As I covered in my weekly Power Rankings, there hasn’t been much change to the overall stratification of the Premier League, just some changes within the three groups that make up the league. But with the clubs playing twice this week due to Boxing Day, there will either be some more separation between the groups or reinforcement of the already established groups.
The Boxing Day matches also mark the conclusion of the first half of the season, so starting on Saturday, we will be seeing rematches from earlier matches with the locations switched. Liverpool has a Boxing Day match against Newcastle United, so it is expected that they will enter the back half undefeated (16-3-0), and they have surrendered only 7 goals so far this season, the best result in that regard ever.
As always, the number in parenthesis before each club reflects their spot on our Power Rankings, and we’ll try to keep this list updated as the week progresses. Home teams are listed first, and winners will be indicated in bold. In the event of a draw, both teams will be placed in italics.
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
12:30pm GMT/7:30am EST
(19) Fulham 1-1 (10) Wolverhampton Wanderers
3:00pm GMT/10:00am EST
(18) Burnley 1-5 (13) Everton
(12) Crystal Palace 0-0 (16) Cardiff City
(7) Leicester City 2-1 (5) Manchester City
(1) Liverpool 4-0 (15) Newcastle United
(6) Manchester United 3-1 (20) Huddersfield Town
(2) Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 (9) AFC Bournemouth
5:15pm GMT/12:15pm EST
(14) Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 (3) Arsenal
7:30pm GMT/2:30pm EST
(8) Watford 1-2 (4) Chelsea
Thursday, 27 December 2018
7:45pm GMT/2:45pm EST
(17) Southampton 1-2 (11) West Ham United
Saturday, 29 December 2018
3:00pm GMT/10:00am EST
(14) Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 (13) Everton
(19) Fulham 1-0 (20) Huddersfield Town **MATCH OF THE WEAK**
(7) Leicester City 0-1 (16) Cardiff City
(2) Tottenham Hotspur 1-3 (10) Wolverhampton Wanderers
(8) Watford 1-1 (15) Newcastle United
5:30pm GMT/12:30pm EST
(1) Liverpool 5-1 (3) Arsenal **MATCH OF THE WEEK**
Sunday, 30 December 2018
12:00pm GMT/7:00am EST
(12) Crystal Palace v (4) Chelsea
2:15pm GMT/9:15am EST
(18) Burnley v (11) West Ham United
(17) Southampton v (5) Manchester City
4:30pm GMT/11:30am EST
(6) Manchester United v (9) AFC Bournemouth
Match of the Week
The Boxing Day matches don’t really have a standout, and based on early results so far, everything is going as expected. The nominal “Match of the Week” will close out action on Saturday, however, with #1 Liverpool welcoming #3 Arsenal to Anfield. One of the Reds three draws on the season was a 1-1 draw against Arsenal back in November, so they are hoping that Anfield will provide a backdrop to garner all three points. Arsenal, on the other hand, becomes the latest club with an opportunity to knock off Liverpool in league play this season (at least as long as Liverpool wins against Newcastle today).
But one club outside of the top five could make a move towards that group due to a favorable slate this week. Manchester United seems to have finally rounded into form on the season, and it only took the sacking of Jose Mourinho to do so. On Saturday, they dominated Cardiff City in Wales en route to a 5-1 victory, which moved them within 8 points of Arsenal for fifth place on the league table.
They play #20 Huddersfield Town today (a match they are currently winning), and follow that up with a very winnable game against Bournemouth to close out Premier League action this week. Gaining 6 points in those two matches, especially if Arsenal can’t overcome Liverpool, would move the Red Devils close enough to the top five to make it a “Top Six” again, especially if they remained clear of the other “muddled middle” teams based on results this week.
A Battle for the Bottom
Our “Game of the Weak” actually features the bottom two clubs for the first time on the season. Fulham and Huddersfield Town have spent most of the past two months battling for last place (for some reason), with Fulham temporarily ahead after drawing Wolverhampton Wanderers in the early match today. The Terriers are by far the worst scoring club in the league, netting only 11 goals through their first 18 matches (I feel like I’ve been writing this all season).
Fulham’s issue hasn’t been with scoring, but instead surrendering goals, having let in more goals than any other club. Nevertheless, they looked on their way to victory this morning, only to surrender a goal in the 85th minute allowing Wolves to come away with a point. Luckily, there will be plenty of other matches to watch instead of this one on Saturday afternoon, including some great tilts in the Championship. Only die hard supporters of either club will be watching this one, with most everyone else just following the score as it flashes by on the top of our screens while we watch something else.
Until next time…
Last Update: 29 December 2018, 3:00pm EST