The winter weather has truly arrived but the heat in the Premier League continues to rise and a fixture from the Championship kicks off the weekend.
Brentford v Watford – This game is a bold choice for Friday Night Football, neither side are top drawer by brand name or league position but it promises to be one of the match-ups of the weekend. Under the lights The Community Stadium has delivered every time this season, Sky will be hoping for more of the same this term. Star men for both sides Ivan Toney (Brentford) and Ismaila Sarr (Watford) will not be playing but the squad depth as a whole is being tested currently for these promoted sides. Most telling is that the home side when depleted call upon young, unproven talent while the visitors possess PL experience in reserve. The concern for Brentford will be Watford’s pace on the counter in the form of Sissoko from midfield, Dennis wide forward and King as the central striker. The Bees do not have a great deal of explosive speed and Spurs capitalised on that last Thursday. Four points is the difference between the teams as we speak now and I fully expect it to be lengthened or dragged back to a point by the end of the game.
One for your FPL – Yoane Wissa £5.9m
Bet Select – Brentford win and over 2,5 goals
Manchester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Its just over two years ago since Wolves beat City at the Etihad last and the main men from that day Jimenez (assists) & Traore (goals) still play for the visitors, another away win will depend on their form again. It says a lot about Wolves that despite changing head coach and playing style which has produced so many glorious comments from the media the same men are the possible match winners. Personally I cannot see Wolves getting any positive result against a City side who are looking ominously good without hitting top gear. Raheem Sterling is one goal away from 100 PL goals, a great achievement for a player so young, the milestone will surely be met in this fixture. Nelson Semedo & Nouri at wing back will both face difficult afternoons, they need to ensure they are not pinned back too much and can force the City fullbacks to defend them.
One for your FPL – Cole Palmer £4.5m
Bet Select -Man City win and over 3.5 goals
Arsenal v Southampton – The last five games have not been the best for either side after previous positive runs, Arsenal have picked up six points and Southampton five. History supports a Arsenal victory as The Saints have never won this fixture away from home in the Premier League. Martin Odegaard is now starting to look a key component for The Gunners but worryingly strikers Lacazette and Aubameyang are shadows of their former selves, moves away from The Emirates within the next year beckons. Set pieces will be key for Southampton to claw a goal led by their talisman James Ward Prowse but stopping Arsenal playing from the back will occur if the pressing style Hassenhuttl prefers is played out to plan. Willy Cabellero has joined The Saints this week due to injuries to Forster and McCarthy and will surely make his debut, he will be rusty so a fast start by the home side will be vital.
One for your FPL -Bukayo Saka £6.2m
Bet Select – Arsenal win
Chelsea v Leeds Utd – The European champions are starting to look a little human all of a sudden but undoubtedly they have the right man in charge to gain a victory this Saturday. Leeds play with high energy and passion but their Achilles heel is the lack of bite in their attack. Bamford returned last Sunday with a goal against Brentford but it seems he injured himself celebrating and will not get a chance to score at his former club. The longer the game goes without a goal the chance Raphinha could conjure some magic increases but without captain Cooper and linchpin Phillips its not a high probability they can prevent Chelsea scoring who can threaten from any position on the pitch. Lukaku will be viewing this game as a perfect time to get among the goals this season.
One for your FPL – Ruben Loftus-Cheek £5.4m
Bet Select – Chelsea win to nil
Liverpool v Aston Villa – Gerrard’s return to Anfield will be warm up till kick off then the home fans will be seeking another win to continue piling on the pressure at the top of the table. Stevie G will know better than others any game plan to stop Salah and Mane can be destroyed in moments, his fullbacks will need to play so well as they are both mega weak links for Villa. It was a shock last weekend the Reds only scored once v Wolves but Klopp will take that score line again as long as the three points are his. Bouncing back after defeat to Man City was vital for Villa when beating last Leicester last Sunday, relegation fears have eased for now but time will tell if this is a new manager bounce or if one of the greatest English midfielders of all time is the great manager many think he can be. Villa need their midfield to be on top form protecting Mings and Konsa at centre back who will be exposed by their own full backs and create chances for Watkins.
One for your FPL – Ashley Young £4.7m
Bet Select – Liverpool win
Norwich City v Manchester United – Elton John sang “Saturday nights alright fighting” but I severely doubt Norwich have enough fight or heart to achieve a positive result against this resurgent Utd squad. Even under Ole and their lack of pressing the attack dragged them through matches domestically and abroad, the Canaries backline do not possess any quality to stunt players like Ronaldo, Rashford, Fernandes and Sancho to name a few. Dean Smith lacks many tools as not just a top flight manager but at any level, he is conned his way to certain roles and this City squad will surely highlight his deficiencies. The only hope Norwich have is if they can outscore the away side but bar Pukki you cannot see who can score for them, that being said he is not the striker we remember from two seasons and i would consider taking any offer received for him over the next two windows as his value will drop imminently. Like the Friday night game the atmosphere in the stadium will be electric and transcend to the TV audience.
One for your FPL – Luke Shaw £5.1m (Max Aarons is in for a torrid evening)
Bet Select – Man Utd win and over 3.5 goals
Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur – Unfortunately this game has been called off due to a COVID outbreak at Spurs, on a purely football sense I was looking forward to the contrast in Head Coaches for each team going head to head, Potter v Conte. This will have to wait and till then the main concern is all that have been infected make full recoveries and their families stay safe.
Burnley v West Ham United – Burnley are in trouble and they need to add to the solitary victory quickly this month, West Ham resting players Thursday night will not help them win on Sunday. If as expected they lose the pressure on winning the rest of the month versus Watford, Villa, Everton or Man Utd magnifies. Rumours swirling about Burnley playing staff leaving in January does not help, the funds are nice but bringing in the right players to replace departures is never guaranteed during any window. Injuries are building at West Ham especially in defence but as long functional players can come in over the short term the in form ones like Jarrod Bowen and Declan Rice will always provide the spark to victory. Dwight McNeil shines within a team which does not suit his style but no one has moved for him as his lack of goals compared to the chances he creates shows a lack of quality, days like this Sunday is when he needs to change opinions.
One for your FPL – Ryan Fredericks £4.4m
Bet Select – Double chance West Ham win or draw
Leicester City v Newcastle United – COVID and illness has struck but unlike Tottenham The Foxes have played on and now face the New Year in the Europa Conference. Newcastle will arrive at the Kingpower with confidence following last weekends first win of the season but the main thing to remember is they are still Newcastle! The Foxes are not producing performances or results which match the talent they possess which makes them a even bigger danger to the visiting Geordies, form is temporary quality is forever. Jamie Vardy will fancy a goal or two , the backline for Newcastle lacks pace so Harvey Barnes will also be a threat. Eddie Howe will look towards bulking his midfield, making a barrier difficult for Leicester to bypass. This match up falls into the “do not lose” bracket for the Geordies, if you offered the management team a draw now they would take it. The rest of the month is frightening fixture wise, performances and keeping the fans engaged is key.
One for your FPL – Matt Ritchie £4.9m
Bet Select – Leicester win
Crystal Palace v Everton – Crystal Palace hold horrendous form in this fixture which Everton will draw confidence from after the battling victory Monday night over Arsenal. I was certain Richarlison would be sent off, he continued to face disallowed goals and usually the hot head reacts but he was composed, finally scoring one which counted. Despite history being unfavourable to Palace this matchup favours the players currently playing at Selhurst Park, Doucoure holds the Everton midfield together but the Eagles midfield is more rounded. The right backs for both sides have played in the top flight for so long and continue to bash out 8 out of 10 performances week on week. Digne fell out of favour with Benetiz after the Brentford defeat, his bad attitude shouts out move me on in January please. I do not blame him he is talented and the win in the last game is papering over cracks. More game time for Olise will be nice he is slotting into the top flight so well and the goals will follow his creative displays very soon. Ben Godfrey got away with one even after a VAR review versus Arsenal but any rash challenges on Zaha for instance surely will be punished, very much like Tanganga for Spurs.
One for your FPL – Anthony Gordon £4,5m
Bet Select – Over 2.5 goals
Despite this weekend only being nine games the acca following my selections weighs in at 562.6/1 via Sky Bet.
Another midweek batch of fixtures next week could influence team selections this weekend but the Premier League is a jungle and max effort is necessary every match day.