There promises to be plenty more twists and turns this weekend as fans up and down the country await yet another exciting weekend of Premier League action.
Arsenal emerged 3-1 winners from their clash with league leaders Liverpool last time out, as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard all netted in an Emirates showdown widely billed as a potential title decider.
The Gunners will look to apply further pressure on their rivals on Sunday when they travel to London neighbours West Ham, whose last win came in the reverse fixture back in December.
Liverpool, meanwhile, hope to bounce back against Burnley at Anfield. Goals from Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota sealed a comfortable victory for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds at Turf Moor on Boxing Day.
The defending champions Manchester City – sitting two points adrift of Liverpool – play host to Sean Dyche’s Everton, who enter the contest after back-to-back draws with Fulham and Tottenham.
Elsewhere, Mauricio Pochettino’s under-fire Chelsea target a return to winning ways after successive defeats in the English top flight. The Blues will no doubt look to their midweek FA Cup triumph over Aston Villa for inspiration.
Previewing the weekend’s fixtures for Sportskeeda, former England, Arsenal and Villa midfielder Paul Merson delivered his predictions and pinpointed where each game could be won and lost.
Manchester City vs. Everton
Paul Merson’s prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Everton
I was at the Brentford-Manchester City game with my boy and Man City were mostly in second gear. The Bees scored a brilliant goal through Neal Maupay to break the deadlock, but Guardiola and Co. were absolutely relentless after going behind despite not being at their best and came away with all three points thanks to a Phil Foden hat-trick.
Everton will make it hard for teams despite their position in the league table, but I can’t see anything but a Manchester City win and that will take them to the top of the Premier League standings. They’ve won nine successive games across all competitions and have started to do what they do best during the second half of the campaign – winning games and going on a run.
In Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland, they’ve got two world-class players back in their squad and that is a massive, massive advantage. The likes of Jack Grealish and John Stones didn’t even get off the bench against Brentford – that just goes to show what a phenomenal squad they’ve built.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Brentford
Paul Merson’s prediction: Wolves 3-1 Brentford
Wolves have been absolutely outstanding this season. If you disregard the Manchester United clash which they lost in virtually the last kick of the game thanks to a stunning goal from Kobbie Mainoo, they’ve lost just one of their last nine games in all competitions in a run that has seen them face the likes of Chelsea, Brighton & Hove Albion and Everton – that is some going.
They are a very underrated side and should get the job done at home. Brentford had their moments against City and will have a go away from home, but I fancy Gary O’Neil and Co. to come out on top.
Thomas Frank said in an interview that Brentford received no offers for Ivan Toney in January and also confirmed that the Englishman will leave the club at the end of the season. I think Chelsea could be in the running to snap him up, but they’ve also been linked with Victor Osimhen, so you never know. I thought Arsenal would make a move for him in January, but that didn’t happen. It all depends on how the rest of the current campaign goes, but as things stand, I have no clue where he lands up.
Fulham vs Bournemouth
Paul Merson’s prediction: Fulham 1-2 Bournemouth
Fulham aren’t winning enough games and have fizzled out after a run of games that saw them score goals for fun. Bournemouth are also a funny little team, making this a hard game to call.
There’s not much between these two sides, but Fulham have struggled to put games to bed this season and should not have dropped points against Burnley after taking a 2-0 lead. I fancy Bournemouth to get all three points on their travels in what could be an entertaining game of football.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Paul Merson’s prediction: Tottenham 3-2 Brighton
I’m doing this game for Sky and I’m really looking forward to it. A glance at their recent results will tell you that this going to have bags of goals. Both sides are fun to watch, but I think I’ll have to go with Tottenham as they are definitely more consistent. Brighton blow hot and cold way too much, making them incredibly hard to predict.
Having Son Heung-min back is going to be a massive boost for Ange Postecoglou. They’ve lacked a bit of cutting edge on the counterattack with Timo Werner and Brennan Johnson, but Son brings something entirely different with his cleverness in the final third. This is a big game for Tottenham as Aston Villa have hit a bit of a snag, so a win would be a massive boost to their hopes of finishing in the top four.
Luton Town vs Sheffield United
Paul Merson’s prediction: Luton 2-0 Sheffield United
Luton have been very good at home this season, but this is probably the first time their fans will turn up and expect them to win a game of football. If they do get a win, they go within a point of Crystal Palace and could bring so many teams into the equation in terms of the relegation battle.
Everybody in the country expects them to win this game. Granted, Sheffield United are simply not good enough, but that is a different kind of pressure. Luton need to score early to breathe a lot easier and I think they will get the job done in front of their fans.
Liverpool vs Burnley
Paul Merson’s prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Burnley
Liverpool will win this one at home, it’s just a matter of how many they score. Last week, they just didn’t show up against Arsenal and lost quite devastatingly, but this is a good game for them to return to winning ways. I thought it was a masterstroke by Mikel Arteta to play Jorginho – he was outstanding with his disguised passes and kept it simple in the middle of the park, allowing the Gunners to carve Liverpool open.
I think Liverpool will respond in style, the Arsenal game was an off day for them. Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker both made glaring errors, which doesn’t happen often. In terms of their team, I’m not blaming Trent Alexander-Arnold for his performance, but I think the Reds really missed Conor Bradley. Liverpool are still very much in the title race – they just have to keep winning until they face Manchester City at Anfield. If they get three points in that fixture, the Premier League title could well be returning to Merseyside.
Nottingham Forest vs Newcastle United
Paul Merson’s prediction: Forest 1-2 Newcastle United
Both these teams need to start winning games soon. I heard Morgan Gibbs-White might be injured, but strangely enough, he stayed on the whole time against Bristol City, so his involvement in the game could decide the outcome.
Newcastle are becoming a bit like Brighton in the sense that they are hard to predict, but I think they’ll just nick this one on their travels.
West Ham vs Arsenal
Paul Merson’s prediction: West Ham 1-2 Arsenal
Arsenal can’t drop any points between now and the end of the season and are coming on the back of a statement 3-1 win against Liverpool. I think they’ll win this one but this is West Ham’s cup final – they’ll be looking forward to facing their London rivals. David Moyes’ side haven’t won a Premier League game since beating Arsenal in the reverse fixture nearly a month and a half ago, which shows that they are on a terrible run of form.
This is where Arsenal are at the moment – they are a very good team, but they need to show their killer instinct and see off games if they are to win their first league title in over 20 years.
Aston Villa vs Manchester United
Paul Merson’s prediction: Villa 2-2 Manchester United
Two weeks ago, I’d have said Aston Villa straight away as they were on a run of 15 successive wins at home. Their last two home games at Villa Park barring the Sheffield United one have been worrying, to say the least.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have so much pace on the counterattack and are feeling good again, so I can’t see Villa dealing with their threat. I usually never fancy Manchester United away from home, but I think Villa have been sussed out at home in recent weeks, so I’m going for a 2-2 draw. However, if I had to pick a winner, I would go for Manchester United.
Kobbie Mainoo’s emergence has been a bright spark for Manchester United. The lad was a bit nervous when he first came into the team, but he has really imposed himself in recent weeks and looks like a top-class talent. The goal he scored the other day against Wolves was absolutely amazing – if Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo had scored such a goal, you wouldn’t hear the end of it.
Crystal Palace vs Chelsea
Paul Merson’s prediction: Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea
Chelsea are a really young side – the average age of the starting XI that beat Aston Villa in the cup was 23! This is what you’re going to get from a bunch of young guns – inconsistency is guaranteed. They got absolutely slaughtered by Liverpool and Wolves but a week later, they played arguably their best football under Mauricio Pochettino in the FA Cup win against Villa.
In the league, you need to be consistent over 38 games, which is why Chelsea have struggled this season. However, in the domestic cups, you just need to be a better team on the day, so I think Chelsea will go far in the FA Cup. They are already in the Carabao Cup final, indicating that they are very much a cup team, like Arsenal was in 1993 when I was part of the squad.
Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise are set to miss out for Palace, so I see nothing but a Chelsea win.
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