Festive football continues this weekend. It has been a true feast for any football fan of late, and we are lucky enough that there is a whole schedule on Saturday.
Our attention for this piece is on the Premier League and – as is now tradition in these parts – my weekly look at the 3pm games. So, here goes.
Chelsea vs Stoke City
Mark Hughes has taken four points from his last two matches to keep his job. In a crucial spell of matches, the trip to Stamford Bridge is probably a simple case of avoiding a thrashing for the Potters, who may well rotate with a key clash with Newcastle coming up.
Chelsea, meanwhile, could go above Manchester United. Perhaps irrelevant other than a bit of extra prize money, but an interesting psychological development for the reigning champions.
Eden Hazard is obviously the man to watch. The Belgian might be the only reason to watch this one, in fact. The Blues are in decent form – largely down to Hazard – and I just cannot see past a comfortable home win at the Bridge. Sorry, Potters.
TIP: Chelsea to win @ 1/6
Huddersfield Town vs Burnley
Huddersfield and Burnley are separated by 10 points. It’s remarkable that that is the case, and it’s not because one has been cut adrift. The Terriers are cosy in mid-table, while Sean Dyche’s Clarets continue to defy logic to chest bump with the best in the league.
After a poor run, Huddersfield have put together a three-match unbeaten streak. The draw at home to Stoke on Boxing Day was underwhelming to say the least, but David Wagner’s side continue to look every bit a Premier League team, though investment in January remains probable.
Burnley, in contrast, have not won in three. Depending on your perspective they were unlucky/lucky to draw at Old Trafford last time out. As much as I don’t see a top seven finish for the Clarets this season, I think they’ll get something here - the draw looks well priced...
TIP: Match to be drawn @ 41/20
Liverpool vs Leicester City
Liverpool’s attacking display against Swansea was a joy to watch. Since then, they’ve completed a deal to sign their long-term target, Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman is not available until the turn of the year, however.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are perhaps the most exciting team to watch in the league right now. Goals are an absolute certainty with so much attacking talent on the pitch, and they face a Leicester team who have seen the over 2.5 line land in each of their previous five league matches.
Although there have been the beginnings of a blip for the Foxes, Claude Puel has done a stellar job since replacing Craig Shakespeare. The Jamie Vardy, Marc Albrighton, Riyad Mahrez axis is at its fearsome best, and will almost certainly cause this comedy-providing Liverpool defence trouble.
I expect a Liverpool victory, but I’m playing it cautious with my prediction here.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 4/11
Newcastle United vs Brighton
These two newly-promoted sides will be relatively happy with their current positions. While both are far from clear of relegation peril, Brighton sit three points above Newcastle. The Magpies gave a decent account of themselves at home to Manchester City on Wednesday night, but still loiter only one point above the bottom three.
Those matches have little bearing on a campaign, though. The key for Rafa Benitez and his under-funded squad is home clashes with sides around them, such as this one. It is a must-not-lose as much as it is vital to win to build upon their victory at the London Stadium.
That performance against West Ham – despite defence insecurity – was a vast improvement for the Magpies. I think a display like that will be far too much for Brighton.
TIP: Newcastle to win @ 23/20