While the energy surrounding the December period typically means a rush of blood to the head for most consumers in their retail exploits as they prepare for a relaxing close to their year, the English Premier League typically hits a fever pitch of activity, with 8 rounds of football, including the bumper period over the festive season, offering some additional sporting entertainment to go with Christmas delicacies and family gatherings.
EPL Soccer Preview and Predictions
The Title Race and Top 4
In respect of an outright winner come the end of the season, Manchester City look even more ominous than Chelsea did last season, which is saying something. It’s still fairly early to say for certain where Guardiola’s side will end up but it may already be a good time to consider them an interesting bet to break a number of Premier League records:
- Total points (95, held by Chelsea from 2004/05); City’s current trajectory could see them become the first team to break 100 points
- Total wins (30, held by Chelsea from 2016/17); City’s current trajectory suggest they’ll surpass that by 5 wins
- Total goals scored (103, held by Chelsea from 2009/10); City’s current scoring rate places them at over 120 goals scored by season end
The reality is that unless an unusual mass of injuries and fixture congestion takes effect, given the already large 8 point gap between 1st and 2nd as December starts, Man City look fully banked as champions for 2017/18. It’s thus safe to suggest that the battle for the remaining top 4 spots are of considerably more interest and intrigue, especially with only 3 points dividing Chelsea in 3rd and Liverpool in 6th. Some of the critical fixtures include:
Liverpool vs Everton
The Anfield version of the Merseyside derby is usually a combustible affair where Liverpool win, and with Everton sitting much closer to the bottom 3 than their cross-town rivals, the significance of the points in this game could for once equal the display of pride. David Unsworth’s side have tended to look particularly ineffective against teams with skillful players from wide positions, which plays perfectly into Liverpool’s strengths.
Prediction: The Reds to win; by how many is where the bet probably becomes interesting.
Man United vs Man City
The star studded Manchester derby should feel like a clash of title challenging titans, but this edition is far more likely to be a vain attempt to blemish the near perfect record of the Citizens’ super season. Mourinho’s massively defensive approach may well be the perfect tonic to dull the Man City attacking blades. But this appears very unlikely, given just how good Guardiola’s side have played against any standard and configuration of opposition.
Prediction: A score draw seems sensible, but Man City should win; Aguero to score if he plays (he has 7 goals in 9 league matches against Man United, and scored 2 in the last match he played at Old Trafford in 2015).
Man City vs Spurs
If there is a banana peel that the champions elect could encounter, it is Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs, who haven’t lost at the Etihad in a league game since 2014. However, while Man City’s record against the North London side makes for mixed reading, the likely absence of Toby Alderweireld to injury combined with the addition gears the Citizens have found this season, could just make it a result too far for Tottenham to achieve.
Prediction: A solid Man City win; Aguero to score if he plays (he has 10 goals in 11 league matches against Spurs, and is due a goal in the home fixture having not scored in the last 2 clashes at the Etihad).
Arsenal vs Liverpool
Liverpool’s record at the Emirates makes for poor reading, but last season’s thrilling 4-3 opening day win is still fresh in the memory of those who took in the magic produced by winger Sadio Mane that day. Much was made of Liverpool’s spectacular 4-0 win over Arsenal earlier this season, but as the dust has settled, it is the Gunners who seem marginally more balanced than the goal-rich Liverpool. The reverse of that fixture seems especially significant, given that both sides’ record against top 4 rivals is less than ideal this season. Winning this now could be massive in league placing come the end of the season.
Prediction: Goals for both sides in an Arsenal win; Mane to score if he plays (he has 4 goals in 7 league matches against the Gunners).