Finally! The teams will have made it beyond the festive fixture period, and will be rewarded with FA Cup ties over the weekend with league action resuming a week later. Last week, I may have gotten some results right, but my predictions for the scores were largely off the mark. Let’s try and get better this time around.
January 1, 2019
Everton vs. Leicester City
Everton are coming off a dismal month of form and a bad away defeat to a Brighton side that is proving that they can be a Premier League mainstay in the lower half of the table. Everton have looked resurgent at times under new boss Marco Silva, but have still looked like a side that still lacks something in matches. Leicester also come in on the heels of a less than ideal defeat to relegation candidates Cardiff, but that came after two impressive victories over Chelsea and Manchester City. Leicester find themselves in contention for a European place this season, and will be looking to add to their points tally when they visit Goodison Park. I see this result as a must-win for both sides, but more so for the home team. As such, I see Everton fighting hard for a win, and finding a way to pick up a positive result following a negative month.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Leicester City
Arsenal vs. Fulham
Arsenal come back to the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium after enduring two torrid matches on the road that they and I alike would prefer to forget. Arsenal have been able to score plenty of goals this term, and that should bode well against a Fulham team who has had very little in terms of defensive solidarity. Fulham enter the match on the heels of two positive results including a win over bottom side Huddersfield Town. Although they will be without Callum Chambers who is unable to feature against his parent club, they will still fancy their shot at a point against injury-ravaged and defensive error-prone Arsenal. Arsenal will ahve the higher quality, but they will be unable to find the elusive clean sheet.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Fulham
Cardiff City vs. Tottenham
This match wraps up the slate on New Year’s Day and Tottenham will want to get back on track following a poor second half display against Wolverhampton. Cardiff City are flying high after their wonderstrike sealed victory against Leicester City. In a home match against a top side, Neil Warnock’s men will be hoping to steal a point in an effort to boost their survival hopes. This is a game Tottenham will be keen to in, and should very comfortably given Cardiff’s usual negative football.
Prediction: Cardiff City 0-2 Tottenham
January 2, 2019
Bournemouth vs. Watford
If this fixture had come two months earlier, Bournemouth would probably fancy their chance of victory far more than they do now. Lately, their defensive record has been poor, and they have only gotten three points in all matches since December 8. Watford’s recent form has been more encouraging, but they did lose the reverse fixture at home 4-0. Watford also rotated their squad with their eyes on this match seeing an opportunity to secure three crucial points on the road. However, Bournemouth will turn it around, but there will be plenty of goals for the neutral fan.
Prediction: Bournemouth 3-2 Watford
Chelsea vs. Southampton
Chelsea were far from their peak form over the weekend, and will be keen to earn a dominant victory over a Southampton side who will be without their captain due to his red card over the weekend. Chelsea have been playing well, and this is normally a fixture I would view as tricky for them, but they have shown a new attacking prowess under the guidance of Mauricio Sarri. Southampton finally look to have a recipe that could work for them going forward, but they have yet to remedy the defensive fragility that has them in the relegation scrap. They should take pride for most of the football they played against Manchester City, but will have to avoid switching off at the back if they hope to contain Chelsea. I still think a draw against the cards will happen as Southampton will attempt to control the damage against the attacking threat of Chelsea who have had trouble breaking sides down this season.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Southampton
Huddersfield Town vs. Burnley
Huddersfield come into the match without talisman Aaron Mooy, and have not really looked like a side that could survive the drop this season. They may show a greater attacking impetus at home, but they lack the quality to beat many of the teams above them. Burnley found a second gear last weekend at home, but have had a very Jekyll/Hyde season thus far. They have struggled to keep goals out, but still don’t possess the consistency in attacking power that allowed their approach of defensive pragmatism to work last season. I really don’t know how this one could end because I see a few different scorelines that are possible, but I will stick with my gut.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 0-0 Burnley
West Ham United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
West Ham come into the match off the back of a shocking away defeat after looking like a side that had finally found its identity. They will most likely attempt to assert their control over a weaker Brighton side, but they will most likely have to muster moments of quality at both ends of the pitch. Brighton are soaring after getting an unlucky point against Arsenal (they should have won, take it from an Arsenal supporter) and they controlled proceedings against a lackluster Everton. Chris Hughton has his men playing with better defensive solidarity which should give them hope in this match. I see a West Ham victory, but Brighton will give it all they have.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Wolverhampton Wolves vs. Crystal Palace
Wolverhampton come into this match off the back of a brilliant second half performance where they had their way with Tottenham. There is no doubt that they will try and jump Palace from the opening whistle as they love to show their attacking potential in front of the home supporters at the Molineux. Palace enter the match looking far cries from the team that took down the reigning champions, Manchester City, and have played negative football recently. They will hope for a point against Wolverhampton, but could find tough sledding if they decide to let Wolverhampton attack at will. I see an entertaining match in this one, and Wolverhampton will have the better of the goal scoring action.
Prediction: Wolverhampton 2-0
Newcastle Untied vs. Manchester United
Newcastle enter the match having picked up an average result against Watford, but they will get burned if they approach this match with negative football. Rafa Benitez has instilled defensive quality into this side, but Liverpool demonstrated just how easily they can be broken down. Manchester United are flying high after a managerial change that has breathed an attacking impetus into the side that Mourinho tried to kill off. Manchester United have found goalscoring easy to come by as they have scored twelve times in their last three matches. If this was played before Mourinho got sacked, this is a draw, but right now Manchester United will pile the suffering on Rafa Benitez’s men.
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-4 Manchester United
January 3, 2019
Manchester City vs. Liverpool
This is the best match of the lot, and it is fitting that it closes out the festive fixture period. Manchester City got back to winning ways agaisnt Southampton, but they will face a more resilient Liverpool defense. The reigning champions need all three points here if they want to apply more pressure to Liverpool in the title chase. This is the toughest fixture Jurgen Klopp has this year, and he brings his unbeaten side into the match in fine form. Liverpool will feel like they can score against anyone as they have bagged nine goals from their last two matches. Both sides will want all three points. However, it will be Manchester City who bring an end to the undefeated run of Liverpool, and reverses the deed from a year ago.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool