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Festive fixtures continue amid virus confusion

Tottenham's Ryan Sessegnon, left, tries to move away from Liverpool's Naby Keita during the English Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Sunday, December 19, 2021. Liverpool’s Boxing Day match against Leeds as well as the Wolves vs Watford fixture, have been postponed due to Covid-19 (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The Premier League has been in the spotlight over the past week for its refusal to take a prolonged break after recent steep increases in Covid-19 cases.

The board of directors and managers met on Monday to confirm that the festive fixture list will continue as normal, with postponements required where necessary. A threshold of 14 first-team players are required, with youth players to supplement, to play any given game going forward.

However, the league announced yesterday that the Liverpool v Leeds and Wolves v Watford matches, which were scheduled for Boxing Day, will be rescheduled, following postponement requests from Leeds and Watford as a result of Covid-19.

As a result of the postponements over the past few weeks, Fantasy managers will be allotted a second Free Hit bargaining chip from match week 20, which commences on Tuesday, December 28th. Key players to look out for are Conor Gallagher (6.1 million), who continues to shine in the Crystal Palace midfield, and forward Gabriel Jesus (8.7 million), whose impact has been key to the current run of Manchester City.

Sunday – Boxing Day

Burnley v Everton


Burnley have earned four draws in their last five games, winning just one game so far this season. However, the Clarets haven’t played in ten days, missing three games in that span.

Everton have conceded thirteen goals in their last six league matches, the third-most in that span. They do, however, have the constant threat of Demarai Gray, who scored an absolute screamer to secure the Toffees’s 2-1 home win over Arsenal, their last league success.

The Merseyside team held the Lancashire team 1-1 on their last visit to Turf Moor in December 2020.

Prediction: 2-2

Manchester City v Leicester City


Manchester City are flying on several fronts at the moment, winning their last nine games in all competitions. They have won their last four league matches by an aggregate score of 15-1.

Leicester are recovering slowly from their early-season woes, suffering just two defeats from their last eight games. The Foxes smashed Newcastle 4-0 in their last match on December 12th.

In the marquee “goal-rush” matchup, the East Midlands team stand a chance after upsetting a struggling City 5-2 on their previous visit to the Etihad in September last year.

Prediction: 2-0

Norwich City v Arsenal


Norwich City had their visit to West Ham United postponed due to illness within the Canaries’s squad. Since new boss Dean Smith took charge, they are mid-table in their last six games, taking five points.

Arsenal have found their groove under boss Mikel Arteta, cruising past Leeds 4-1 last weekend. Three days later, academy graduate Eddie Nketiah scored his first hat-trick for the Gunners in their 5-1 home win over Sunderland in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.

The North London side have lost just twice on Boxing Day in the Premier League, but could face a test as they only managed a 2-2 draw on their last visit to East Anglia.

Prediction: 1-3

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace


Tottenham showed massive improvements at the weekend, pushing Liverpool all the way and holding the former champions to a pulsating 2-2 home draw. Prior to this, the Lillywhites had not played since their 3-0 home win over Norwich on December 5.

Crystal Palace are stuttering a bit after the strong start, drawing 2-2 at home with Southampton last Wednesday. The Eagles have dropped three losses in their last five games, and have the most draws in the top-flight (eight) with Brighton, Burnley and their most recent opponents.

Spurs smashed Palace 4-1 on the South London side’s last visit in March, and have won 14 of the 25 overall meetings.

Prediction: 2-0

West Ham United v Southampton


West Ham were beaten 2-1 at the new Spurs stadium by Tottenham on Wednesday night in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals. Prior to this, they fell 2-0 to capital rivals Arsenal at the Emirates on December 15.

Southampton are winless in their last five league games, drawing three of those games, including the latest 2-2 home draw with Crystal Palace.

West Ham thrashed Southampton 3-0 on the Saints’s last visit to East London, but the overall battle is quite even, with the Irons edging it 19 wins to 11.

Prediction: 2-0

Aston Villa v Chelsea


Aston Villa have won four of their first six games under Steven Gerrard, their only defeats coming to title challengers Liverpool and Manchester City. They are within four points of a potential European place.

Chelsea are dropping the baton on their title push this term under Thomas Tuchel, losing points in their last three games in all competitions. They were held to draws by Wolves (away) and Everton (home) in the past week.

Bertrand Traore scored the opener as Villa edged the Blues 2-1 on the final day last season. However, the West London outfit have won three of the previous four meetings.

Prediction: 2-2

Brighton & Hove Albion v Brentford


Brighton are winless in their last eleven league games, after starting with four wins from their first five. They had three of their last four listed games called off due to an outbreak, against Manchester United (away), Chelsea and Tottenham (home).

Brentford are on an inconsistent run currently, after losing just once in their first seven games. Their last result was a comeback 2-1 win over Watford, when Bryan Mbeumo scored a late penalty to steal the points.

The Seagulls took a 1-0 win from their only previous meeting, at the Brentford Community Stadium in September.

Prediction: 1-1


Newcastle United v Manchester United


Newcastle are still the worst defensive team in the division, conceding 41 goals so far. Their lone win came 1-0 over Burnley earlier this month, but since have suffered three straight losses.

Manchester United haven’t played since a lucky 1-0 away win over Norwich City on December 11, and have won three straight league games since the removal of previous boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Magpies fell victim to one of the Red Devils’s best performances under the Norwegian boss, a 4-1 defeat in October 2020.

Prediction: 0-2

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Published December 24, 2021 at 8:12 am (Updated December 24, 2021 at 8:12 am)

Festive fixtures continue amid virus confusion

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