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Palmer and Bowen look solid options

Cole Palmer’s form has been a bright spot for Chelsea in an otherwise inconsistent season (Photograph by Ian Walton/AP)

Premier League football has entered the festive period with even more fascinating headlines building, such as the second managerial casualty of the 2023-24 campaign after Nottingham Forest replaced head coach Steve Cooper with Nuno Espirito Santo, formerly of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur.

Fantasy managers have a few key players returning in the coming months, notably midfield maestro Kevin de Bruyne, who should be in line for an early-spring return. Chelsea star Cole Palmer and West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen are solid replacements for the time being, with the latter scoring his tenth league goal in their last match, becoming the first Hammer to hit that mark before Christmas since John Hartson in 1997.


Aston Villa v Sheffield United (4pm)

Aston Villa are unbeaten in six league matches, five of which are victories. Boubacar Kamara is suspended for three matches after being sent off in the win away to Brentford; Robin Olsen, Tyrone Mings, Emiliano Buendía and Bertrand Traoré are out with injury, while Pau Torres and Youri Tielemans are doubtful this match.

Sheffield United are bottom, having scored the fewest goals in the division (12). Chris Basham, John Egan, Tom Davies and Daniel Jebbison are out through injury or illness this week, while Rhys Norrington-Davies and Rhian Brewster are doubtful owing to lack of fitness.

Villa have dominated this match-up, claiming six wins from their ten contests with the Blades.

Prediction: 3-1


West Ham United v Manchester United (8.30am)

West Ham have lost just once in six league games, and twice in nine matches in all competitions. Michail Antonio is doubtful this weekend with a knee injury for the Hammers.

Manchester United defended in numbers to take a goalless draw from the visit to Anfield, their first result there in four seasons. Diogo Dalot is suspended for a second bookable offence; Harry Maguire, Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martínez and Casemiro are out to injury; while Mason Mount, Amad Diallo, Christian Eriksen, and Anthony Martial are doubtful through injury, lack of fitness or illness.

Manchester United have won 33 of 54 league meetings with the Hammers.

Prediction: 1-2

Fulham v Burnley (11am)

Fulham are so unpredictable; after consecutive 5-0 wins, they were humbled in a 3-0 loss away to West Ham. Raúl Jiménez is suspended after being sent off last week; Tim Ream is out with a calf injury, while Adama Traoré and Matthew Dibley-Dias are doubtful owing to injury or lack of fitness this match.

Burnley have won just twice all season, and lost at home to Everton last time out to remain six points from safety. Luka Koleosho is out with a knee injury, while Aaron Ramsey, Jack Cork and Johann Berg Gudmundsson are doubtful this weekend.

This is a perfectly even rivalry, with each side winning two of their six meetings along with two draws.

Prediction: 2-0

Luton Town v Newcastle United (11am)

Luton have lost five of their past six games, but also got their first home win, over Crystal Palace, in that period. Tom Lockyer is out for an extended period, having suffered a cardiac arrest at Bournemouth; Dan Potts is out with a hamstring injury, while Reece Burke and Cauley Woodrow are doubtful with hamstring and calf injuries respectively this weekend.

Newcastle have endured a challenging week in all competitions, getting knocked out of Europe and the Carabao Cup either side of their home league win over Fulham. Nick Pope, Matt Targett, Elliot Anderson, Jacob Murphy, Joe Willock and Harvey Barnes are out with various injuries, with Javier Manquillo, Fabian Schär and Joelinton doubtful this week.

These clubs have never met in the top flight.

Prediction: 2-2

Nottingham Forest v Bournemouth (11am)

Nottingham Forest have lost five of their past six games, leading to the removal of Steve Cooper. Taiwo Awoniyi is out with a groin injury, while Serge Aurier, Felipe and Ibrahim Sangare are doubtful this weekend.

Bournemouth are the form team in the division, winning four of their past five and losing just one of seven overall. Ryan Fredericks, Lloyd Kelly and Tyler Adams are out with injury this match, while Max Aarons, Emiliano Marcondes and Hamed Traoré are doubtful.

The Cherries are unbeaten against Forest in their two previous league meetings, winning this exact fixture 3-2 last campaign.

Prediction: 1-2

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton (11am)

Tottenham are finding form again, winning their past two games comfortably to close to within one point of the top four. Destiny Udogie and Yves Bissouma are suspended this weekend; Alfie Whiteman, Ivan Perisic, Ryan Sessegnon, Micky van de Ven, Ashley Phillips, Rodrigo Bentancur, James Maddison and Manor Solomon are out injured; while Giovani Lo Celso and Brennan Johnson are doubtful.

Everton have taken four straight shutout wins to pull clear of the bottom three. Dele Alli is out with a hip injury, while Andre Gomes, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Séeamus Coleman, Vitaly Mykolenko and Ashley Young are doubtful owing to lack of fitness or injury.

Spurs dominate this rivalry with 29 wins to Everton’s nine through 62 league contests.

Prediction: 2-1

Liverpool v Arsenal (1.30pm)

Liverpool are right in the title race despite the home draw with Manchester United dropped them one point behind leaders Arsenal. Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Stefan Bajcetic, Thiago Alcantara and Ben Doak are out with injury, while Diogo Jota, Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch are doubtful this weekend.

Arsenal are once again in charge of the league title race, this time returning to the summit with home victory over Brighton. Takehiro Tomiyasu, Jurrien Timber, Fabio Vieira and Thomas Partey are out through injury, while Mohamed Elneny and Jorginho are doubtful.

These two title rivals have met 62 times in the top division, with the Reds leading with 25 wins to Arsenal’s 17.

Prediction: 2-2


Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea (9am)

Wolves are in a rut of just two wins in their last eight, although one of those was over Tottenham. Joe Hodge is out with a shoulder injury, while Pedro Neto and José Sa are doubtful also with shoulder injuries this weekend.

Chelsea are enduring an up-and-down campaign, with two wins and three defeats in their past five. Robert Sánchez, Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana, Reece James, Carney Chukwuemeka and Lesley Ugochukwu are out to various injuries, while Romeo Lavia and Enzo Fernandez are doubtful to illness or lack of fitness.

The Blues dominate this rivalry with ten wins from 14 meetings with Wolves.

Prediction: 1-1

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Published December 22, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated December 22, 2023 at 7:45 am)

Palmer and Bowen look solid options

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