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Fireworks expected during hectic holiday period

The Premier League enters its hectic festive fixture list with more shake-ups in all four races, most notably the title and top-four challenges.

Fantasy managers should be on the lookout for some new in-form players over the next few weeks. Bernardo Silva is the best mid-priced midfielder, having contributed seven goal involvements in his last eight games. Budget striker Emmanuel Dennis has been involved in six goals in his last four matches.

Friday

Brentford v Watford

4pm

Although Brentford have won just once in their last five games, the Bees are unbeaten in their last eight Friday night matches, winning six and drawing two. Last time out, they drew 2-2 away to Leeds United.

Watford have conceded more goals than anyone else in the division since Claudio Ranieri took charge on October 4 (19). The Hornets may have lost 3-1 at home to Manchester City, but in-form Dennis leads the team with five league goals.

These sides have never met in the Premier League, but the Bees shut out Watford on their last visit 2-0 in May.

Prediction: 2-0

Saturday

Manchester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers

8.30am

Manchester City are the only team in the English football pyramid to have won their last five league games, most recently the 3-1 away win over Watford. They may have faltered to a 2-1 away defeat to RB Leipzig midweek, but were already through to the Round of 16.

Wolves defended really well, but conceded to Divock Origi in stoppage-time to fall to a 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool, and have earned just one win in their last five.

City smashed the West Midlands side 4-1 on their last visit to the Etihad, and have won eight of their previous 14 meetings.

Prediction: 2-1

Arsenal v Southampton

11am

Arsenal have now lost three of their last four matches, after an eight-game unbeaten run. They conceded a late Demarai Gray stunner in stoppage time of their 2-1 away loss to Everton on Monday.

Southampton were pegged back by a Neal Maupay equaliser in their 1-1 home draw with Brighton in the South Coast derby. They also have won just one of their last five.

Saints have never won on 22 previous visits to Arsenal, yet they managed a 1-1 draw on their last trip to the North London side.

Prediction: 1-1

Chelsea v Leeds United

11am

Chelsea are suffering through a massive injury crisis, especially in midfield, where they miss key players N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic. They lost 3-2 away to capital rivals West Ham, before drawing with Zenit St Petersburg in Russia 3-3 on Wednesday in the Champions League.

Leeds snatched a vital 2-2 home draw with Brentford, the returning Patrick Bamford scoring a stoppage-time equaliser. They have lost just once in their last five, but have three draws in this run. That solitary win came in their last midweek fixture, the 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace.

The Blues have won their last four home meetings with the Yorkshire side, including the 3-1 win last December.

Prediction: 2-0

Liverpool v Aston Villa

11am

Liverpool may have been frustrated by a resolute Wolves’s defence, but Divock Origi scored a stoppage-time winner off the bench to earn a 1-0 away win.

Aston Villa came-from-behind to earn an impressive 2-1 home win over Leicester City on Sunday in a Midlands derby, just three days after losing by the same score to champions Manchester City.

Steven Gerrard faces his first return to Liverpool as a manager, after making 710 appearances for the Merseyside club. Former players managing against the Reds at Anfield have lost 14 of their last 16 visits.

Prediction: 2-1

Norwich City v Manchester United

1.30pm

Norwich continued to show their defensive frailties in their 3-0 away defeat to Tottenham, their first loss in five games.

Manchester United got off to a composed start under Ralf Rangnick, cruising to a 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace. The Red Devils followed that up with a 1-1 draw with Swiss side Young Boys, with the German boss fielding a reserve side.

United won 3-1 on their last visit to East Anglia. Norwich boss Dean Smith could become the first manager in over a century to beat the Red Devils with two different clubs in the same season.

Prediction: 1-3

Sunday

Brighton v Tottenham Hotspur

10am

Brighton got a late equaliser from Neal Maupay in stoppage-time to earn a 1-1 away draw with Southampton in the South Coast derby.

Spurs smashed Norwich 3-0 in their last league game, but had their European home match with Stade Rennais postponed due to a spike in virus cases among players and staff. Korean star Son Heung-Min registered a goal and assist in the convincing win.

The Seagulls kept Spurs out on their last visit to the Amex Stadium in January, but the North London side have dominated the overall history, winning five of eight meetings.

Prediction: 1-2

Burnley v West Ham United

10am

Burnley slumped to a 1-0 away defeat to relegation rivals Newcastle, but had their previous home match with Tottenham snowed out and postponed.

West Ham have strengthened their grip on fourth position, after a comeback 3-2 home win over rivals Chelsea. They have already beaten the Blues, United, Man City, Leicester, and Tottenham this season in all competitions.

The Hammers have never kept a clean sheet in seven away meetings with the Clarets, second-most against any side only to Middlesbrough (12) in the top-flight. They did, however, earn a 2-1 win on their last visit to Turf Moor.

Prediction: 1-3

Leicester City v Newcastle United

10am

Leicester lost 2-1 away to Midlands rivals Aston Villa, and have now conceded the fourth-most goals in the division. Jamie Vardy’s nine goals have contributed to eight points for the Foxes, the largest goal impact in the league.

Newcastle battled to their first win of the season, a 1-0 home victory over Burnley. Callum Wilson benefited from a poor mistake by Clarets’ goalkeeper Nick Pope five minutes before halftime.

The Magpies came away from the East Midlands with a 4-2 win on their last visit to the King Power Stadium, but the overall rivalry is quite even.

All in: West Ham's Jarrod Bowen, left, challenges for the ball with Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi during the English Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea at the London stadium in London on Saturday, December 4, 2021. (Photograph by Alastair Grant/AP)

Prediction: 2-2

Crystal Palace v Everton

12.30pm

Crystal Palace were largely suppressed by the sheer control of Manchester United throughout their 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford. The Eagles have won just one of their last five, though they scored at least once in three out of five in that run.

Everton earned a key comeback 2-1 home win over Arsenal, with winger Demarai Gray smashing home a brilliant strike in stoppage time to save manager Rafa Benitez. Had they not won, the Toffees would have gone 10 league matches without a win.

Sunday’s visitors have won just one of seven on the road this term, yet they are unbeaten in their last 10 visits to Selhurst Park, most recently winning 2-1 last September.

Prediction: 1-1

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Published December 10, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated December 10, 2021 at 7:53 am)

Fireworks expected during hectic holiday period

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