December is known for having a substantial impact on shaping the Premier League table. The fixtures keep coming thick and fast, ensuring there is no lack of action on the field. Considering how the first week has gone, we can already say that December is living up to its reputation.
Premier League teams and managers are not unknown as to how crucial this period will prove to their respective standings in the league. Gain momentum here and it puts you in a very strong position for the remainder of the season. Endure a difficult run of fixtures with unfavorable results and the season could well crumble.
Premier League has already witnessed several surprises in December with the Hammers producing their second major upset of the season by beating Chelsea 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the London Stadium. Michael Carrick announced his shock exit from Manchester United after a win against Arsenal in the Premier League.
On the other end of the spectrum, relegation contenders Newcastle United got their first win of the season after a long wait of 14 matches. But the drama has only just begun as another matchday approaches us with plenty to keep us engaged.
Here are five things to watch out for this Premier League weekend.
COVID outbreak derails Spurs’ hard-earned momentum under Conte
Reports emerged a couple of days ago that Tottenham Hotspur’s camp had been hit with Corona Virus as multiple staff members and players tested positive. The Premier League outfit were set to play the final fixture of their Conference League group stage against Stade Rennes. But UEFA acknowledged the crisis and the match was postponed.
Warning bells might soon start ringing in the English top-flight as this is the first club that has been impacted by the outbreak in major numbers. Antonio Conte must feel hard done by the unfortunate circumstances given how the Spurs squad have been performing recently.Since the Italian arrived, the Lily Whites have picked up 10 points from a possible 12 with three wins in a row. They have also managed to keep three clean sheets in those four Premier League ties.Conte has shown a tendency to rotate his sides and use multiple players in a position. Even fringe players like Ben Davies and Ryan Sessegnon have featured quite frequently under him.
Tottenham were set to face Brighton on Sunday but with eight players infected, the Italian’s hands were tied in terms of team selection. According to reliable reporter Alasdair Gold, the training grounds were shut down completely on Thursday and the squad did not train.
Manchester United and Ralf Rangnick aim to strengthen top-four hopes
The Red Devils have played two matches under interim manager Ralf Rangnick in the past week. He began his tenure with a narrow 1-0 win against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford and then got a taste of the Champions League in the 1-1 draw against BSC Young Boys.
The Man United faithful have seen a teaser of the style that Rangnick wishes to apply to games and his on-field tactics as they look forward to entering the top four. The new boss rang in changes in the Champions League game and gave many young players a chance to impress.
He firmly believes in developing young prospects and many academy players are sure to benefit under him. However, the visit to Carrow Road on Saturday will be one of those games where fans would like to see the Red Devils dominate.
It is not until late January that they face a current top-six Premier League side and they will have to take maximum advantage of this run of fixtures.
A win at Norwich City in their next game will give them a lot of confidence going forward. The Canaries have lost their last three meetings with Manchester United, but they have never lost four in a row in the competition. In their last five matches, Dean Smith has managed to stabilize the ship and they have lost only one game.
It will be interesting to see whether Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes start in the Premier League at the weekend against a side sitting at the bottom of the table. A loss in this match for United, well it’s best we don’t go that route.
Unpredictable Wolves visit Manchester City
If it wasn’t for super-sub Divock Origi, Liverpool wouldn’t be sitting second in the Premier League just one point adrift of the top spot. But all credit to Wolves for making it such a tough game for Jurgen Klopp’s men, who have been annihilating teams of late. Next on their route is an away fixture at the Etihad Stadium.
Wolves will look to the 2019-20 season to draw inspiration for their game against Pep Guardiola’s side. The West Midlands side completed a Premier League double over the Sky Blues that season. However, in a larger scheme of things, the visiting side have lost 20 of their last 23 away top-flight games against Manchester City.
The Premier League toppers will be largely unhappy with their midweek game in the Champions League against RB Leipzig. Despite fielding a strong side with the likes of Foden, De Bruyne, Grealish and Mahrez featuring, they lost 2-1, in Germany.
Now we all know that Man City like to bounce back in style after losing their games, so if you want to catch some goals at the weekend, this could be the game for you. Bruno Lage’s side have also failed to score a goal in their last three Premier League games. But they did win 1-0 against a West Ham side that have defeated Liverpool and Chelsea. It’s safe to say this fixture won’t disappoint either way.
Chelsea have perfect opportunity to snap out of uncharacteristic rut
Since Thomas Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge, various positives have been highlighted about his Chelsea side. One of those has been their miserly nature to concede goals even against the toughest opposition. They started the season as European Champions and favorites to win the Premier League due to their tight defense.
But in their last three games in all competitions Chelsea have conceded seven goals, lost one of them, drawn the other and won one. To say the least, this has been very uncharacteristic of the Blues. Piling injuries have been one of their biggest concerns with the absence of Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante hurting the most.
Tuchel has had to settle with irregular pairs in midfield such as that of Jorginho and Loftus-Cheek in the defeat against West Ham. In the 3-3 draw against Zenit Petersburg in the Champions League he started Ross Barkley and Saul in a wing-back role. The latter has had a horror loan spell at the Premier League club and his showings have left fans frustrated.
Since 2002, Leeds United have been winless against the Blues in all competitions. Saturday’s game will be a difficult affair for Marcelo Bielsa as three of his regular starters, Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, will miss the game. So even though Chelsea have their own bunch of injuries to deal with, they should be looking to win big in the Premier League on Matchday 16.
Stevie G set to embrace the Kop in Anfield return
As echoes of Steven Gerrard’s managerial success traveled from Glasgow to Merseyside, Liverpool fans believed that one day their legend would return to pilot their ship. Three different ‘manager of the year’ awards on the back of an invincible season with Rangers in the Scottish League as your first job is as good as it gets.
When Aston Villa realized that Dean Smith had run his race in the Premier League and wasn’t fit to fulfill the ambitions of the club anymore, they called Stevie G and he obliged.
Many skeptics are calling it the ‘new manager bounce’ but it’s not difficult to see that the Liverpool legend has shown that he has it under control. One thing he has done differently from his predecessor is make Villa comfortable by keeping the ball at their feet and building play at a slower tempo. This has reduced their reckless nature of losing the ball while trying to attack.
On matchday 16 in the Premier League, Gerrard’s team will go against an opposition who only play high octane and high tempo football.
A familiar Anfield will welcome its legend, but this time they wouldn’t want Gerrard to be on the winning side. Liverpool love to control the game and love to dominate opponents with possession.
Luckily, Stevie G since his arrival has worked heavily on the shape his team maintain when they are out of possession and their ability will be tested to the limit. The Reds have won their last six Premier League games against Aston Villa.
The most interesting stat though is that the away side in this fixture has won it 20 times in the Premier League. Will this be Aston Villa’s lucky day? Will Gerrard’s approach to the game serve as his audition for a potential future hiring and return to Liverpool? We can’t wait for this clash to get underway!