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[EPL] MatchWeek 22 – Red Or Blue Half Way Through?

After a frenetic festive calendar of 40 games in 14 days ended with the weekend’s FA Cup 3rd round and midweek Carabao Cup semifinal games, most players and clubs are finally able to enjoy a full week of rest to recover from all that football madness. So, as the EPL returns to normal programming, with league games on weekends-only (at least for a couple of weeks, anyway), the revival of Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces its first big test when the squad returns from a short winter break in Dubai to face Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. The Red Devils are six points adrift of the last of the coveted Champions League slots after four straight league wins against Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and Newcastle United under caretaker boss Solskjaer.

A London derby kick starts MW22 when West Ham host Arsenal and ‘invincible no longer’ Liverpool are in with a great opportunity to atone for their first loss of the season in the EPL that was soon followed by a 1-2 defeat by Wolves in the FA Cup on Tuesday when they travel to Brighton. Chelsea deployed a second string side in the Carabao Cup midweek so their big guns should be fit and firing for Newcastle, who are winless in four before a contest between the last two English sides to beat league leaders Liverpool – Man City and Wolves round off the action in the last game on Tuesday 15th January.

In other news – Bristol heaped further insult upon an already miserable Huddersfield side by crashing them out of the FA Cup, while Fulham were downed by Oldham. More surprisingly though, Leicester was eliminated by Newport County. There was also action in the Carabao Cup, where Tottenham defeated Chelsea in the first leg of their semifinal tie. 

The January transfer window is also open, of course. So far, we’ve seen Bournemouth bring in Dominic Solanke (transfer) and Nathaniel Clyne (loan) while shipping Jermain Defoe on loan to Rangers. Huddersfield have picked up Jason Puncheon on loan, and West Ham have signed Samir Nasri. But so far the biggest buy is Chelsea paying $73M for Christian Pulisic only to immediately loan him back to Borussia Dortmund for the remainder of the season — news we can’t use. The exciting American is likely to start for Chelsea next year and will definitely be the one to watch, to be sure.

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MATCHWEEK 21 – RESULTS

Points Table 

MATCHWEEK 21: WHAT WE LEARNED
Here are the standout facts from Week 21
– from Vardy joining the list of year’s first Premier League goalscorers
– a landmark debut for Southampton’s new English goalkeeping starlet 
– to the end of Liverpool’s unbeaten run

Everton 0-1 Leicester City
Leicester have won five of their last six league matches played on New Year’s Day, drawing the other
Arsenal 4-1 Fulham
Arsenal have scored 10 Premier League goals courtesy of substitutes this season, more than any other team
Cardiff City 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Christian Eriksen has scored 19 goals from outside the penalty area in the Premier League, the most of any player since his debut in September 2013
AFC Bournemouth 3-3 Watford
There were six goals in the first half, the most in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League match since Southampton 6-1 Aston Villa in May 2015
Chelsea 0-0 Southampton
At 22 years and 346 days, Southampton’s Angus Gunn is the youngest English goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet on his PL debut since Ben Amos (21y 295d) for Manchester United v Stoke City in January 2012
Huddersfield Town 1-2 Burnley
Ashley Barnes has been involved in three goals in his last four PL matches, scoring twice and providing an assist. That’s more than in his previous 18 combined, in which he scored two
West Ham United 2-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
There were 125 seconds between Dale Stephen’s opener and Shane Duffy putting Brighton 2-0 up, while there were only 131 seconds between Marko Arnautovic’s two goals for West Ham
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Crystal Palace
Since the start of last season, Wilfried Zaha has won eight Premier League penalties, two more than any other player
Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester United
Romelu Lukaku has had a hand in 11 goals in 12 PL appearances v Newcastle United, scoring seven goals and providing four assists
Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
Man City ended Liverpool’s unbeaten start to the PL season in the 21st match. Only Arsenal (38 matches in 2003/04), Man Utd (24 in 2010/11) and City (22 in 2017/18) have had longer unbeaten starts

MATCHWEEK 22: KEY FACTS
Aubameyang eyes more capital joy as Arsenal forward faces West Ham with a great record in London derbies plus more must-know facts Related Articles

West Ham United vs Arsenal
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored in his last four Premier League London derbies, netting six goals and adding two assists
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Liverpool
Chris Hughton is looking for his first Premier League point as a manager against Liverpool at the seventh attempt
Burnley vs Fulham
Fulham are looking to earn a first Premier League victory this season against a side starting the day above 17th in the table. Burnley are currently 16th
Cardiff City vs Huddersfield Town
Cardiff have scored 68 per cent of their Premier League goals this season in the second half, 13 out of 19. Huddersfield have scored 13 in total this term
Crystal Palace vs Watford
Jordan Ayew has scored in three of his four Premier League starts against Watford and goes into this meeting with goals in Crystal Palace’s last two matches in all competitions
Leicester City vs Southampton
Angus Gunn could become the first Southampton goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in his first two Premier League appearances
Chelsea vs Newcastle United
Eden Hazard has scored six goals and assisted one in five Premier League appearances against Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge
Everton vs AFC Bournemouth
Ryan Fraser has provided nine Premier League assists this season, the joint-highest number, and could become the first Scottish player to reach double figures in a campaign
Spurs vs Manchester United
Spurs are aiming to be the first team since Everton in 1987 to win four consecutive top-flight home matches against Manchester United
Man City vs Wolves
David Silva is in line to make his 267th Premier League appearance, which would be more than any other Manchester City player in the competition’s history  Courtesy – PremierLeague.com

Game Review – Our Super 8
West Ham vs Arsenal
The Gunners always seem to play the Hammers at the perfect time, with the hosts currently winless in their last two league matches. After that embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Liverpool, Unai Emery’s men bounced back in another London derby, beating Fulham 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium. Samir Nasri, who once donned the red and white colours of Arsenal, will get the chance to revive his career – with no better way to announce himself than against his former employers.

However, West Ham have a torrid home record, winning just four of their 11 matches played so far, while only Tottenham have scored more away goals than Arsenal. That said, the Gunners’ defence has been just as shaky.

Our Super 8
West Ham: Robert Snodgrass, Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic
Arsenal: Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Brighton vs Liverpool
After suffering their first defeat of the season, Liverpool seek a return to winning ways when they travel to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton. The Reds are still four points clear at the top of the pile, and despite losing at Man City, Jurgen Klopp’s men could walk away from that game with plenty of positives to take back.

Brighton have been impressive at home, losing just once in their last seven league matches, against Chelsea, while they also held Arsenal in front of their home crowd. The reverse tie ended 1-0 in favour of Liverpool, so Brighton will know how to hold their own against the league leaders.

Our Super 8
Brighton: David Button, Pascal Gross, Jurgen Locadia, Glenn Murray
Liverpool: Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah

Burnley vs Fulham
Burnley will be looking to win three games in a row for the first time this season when they host Fulham at Turf Moor. Sean Dyche has brought Tom Heaton back in goal and since then, the team have done wonders. Joe Hart fans, read into that how you will.

Fulham are the only team in the division yet to win away from home this season, with much of the onus being placed on Aleksandar Mitrovic to score the goals. The Serbian striker will definitely find it tough against a revitalized Clarets defence over the past couple of weeks.

Our Super 8
Burnley: Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski, Johan Berg Gudmundsson, Ashley Barnes
Fulham: Sergio Rico, Ryan Sessegnon, Andre Schurrle, Aleksandar Mitrovic

Cardiff vs Huddersfield
Cardiff and Huddersfield go head to head in what is a massive six-pointer for both clubs. In their last two home games, Cardiff have been battered and bruised by Manchester United and Tottenham respectively, although, before that, Cardiff were on a three-match winning streak at home.

On the other hand, Huddersfield have been the whipping boys of the lost, losing their last eight league matches and are rooted to the foot of the table.

Our Super 8
Cardiff: Neil Etheridge, Callum Paterson, Josh Murphy, Victor Camarasa
Huddersfield: Jonas Lössl, Phillip Billing, Steve Mounie, Alex Pritchard

Crystal Palace vs Watford
Crystal Palace look to distance themselves from the relegation zone when they take on Watford. Palace seem to have cemented 14th spot for now, with the teams below them at least four points behind, while they’re also four points behind Brighton in 13th place.

In their last Premier League outing, Watford were involved in one of the most entertaining matches this season in a match that ended 3-3 with Bournemouth, with all six goals coming in the first half. Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu have been in superb form this season, while the Hornets are unbeaten in their last three league games on the road, including a 2-0 win over West Ham.

Our Super 8
Crystal Palace: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojević, Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha
Watford: Abdoulaye Doucoure, Jose Holebas, Gerard Deulofeu, Roberto Pereyra

Leicester vs Southampton
Leicester City seem to have become one of the most unpredictable teams in the league. The Foxes beat Chelsea and Manchester City, then lost to Cardiff, which perhaps indicated that Leicester City tend to raise their game for the big ties only. That showed once again in the FA Cup when they were dumped out at Newport City.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has done very little wrong since taking over the reins at Southampton with his side grinding out a commendable goalless draw at Chelsea in their last league encounter.

Our Super 8
Leicester: Ricardo Pereira, James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Jamie Vardy
Southampton: Matt Targett, Oriol Romeu, Mario Lemina, Charlie Austin

Chelsea vs Newcastle
Rafael Benitez will come up against his former club when his Newcastle side make the trip to London to face Chelsea. The visitors are winless in their last four league matches, and are expected to go to the Bridge with their usual defensive tactics. For Chelsea, they’ve somewhat been disappointing at home, winning just six of their 11 matches, while they have also failed to score in their last two matches at Stamford Bridge.

From the top six, the Blues have also scored the least amount of goals with the club in desperate need for a top-class striker in the transfer window. Still, their defence has been rock-solid at times and against a side like Newcastle, they’ll fancy their chances of returning to winning ways.

Our Super 8
Chelsea: David Luiz, Callum Hudson-Odoi, N’Golo Kanté, Eden Hazard
Newcastle: Fabian Schär, Ayoze Pérez, Matt Ritchie, Salomon Rondon

Everton vs Bournemouth
For the neutrals, this could be the game that catches the eye this weekend. Both teams have been leaking goals aplenty, while their respective attacks have not been goal-shy as well. In fact, this fixture produced a nine-goal thriller last season with Everton winning 6-3 on the day.

It will certainly be a thrilling encounter here as both Everton and Bournemouth are level on 27 points, with both teams desperate to get back into the top half of the table – a place they feel that they belong.

Our Super 8
Everton: Yeri Mina, Lucas Digne, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Richarlison
Bournemouth: Ryan Fraser, David Brooks, Junior Stanislas, Callum Wilson

Spurs vs Man Utd
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s red-hot Manchester United travel to London on Sunday to take on Mauricio Pochettino’s title-chasing Tottenham as the Premier League returns. Spurs are third in the Premier League on 48 points after 21 games, while the appointment of Solskjaer has seen the Red Devils claim four league wins in a row to bring them back into the top-four race.

Spurs will look to complete the league double over United for the first time in the Premier League era, while the Red Devils will be seeking revenge for their heavy 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season. Kane and Son have scored 22 league goals between them this season and they will create issues for United’s defence, which has been the leakiest among the top-six.

Our Super 8
Spurs: Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura, Harry Kane
Man Utd: Phil Jones, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial

Man City vs Wolves
Manchester City showed no signs of slowing down in recent weeks as they’ve re-earned respect again after humbling Liverpool to their first defeat, while they also hammered Rotherham United 7-0 in the FA Cup. Wolves have a relatively decent record against the ‘big six’, and ended 2018 off with a stellar 3-1 win over Spurs away from home.

Away from home, they’ve also drawn against Arsenal and Manchester United, while they managed to hold City off as well in front of their home support. The champions have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight league encounters, and that feat may not change against a fearless Wolves outfit.

Our Super 8
Man City: Fabian Delph, Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero
Wolves: Matt Doherty, Hélder Costa, Raul Jimenez, Rúben Neves

The race for top four has become a tad more interesting, with Chelsea and Arsenal letting their advantage above Manchester United slip and happily, it appears that a mild weekend is in store for England, with no threat of weather cancellations. The Red Devils are on a five-win sequence and head to north London on Sunday with an opportunity to climb above Arsenal into fifth place if results go their way. Solskjaer would require the Gunners to lose at West Ham United on Saturday in order to overhaul Arsenal, and interestingly, Manuel Pellegrini’s Hammers have failed to win in their last two league outings. Former Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez takes his Newcastle United side to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and Ralph Hasenhuttl will hope to build on last week’s point at Chelsea in Southampton’s trip to Leicester City.

So, expect some major changes in the table as the big six slug it out and the relegation zoners fight to stay afloat this weekend.

Who makes your Super 8 as the EPL moves into the next gear?

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