Weekend Preview & Predictions: Matchweek 21
As we round into January, the chances to make up for past mistakes become fewer and far between. It seems that this is where the eventual champion makes a move every year. This weekend could potentially show a shake up in the table.
Manchester United vs Liverpool:
A truly classic rivalry between two of the most storied clubs in England. Man U-Liverpool entertains every time these two sides meet. This weekend, the stakes are much higher in a virtually must-win game for Mourinho’s men. United, winner of ten consecutive in all competitions, at least need a point to have any chance of catching Chelsea.
One way they can possibly snag all three is off set pieces and crosses. With players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, as well as Chris Smalling coming up on corners, United will have an advantage in the air. Expect Manchester United to create plenty of opportunities in this game. The real question is whether they will be able to capitalize on those.
For Liverpool, they sit in second, so their situation is not as dire as United’s. However a win and a Chelsea loss would move the Reds within two points. Liverpool will be missing dynamic winger Sadio Mane, who is participating in the Africa Cup of Nations. Exciting Brazilians Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho will look to make up for some of what Liverpool will miss from Mane. Firmino and Coutinho will look to make Man United sorely miss their own Africa Cup of Nations participant. The Red Devils will be without Eric Bailly’s patience and athleticism at the back.
Manchester United 2 Liverpool 2
Leicester City vs Chelsea:
Chelsea still maintain a solid grip on the league at this point in the season. The Blues will look to further distance themselves from the pack with a win against reigning champions Leicester. The Foxes have been underwhelming this season, but still remain dangerous at home.
This match got much more interesting Friday, when reports that Chelsea star striker Diego Costa had been dropped from the starting lineup. Costa and manager Antonio Conte had an apparent argument in training and Costa hasn’t trained in three days. This puts an interesting strain on Chelsea from a tactical standpoint. Young Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi is Costa’s backup. Conte could play Eden Hazard as a False 9 and Willian and Pedro as wingers. Chelsea are still favorites, but it will be interesting to see how this in addition to coming off a 2-0 defeat to Spurs affects them.
Leicester will also be missing a key piece in Riyad Mahrez. The Foxes’ most creative player is representing Algeria at the Africa Cup of Nations along with striker Islam Slimani. They do have the benefit of playing at the King Power, which they play significantly better at. Leicester could potentially cause Chelsea problems with their lightning quick counter attacks finished by Jamie Vardy. This match also marks the return of N’Golo Kante to the King Power, where he won the title last season with Leicester.
Leicester City 1 Chelsea 1
Everton vs Manchester City
As we approach this critical stretch of the season, very few have as much on the line as Pep Guardiola. Guardiola’s debut season in Manchester has had its bumps. City are only seven points back and games like this can be crucial. Everton aren’t quite top tier quality, but they can certainly surprise at Goodison Park.
Expect league leaders in possession, Man City to do exactly that. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne should run free as Everton will miss Idrissa Gueye. Gueye, the leader in tackles this season, is also playing in Africa. Sergio Aguero’s prospects look good for a goal this weekend. If City control the pace and limit counter attacks, they should cruise by the Toffees.
For Ronald Koeman’s men, they must make the most of every opportunity. When you play against a team that likes to control the game, your chances are going to be limited. Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley will need to be in top form if Everton are to keep up with the visitors.
Everton 1 Manchester City 3
Swansea 0 Arsenal 1: I sense a late winner from Olivier Giroud saving the day for the Gunners.
Spurs 2 West Brom 0: Dele Alli’s form as of late has been stunning and playing at home will be too much for West Brom.
Burnley 0 Southampton 1: Burnley’s Tom Heaton is a quality goalkeeper. But I think one slips through for the Saints.
Hull 0 Bournemouth 3: Eddie Howe is one of the world’s best young managers. Bournemouth power by weak Hull.
Sunderland 0 Stoke 2: Sunderland are not focused with all these transfer rumors surrounding them.
Watford 1 M’Borough 0: Watford continue successful season, Deeney and Co. break through vs stingy Borough defense.
West Ham 1 Palace 3: The Payet rumors cannot be good for morale. Zaha and Puncheon always make Palace dynamic.