The festive period officially gets underway with the final round of Premier League fixtures before Christmas this weekend, in which Spurs host Chelsea.
Liverpool’s Club World Cup exploits mean the leaders do not feature, nor do West Ham United. But there are still nine thrilling encounters for fans to sink their teeth into.
Manchester City and Leicester continue their battle to be best of the rest at the Etihad, while Arsenal and Everton – two clubs looking to the future – go head-to-head at Goodison Park.
There’s also a bottom-of-the-table clash between Aston Villa and Southampton, and the small matter of Tottenham and Chelsea facing off in a London derby.
As usual, we’ve had two writers take a look at every fixture and make some predictions. There are also percentile odds, based on the Smarkets betting exchange, for every result possible in each game.
You have to be 18+ to gamble. For more information, go to BeGambleAware.org. Odds accurate at the time of writing (12:00, 19/12/2019).
Everton vs. Arsenal
Steve Jennings: With both clubs about to enter new eras, all 22 players will be eager to impress in what could be a barnstormer of a game at Goodison Park. Home advantage could see Everton edge a thriller here if their attackers are at it. Everton 3-2 Arsenal.
Harry Edwards: These two sides have had differing form under interim managers with Everton improving under Duncan Ferguson while Freddie Ljungberg’s Arsenal struggle. This is expected to be the final game for each interim boss and only Everton really look like winning. Cheered on by the Goodison faithful, the Toffees should send Ferguson off on a high note. Everton 2-1 Arsenal.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Richarlison has registered more shots on target (15) and, perhaps surprisingly, made more tackles (27) than any other Everton player in the Premier League this season.
Everton win: 40.65%
Arsenal win: 33.56%
Aston Villa vs. Southampton
SJ: Southampton could move out of the bottom three and push Aston Villa into the relegation zone with a win, but the Saints will be quite happy with a point on the road. If Villa aren’t clinical, a bore draw is likely. Aston Villa 1-1 Southampton.
HE: A battle near the bottom of the table, the loser spends Christmas in the relegation zone, so stakes are high. Both Aston Villa and Southampton are on losing runs but the hosts look more likely to end that run this weekend, as the Saints continue to struggle under Ralph Hasenhuttl. But that said, it could easily be a draw, condemning Southampton to Christmas in the bottom three. Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jack Grealish has been directly involved in eight Premier League goals this season, scoring four and assisting four.
Aston Villa win: 40.00%
Southampton win: 33.33%
Bournemouth vs. Burnley
SJ: Bournemouth and Burnley both ended dreadful runs of form last weekend. It’s now up to the players to carry on that momentum, meaning this one could be tight with both sides determined not to lose. The hosts should have just enough. Bournemouth 2-1 Burnley.
HE: Bournemouth ended their losing run last weekend but they face a Burnley side trying to move back into the top half of the table after a poor patch of their own. Even with the Cherries’ win over Chelsea, Burnley have looked the more impressive team and two of their three recent defeats came against Manchester City and Tottenham. This should be a tight victory for Sean Dyche’s men. Bournemouth 0-1 Burnley.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Harry Wilson has scored from six of his 11 shots on target in the Premier League this term.
Bournemouth win: 40.65%
Burnley win: 31.25%
Brighton vs. Sheffield Utd
SJ: Brighton can move within two points of Sheffield United, but the Blades are still unbeaten on the road and will be determined to keep that up. It would be typical if that run ended at the Amex rather than one of the top six, and that might just happen. Brighton 2-0 Sheffield Utd.
HE: Sheffield United have been one of the stories of the season and will want to keep their impressive run going into the Christmas period. Brighton haven’t been too bad either on the pitch, but their performances have sometimes failed to translate into results. Expect something similar to happen this weekend, with Sheffield United yet to taste defeat away from home in the league. Brighton 1-1 Sheffield United.
PLAYER TO WATCH: John Lundstram has been directly involved in five Premier League goals this season, scoring three and recording two assists.
Brighton win: 43.86%
Sheffield Utd win: 27.03%
Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace
SJ: Palace were outplayed by Brighton on Monday but showed enough fight to earn a point. They will need to do that again at Newcastle, who may lack flair without the injured Allan Saint-Maximin. Roy Hodgson’s men could spring a surprise here. Newcastle 1-2 Crystal Palace.
HE: Just one point separates Newcastle and Crystal Palace in the table but fans of the Eagles may be happier with their season so far. Palace have been positive under Roy Hodgson though they were slightly disappointing in draws against Brighton and Watford. Newcastle were equally poor in defeat to Burnley but their issues look slightly bigger than Palace’s, setting up Hodgson’s side for the win. Newcastle 0-1 Crystal Palace.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jonjo Shelvey has scored more league goals (5) than any Newcastle or Crystal Palace player this term.
Newcastle win: 39.68%
Crystal Palace win: 28.99%
Norwich vs. Wolves
SJ: Wolves were hugely unlucky to lose against Tottenham last weekend. It was just their third defeat of the campaign; drawing too often is the reason they are only eighth. And with Norwich desperate for points, another draw could be on the cards. Norwich 1-1 Wolves.
HE: Wolves’ excellent unbeaten run ended at the hands of Spurs last weekend but they should return to winning ways against Norwich. Despite their draw against Leicester, the Canaries are in trouble and don’t really look like stringing a run of results together. Having had a rare free week with the Europa League over, Wolves should be fresh to close the gap on the top four. Norwich 1-3 Wolves.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Raul Jimenez has been directly involved in 11 Premier League goals this season, scoring six and adding five assists.
Norwich win: 25.32%
Wolves win: 50.00%
Manchester City vs. Leicester
SJ: Leicester have done brilliantly to make themselves frontrunners for the top four, but Manchester City could prove a title challenge is a step too far. The champions can outclass anyone on their day, especially at the Etihad. Man City 3-1 Leicester.
HE: Leicester have been brilliant this season and will go into Christmas second in the Premier League regardless of Saturday’s result. But, nevertheless, Brendan Rodgers will be looking to extend the gap between his side and Man City with a win. The Foxes are undeniably in better form but they may be affected by having to play a pretty strong XI in the Carabao Cup against Everton, while Man City rested some stars and will want to close the gap on the top with Liverpool not playing this weekend. Man City 3-2 Leicester.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jamie Vardy will be looking to return to scoring ways after ending his eight-game run against Norwich City last weekend.
Man City win: 71.94%
Leicester win: 11.36%
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Watford vs. Manchester Utd
SJ: After rediscovering their scoring touch, Manchester United laboured to a draw with Everton at home last time out. Watford, meanwhile, were somewhat unfortunate at Anfield. They may have more luck at home, but United will look to win it on the counter. Watford 1-2 Man Utd.
HE: Nigel Pearson is back in the Premier League, but he couldn’t have asked for a much worse first home game. Yes, it isn’t Liverpool or one of the top four but Manchester United have found form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and will see this weekend as an opportunity put pressure on the teams above them. Pearson’s arrival may provide a minor bounce in performance but this should still be a United win. Watford 0-3 Man Utd.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Marcus Rashford is just one goal away from breaking his personal record for most Premier League goals in a season, currently sitting on 10.
Watford win: 21.28%
Man Utd win: 54.64%
Tottenham vs. Chelsea
SJ: ‘The narrative’ suggests Spurs’ resurgence has affected Chelsea’s form, but the Blues won’t be rolled over. In fact, if the visitors score early, Tottenham could easily be thrown off and struggle to secure more than a point in the London derby. Spurs 1-1 Chelsea.
HE: Undeniably the game of the weekend, with the stories surrounding it, Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham take on Frank Lampard and Chelsea. As a pundit, Mourinho spoke of his worries about Chelsea when they were on a good run of form and he has been proven right, with the Blues losing four of their past five league games. At the same time, Spurs have won four of five and will leapfrog Chelsea with a win, something that seemed so far away when Mauricio Pochettino was sacked. Spurs 2-0 Chelsea.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Dele Alli has thrived under Jose Mourinho and loves to face Chelsea, scoring five goals in five Premier League games against the Blues.
Tottenham win: 40.65%
Chelsea win: 32.79%