Friday 12/22/17 (11:45 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Liverpool (5)
The Gunners and Reds will close the first half of the Premier League season with a battle that will determine which will sit in fourth place at the turn. Both are coming off wins but drew each of their prior two fixtures, and as they enter the busiest stretch of the season, both sides will want to reclaim their momentum for a critical set of games. Nothing less than each team’s best will be enough here. Expect at least a few goals, too, as Liverpool's open style could lead to a cracker.
Saturday 12/23/17 (4:30 AM PT)
Everton vs. Chelsea (4)
The Blues couldn’t ask for a worse time to catch Everton, who are red hot and riding high after four
(7 AM PT)
Manchester City vs. Bournemouth (1)
Sorry, Bournemouth: There’s simply nothing you can do, even if you wanted, to stop Manchester City. Almost every team in the league is fully outmatched by the Sky Blues, and their seven-game winless run in all competitions doesn’t bode well for the Cherries on the road. They did play City tight early in the season before a late Raheem Sterling winner, but that’s not much solace for Eddie Howe and co. Their only hope is that Pep Guardiola gets caught looking ahead to busier times, but that is highly unlikely, and even if he does, the Citizens’ second squad is still very capable of handling business.
Southampton vs. Huddersfield (2)
Both Huddersfield and Southampton have had solid stretches in the first half, but neither has been able to cement its form as they sit in 11th and 12th, respectively. A win for either — but especially Saints, who haven’t triumphed in their last five games — would be a big boost entering the second half of the season and would provide some crucial breathing room from the bottom three. The quality is there from both sides, but with Huddersfield in far better form at the moment, the Terriers have the edge.
It's gone from bad to worse for this pair of sides, each of whom have been spiraling into the gutter recently. A win for the Baggies would take them out of the relegation zone at Stoke’s expense. While both teams are certainly desperate for points, that doesn't necessarily make this fixture particularly interesting, especially with two typically defensive-minded teams doing battle.
Brighton vs. Watford (2)
Both of these teams have tumbled down the table in recent weeks, and Watford now sit just seven points above the relegation zone despite resting in 10th place. The Hornets have lost four of five league games as their hot start has come to an end in a hurry, while Brighton have lost three of four and haven’t won since November 4. A win for either team would give it some much-needed breathing room on the bottom three, but this is a relatively even matchup. Watford score more than Brighton do, but both teams are capable of putting in a performance at either end of the pitch, and while this is a lower-mid-table clash, there’s at least a little intrigue for each side.
Swansea vs. Crystal Palace (3)
Swansea’s longest-serving player, Leon Britton, takes over as caretaker manager after the firing of Paul Clement and gets thrown right into the fire in a critical relegation six-pointer. With nine losses in their last 11 games, it’s becoming desperation time for the Swans very quickly, and few matchups present a better opportunity to get back on track than Palace at home. The Eagles have been better of late, though, and Roy Hodgson seems to have found a formula for success. Palace are the slight favorites even away from home in what looks like a massive battle at the bottom.
West Ham vs. Newcastle (2)
Two wins and a draw in three games have boosted West Ham out of the relegation zone at the expense of Newcastle, who have dropped into 18th with a nine-game winless run and four straight defeats. That form makes the Hammers definite favorites, as does their newfound defensive strength. Newcastle’s back line, however, has been atrocious in recent weeks, and the spaces should be available for West Ham to attack. With these teams seemingly heading in opposite directions and Newcastle needing to travel to London, West Ham will like their chances of keeping their run going.
(9:30 AM PT)
Burnley vs. Tottenham (5)
Shockingly, with one game left in the first half of the campaign, Burnley are ahead of Tottenham. The margin is just a point, but they can extend it this weekend with a win in front of what should be a rollicking atmosphere at Turf Moor. They’ll back themselves to do it, too; Sean Dyche’s men grabbed a point when the sides met at Wembley early this season, and they’ve only gotten better since then.
(11:45 AM PT)
Leicester vs. Manchester United (3)
The Foxes have somewhat quietly snuck into eighth place in the table, and while they’re five points back of Spurs, they have solidified themselves as a top-half side under Claude Puel. They can add another impressive notch in their belt against Manchester United at the King Power Stadium. Jose Mourinho’s side just might be vulnerable as well. Since losing to City a few weeks ago, the Red Devils have had to eke out one-goal wins over Bournemouth and West Brom. United still have the more talented squad, but this matchup has produced surprises before.
Bonus European Game of the Week: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, Saturday 12/23/17, 4 AM PT
Though they aren't neck-and-neck in the title race at the moment, El Clasico remains the biggest game in domestic club football. There’s added flair here given recent events in Catalonia, but the football aspect is still as intense and important as ever. A win for Barcelona at the Bernabeu would strike a devastating blow to Real’s title hopes, as they would be buried 14 points off the top of the table. Realistically, the hosts are going to need to secure all three points to jump back into the race, but they’ll have to solve a significant problem to do so. The Catalans have won 13 and drawn three La Liga games and haven’t lost this season, and if Madrid can’t snap their streak, there’s a good chance the Blaugrana could cruise to the title. With almost almost every star on both sides healthy, neither side should have any excuses come Saturday morning.