Derby time in Manchester
Match Day 16
As head towards the New Year, we are getting a clearer picture of how the season will unfold. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s Premier League fixtures and Manchester Derby.
7th of Dec. Everton – Chelsea
Lampard’s young squad have been the surprise package of 2019 and were in the contention for top spots from early on. Unfortunately, though, they have a couple of setbacks in recent weeks, losing to 2nd place Manchester City before being upset at home to struggling West Ham last week. It seems this was only a minor blip in their season though after recovering mid-week against an Aston Villa side who have looked strong in recent weeks. While that victory was no means decisive, with only a spectacular goal from Mason Mount separating them in the end, they still looked much more like the Chelsea team who we had grown accustomed to of late and who had secured a club record of 6 wins on the bounce in the Premier League.
Against Everton, who are now in the relegation zone after losing to Mersey Rivals mid-weeks, it would be very surprising if they didn’t take all three points again. Everton have lost their last 3 games in a row, and with a recovering Man United team after Chelsea, they have their work cut-out in the next couple of weeks and they will desperately need to take something away from one of these two games if they want to avoid a real uphill battle in the New Year. However, against Chelsea who now can’t afford to lose if they want to stay ahead of the chasing pack in the top 4 and perhaps even compete for the top spot, this doesn’t seem likely.
7th of Dec. Man City – Man Utd (Manchester Derby)
Saturday afternoon’s late kick-off, The Manchester Derby, is certainly the biggest game this weekend on paper. Before the game even begins though, it is likely that City are going to take home the spoils but it might not be as simple as it would have looked at the start of the season. United have regained some form in recent weeks which has helped them jump to 6th spot in the league, including most recently, upsetting Jose Mourinho’s Spurs at home, but they still have a lot to prove this season, and have also dropped valuable points against Villa and Sheffield United in recent weeks.
Meanwhile Manchester City have been as dominant as ever this season and as always, are still in contention for the title. However, this season they haven’t shown the same killer instincts, and losses to Wolves and league leaders, Liverpool have cost them dearly. This was then exacerbated last weekend when they drop points against Newcastle in a 2-2 draw. Due to this, they have now been overtaken in the league by an in-form Leicester and are now just 3 points ahead of Chelsea. As such, this game is not a foregone conclusion just yet and this game could be a very decisive one for both Manchester firm’s seasons.
7th of Dec. Spurs – Burnley
After two wins on the trot following the departure of Pottechino and the arrival of Jose Mourinho at the reigns after a spate of bad form, Spurs fans were looking positively towards the future and towards Mourinho as the saving grace for the team. However, these hopes were abruptly dashed as at home in a 2-1 defeat against Mourinho’s last club, Man Utd, in a game that they would have been expected by many fans to have won.
This led to United leapfrogging them in the table, and now they will have to face off against Burnley, a side they are only besting in the league at the moment by two points. As such, a loss could see them further plummet the table and record more losses this season than wins. Mourinho’s promise to be the special one all those years back is essentially going to be decided at Spurs, and losing here will not bode well for the Portuguese manager’s reputation.
Burnley meanwhile has been a bit hit and miss off late, losing 3 on the trot, then winning 2 by 3-0 margins, before losing again mid-week against Manchester City. However, 5 of these losses include 3 against the top 4 so for them, so they have had a tough run fixture-wise and have more modest fixtures coming up. Therefore, the pressure is more on their rivals and even a draw in this fixture would suit Burnley down to the ground and keep them steady in mid-table.
8th of Dec. Aston Villa – Leicester
The visitors in this fixture, Leicester who are now on for a 9th straight win in a row and whose only defeat in the last 10 games coming from league leaders Liverpool. It is thanks to this fierce winning streak that they have found themselves in second spot this season and trail just 8 points behind the top spot. Naturally, consistency is key at this point and just one win separates them from Manchester City and two wins from Chelsea, so it is very tight and a win against Villa is paramount in a weekend where the former has a tough match, and the latter is in shaky form.
Villa, who returned to the Premier League only last season, would seem like a straightforward fixture of Leicester on paper, but Villa has shown impressive performances that haven’t been reflected in their results of late. Only one spectacular goal separated them from Chelsea mid-week and they took a point from United last weekend in a game they could have won. Unfortunately, Leicester momentum is likely going to be too much for them this weekend also, but they, like Burnley, have a more series of easier fixtures following this match-up so even a point would do them.
9th of Dec. West Ham – Arsenal – London Derby
After losing Thursday evening against Brighton, Arsenal are now winless in nine games in all competitions, which is their longest such streak since a run of 10 in March 1977. This has done nothing to appease the fans who thought that the dismissal of Emery and the instalment of club legend Freddie Ljungberg in his stead would turn their fortunes around. This makes this London Derby a massively significantly one for The Gunners.
In theory, there is no reason why Arsenal can’t end this streak against West Ham, who have had a very “West Ham” season by all accounts, with inconsistent performances where they lost 4 of their last 5 games but secured a win away against 4th placed Chelsea last weekend. Will they though? With club morale at an all-time low and with the home side needing to pick up points somewhere in their next five games that includes 2 of the top 4, nabbing a draw against Arsenal would be one of their most viable options ahead of the 2020.