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Take a look at your calendar. That’s right, it’s now December, the month where the Barclays Premier League distinguishes itself from the rest of Europe as the best league in the world. While the rest of the European leagues spend the latter half of the month on ‘winter breaks’, the Premier League ups the ante, giving us seven different matchdays this month, with most of them coming during the final week or ‘The Festive Period’ as it’s come to be known.
As they like to say, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” (All times Eastern)
Stoke City vs. Manchester City (7:45 AM Saturday)
There are two stats you need to be aware of when it comes to Manchester City. The first is that in the eight games where captain Vincent Kompany has played, the team has conceded just one goal. In the six games he’s missed, the team has conceded a whopping 13. The other stat is the team’s 100 percent win record when David Silva plays, compared to just 50 percent when he doesn’t. The bad news for City is that Kompany won’t be playing; the good news is Silva will. Seems simple then, right? Not exactly.
City have had Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Kevin de Bruyne together on the field just once–the first half against Newcastle. The combination was a disaster, forcing City to remove Sterling at halftime, which led to the five-goal second half onslaught. The other problem for City is they’ll be without Sergio Aguero. Stoke isn’t the easiest place to go when you’re missing your best goal scorer and your midfield is still gelling. Lucky for City, Stoke haven’t been good as they were expected to be this year. City win 2-0 but it could easily be closer then that.
Arsenal vs. Sunderland (10:00 AM Saturday)
Another week another injury for Arsenal. This time it’s Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez. The injuries are starting to take their toll on the Gunners, who are winless in their last three Premier League matches. The good news for the Gunners is not only do they get Theo Walcott back this week but they also face lowly Sunderland. What’s that? Sunderland have won two in a row and only conceded once in their past three games? Interesting, but with no Jermaine Defoe the Black Cats don’t stand a chance against a depleted Arsenal side that still features Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott. Arsenal win 2-0.
Manchester United vs. West Ham (10:00 AM Saturday)
West Ham’s away record this season is well documented, featuring away wins at the Emirates, Etihad, and Anfield. You would expect them to add Old Trafford to that list this season but the truth is the Hammers have been a far less potent side since losing Dimitri Payet to injury.
United have injury problems of their own. Defender Marcos Rojo was injured in training this week, though that is pretty much addition by subtraction. They’ll also be without captain Wayne Rooney, who could miss extended time with an ankle injury. The last time they were without Rooney, United did look dangerous against Watford, but that was for about 20 minutes before Ander Herrera left with an injury. Herrera is still doubtful to return this week, so we’re in for another ugly Louis van Gaal style 1-1 draw.
Chelsea vs. Bournemouth (12:30 PM Saturday)
Bournemouth are fresh off giving us one of the greatest finishes the Premier League has ever seen in last week’s six-goal thriller vs. Everton. This week they face a Chelsea side that hasn’t conceded a goal in two weeks, giving off the false impression that they’ve solved their defensive woes. In previous years, this match would scream 6-0 Chelsea blowout, but not this year. Bournemouth are fearless–they’ll go for it all–and sure it will probably come back to bite them, but can they get a draw at Stamford Bridge? This season, anything is possible at Chelsea. The *mini upset of the week* is Bournemouth gets that 2-2 draw.
Newcastle vs. Liverpool (11:00 AM Sunday)
The Premier League is great for being full of twists, turns, and surprises. However, sometimes things are very predictable. The most predictable thing this season was that Brendan Rodgers would be the first manager sacked this season, and that Jurgen Klopp would take over and completely turn Liverpool around. How much has he turned it around? Take a look.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) December 4, 2015
Add in that Daniel Sturridge is back with the squad and Liverpool are all of a sudden a threat to come charging up the table to throw themselves right into the wide-open top-four race. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the league. Two weeks ago they won 4-1 away to Manchester City. This week they won away at Southampton 6-1 in the League Cup. Newcastle will not be standing in their way this week, Liverpool win 4-0.
Rest of the games
Remember when Aston Villa won on the opening day of the season? Well they haven’t won since, and this week they get a Southampton side that wants to erase their midweek embarrassment against Liverpool. They’ll do that with a 1-0 win.
Leicester City travel to Whales this week to take on Swansea and it’s the trip to Whales that will probably be the most difficult part for them. These days the only question with the Foxes is whether Jamie Vardy will add to his Premier League record streak of 11 consecutive games with a goal. The answer is probably, en route to a 2-1 win.
West Brom manager Tony Pulis said Friday that striker Saido Berahino hasn’t been the same player that he was last season. The strike had 14 goals last season compared to just three this year. Now they face a Tottenham side that gets midfield starlet Delle Alli back. Spurs win 3-1.
Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 17 goals this season, tied with Kevin de Bruyne for the most in the league. Crystal Palace is coming off a tremendous five-goal performance over Newcastle last week. I don’t expect the Eagles to do it two weeks in a row, not against an Everton side mad about blowing last week’s game against Bournemouth. Everton win 2-0.
Enjoy the games!