Midweek Premier League football was eventful. Late winners, plenty of goals and resting of stars sets December up beautifully. New faces in dugouts – well, old faces in different dugouts – and some managers on the brink of their P45s put severe weight on this weekend.
European football means we have six fixtures at 3pm on Saturday. And, as has become tradition, I am going to wander down the list here.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION vs LIVERPOOL
Brighton were involved in a stalemate with Crystal Palace at the Amex on Tuesday. Having again created very little, goals are still a worry for Chris Hughton’s side.
Liverpool are likely to give them chances, but this will be a stern test of a usually solid Seagulls back line.
Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have all been given rests in the last week, and it would be of no surprise to see the magic quartet start together on Saturday afternoon.
This is a challenging time in Brighton’s season, and I think they may well have enough to be safe, but one win in five and Jurgen Klopp’s rotation means I am backing the Reds for an away win.
TIP: Liverpool to win @ 4/9
EVERTON vs HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
The importance of Everton’s win over West Ham on Wednesday cannot be overstated. To do it so emphatically made it even more significant, and, with Sam Allardyce arriving, the Toffees should pull away from relegation peril.
Their visitors this Saturday have not scored on the road since August, and were thrashed 5-0 by Arsenal on the same night as Everton’s win. It’s now three straight defeats for the Terriers, who have scored just nine goals in 14 league matches.
I don’t see this being another 4-0. Everton, though, should have too much for David Wagner’s side. Huddersfield are in trouble.
TIP: Everton to win @ 13/20
LEICESTER CITY vs BURNLEY
Burnley are having a season that is on course to be one of the greatest in Premier League history. Now above Tottenham and into sixth, Sean Dyche’s side are the masters of the narrow victory.
Leicester have improved markedly since Claude Puel took over, though they were fortunate to beat Spurs in midweek. That did bring an end to a three-match winless streak, mind.
At some point, Burnley will surely stop defying the odds. They have scored fewer goals than Stoke and Everton, who are both embroiled in a relegation battle.
Their away form has been the most surprising of all after their road struggles last season, but I am going to sit on the fence at the King Power.
TIP: Match to be drawn @ 5/2
STOKE CITY vs SWANSEA CITY
Mark Hughes and Paul Clement are under enormous pressure. Stoke have not won in four, and performances are only getting worse. Swansea are level on points with Crystal Palace at the bottom of the table, and have scored seven league goals all season.
The Potters hold the league’s worst defensive record, having been torn apart by Liverpool on Wednesday evening. Swansea could not muster a shot on target against Chelsea, keeping them as the league’s worst attack. Quite a combination, that.
Defeat should probably spell the end for either manager. Recruitment has been poor at both clubs, but that will not excuse another loss on Saturday.
I can’t pick much between the sides at the moment, even with the return of Tammy Abraham.
TIP: Match to be drawn @ 47/20
WATFORD vs TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Watford’s defence continues to let them down. Spurs’ poor finishing and the absence of Toby Alderweireld has hurt them.
The visitors to Vicarage Road have won only once in five league matches, forcing them down to seventh. Fatigue has clearly played its part, but Mauricio Pochettino’s options are limited compared to his top six rivals.
The Hornets have been a joy to watch for much of this season. Their attack is dangerous, if a little unpredictable. For a Spurs defence short of its secure best, this is a real test.
It will not be easy, but I think Spurs might just squeak an important narrow victory.
TIP: Spurs to win @ 4/6
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs CRYSTAL PALACE
Alan Pardew’s first match in charge of West Brom comes against one of his many former clubs, and he faces one of his fellow old guard of Premier League managers. The merry-go-round dictates that Roy Hodgson also faces a former club.
Crystal Palace remain at the foot of the table, but signs are good. Should things continue as they are, the Eagles will leave the bottom three before long.
Pardew has been brought in to turn West Brom’s dire form around (they haven’t won since August) and the former Newcastle manager has a good record of producing results early in his tenure.
This is a tough one to call, but I fancy the Pardew bounce to strike again.
TIP: West Brom to win @ 29/20
*Odds subject to change – correct at time of writing*