Week 18 EPL Preview: Festive fixture scheduling not fair across board 

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​I find it unfair that some teams play their games over 10 days while others have just seven days to play three games. Maybe it evens itself out throughout the season but on face value, it doesn’t look cool. Chelsea especially have 10 days to play three games while Manchester United and Tottenham will play their festive schedule within eight and seven days respectively. If results go South for some teams, they have an excuse already. 

Watford will kick off the Christmas schedule at home to Palace. On paper, this looks like a dry game to start boxing day but it’s what the TV selectors have given us so we’ll take it anyway. Alan Pardew must have seen the handwriting on the wall a long time ago. He was a dead man walking. The stats don’t lie in his case as Palace have accrued the lowest point total of all teams in the top four divisions of the English league. Question is where do Palace go from here and it’ll be interesting to see how the players respond to this sack. Watford on the other hand aren’t exactly flying at the moment. But they play at home and always seem to find their groove at their Vicarage home ground. This one could go anywhere. But I would probably go for a goal-scoring stalemate in the end. 

Arsenal need a response immediately after their last two results. They need to string a run of victories together now to ensure the nine point gap to first place doesn’t increase. West Brom played very well against Chelsea and deserved at least a point but they probably gave too much respect to Manchester United in last week’s home defeat. Arsenal struggle against teams in the top half of the table. West Brom’s current eighth position isn’t a lull, it’s where they deserve to be and I feel Arsenal would need to be at their best to get maximum points on Monday. 

Just one point separates both Burnley and Middlesbrough on the log but it doesn’t matter because both teams can’t breathe easily yet with relegation spots so close. The Clarets are a fantastic side at home and would be favourites in this one. Arsenal left it late, Manchester City too and all but one of their 17-point total has been won at their home ground. You’d be a brave man to go for a Middlesbrough win in this one. 

Chelsea bid to make it a 12th consecutive league victory but would have to try without two key players in Costa and Kante who are serving suspensions. Bournemouth won at Stamford Bridge last season but they have been neither here nor there this season. You really don’t know what to expect from them but if they are in the mood to compete, they could pose Chelsea some problems. I wouldn’t bet against another 1-0 to Chelsea victory. 

Everton really need to start getting the results the quality in their ranks deserve. And their game away to Leicester could be where they turn things around. The Champions have looked average at home (minus that sensational win over Manchester City) and with Vardy and Huth sitting this one out due to suspensions, they are there for the taking. 

Manchester United have definitely turned the corner after three successive Premier League victories. They have closed the gap to fourth and need to consolidate their new found winning run against relegation – haunted Sunderland. David Moyes wouldn’t be looking forward to his Old Trafford return with the home side beginning to click. I can only see one result here and it’s not an away victory. 

West Ham have given themselves some breathing space after their seven points haul from the last available nine. But they looked piss-poor last time against Hull City. The win flattered them and they really need to be up for this one against Swansea because it’s a must-win for the Welsh side. The last time Swansea needed to win, they spanked Sunderland 3-0 and Bob Bradley needs some of that effort on Monday. If they don’t win this one, a difficult ask will get even more difficult, close to impossible. 

Hull City have been unlucky this season. They have got the effort and the desire to get results is obvious but they just lack the quality all over the pack and you’ve got to wonder how long they can continue to be optimistic if they don’t get a win or two soon. They play Manchester City on Monday evening and the gap in quality would be too much. I see Pep Guardiola’s team picking them apart easily to further compound Hull’s owes. 

Stoke threw away three points at home to Leicester last time out. They should have had more from their last two games but they have just one point to show for their effort. Liverpool on the other hand have bounced back emphatically from that home draw against West Ham with 4 goals, two cleansheets and six points in their last two games, both away from home. Klopp’s men are proving to be durable title contenders but with Chelsea six points clear, they have to win this one at home to Stoke.  

For all the average results at the start of the season when Claude Puel was getting to grips with the leagu, Southampton are currently seventh on the log and would relish going up against their former coach, Pochettino in the opposition dugout. Tottenham made hard work of Burnley and they need to be up for this one. Southampton are a tough team at home but Tottenham have enough quality to harm them. 

Here’s wishing avid readers of this column a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year in advance. 

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