The Premier League returned to action with a bang on Boxing Day, and now the festive-period games just keep on coming.
Erling Haaland admitted that missing out on the World Cup was an “irritation and motivation” that drove him “a bit mad”, and there seems to be a bit of truth to that. The Norway international became the first player in Premier League history to score 20 goals in just 14th appearances, netting twice in Manchester City’s 3-1 win against Leeds to hit that mark before 2022 was even over.
Can he carry his scintillating form into the new year, and which other players will shine in GW-18?
Friday 30th December 2022
West Ham United v Brentford
The Hammers were completely outplayed by the Gunners on Boxing Day, the loss extending their skid to four defeats in a row. Their defensive errors just keep on increasing, leaving them hovering just above the drop zone now.
As for Brentford, they must be disappointed to have squandered a 2-0 lead to end up drawing with Spurs last time out, but honestly, they can probably be happier about that outcome than Tottenham.
West Ham: Gianluca Scamacca is limited only by match fitness now, but Nayef Aguerd returned from the World Cup with a virus so he won’t be available. Kurt Zouma (knee) and Maxwel Cornet (calf) are still missing.
Brentford: Kristoffer Ajer (knee), Thomas Strakosha (ankle), Aaron Hickey (ankle) and Shandon Baptiste (unknown) remain out for the Bees.
Prediction: 1 –1
The Reds’ victory over Aston Villa on Boxing Day was their third Premier League win in a row, putting them back into contention for the top four battle. Plus, their recent signing of PSV’s Cody Gakpo is surely a statement signing and another lethal addition to their already stacked attack.
For Leicester, their heavy home defeat to high-flying Newcastle means they are just four points away from the relegation zone, and James Maddison’s injury will only make life even more difficult for the Foxes in the coming weeks.
Liverpool: Arthur Melo, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Curtis Jones and Roberto Firmino remain out injured, while James Milner is also expected to miss out.
Leicester: James Justin, Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Ryan Bertrand and James Maddison remain out, while Dennis Praet is a doubt with a back issue.
Prediction: 3 – 0
Saturday 31st December 2022
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United
Erik ten Hag’s Red Devils are looking like they have a coherent plan in place for their playing style, organization, and shape, all of which was nicely demonstrated during their 3-0 win over Forest at Old Trafford.
On the other hand, Lopetegui’s Wolves may not have looked very impressive, but were still able to scrape a last-second winner to steal all three points from Everton. The defensive errors and lack of systematic approach is something the former Real Madrid manager will have to work on going forward.
Wolves: Boubacar Traore (groin), Jonny (thigh), Daniel Podence (lower leg) have all passed fit for Saturday. OUT: Chiquinho (knee), Sasa Kalajdzic (knee), Pedro Neto (ankle).
Man Utd: DOUBTS: Victor Lindelof (illness), Scott McTominay (Illness), Diogo Dalot (thigh). OUT: Lisandro Martinez (other), Jadon Sancho (disciplinary), Mason Greenwood (suspension — legal matter), Axel Tuanzebe (other)
Prediction: 0 – 2
AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
The Cherries suffered a tough 2-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, leaving them just three points above the drop. But surely the view themselves of capable of matching Palace on home ground.
The Eagles aim to recover from a 3-0 loss to Fulham in a display that was not on par with what we have seen from them previously. Plus, with both Mitchell and Tomkins banned, Bournemouth have a great chance to press for the win.
Bournemouth: Junior Stanislas (Muscle injury), Ryan Fredericks (Knock injury), Marcus Tavernier (Hamstring), Neto (Hamstring), David Brooks (Hamstring)
Palace: James Tomkins (Red card), Tyrick Mitchell (Straight red), Sam Johnstone (Knock injury), James McArthur (Hip injury), Nathan Ferguson (Muscle injury)
Prediction: 1 – 0
Fulham v Southampton
Fulham grabbed a deserved three points against the Eagles, thanks to the brilliant performance of the lethal striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. With 22 points, Marco Silva’s men are eyeing the European qualification spots.
Meanwhile bottom of the table Southampton are all over the place and Nathan Jones has a tough job ahead now. They need January reinforcements, but most importantly, they need to fix their structure and secure a massive three points against the Cottagers.
Fulham: Manor Solomon (Knee injury), Neeskens (Achilles), Layvin Kurzawa (Small knock)
Southampton: Romeo Lavia (Knee injury), Juan Larios (Hip and Calf injury), Livramento (knee), Theo Walcott (Hip and Calf injury) Alex McCarthy (Ankle injury), Armel Bella-Kotchap
Prediction: 2 – 0
Manchester City v Everton
Manchester City are on a roll, and there seems to be no stopping them. With Erling Haaland scoring for fun, City are still favorites for the title even though they currently sit second.
On the other hand, Frank Lampard’s job is under immense pressure after their last-minute loss to a dull Wolves side. Now dangling near the relegation zone, the team really needs to respond but unfortunately, they are facing possibly the best team in England this weekend.
Man City: Ruben Dias (Thigh injury), Kalvin Phillips (Fitness issue), Julian Alvarez (World Cup leave)
Everton: According to Lampard, Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be available for selection, and Yerry Mina will train today (Friday)
Prediction: 3 – 0
Newcastle United v Leeds United
Newcastle is soaring, and will aim to cement its position in the top four after securing a 3-0 win against the Foxes on Boxing Day. The Magpies are looking for their seventh straight league win, and key attacker Callum Wilson should recover in time to face the Whites.
Leeds made silly mistakes against the Citizens and were predictably punished. They’ll try to tighten up and prevent what would be their six loss on the road this weekend.
Newcastle: Jonjo Shelvey (Calf injury), Paul Dummett (Back injury), Alexander Isak (Thigh injury), Callum Wilson (slight doubt due to illness), Emile Krafth (knee)
Leeds: Archie Gray (Ankle), Stuart Dallas (Thigh), Luis Sinisterra (Ankle), Patrick Bamford (Groin)
Prediction: 3 – 0
Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal
Mikel Arteta’s men look like legitimate contenders for the title, and aim to stretch their unbeaten run to double figures when they face Brighton, even though questions marks remain around how they will solve the problem posed by the long-term absence of Gabriel Jesus. The Gunners have won eight of their last nine matches including four-straight victories, and hold a five-point advantage over Man City now.
Brighton celebrated three wins in four following a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Southampton on Boxing Day that should boost their confidence when they host the league-leaders this weekend.
Brighton: Danny Welbeck (muscular). Jakub Moder (knee), Adam Webster (other), Moises Caicedo (suspension), Alexis Mac Allister (late return from World Cup)
Arsenal: Emile Smith Rowe (groin), Takehiro Tomiyasu (thigh). OUT: Reiss Nelson (thigh), Gabriel Jesus (knee)
Prediction: 1 – 2
Sunday 1st January 2023
Spurs v Aston Villa
Spurs will be looking to get back on track on New Year’s Day as they squandered their advantage in the top four race after their 2-2 draw to Brentford. They are just one point clear the Red Devils, who also have a game in hand over Tottenham. But Spurs have enough ammunition and quality to overcome a weak Aston Villa side, as Conte will be looking to push his men to play from the first minute and not from the 45th minute as is their frustrating habit.
Unai Emery’s side has lost two of their previous four in the league, and defensive mistakes and an inability to capitalize on their chances is costing them. Their big boost is the return of World Cup winner Emi Martinez back to the squad after his celebrations in Argentina.
Spurs: Lucas Moura (tendon), Richarlison (Thigh injury), Djed Spence (Illness), Cristian Romero (Uncertain availability)
Aston Villa: Jacob Ramsey (Hamstring injury), Jed Steer (Achilles), Diego Carlos (Achilles)
Prediction: 2 – 0
Nott’m Forest v Chelsea
Chelsea looked pretty much in control and pretty much put the game to bed in the first half in their 2-0 win against Bournemouth. But Forest will definitely look to rebound after their heavy defeat to Manchester United on Boxing Day. One team is fighting for the top four spot and the other is fighting for survival, so stakes are high on both sides.
Nott’m Forest: Omar Richards (calf), Giulian Biancone (knee), Chiekhou Kouyate (thigh), Moussa Niakhate (thigh), Jesse Lingard (hamstring), Morgan Gibbs-White (calf)
Chelsea: Edouard Mendy (unknown injury), Reece James (Knee injury), Ben Chilwell (Hamstring), N’Golo Kante (Hamstring), Wesley Fofana (Knee injury), Armando Broja (Knee injury), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Calf)
Prediction: 0 – 1
What are your predictions for this game-week? Whom are you planning to captain? Any player you think will shine during GW-18? What late news have you seen? Please add your thoughts to the comment section below!