Liverpool could end Marco Silva’s Everton reign with victory in the Merseyside Derby, while Jose Mourinho takes his Tottenham Hotspur team to Old Trafford to get one over his old employers and Chelsea search for a saviour at Stamford Bridge
Whisper it quietly, but while Manchester City and Chelsea flounder, Leicester City go from strength to strength, with many observers saying that this current squad is better than the one that won the Premier League title in 2015/16. Can The Foxes beat Watford? Yes, easily. Will that be enough to make up any ground on Liverpool as they host their noiseless neighbours? That really is the question.
Elsewhere, Arsenal take on Brighton desperate for points, Southampton and Norwich find out who has a chance of survival at St. Mary’s and Manchester City travelling to a cold Tuesday in Burnley to revive their fortunes, we start our previews in West London.
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa (Wednesday 4th December, 7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
While Arsenal have sacked Unai Emery and Spurs have relieved Mauricio Pochettino of his duties, since replacing him with Jose Mourinho, Chelsea have been losing games under Frank Lampard. Coincidence?
With defeats at Manchester City and home to West Hame sandwiching a frustrating draw in Spain at Valencia, Lampard’s players have yielded just one point from their last available nine in a spell that has seen them drop out of even the remotest contention for the Premier League title and put them headlong into a battle for a top four place.
While they currently have a six-point lead over teams such as former manager Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham, the West London outfit welcome Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge. I hope more than expectation that they’ll get the three points.
With The Villains – best nickname ever right there – in good form having largely bossed proceedings at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, Chelsea better watch out – their present is not without the specter of Christmas past if this dreadful run continues.
Man Utd vs. Spurs (Wednesday 4th December, 7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
In a twist of irony, Jose Mourinho’s first visit to a top six side is to Old Trafford, scene of his sacking last December.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s extraordinary run of results at the start of his reign have not been upheld going into this season, it’s unlikely that they were ever going to be. Exits for key players such as Lukaku were necessary but were always going to impact in the short-term. While players such as Rashford and Martial are long-term improvements, they have games where it doesn’t go to plan.
While Mourinho is in the infancy of his period at Tottenham Hotspur, it’s unlikely that anyone has put major money on him lasting into a fourth season. The Portuguese is on a charm offensive right now, clinging to his 2016/17 Chelsea title which already feels like it happened in another era of football altogether. Without that win, Mourinho’s record over the past four or five years looks more like a man whose methods might be in need or evolution or else they will be eclipsed.
Mourinho might get one up on his former employers, Spurs already being a dangerous away side. But whether Solskjaer stays or goes, the long-term vision of United may yet yield more success than that in North London’s lilywhite Mourinho era. Sooner or later, the mask is going to slip.
Liverpool vs. Everton (Wednesday 4th December, 8:15 pm GMT kick-off)
Liverpool have been peerless this season domestically, only dropping points at Old Trafford as they have won all their other 13 matches. While that is the case, they haven’t played a Merseyside Derby as yet.
Everton are in awful form, losing in the last seconds at Liverpool’s title-rivals Leicester at the weekend. So, is this a viable measure of how good Liverpool are to play the same fixture as Leicester just three days later? Possibly.
While Everton are clearly struggling for form, they still have players who can hurt any side in Richarlison, Sigurdsson and Calvert-Lewin. If players like Sidibe and Mina can keep Liverpool’s front three quiet – and that’s a huge if – then it might just be a stalemate. Goodness knows, the Premier League could do with it, just to provide some interest in the top of the table past Christmas.
Midweek fixtures (Gameweek #15):
Tuesday 3rd December
Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth (7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
Burnley vs. Man City (8:15 pm GMT kick-off)
Wednesday 4th December
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa (7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
Leicester vs. Watford (7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
Man Utd vs. Spurs (7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
Southampton vs. Norwich (7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
Wolves vs. West Ham (7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
Liverpool vs. Everton (8:15 pm GMT kick-off)
Thursday 5th December
Sheff Utd vs. Newcastle (7:30 pm GMT kick-off)
Arsenal vs. Brighton (8:15 pm GMT kick-off);