Liverpool and Manchester City go head to head at Anfield on New Year Eve in a fight to determine who really is the top adversary to Chelsea. City’s awful record at Anfield won’t encourage many of their fans – they haven’t won there since 2003. And Liverpool do tend to raise their game against the top teams. With both teams’ issues in defence and goalkeepers fumbling well documented, I expect a feast of goals and I’ll be surprised if Manchester City win.
Stoke have conceded a combined seven goals in their last two league games. Hardly a great preparation for a game against a team that has won 12 games on the roll. Chelsea will welcome back Costa and Kante for this one and it’s mightily scary how strong they look at the moment. There’s no stopping them and I expect another cleansheet in a comfortable home win.
Arsenal could be 12 points behind Chelsea before their game against Palace on New Year’s day. That’s a difficult position to be in and they would have to deal with it like a top team. The task is made tougher with them hosting a seemingly invigorated Palace team enjoying a Big Sam-boost. Arsenal should win but it will be close.
Manchester United have won four league games on the trot and Jose Mourinho’s reign in Manchester seems to have finally taken off after many false starts. But Middlesbrough are a tricky side. They don’t concede many and make it tough for the top teams but Mourinho should be able to outwit his former prodigy in Aitor Karanka.
Vertoghen and Walker are suspended for Tottenham in this one while Alderweireld is suffering from a virus. That’s three key players missing in defence and it will surprise me if Tottenham keep a cleansheet against Watford. The Hornets have just one win in six games and would fancy their chances against that weak-looking Tottenham defence.
Leicester are in a free fall and could end 2016 in the relegation spots. Yes, from being champions to be being relegation contenders, it’s been that kind of year. West Ham are on a roll, upwardly mobile with 10 points from the last possible 12. Leicester’s form should give the Hammers some confidence and I don’t think they would lose here.
Burnley have lost twice at home this season and both times were against top teams in Arsenal and Manchester City. The winners in those games came in the last 10 minutes. All these points to a team who makes it very difficult for visitors to Turf Moor. I don’t see then losing to Sunderland and I’ll even be surprised if it ends in a draw.
Everton have six points from the last three games and they are slowly building momentum. A game against one of the two poorest team in the league should help them end 2016 on a high. Mike Phelan’s team would hope their effort would pay rewards soon. They have played well recently with nothing to show for it. A fourth consecutive defeat looks on the card for me.
Swansea are in disarray. The directors, owners or whatever they are called have damaged the football club. The team has lost its identity and relegation is a big prospect for them. They have to beat Bournemouth. Lose and they will kiss top-flight football bye in May, 2017. With their hosts in turmoil, Bournemouth should smell an opportunity to bounce back from their boxing day defeat at Chelsea.
Southampton and West Brom going head to head is definitely the least exciting pairing this round of matches. The Baggies have been on the defensive last three games against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal but expect Tony Pulis to allow his players some attacking freedom at St. Mary’s.
Here’s wishing you all avid readers of this column a prosperous 2017 ahead