Saturday, December 12
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa
Wolves suffered a terrible 4-0 defeat against Liverpool. They’ve clearly been missing their talisman Raul Jimenez who has reportedly left the hospital and is recovering from his head injury. The result means Nuno Espirito Santo’s men are 10th in the table. Meanwhile, Aston Villa will be ever fresh and ready because their game against Newcastle was postponed last week. Villa can expect Ross Barkley to feature and be fit after being hit by a hamstring injury against Brighton two weeks ago.
* Villa has lost each of its last three away games against Wolves.
* Wolves have the best defensive record at home this season, having conceded just five goals.
* Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo boasts an impressive record against English managers in the Premier League, losing just two of his 16 home games (W9 D5).
Prediction: 1 – 2
Newcastle v West Brom
Newcastle will also be the second team with extra energy after last week’s postponement, but unlike Villa, the Magpies were disrupted by virus and training grounds closure. Steve Bruce will aim to capture a consecutive victory after defeating Crystal Palace last time out. Ryan Fraser, Jamaal Lascelles, Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll were doubts against Aston Villa but may feature at West Brom. West Brom was thrashed 5-1 by Palace last week, sinking them to 19th, and their star player Matheus Pereira saw red; his suspension could make life difficult for the Baggies.
* West Brom overcame Newcastle 1-0 at St James’ Park two years ago and are hoping to win consecutive away league games against Steve Bruce’s side for the first time since 1966.
* Newcastle defeated Crystal Palace 2-0 in their previous game (two weeks ago) and are looking for back-to-back league wins for the first time since June.
* Bruce has lost 28 games against promoted sides, more than any other manager in Premier League history.
Prediction: 1 – 0
Manchester United v Manchester City
It’s derby day in Manchester, so anything can happen! Manchester United needs a big win this weekend against their noisy neighbors after crashing out of the Champions League at RB Leipzig. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer usually responds in a big game with a victory when his job is on the line, but this time the pressure will be immense. Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial are the Red Devils’ only concern, while Manchester City will be happy to have Sergio Aguero back on the field. Pep Guardiola has managed to keep five consecutive clean sheets into the derby but needs to find the cutting-edge up front; with the Argentine striker back, the Citizens may very well resume their usual best. This game is surely the match of the weekend.
* City has won more Premier League games at Old Trafford than any other visiting side (7).
* United is looking to win three successive Manchester derbies for the first time since 2010, having done the double last season with a 2-1 victory at the Etihad and 2-0 win at Old Trafford.
* United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes has been involved in 26 goals (15 goals, 11 assists) since his Premier League debut in February, more than any other player.
Prediction: 0 - 2
Everton v Chelsea
Everton are suffering a dry spell lately after starting the campaign with a bang. But since the Toffees have the league’s top goal scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin with 11 goals, one can never rule them out fully. However, they have just gained one win in their previous seven fixtures, which is a concern.
Chelsea has been on a roll, chaining a nine-match unbeaten run in the league while also going undefeated in the Champions League to win Group E. Frank Lampard’s men have been scoring goals for fun, been solid in their midfield, and held their back line anchored by new-boy sensation Eduoard Mendy who already has the most clean sheets in the English top-flight league. Their squad depth is full of talented players; with the form they are in, the Blues are the favorites to win this weekend.
* Chelsea has not conceded a goal in six of the last eight Premier League games against Everton.
* Chelsea is looking to keep a clean sheet in four successive away league games for the first time since February 2016.
* Olivier Giroud is looking to join Mark Stein as the only Chelsea players to have scored in seven consecutive Premier League starts.
Prediction: 0 – 2
Sunday, December 13
Southampton v Sheffield United
Many predicted that Southampton would have a major dip in form while talisman Danny Ings was out injured, but the Saints soldiered on without him. Now he’s back, scoring Monday night against Brighton in a 2-1 victory. Saints’ sixth win of the season claimed fifth in the table.
The Blades are really the opposites of what they were last term. They’re the only team yet to win in the league so far. Chris Wilder’s men have lost 10 out of 11 and can expect another loss against the in-form Saints, especially with Ings back in the team and looking likely to start.
* Saints won both Premier League games against Sheffield United last season and are looking for a third successive league victory against the Blades for the first time since 1950.
* Southampton has won six of the first 11 games in the league this season, its second best start to a top-flight campaign.
* The Blades are winless in 11 Premier League games this season, having lost all five away matches.
Prediction: 2 – 0
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son proved too strong for rivals Arsenal in last week’s victory. The two already have 31 goal involvements between them. Tottenham has faced Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City looking dominant, but Spurs will hunt for creativity to break deadlock against teams who park the bus. It will be interesting to watch how Jose Mourinho copes against a fortified Palace.
The Eagles should be confident coming to this fixture after their 5-1 win at West Brom, their star player Wilfried Zaha making the entire team tick. Roy Hodgeson’s men can take advantage of Spurs having played Thursday, tired legs somewhat handicapping the superior team on paper.
* League leading Tottenham is undefeated in the last 10 Premier League meetings with Palace (W9 D1).
* Palace has a miserable home record against teams starting the day in the top four, losing 18 of the last 22 such Premier League matches (W1 D3 L22)
* Tottenham duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have combined for 11 goals this season and are on course to break the record held by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton (13 in 1994-95).
Prediction: 1 — 1
Fulham v Liverpool
Despite losing star players with injury, Jurgen Klopp finds a way to keep winning momentum going. Now some of the those injured players are coming back: Trent-Alexander Arnold played a full 90 minutes in the CL match against Midtjylland, and Allison Becker may be ready by the weekend, Caoimhin Kelleher continuing if Klopp decides to not risk the Brazilian. Liverpool will aim for all three points in this fixture. With Spurs game this midweek, there’s a chance that some usual starters get rest.
Scott Parker’s men suffered a defeat from Manchester City and are now facing Liverpool, the flip side of a rather rough period. The Cottagers have lost four of their five home fixtures already, and the Reds will look to make that worse.
* Liverpool has won each of its last six Premier League games against Fulham.
* Liverpool has won 18 successive Premier League matches against promoted sides, behind only Chelsea, who won 27 between 2002-2006.
* Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has scored more league goals than any other player since the start of the 2017-18 season (82).
Prediction: 0 – 3
Arsenal v Burnley
Mikel Arteta is having the worst time as a manager after his derby defeat to Spurs, the Gunners’ sixth loss of the campaign, having scored only twice in the previous five league fixtures. His job will be at risk if the Spaniard fails to deliver a win against relegation-fodder Burnley. Sean Dyche should surely take advantage of Arsenal being in a difficult phase and try to go for the win instead of playing safe.
* Arsenal is undefeated against Burnley in their last 15 league meetings, winning the last nine at home.
* Mikel Arteta’s side has picked up 13 points in 11 games this season, Arsenal’s worst start to a league campaign since 1981-82 (12 points).
* Arsenal is one of just two teams in the top-flight that Burnley manager Sean Dyche has failed to beat (D1 L9), the other being Sheffield United.
Prediction: 1 — 1
Leicester v Brighton
Jamie Vardy scoring a winner at the very last moment should be expected now as the Englishmen bagged another winner to beat Sheffield United 2-1, his ninth goal of the season so far.
The Foxes are fourth in the table and should continue their winning momentum against the Seagulls who have conceded five times in their previous five fixtures.
* Brighton has not won any of its six Premier League meetings with Leicester (L4 D2).
* Leicester has lost four of its last six Premier League games at the King Power Stadium.
* Brighton’s two league victories in 11 games are the joint-fewest at this stage of a season in the club’s history (1979-80, 1980-81)
Prediction: 2 – 0
[All key facts sourced from Reuters]
What are your predictions for the fixtures? Any specific match you’re looking forward to watching? What are your fantasy strategies for the week? Any popular player whom you hope will earn you points? And who are you adding? Please let us know in the comments below, and if you hear any late fitness news (e.g. positive Covid-19 tests), please share!
And remember that GW-13 will follow hot on the heals of GW-12 with a midweek deadline this coming TUESDAY!