Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, others in today’s Premier League fixtures

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Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford for the first time as a manager since his sacking, bringing an in-form Tottenham side that look rejuvenated and re-motivated under the Portuguese. Spurs have won three from three since his hiring, with wins over West Ham and Bournemouth in the Premier League sandwiching a 4-2 comeback victory over Olympiakos in the Champions League.

It has not been a characteristic Mourinho-led side however, with Spurs conceded two goals in each of those three games. Their defence will need to significantly improve as a difficult Christmas period begins for the north London side, with trips to Manchester, Munich and Wolverhampton as well as a home game against Chelsea all on the horizon.

Their midweek matchday 15 game with Manchester United is sure to be an attacking spectacle, with United having scored at least twice and conceded in each of their past three Premier League games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is reportedly fighting for his job and a loss against Mourinho could signal the end of an underwhelming tenure that offered so much promise while the legend was under a caretaker title.

The Red Devils sit 9th after 14 games, with just one win in their last 10 away matches and an eight-point gap between themselves and the top four. United have lost more matches than they’ve won under Solskjaer and another loss here could be the end. The away sides won both fixtures last year, with Tottenham thrashing United 3-0 at Old Trafford. The home side had won the seven previous fixtures.

Liverpool vs Everton
Liverpool host arch-rivals and neighbours Everton in the first Merseyside derby of the season featuring two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum. Liverpool’s early grip on the Premier League got ever tighter on the weekend after Newcastle held reigning two-time champions Manchester City 2-2, increasing the Reds’ advantage to 11 points following their 2-1 win over Brighton.

Leicester City remain their closest current challengers, eight points adrift, but it appears that despite being through only 14 games the title is very much their’s to lose. At the other end of the table is their derby opposition who sit one place outside of the relegation zone after consecutive losses. Just two wins from 14 games this year has Marco Silva in need of a miracle if he is to keep his job, and a trip to Anfield couldn’t come at a worse time. Everton haven’t beaten Liverpool in the Premier League since 2010. There have been six draws in the past 10 meetings.

Burnley vs Manchester City
Manchester City’s disappointing 2-2 draw with Newcastle condemned them to a now 11-point deficit in the table behind Liverpool, a growing number that is becoming even more of an impossible task. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in eight games, and those issues in defence will likely cost the Citizens a third-straight Premier League title.

An injury list that consists of three critical starters has begun to really impact results, and a stacked Christmas period of fixtures will define any hopes of even slightly pushing Liverpool for the title. They travel to Turf Moore on matchday 15 to play Burnley who have been impressive through their first third of the season, sitting mid-table largely thanks to their formidable home fortress. Their record against the top sides has not been strong however, losing 3-0 to Liverpool and 4-2 Chelsea at home. Burnley last beat City in 2015, and have lost five of six meetings since.

Arsenal vs Brighton
The first game with legend Freddie Ljungberg in charge did little to dispel the concerns of fans as Arsenal put in another shambolic defensive effort to draw 2-2 away to Norwich City. A series of blunders at the back, notably from center backs David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi, saw the Canaries lead 2-1 at the break before the mercurial Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang ensured Arsenal would not leave without a point, but still continue an eight-match winless streak.

They will be desperate for a return to form on Thursday night against Brighton and Hove Albion who have lost three-straight to drop closer to the relegation zone. Brighton’s away form has seen them earn just one win from seven matches, good for the second-worst record in the Premier League, and the optimism around Unai Emery’s departure and Ljungberg’s arrival will quickly dissipate if the Gunners don’t come away with three points. Both games ended in 1-1 draws last season.

Chelsea vs Aston Villa
Chelsea’s hugely impressive run that saw six-straight wins ended only by a promising 2-1 loss away to Manchester City came to a screeching halt at home to West Ham last weekend as the Blues fell 1-0 to a side that had lost three-straight games and were perilously close to the relegation zone. To make matters worse for Frank Lampard’s side, they missed a golden opportunity to further extend the distance between themselves and the pack chasing Champions League football, including Arsenal and Manchester United who both had disappointing draws.

They host Aston Villa on matchday 15 who were responsible for United dropping points, thanks largely to a virtuoso performance from captain Jack Grealish. Aston Villa remain in the group flirting with the drop positions and they will be highly motivated to repeat last week’s heroics on the road to a big six team. Recent form suggests it won’t be easy for the Villains, as they have lost the last four meetings between these sides. They haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since 2011.

Leicester City vs Watford
Leicester City made it five-straight wins on the weekend, beating Everton 2-1 at home to move three points clear of Manchester City for second spot, still eight behind league leaders Liverpool. Their week however has been dominating with speculation over the future of their brilliant manager Brendan Rodgers, who has reportedly drawn the interest of Arsenal following his stunning start to the season with the Foxes that sees them with the Premier League’s second-best attack and best defence.

He has repeatedly denied any interest in the Gunners job despite not completely ruling himself out for the role, a cloud that will seemingly hang over the club for the foreseeable future. They host the EPL’s worst team on matchday 15 as Watford head to the King Power Stadium off the back of three losses in their past four. They sacked manager Quique Sanchez Flores on Sunday following the defeat to Southampton and appear all but doomed to relegation unless they undergo a miraculous transformation in the season’s second half. The home side has won the last six meetings between these sides, with Leicester winning this game 2-0 last season.

Wolves vs West Ham
Wolves’ undefeated streak extended to nine games on the weekend with a 1-1 draw at home to a stubborn Sheffield United side, consolidating their place in the top six. Like Leicester, Wolves too have had to fend off rumours of their manager departing to north London to take the Arsenal job but like Leicester they find themselves above the Gunners on the table and neither manager will be hugely eager to leave ideal situations. Wolves host West Ham who provided the shock result of last weekend, a 1-0 win away to a red hot, confident Chelsea side. The win was hugely relieving for the Hammers who were able to create a four-point safety net between themselves and the relegation zone. Wolves won this game 3-0 last season.

Sheffield United vs Newcastle
Sheffield United earned another impressive result on the weekend, this time a 1-1 draw away to Wolves to consolidate their position in the top half after a stunning start to the season. Like their opponents, Newcastle too earned a significant draw, their’s a 2-2 stalemate at home to Manchester City. While the Toon remain amidst what appears to be an eight-team relegation battle, Sheffield United remain on the outside looking in of the top six and will be hugely buoyed by their return to the Premier League follow last season’s promotion. These sides last met in the Premier League in the 2006/07 season where the away side won both games.

Crystal Palace vs Bournemouth
Crystal Palace snapped a three-game losing streak with a surprise and pressure relieving 2-0 win at Turf Moore over Burnley. After a fast start to the season Palace’s campaign has stalled in recent week and sent them tumbling down the table from a once-top four spot to now sit in the bottom half. Their opponents this week are themselves in the midst of three-consecutive losses and sit immediately below Palace in 12th. This is a crucial game for both sides as they head into the congested, taxing Christmas period. Crystal Palace won this fixture 5-3 last year in one of the most exciting games of the season.

Southampton vs Norwich City
Southampton continued a mini surge up through the relegation zone with a surprise win over Watford that ultimately cost Quique Sanchez Flores his job. They now sit two points behind Everton and safety, and with a favourable home match against Norwich City they will feel as if they can take advantage of the Toffees’ trip to Anfield. Norwich City earned a 2-2 draw at home against Arsenal on the weekend after some calamitous defending from the Gunners. Both sides have enjoyed two week spells earning four points and neither will want to lose ground as they fight for survival. These sides last met in the Premier League in the 2015/16 season, where Southampton won this fixture 3-0. The away side has never won between these two sides and there’s been only two draws in eight meetings.

Guardian News

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