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It’s holiday time and that means one thing. The BPL festive period is upon us. It all gets going on Boxing Day, where traditionally all 20 teams are in action. Boxing Day this year falls out on a Saturday, which means that everyone will be in action Saturday and no one on Sunday.
A Sunday without the Premier League is unacceptable, so when Boxing Day falls out on a Saturday, the Premier League needs to run the weekend as usual, and then hold their Boxing Day fixtures on either the 29th or 30th. Teams get the same break and I still get my weekend of football.
On to the games. (All games on Saturday and all times eastern)
Stoke City vs. Manchester United (7:45 AM NBCSN)
Traditionally, games featuring top sides at Stoke City are usually pretty boring, low-scoring affairs as Stoke tend to play very narrow defensively and make it difficult for opponents to break them down. Now add in a Manchester United squad who haven’t been able to break anyone down this season and what are you in for? A pretty ugly and boring match most likely.
Traditionally, the festive period tends to be the time of year where Manchester United turn things around and find their form. Last season under Louis van Gaal that didn’t happen, and this year there’s little reason to be optimistic about it as well. United have gone six straight matches without a win — I see it going to seven. 1-1 draw.
Chelsea vs. Watford (10:00 AM USA)
The big question surrounding Chelsea right now is was their 3-1 thumping of Sunderland last weekend a return to form as a result of the firing of Jose Mourinho or was it a result of playing a really bad Sunderland side? This week will be a much bigger test when they face Watford, who not only are sitting in seventh place, but have won four in a row and six of their last eight. This is no easy test for Chelsea, who will also have one eye on their clash with Manchester United two days later. 2-2 draw.
Liverpool vs. Leicester City (10:00 AM NBCSN)
Since Jurgen Klopp has taken over, we’ve all raved about the transformation he’s done at Liverpool. Here’s a stat that will bring you back down to earth.
Liverpool – 12 pts out of a possible 24 under Brendan Rodgers. So far 12 out of 27 for Jurgen Klopp. Different managers. Same players.
— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) December 23, 2015
Turns out Klopp hasn’t exactly been reinventing the wheel since his arrival at Anfield. Meanwhile everyone has been waiting for Leicester City to slip up as their schedule gets tougher and it just hasn’t happened yet, though this period will be the toughest they’ve had yet. This is just game one though, so they’re still fresh from last week. It’ll be another “big” club to face Leicester, and another big win for Leicester 2-0.
Newcastle vs. Everton (12:30 PM NBC)
It’s hard to get a feel for this one. Newcastle is unbeaten in the month of December, with big wins over Liverpool and Tottenham. Everton only managed draws against Crystal Palace and Norwich (thanks to Romelu Lukaku hitting several posts) and then predictably fell to Leicester City. This Everton team is too talented to keep this skid going, and Newcastle has been punching above their weight class. The ship gets righted this week and Everton grab a 3-1 win.
Southampton vs. Arsenal (2:45 PM NBC)
What a tremendous time we live in, four time slots of Premier League football and a doubleheader on NBC this Saturday. Unfortunately we get a pretty one-sided match here, as Southampton have lost five of their last six with only a draw against lowly Aston Villa thrown in there.
Knowing Arsene Wenger, we likely will get a not-100-percent Arsenal side. Not saying Arsenal will be mailing this one in, but I just don’t see Wenger starting all of Sanchez, Walcott, Ozil and Giroud together with another match just two days later. Wenger is one of the few old school managers left who seems to understand “squad rotation.” That will take away some of Arsenal’s fire power, but they’ll have plenty to get past the Saints. Arsenal win 2-0.
Rest of games:
We already know the loss of Vincent Kompany has pretty much completely taken away Manchester City’s ability to defend, but somehow this team has completely fallen apart. They haven’t won back-to-back games since facing Bournemouth and Newcastle in October and now they’ve lost three of their last five. Lucky for them they get the same remedy Chelsea got last weekend in a bad Sunderland team, who they will slip by 2-1.
One of the most even games of the day will see Bournemouth host Crystal Palace. The Cherries have won three in a row with wins over Chelsea, Manchester United and West Brom. The Eagles have won four in a row but the teams they’ve beaten don’t compare. This very even matchup will play out very evenly in a 1-1 draw.
On Oct. 24, West Ham defeated Chelsea 2-1. Since then the Hammers have scored just three goals in the league. That’s Manchester United level ineptness when it comes to scoring goals. A trip to last place Aston Villa should be the remedy that they need, barely, but they get their 1-0 win.
Tottenham finally got their game back on track last week. Now they face a Norwich side who will suffer a little hangover from their win at Manchester United last week. With Spurs back on track, they’ll move past Norwich 2-1.
Have a great holiday and enjoy the matches!