We look at some of this week’s games on an action-packed Boxing day, where goals will fly in, and there may be a few shocks in store.
This week’s Premier League games:
Brentford v Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace v Fulham
Everton v Wolves
Leicester v Newcastle
Southampton v Brighton
Aston Villa v Liverpool
Arsenal v West Ham
Chelsea v Bournemouth
Man United v Nottingham Forest
Leeds United v Man City
Brentford v Tottenham HotspurEmbed from Getty Images
Brentford signed off for the international break well, with a brilliant win at The Etihad against reigning Champions Man City, which ended their 4-game winless streak. Ivan Toney scored twice and was unfortunate not to be called up to the England squad for the World Cup.
However, reports came out that he may be suspended from playing football for an extended period of time, after being charged with 232 alleged breaches of the gambling laws set by The FA. Should Toney be banned, it will be a massive loss for Brentford as he has been huge for them this season, with 10 goals and 2 assists in 14 games so far.
If Toney is suspended, there will be big pressure on Brentford to secure the services of another striker capable of scoring goals at the rate Toney does, which will not be cheap in the current market.
It is not all doom and gloom at Brentford however, as Thomas Frank has just signed a new deal until 2027. He believes that there is unfinished business at the club and that he is the right man to take them forward. His attacking style of play is certainly entertaining, and it will be interesting to see just how far he can take this Brentford side.
Spurs came into the international break in indifferent form, winning just two of their last five games, their last game being that scintillating 4-3 win against Leeds.
Spurs will hope to hit the ground running here. They sit in 4th, 7 points above 6th, however, the teams below them are all vying for a Champions League spot, so they cannot afford to slip up.
How Spurs play will all depend on how their World Cup players perform. Will Harry Kane be able to shake off his missed penalty against France? Will Lloris perform after losing in the final against Argentina? This is what makes it a tricky tie for Spurs before they even consider the opponents. If players like Kane and Lloris can shake off their disappointment, we could have a brilliant game on our hands.
Unfortunately, I do not see that happening, and I think the World Cup hangover will be evident, with Brentford taking full advantage. I expect a slow Spurs start, with Brentford going all out for a good start to the second half of the season.
Prediction: Brentford 3 – 1 Spurs
Aston Villa v LiverpoolEmbed from Getty Images
The World Cup break could not have come at a better time for Aston Villa. They won 3 of their last 5 before the break, winning their last two games also. Unai Emery will have drilled his team during the break on the way he wants them to play, and we could see a completely different Villa take to the field on Boxing Day.
Aston Villa does have a World Cup winner in Emi Martinez, with his antics in the final grabbing much media attention. Whether he plays or not will have a big impact on how Villa perform, as their number two, Robin Olsen, is not comparatively as good, and when coming up against a team like Liverpool with their attacking players, you need your keeper to be in form.
Whilst the managerial change has done wonders for Villa so far, it is a difficult task taking on Liverpool. If you go all out, you get done on the counter with the pace of Salah, Diaz and Jota. If you sit back and try to soak up the pressure, they overload you on the wings, with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson being given the freedom to get forwards and provide assists. It will be a difficult one for Emery to navigate and it will be interesting to see how he sets his side up for this clash.
Liverpool on the other hand returned from the break with a 3-2 Carabao Cup loss against Man City. What a game to come back to after the World Cup, and it shows that Liverpool may not perform how they did during the first half of the season. The intensity was there, their attacking play was on point, and they were defensively solid for large parts of the game.
The only negative, aside from losing, was the performance of Darwin Nunez. Liverpool could have won this game comfortably, had he scored any of the 4 big chances he somehow missed throughout the 90 minutes. Even Klopp look bewildered at some of the chances he managed to miss.
Nunez cannot go on missing chances like these week in and week out, especially if Liverpool wants to claw their way back into the top 4. He needs to be scoring each week. Whilst he often does well in the link-up play, for £100 million you would expect him to have more than 5 league goals so far.
This could be a very good game for the neutral, as there could be a lot of goals. I think Emery will taste defeat here, especially if Liverpool performs as they did against Man City during their cup tie, and despite his poor finishing midweek, I expect to see Nunez on the scoresheet.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1 – 4 Liverpool
Arsenal v West HamEmbed from Getty Images
Arsenal’s return to action sat at the top of the table, the question for them is whether they can remain there for the next few weeks, will be found out or start slowly.
Bukayo Saka had a brilliant World Cup, and a brilliant season so far. 3 goals in the World Cup, and 4 goals, and 6 assists with Arsenal so far in the league, it is impressive to see how far he has come in recent years. If Saka can carry on this form throughout the rest of the season, Arsenal has a very good chance of remaining at the top of the table.
The bad news for Arsenal is their summer signing Gabriel Jesus will be out injured for the next few games, meaning Eddie Nketiah will be called upon to make the step up and lead the line. Last season he scored 5 goals and got an assist in 21 appearances. If he struggles to lead the line, more pressure will fall on Saka and Martinelli.
Gabriel is slowly becoming one of the best defenders in the league and has impressed massively so far this year. It was a shock to see him not feature for Brazil at the World Cup, but this may allow him to come back from the World Cup still in form, and still performing at a high level.
West Ham is typically a side that Arsenal struggle against, however, Arteta has them playing brilliant, free-flowing football, and this will be a good test for his team.
West Ham will be hoping for a much better second half of the season. They signed off for the World Cup with 4 losses in 5 games, scoring just 3 goals in the process. David Moyes’ job will be under pressure as they have dropped down to 16th place, just one point above Nottingham Forest in 18th.
Whilst these are nervy times for West Ham, they are performing well in Europe, but there may come a point where they need to prioritise their league games over their international ones. How long will Moyes be given? And will the West Ham board consider European success and a relegation fight a successful season?
This is a game that could go either way depending on whether Arsenal hit the ground running or not. If they continue their pre-World Cup form, this should be an easy win for the Gunners, but if they do not, West Ham has every chance of causing an upset.
I believe Arsenal will get through this game comfortably, Arteta will not let his side’s standards drop, and we should not see a difference in for form or performance of their players.
Prediction: Arsenal 3 – 0 West Ham
Chelsea v BournemouthEmbed from Getty Images
Chelsea will be hoping to turn their fortunes around when they kick off against Bournemouth. Chelsea was winless in their last 5 before the break, losing 3 and drawing 2, scoring just twice in these 5 games. After a promising start under Graham Potter, it looks like they will now struggle to achieve a Champions League spot, currently sitting 8 points behind Spurs in 4th.
Chelsea’s biggest problem was scoring goals. Aubameyang has not done well since joining, Sterling and Mount have seemingly gone quiet, and Broja is now injured. January could be a big month for Chelsea, and I expect them to make at least one signing in the attacking third to help kick their season back into life, otherwise, it could be a long second half of the season for them.
The Champions League spots are very quickly becoming unreachable for Chelsea, they need to hit the ground running and start scoring goals if they have any hope. The second half of the season will make or break them, if they miss out on the top 4 this season, this season will be seen as a massive failure for them.
Bournemouth is hard to predict. They love to attack, but cannot defend well. Will they get battered 4/5-0 or will they play out a thrilling 4-3? They ended with back-to-back wins against Everton, with the win in the league putting them up to 14th.
No matter what happens, Bournemouth games are entertaining to watch for the neutral, they are similar to Leeds in that regard. After finally scoring a few goals, they can take this confidence into the next few games and hopefully score a few more. Bournemouth must be looking at some attacking, goalscoring options for the January transfer window, a proven goalscorer could prove crucial.
I think there will be goals in this one again, resulting in either a draw or a narrow Chelsea win. I do not see Bournemouth managing to get a win here, their defensive frailties should rear their head again and cost them.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 – 2 Bournemouth
Leeds v Man CityEmbed from Getty Images
Leeds, like Bournemouth, is so entertaining to watch for the neutral. Their last 5 games yielded 24 goals, 11 for, and 13 against, resulting in them losing 3, and winning the other two. Whilst they are entertaining to watch, Jesse Marsch’s all-out attack playstyle has resulted in them dropping to 15th.
Leeds needs to learn to keep it tight at the back, but still, have the right balance when going forward. If they can manage this, they may find themselves getting a few more wins behind them, whilst also putting in entertaining performances. Survival is Leeds’ only aim this season, and we may see them turn a bit more defensively the longer they sit around the relegation zone.
City has already played since the end of the World Cup. They put in a brilliant performance to beat rivals Liverpool 3-2 in the Carabao Cup. Kevin De Bruyne was back to his best after an extremely disappointing World Cup with Belgium. He provided a brilliant assist for Nathan Ake’s winner, and his stats so far this season have been astonishing.
Haaland returned with a goal as well. With no World Cup for him, he has been able to recharge his batteries, and he hit the ground running for the second time this season. It will be interesting to see how he performs when compared to other strikers who did go to the World Cup, such as Harry Kane. If he can continue his pre-World Cup form, he should be hitting 20 goals in the next few weeks.
This should be an easy win for Man City, however, I did believe they would beat Brentford. With how erratic Leeds is at the back, City should be able to rip through them with ease, and consistently. There are a lot of goals in this game, and most of them should be going in City’s favour.
Prediction: Leeds 1 – 4 Man City
- Everton 1 – 1 Wolves
- Leicester 2 – 2 Newcastle
- Crystal Palace 2 – 1 Fulham
- Southampton 0 – 2 Brighton
- Man United 2 -1 Nottingham Forest