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[EPL] MatchWeek 21 – New Year Mashup

As the crazy, congested festive period winds down, the first Premier League MatchWeek of 2019 could prove decisive in the title race, as leaders Liverpool visit defending champions Manchester City. The Reds have been in superb form of late and are coming off a win over Arsenal, while the Citizens righted the ship against Southampton. They desperately need a win to keep the gap between the two sides relatively close. Elsewhere, Arsenal host Fulham, Chelsea take on Southampton, Spurs have a tricky assignment at Cardiff and Manchester United visit Newcastle.

This heady MatchWeek comes on the tail of an high-octane Week 20 that witnessed seesawing fortunes at the top of the table. Liverpool extended their lead at the top to nine points on Saturday after a 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal at Anfield and Tottenham Hotspur’s title hopes suffered a blow as they lost 3-1 at home against Wolves. This threw the title race wide open as champs Man City and serious title contenders Chelsea took the field in their last games of 2018 on Sunday. Also in action were Man United and a resurgent West Ham.

City managed to cut Liverpool’s lead at the top to seven points with a 3-1 victory over Southampton and it moved Pep Guardiola’s side above Tottenham Hotspur and back into second place. Fourth-placed Chelsea closed to within two points of Spurs after a 0-1 victory at Crystal Palace and Manchester United maintained their winning run under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth at Old Trafford.

Most teams are preparing for their fourth game in the last 12 days and have an FA Cup tie this weekend to look forward to as well. Without a doubt, the big clash is the final one, with the defending champions taking on the league leaders but, at some point these players will get a break, just not in the next week or so. So as the action continues into the New Year, here is what we think of the fixtures.

MATCHWEEK 21 – SCHEDULE

MATCHWEEK 20 – RESULTS

MATCHWEEK 21 – Points Table 

MATCHWEEK 20: What We Learned
The must-know facts from the second set of festive fixtures

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Everton
Jurgen Locadia has scored in each of his last two PL appearances for Brighton, one more than he netted in his first 18 outings in the competition
Fulham 1-0 Huddersfield Town
Since the start of last season, only Lukasz Fabianski, with four, has saved more Premier League penalties than Huddersfield Town’s Jonas Lossl
Leicester City 0-1 Cardiff City
Cardiff registered their first away Premier League win of the season and their first in the top flight since April 2014, when they beat Southampton 1-0
Tottenham Hotspur 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
This was Mauricio Pochettino’s first ever PL defeat by a newly promoted side while in charge of Spurs, having been unbeaten in 27 such meetings before this one
Watford 1-1 Newcastle United
Newcastle striker Salomon Rondon has scored five goals in his last eight PL matches, as many strikes as in his previous 30 appearances in the competition
Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
Liverpool have accrued 54 points from their opening 20 PL matches this season. When assuming three points for a win, only Chelsea (55 in 2005/06) and Man City (58 in 2017/18) have ever had more at this stage in English top-flight history
Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
With three goalscoring chances against Palace, Eden Hazard has 101 chances created in the Premier League in 2018, 23 more than any other player in the competition this calendar year
Burnley 2-0 West Ham United
At the age of 19 years and 38 days Dwight McNeil became the first ever teenager to score a Premier League goal for Burnley
Southampton 1-3 Manchester City
Man City’s Sergio Aguero has scored 50 Premier League goals under Pep Guardiola, 16 more than any other player has for the club under the Spaniard
Manchester United 4-1 AFC Bournemouth
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is only the third Man Utd manager to win his first three league matches in charge of the club, after Matt Busby and Jose Mourinho

MATCHWEEK 21: 10 Key Facts
The standout facts ahead of the New Year’s first fixtures, including possible scoring feats for Sergio Aguero and Paul Pogba

Everton vs Leicester
Jamie Vardy has been directly involved in six goals in his seven Premier League appearances against Everton, scoring four and assisting two
Arsenal vs Fulham
Claudio Ranieri is hoping for his first PL victory over Arsenal at the 11th attempt, while Fulham are aiming for a first away triumph against them after 28 winless visits in all competitions
Cardiff vs Spurs
Spurs could claim a sixth consecutive win in a New Year’s Day fixture
AFC Bournemouth vs Watford
AFC Bournemouth are looking to start a year with a win for the first time since 2012, which was the last time Watford did not lose their opening fixture of a calendar year.
Chelsea vs Southampton
The last time Chelsea played their first Premier League match of a calendar year at home was 2013, when they lost 1-0 to Queens Park Rangers
Huddersfield Town vs Burnley
Burnley are seeking a first away Premier League victory in January, collecting only two points from eight matches
West Ham vs Brighton
Glenn Murray has scored in all three of his away PL matches in London, netting five goals in total. He has scored six goals in total against West Ham in the competition, more than against any other side
Wolves vs Crystal Palace
Eighteen of Wolves’ 23 Premier League goals this season have been scored in the second half, a league-high ratio of 78 percent
Newcastle vs Man Utd
Paul Pogba can become only the second Man Utd player to score at least two goals in three consecutive Premier League appearances, after Cristiano Ronaldo in December 2006
Man City vs Liverpool
Sergio Aguero has scored in all six home league appearances v Liverpool, scoring six times, the best 100 per cent rate of home matches scored in by a player against any opponent in PL history  Courtesy – PremierLeague.com

MatchWeek 20: Game Review – Our Super 8
Everton vs Leicester
A loss for each of these sides last game with Leicester’s the most surprising given they were at home to Cardiff, ruining the momentum of consecutive wins against Chelsea and Manchester City. Puel will probably be up for the sack again. Everton lost at Brighton, which is no shame given their strength at home. The tight midfield battle of 7th to 13th continues with four points covering them. These two sides (10th and 8th) are right in the thick of it.
Fact: The home side have won just 6 of the previous 19 matches in this fixture.

Our Super 8
Everton: Yeri Mina, Lucas Digne, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Richarlison
Leicester: James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Harry Maguire, Jamie Vardy

Arsenal vs Fulham
So Fulham have won another game, timely too as it was against second last, and the three points has seen them rise to within just one point of safety now. Arsenal had their pants pulled down at Liverpool, not a shame given Liverpool’s form these days. A win for Fulham at Arsenal would be rare, in fact it would be a first ever. Can’t see it happening, which probably means Fulham will cause an upset.
Fact: Fulham have won only seven times against Arsenal – none of them have been away.

Our Super 8
Arsenal: Bernd Leno, Lucas Torreira, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Fulham: Sergio Rico, Ryan Sessegnon, Andre Schurrle, Aleksandar Mitrovic

Cardiff vs Spurs
Spurs’ loss to Wolves was quite the shock last MW, especially given they have just assumed the second place that could have propelled them to being a genuine title challenger. Spurs may have the Premier League’s best away form this season (9 wins, 2 losses), but Cardiff have been quite resilient at home recently with four wins from their last six. That along with their surprise win at Leicester last time around has seen them rise to a very respectable 16th.
Fact: Cardiff last beat Spurs back in 1962

Our Super 8
Cardiff: Neil Etheridge, Callum Paterson, Josh Murphy, Victor Camarasa
Spurs: Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura, Harry Kane

Bournemouth vs Watford
The last time these sides met it was a shock 4-0 win for Bournemouth, at a time when Watford were flying high. That was part of a good run for Bournemouth too, which has drastically slipped away since. Mainly because the opposition quality increased. Bournemouth have lost eight of their last ten games, Watford have won just two of their last nine. A midfield battle with little consequence at this stage of the season.
Fact: Seven of the last ten matches in this fixture have been draws.

Our Super 8
Bournemouth: Ryan Fraser, David Brooks, Joshua King, Callum Wilson
Watford: Abdoulaye Doucoure, Jose Holebas, Gerard Deulofeu, Roberto Pereyra

Chelsea vs Southampton
Chelsea just about did the job against Crystal Palace, but for all that passing and energy it was only 1-0. You can imagine that this game will be a lot more open. 17 goals in the last five clashes. Hazard is back to his best form, typically at around the same time as the Real Madrid rumours start up again. Southampton have been good since the manager change, and they haven’t failed to score in their last four games against decent competition (Arsenal and Man City).
Fact: Southampton’s 3-1 upset in 2015 has been followed by seven straight wins for Chelsea.

Our Super 8
Chelsea: David Luiz, César Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté, Eden Hazard
Southampton: Stuart Armstrong, Oriol Romeu, Mario Lemina, Charlie Austin

Huddersfield vs Burnley
Huddersfield face a second consecutive game against a bottom three side. The last one didn’t go well (beaten 1-0 by Fulham) and Burnley enter the “six pointer” on the back of a rare but good home win over West Ham. Burnley’s away form is woeful though, with just one win on the road, seven games ago. However Huddersfield have scored the same amount of points at home this season (5 points) and have the worst home record. Huddersfield have scored four at home, Burnley seven away. All you’d expect from a bottom three clash and more.
Fact: Huddersfield haven’t won this fixture since 2013, in the Championship.

Our Super 8
Huddersfield: Jonas Lössl, Phillip Billing, Steve Mounie, Alex Pritchard
Burnley: Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski, Johan Berg Gudmundsson, Ashley Barnes

West Ham vs Brighton
West Ham are back to being their unpredictable best. Losses you weren’t expecting, wins when you had thought otherwise. At least big Arnie is back for West Ham, one of our favourites. West Ham haven’t beaten Brighton since they arrived back in the EPL, but comparing the sides, they should.
Fact: Brighton have won the last three matches between these sides, West Ham the three in a row prior to that.

Our Super 8
West Ham: Robert Snodgrass, Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic
Brighton: David Button, Pascal Gross, Jurgen Locadia, Glenn Murray

Wolves vs Crystal Palace
Four wins in the past six has seen Wolves claim the Best of the Rest tag. The rest now a club short after Manchester United’s rise. Surprisingly, Wolves’ home record (14 points, -1, 12th) is worse than their away form (15 points, +1, 6th). Though, you can’t complain about Crystal Palace’s last away performance – beating no less than Manchester City.
Fact: The last Premier League clashes between these sides before this season were in 1981/82. Wolves won both.

Our Super 8
Wolves: Matt Doherty, Hélder Costa, Raul Jimenez, Rúben Neves
Crystal Palace: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojević, Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha

Newcastle vs Man Utd
It may be against the slightly lesser competition, but you can’t argue against the results since Jose Mourinho was fired. Three wins from three matches and a for and against of 12-3. Of course a lot of that has been driven by Paul Pogba, the problem child under Mourinho. 4 Goals and 3 Assists in the past three matches. Newcastle’s record at home is not great (second worst), but they have been reasonably competitive against a lot of the top six sides this season, and did race out to an early 2-0 lead at Old Trafford earlier in the season.
Fact: Luck Man Utd got rid of Jose Mourinho when they did, he never won at St James’ Park. United’s last two visits ended in loss and draw.

Our Super 8
Newcastle: Fabian Schär, Ayoze Pérez, Matt Ritchie, Salomon Rondon
Man Utd: Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial

Man City vs Liverpool
Saving the best for last – the weekend’s big, big clash. The outcome will have a big effect on the title battle. A win for Liverpool means they skip a full ten points clear of City. A gap that will be hard to bridge once attention turns to Cup and the Champions League. Liverpool have now won nine straight, and smashed Arsenal 5-1 last time out. Firminho grabbing an overdue hat trick, just to emphasise the depth of the riches in talent. Manchester City got back to winning ways against Southampton, but prior to that had lost an unthinkable three of their last four.
Fact: Manchester City have won just two matches in the last 15 between these sides. Liverpool have nine wins.

Our Super 8
Man City: Fernandinho, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero
Liverpool: Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah

While you can’t take anything for granted in the Premier League at this time of year, with the New Year, new resolutions and chances, Arsenal do have a chance for redemption against a Fulham side that has not scored more than one goal in its last seven Premier League matches after their backline was torn to shreds by a rampant Liverpool side on the weekend. A win is a must to stay in contention in top flight as a marauding Man United close the gap on them. Back to back big wins kick started the Solskjaer era and after another convincing win over Bournemouth, you can expect Newcastle to be in for a rough time as they look to end a three game winless run. The Magpies did record a shock upset in this fixture last season, pulling off a 1-0 win at St James’ Park but with United looking free and happy, this should go one way. Spurs will also know that any overconfidence in their dressing room can cause heartache as was quickly found out when they were upset by Wolves at home.

Wishing You All A Happy 2019! Rock On!!! 

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