United aiming to spoil Liverpool’s party

  • Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates after the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St James' Park, in Newcastle, England, Sunday Dec. 9, 2018. (Owen Humphreys /PA via AP)

    Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates after the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St James' Park, in Newcastle, England, Sunday Dec. 9, 2018. (Owen Humphreys /PA via AP)


Companies across the island will be preparing for their office Christmas festivities this weekend and in the Premier League Manchester United and José Mourinho will very much be aiming to play the role of party-poopers as they plan to put a dent in Liverpool’s title ambitions.

There is absolutely no doubt as to the biggest game in the Premier League this coming weekend with the derby between the top flight’s most successful sides at Anfield.

The hosts are riding high in top spot after Manchester City slipped up last weekend, with Jürgen Klopp’s side already 16 points ahead of United in the table after just 16 games.

The Red Devils limp to Merseyside eight points off the top four, but despite their troubles, Mourinho would love nothing more than to end Liverpool’s unbeaten League run in front of the Kop.

SATURDAY

Manchester City v Everton 8.30am

Everton continue their run of difficult Premier League away matches with arguably the hardest one of all but their recent record at the Etihad Stadium offers them encouragement.

The Toffees have been capable of grinding out points when visiting the blue half of Manchester in recent years, with four of the last six league matches between the clubs at the Etihad Stadium ending in draws.

Under Marco Silva, Everton have recently drawn away to Chelsea and lost only due to a horrendous Jordan Pickford error deep into stoppage time at Anfield. They head into tomorrow’s match off the back of back-to-back draws with Newcastle United and Watford.

City, have not failed to win back-to-back Premier League matches since April 2017 and they will be aiming to keep that statistic intact by bouncing back from their 2-0 loss at Chelsea which cost them top spot in the table to Everton’s neighbours Liverpool. Prediction 2-1

Crystal Palace v Leicester City 11am

Crystal Palace dished out two heavy defeats to Leicester last season and will be calling up those happy memories as they try to improve on their poor recent form.

However, a 2-0 success against Burnley at the start of this month was Palace’s only league win since September and they are firmly entrenched in the ‘mini league’ of seven teams at the bottom of the Premier League table from which the three relegated clubs are likely to be identified.

Leicester do not have such worries, being in a typical Claude Puel position of ninth, and their home and away records this season are identical in terms of results, three wins, three defeats and two draws.

The Foxes were beaten for the first time in eight games last weekend by Tottenham but none of their defeats this season have come against a team currently below them in the table.

Palace will be without talisman Wilfried Zaha, serving a suspension for accumulating five bookings, and that will only add to the pressure on manager Roy Hodgson to get a much needed result. Prediction 1-1

Huddersfield Town v

Newcastle United 11am

All the evidence suggests goals will be as rare as a long line of waiting taxis on Front Street on Friday and Saturday night when two of the Premier League’s lowest scorers go head-to-head in West Yorkshire.

Quite simply, Huddersfield score hardly any goals at the John Smith’s Stadium while Newcastle’s away games are the lowest-scoring in the Premier League this term and that’s including a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford!

The Magpies head in to the encounter winless in three, to sit in 15th, just three points ahead of Huddersfield in the final relegation zone spot, who have suffered three successive defeats.

Huddersfield have won only one of their last six home matches against Newcastle but all of the statistics point to a draw. Prediction 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley 11am

Burnley have lost to Tottenham Hotspur just before Christmas in each of their last three Premier League seasons and a fourth time looks very much on the cards.

At White Hart Lane twice, each time 2-1, and Turf Moor between December 18 and 23 have Spurs helped to spoil the Clarets’ festive period and it is now expected to happen at Wembley.

Burnley have managed to score in 10 of their last 12 away matches against Spurs but Sean Dyche’s side simply do not appear to be in good enough form at present to grab anything more than a consolation goal against a team who are back into the Premier League title race after Manchester City’s defeat last weekend.

Spurs have only lost at home to the two clubs above them in the table, but every other Premier League visitor to their temporary home this season has been sent away defeated

Burnley have not won away to Tottenham Hotspur since 1974 and I can not see that changing just yet! Prediction 3-0

Watford v Cardiff City 11am

Watford have got into the habit of starting the season in excellent form before fading off in the latter stages and this campaign so far appears to have already followed that pattern somewhat.

After impressive wins in the early stages of the campaign, the Hornets have now gone six games without a win in the Premier League ahead of this Saturday’s fixture against Cardiff City.

Despite the dip in form, Watford still sit comfortably in twelfth place after being denied victory at Everton last time out by Lucas Digne’s superb last-gasp free-kick.

After being tipped to not only be relegated, but also finish bottom, Cardiff have rallied with Neil Warnock’s side winning four of their last eight games. Notably all four of their wins so far have come at the Cardiff City Stadium but they continue to struggle away from home. Prediction 2-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v AFC Bournemouth 11am

Wolverhampton Wanderers will be aiming to make it three wins on the spin when they welcome AFC Bournemouth to Molineux tomorrow.

Nuno Espírito Santo’s men appeared to hit rocky form in the past two months as they went six games without tasting victory but they responded in the perfect way last week, beating Chelsea in a midweek fixture at home before earning an impressive away win over Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon.

Eddie Howe will be delighted with AFC Bournemouth’s current position in eighth in the league table, but his players have left a fair bit to be desired in recent weeks. They’ll make the trip up to Molineux on the back of a poor run of form that has seen them lose five and win only one of their last six Premier League matches.

The teams are separated by two places and just one point in the table but by the end of play I can see Wolves leapfrogging their opponents in the table. Prediction 2-1

Fulham v

West Ham United 1.30pm

Much like Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Ham are in a rich vein of form and will be heading across London to Craven Cottage in search of a fourth straight win.

The home side recently hired Claudio Ranieri in the hope of upturning their form, but as yet the former Premier League winner has failed to weave his magical touch over his new team. After an early home win over Southampton, the Italian’s side have gone three games without a win to leave them rock bottom in the league.

West Ham United hired a former Premier League title-winning manager themselves in the summer as they brought in former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini. After a slow start, the Hammers have started to find some form in the last few weeks with victories over Newcastle United, Cardiff City and Crystal Palace lifting them up to 11th in the table. Prediction 0-2

SUNDAY

Brighton and Hove Albion v Chelsea 9.30am

Chelsea should be full of confidence after becoming the first English team to beat Manchester City this season and should be favoured to build on that momentum at Brighton.

Goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz earned the Blues an important 2-0 win against City which, while not exactly blowing the Premier League title race wide open, at least opened the door to it not necessarily being a two-horse race between the champions and Liverpool.

The Amex Stadium is not an easy venue for away teams and Brighton owe a huge amount of their top-flight consolidation to results gained on their own pitch both last season and this.

Only Tottenham in the league have won there in the current campaign, with the sole other top-six visitor so far, Manchester United, having been beaten, and the Seagulls are defensively very solid at home having conceded only two goals in their last four matches.

However, they continue to be without key centre-half Shane Duffy due to suspension, they most recently lost 1-0 at struggling Burnley and so Chelsea’s quality is expected to prove too strong, especially as self-belief could hardly be higher following last weekend’s triumph. Prediction 0-2

Southampton v

Arsenal 9.30am

Southampton have won only once at home in the Premier League within the last 12 months and that dreadful record looks unlikely to end against Arsenal.

This is Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first game in charge of Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium and the Austrian made a losing start to his reign in a 1-0 defeat at Cardiff last weekend.

In fairness, the new manager had only been able to work with his squad for a couple of days before that match, so this is the first major opportunity for his methods to be put into practice.

But it is a big ask for Saints to finally get a much needed home win under their belt against an Arsenal side who have not lost a Premier League contest since mid-August.

The Gunners made very hard work of beating Huddersfield last weekend, but there is a new-found resilience about them under Unai Emery which enabled their undefeated run in all competitions to reach 21 games.

It is still to be seen whether Hasenhuttl’s guidance can bring a change in fortunes for Southampton and I can only see Arsenal piling further relegation worries on their struggling hosts. Prediction 0-2

Liverpool v

Manchester United 1pm

Jose Mourinho has ‘parked the bus’ in front of goal in his two previous visits to Anfield as Manchester United manager and that looks to be his best chance of getting a result again.

A pair of 0-0 draws represent a qualified success for United at the home of their fierce rivals, if only for the obvious reason that they have prevented Liverpool from beating them on the last four occasions on their own pitch in the Premier League.

Callum Paterson of Cardiff City has the honour of being the only visiting player to have scored at Anfield in the league this term, and unless United go with an attacking line-up including any three of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and, if fit, Anthony Martial, it is difficult to see that changing.

After taking over at the top of the table from Manchester City last weekend, and reaching the Champions League knockout stage on Tuesday, Liverpool ought to be rampant. Prediction 1-1

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Published Dec 14, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 13, 2018 at 11:52 pm)

United aiming to spoil Liverpool’s party

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