While the world prepares to celebrate Christmas – which is the birth of the baby Jesus, clubs on the domestic scene in England are also in the mood to do battle, as the Premier League enters Matchday 19 on Sunday being Boxing Day.
The festive period is very unique in the English football calendar, and it is one which most football lovers look forward to – as they are still very much in the Christmas spirit and festivities. It is a period whereby the Premier League fixtures are spread around the holiday season – with games beginning from Boxing Day up until the New Year.
Thus far, after eighteen rounds of intense action, drama and excitement, the Premier League edges into its halfway mark – with table toppers and current defending champions Manchester City seemingly looking poised to retain the title they won in the 2020/2021 season. The Cityzens maintained their grip at the summit, following a 4-0 away spanking of Newcastle United at St. James’ Park last weekend.
Fans of the Premier League can look forward to a festive weekend of entertaining football, after being starved of premium action last time out – no thanks to the Coronavirus. A total of six out of ten matches had to be postponed, following rising cases of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus in the camps of most of the teams coupled with injuries most clubs had to deal and contend with. Though, the four fixtures which did go ahead turned out to be good value for money.
This weekend has also seen some of the matches suffer the same fate of postponement, just like the last time. The fixtures involving Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Watford at the Molineux, Liverpool vs Leeds United at Anfield and Burnley vs Everton at Turf Moor (which was the latest to be postponed on Friday) have all been pushed back – with a new date set to be announced later. The suspension of some of the games further adds to the pile of fixture backlog which the organizers will have a hard time sorting out.
Away from postponements, Matchday 19 will see stuttering Chelsea visit Villa Park to take on hosts Aston Villa. The Blues have been inconsistent in recent weeks and have relinquished their lead at the top of the standings. But Thomas Tuchel and his lads can take solace in the fact that they haven’t conceded in their last two games (0-0 with Wolverhampton Wanderers last time out in the league and a 2-0 success away at Brentford in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup).
Furthermore, the Blues will have most of their players returning from injuries and illness, which will put them in a good stead to attack Steven Gerrard and Aston Villa. The Villans themselves have been impressive ever since the former Liverpool captain assumed the role and would be looking to pile more misery on Chelsea.
In other matchups, Brighton and Hove Albion will take on Brentford at the Amex Stadium, Tottenham Hotspurs will square up against Crystal Palace – in what is a London Derby, West Ham United will go up against Southampton at the London Stadium, basement boys Norwich City will welcome a formidable and an in-form Arsenal side at Carrow Road. Old Trafford outfit Manchester United will look to continue their unbeaten run since former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked, as they travel away to St. James’ Park to play Newcastle United on Monday, December 27th.
The Match of the Week no doubt is the tie between table toppers and reigning champions Manchester City who will face visiting Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium. The Cityzens can extend their lead at the top of the Premier League standings to six points (pending when Liverpool play) with a win against Leicester City. City currently hold a three-point lead at the top of the table, and with Liverpool unable to take to the pitch against Leeds United due to the postponement of their fixture because of Covid-19, City can take full advantage – provided they overcome the Foxes on Sunday.
Leicester City on the other hand, will be reeling from their quarter-final ouster to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup during the course of the week. The Foxes let a two-goal lead slip – as a 3-1 halftime lead suddenly changed to 3-3 at the end of regulation time, before being eliminated via penalties. Coach Brendan Rodgers have endured a topsy-turvy campaign so far. They have not hit the heights they were in the last two seasons and they dropped from the UEFA Europa League group stages into the UEFA Conference League Playoffs. It might be a daunting task to face Manchester City at this point in time, but they will be hoping for the same luck and good form which saw them beat the Cityzens at their home patch last season.