Saturday 12/30/17 (7 AM PT)
Watford vs. Swansea (2)
If tenth-place Watford are to stay in the top half of the table during the second half of the season, they are going to need to come up with three points in fixtures like this one. Hosting the last-place Swans — who are in poor form but will play their first game under new boss Carlos Carvalhal — presents a golden opportunity for Watford to put a stamp on a generally solid 2017. Swansea, meanwhile, are desperate for any points after a dismal opening 20 games have resulted in just 13. The Swans have scored a league-low 11 goals, but they might have a chance to turn that around against a Hornets defense that has been consistently leaky all season.
Huddersfield vs. Burnley (4)
These two sides have probably overachieved more than any pair of teams this year (excluding the ridiculous Manchester City). Huddersfield came up at the start of the year as a minnow just trying to survive, and if it weren’t for recent rallies by Everton and Leicester, they would sit in the top half of the table; still, for a club of Huddersfield’s size, 11th place is exceptional. Burnley, meanwhile, have been giant killers, and though they were recently smacked by
Bournemouth vs. Everton (2)
The Cherries and the Toffees have played completely opposite seasons to this point. Eddie Howe’s side came out with some solid early results but haven’t won in their last eight, sinking into the relegation zone as a result. On the other hand, Everton were extremely poor out of the gates, but since the sacking of Ronald Koeman, the Toffees have been electric and surged up the table into ninth. In short, it would be hard to expect Bournemouth to find their form against a red-hot side that is on the way up the table.
Newcastle vs. Brighton (2)
Both Brighton and Newcastle have been hard to figure out this year. Each has shown flashes of talent that indicates it’s capable of staying up, but each has also wilted at times, and they probably both belong right about where they are right now, above the relegation zone but far from safe. More worrisome is that neither has looked good of late, combining for two wins in their last 12 games. As such, the points are surely up for grabs, and they’re vital.
Liverpool vs. Leicester (4)
Of all the games in the early period Saturday, this surely returns the most bang for your buck. Both Liverpool and Leicester play with never-say-die, attacking attitudes, meaning this one should be a fast-paced, end-to-end affair (Liverpool won the first league matchup 3-2). With the quality of finishers both sides have and many players on little rest, this could easily be another five-or-more goal affair. A spectacle for the neutrals could mean a nailbiter for the supporters, though.
Chelsea vs. Stoke (3)
Sitting only three points above the relegation zone, by Stoke’s standards, means that this has hardly been a good half of a season. Mark Hughes has righted the ship a bit of late, but his seat is certainly still warm. A trip to Chelsea presents a chance to save a bit of face for the first half, but the Blues are going to make that far from easy at Stamford Bridge, where they have been dominant as of late. This should be a good measuring stick for Hughes to see just how far his side are from where it wants to be before the business end of the season arrives.
(9:30 AM PT)
Manchester United vs. Southampton (2)
After two straight draws, Jose Mourinho could really use three points against Southampton, and he has a good chance to get them. Saints started better than most expected this year but have regressed into the
Sunday 12/31/17 (4 AM PT)
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City (5)
It is very clear at this point that to stop Manchester City, a team is going to need a Herculean effort and some good bounces to go their way as well. Even when the Citizens haven’t been at their best this year, they have found ways to win; when they have been at their best, Pep Guardiola’s side has been untouchable. There’s no doubt that Selhurst Park will be absolutely rocking with the leaders visiting on New Year’s Eve, but it is tough to think that Palace really have a chance, although they’ve pulled off some surprises in front of their home fans before. With how weird the busy period can be, this might be Guardiola at his weakest; then again, City’s depth might only make them stronger at a time like this.
(8:30 AM PT)
West Brom vs. Arsenal (3)
Tony Pulis’ West Brom side managed just two wins in the first half of the season (both in August), and Alan Pardew has yet to find himself in that column since taking over for the departed manager. If it wasn’t official before, it is now: the Baggies are in deep trouble. The good news is the side still has plenty of time to save itself. The bad news is that effort might have to start after the Baggies face an Arsenal side coming off back-to-back three-goal performances. The Gunners will have plenty of motivation, sitting in sixth place at the moment, but just a point behind fourth. It looks increasingly likely that a dogfight for a Champions League place between themselves, Tottenham, and Liverpool is about to ensue, which makes this another huge game for Arsene Wenger.
Monday 1/1/18 (4:30 AM PT)
Brighton vs. Bournemouth (2)
With both teams in at best mediocre form, the points will be there for the taking at the Amex Stadium. Bournemouth will probably be a bit more expansive in their play than Brighton, but that hasn’t worked to their advantage so far this season. The Seagulls probably have a slight edge in front of their home fans, and a win here would give Chris Hughton’s side even more breathing room on the bottom three.
(7 AM PT)
Burnley vs. Liverpool (5)
This was one of the most fascinating fixtures of the 2016-17 season as Burnley held less than 20 percent possession but defended stoutly in a 2-0 win early in the campaign. The Clarets are a different animal now, as they’ve morphed from promoted overachievers into unlikely European contenders. With the Reds’ hit-or-miss form and the Clarets’ success against big
Stoke vs. Newcastle (1)
With both sides hovering dangerously above the relegation zone, this is going to be a crucial game for each. Newcastle and Stoke have both improved their form recently and have some momentum as they try to move away from the drop zone. However, each team’s inconsistency makes it difficult to predict what will happen at the bet365 Stadium, and neither plays open enough football to make this game worth the watch.
Leicester vs. Huddersfield (2)
Leicester have hit a slight snag recently, while Huddersfield are playing well at the moment. As such, these two teams are currently stuck in the middle of the table, and there aren’t a ton of stakes on the line at the King Power Stadium. Huddersfield will sit in, try to defend, and look to hit on the break, and against a side like Leicester that also employs a similar system, it’s tough to guess what will unfold, although an end-to-end game full of goals probably is out of the question.
(9:30 AM PT)
Everton vs. Manchester United (4)
Unbeaten in seven, Everton will pose a severe test for Manchester United, especially at Goodison Park. Sam Allardyce has immediately improved the Toffees’ confidence, something that often fluctuates for Jose Mourinho’s United side. The story of the game, though, will be Wayne Rooney and Romelu Lukaku lining up against their former sides and possibly deciding the game based on whichever can find the net. In front of a fervent crowd under the Goodison lights, there’s every possibility that this game could turn out to be a cracker.
Tuesday 1/2/18 (11:45 AM PT)
Southampton vs. Crystal Palace (2)
Southampton seem to have once again descended into mediocrity. Saints have been porous defensively and lack a cutting edge in front of goal, and while they have eked out seven draws, they’re also on a seven-game winless run and have fallen to just two points ahead of the relegation zone. They have a great chance to solve their woes against a Palace side that was the worst in the league for the first two-plus months of the season, but Roy Hodgson has righted the Eagles’ ship, and Palace could leapfrog into the middle of the table if they finish the busy period strong.
Swansea vs. Tottenham (3)
It’s tough to foresee anything other than a Tottenham win here. The unbalanced Christmastime schedule presents a huge gift to Spurs, who will have had a week off when they kick off against a Swansea team that will have played two days prior. That’s a tough ask of any time, let alone a last-place side that’s doing battle with one of the Premier League’s giants. Swansea has nothing to lose here, which could allow them a bit of extra freedom, but given the talent on either side of the ledger and the extra rest for the visitors, Spurs are going to be massive favorites.
West Ham vs. West Brom (3)
A similar advantage to the one Tottenham gets also belongs to West Ham after the teams’ matchup was moved to the end of the holiday period. As such, the Hammers will be well rested for a critical relegation six pointer. Alan Pardew has started to get a response out of West Brom since his arrival, but it’s still no wins since August for the Baggies. The fact that David Moyes’ arrival at West Ham has already turned the situation around somewhat is enough evidence for the Hammers to expect a home win here.
(12 noon PT)
Manchester City vs. Watford (2)
If Manchester City do eventually lose, it will probably come away from home. That, combined with the fact that City walloped Watford 6-0 at Vicarage Road earlier this season, makes anything other than an easy victory for Pep Guardiola and company seem extremely unlikely. Marco Silva’s side has sputtered in recent weeks, and while they finally stopped their slide on Boxing Day against Leicester, it’s hard to visualize the Hornets and their shaky back line coming up with the formula to stopping Manchester City’s freight train.
Wednesday 1/3/18 (11:45 AM PT)
Arsenal vs. Chelsea (5)
There isn’t a ton of explanation needed for this one. These teams hate each other, they’re locked in a fierce five-way battle (Burnley deserve mention for now) for two Champions League spots, and there’s enough talent on both sides that a third team made up of non-starters for each team could probably survive a season in the Premier League. The Emirates gets a bad rap sometimes, but with the hated Blues coming
Thursday 1/4/18 (12 noon PT)
Tottenham vs. West Ham (3)
Due to the City of London not being able to confirm a large enough police presence for this fixture when it was originally scheduled on New Year’s Eve, these bitter London rivals will close out the busy period on just a single day of rest. Given the ferocity of the games contested between them, however, that might matter little, as both teams will come in hyped. The reverse league fixture was a fascinating Tottenham 3-2 win, but West Ham exacted some revenge in the EFL Cup when they erased a 2-0 deficit to knock out Spurs by the same scoreline. Barring an FA Cup matchup, this will be their last meeting of the year, so fireworks should be expected.