It’s week 18 in the EPL and there are only two games remaining before 2013 comes to an end.
While Christmas ends on December 25th in the U.S. and many other parts of the World, in the UK the festivities continue on until Boxing Day.
Boxing Day was traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their bosses or employers, known as a “Christmas box”.
However, today Boxing Day is the day when fans up and down the UK recover from the day before, by eating Christmas leftovers and cheering on their teams as they enjoy the festivities of the holidays.
Tottenham appoint Sherwood as boss
Tottenham have appointed Tim Sherwood as head coach on a full-time basis until the end of the season.
The former Spurs midfielder was appointed interim boss following the sacking of Andre Villa-Boas a week ago. He lost his first game in charge when West Ham knocked Spurs out of the Cup with a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane last Wednesday, but then guided them to a superb 3-2 victory away to Southampton on Sunday.
Sherwood, who won three caps for England, made his name as a player at Blackburn where he captained them to their only Premier League title in 1995. He joined Tottenham in 1999 making over 100 appearances for the north London club before moving to Portsmouth in 2003, but later returned to Spurs as part of the club’s coaching staff in 2008 under manager Harry Redknapp.
“We believe Tim has both the knowledge and the drive to take the squad forward,” Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy told the Club’s official website.
“We were extremely reluctant to make a change mid-season, but felt we had to do so in the club’s best interests,” added Levy
“We have a great squad and we owe them a head coach who will bring out the best in them and allow them to flourish and enjoy a strong, exciting finish to the season. “
Sherwood has no previous managerial experience, but immediately made it clear he wanted the job full-time.
“What would be ideal for me would be to have a chat with the chairman and see what’s best for the football club moving forward,” he said.
“I need to know what they’re thinking. I don’t want this job for five minutes.”
“It’s a massive club with history and tradition. But whatever happens needs to be right for me, too.”
Sherwood’s first game as full-time boss will be at home against West Brom on Boxing Day.
|Liverpool v Cardiff||3-1||3-0|
|Crystal Palace v Newcastle||0-3||2-2|
|Fulham v Man City||2-4||1-3|
|Man Utd v West Ham||3-1||2-0|
|Stoke v Aston Villa||2-1||1-0|
|Sunderland v Norwich||0-0||2-1|
|West Brom v Hull||1-1||2-0|
|Southampton v Tottenham||2-3||2-1|
|Swansea v Everton||1-2||1-2|
|Arsenal v Chelsea||0-0||2-1|
A correct result is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got FIVE correct results, including ONE perfect score to give me a respectable score of SEVEN-points. However, I’m expecting Santa to deliver me some festive goodies that should help me in achieving a record-breaking score this week, so prepare yourselves for some Christmas miracles.
|Hull City v Man Utd||0-2|
|Aston Villa v Crystal Palace||1-1|
|Cardiff v Southampton||1-2|
|Chelsea v Swansea||2-0|
|Everton v Sunderland||3-0|
|Newcastle v Stoke||2-1|
|Norwich v Fulham||1-1|
|Tottenham v West Brom||2-0|
|West Ham v Arsenal||0-2|
|Man City v Liverpool||3-2|
Hull vs. Man Utd
The festivities kick-off when 12th placed Hull take on EPL champions Manchester United at the KC Stadium in Week 18’s early kick-off.
Hull picked up a tidy draw away to West Brom last week and will be hoping to enjoy the Christmas celebrations with a good performance against Manchester United. The Tigers will be confident of getting a result against United, as they have only conceded three goals at home this season—the best record of any team in the EPL.
However, the Tigers haven’t scored too many goals in the league either—only three sides have scored fewer goals than Hull’s 14—and that’s why they have only won one of their last seven games (D3 L3).
United have not been in the greatest of form either in Decemeber winning only two of their last five league games. However, they have won their last four games in all competitions scoring nine goals and conceding only two.
I do not think it is a coincidence that United’s good run has coincided with the return to form of their wide players— Antonio Valencia has found his form again, Ashley Young has scored in his last two games, and Adnan Januzaj continues to look like a special talent—they also seem to be playing like the United of old, exploiting the width down the channels and using pace to attack their opponents.
Robbie Brady is unlikely to overcome a groin problem in time for the game, meaning Steve Bruce could field the same line-up for the fourth game in a row.
Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck is a fitness doubt after suffering a blow to his knee against West Ham at the weekend. While Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie are also expected to miss out with respective achilles and thigh injuries.
Manchester United have won their last seven league and cup games against Hull, including the four previous Premier League meetings. In fact, Hull’s last win over United was a 2-0 home victory in a Division Two match on 23 November 1974.
The Red Devils have a terrific Boxing Day record — they have won 16 of the last 17 games they have played on December 26th — and I expect them to maintain it against Hull.
Chelsea vs. Swansea
Chelsea haven’t been in their best form recently, they played out a dour 0-0 draw against Arsenal on Monday and left the Emirates with cries of ‘Boring, Boring, Chelsea’ ringing in their ears.
However, while many Chelsea fans may be upset that they failed to try and win the game against Arsenal, Blues coach Jose Mourinho will be content with the point gained because it means they now sit only two points behind Liverpool, who they host at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Swansea played well midweek, but were undone late on by a Ross Barkley free-kick losing 2-1 to Everton. The Swans have not quite hit the dizzying heights of last season, probably due to the demands of juggling European and domestic soccer. They are still in decent position in the EPL, however, and could move up to tenth if they avoid defeat.
Jose Mourinho is likely to rotate his team with their game against Liverpool on Sunday in mind, with Ashley Cole and Michael Essien likely to feature.
Swansea striker Michu is to undergo surgery on his ankle and will be out for six weeks, joining Nathan Dyer, Garry Monk and Michel Vorm who are all out injured. However, there is good news for Swansea as Leon Britton returns after a spell out with a broken toe.
Swansea’s only league victory at Stamford Bridge came in their first-ever meeting back in November 1925, though they did beat the Blues 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup semi-final last season.
However, winning this one looks like it will be a tall order for Swansea against a Chelsea side which hasn’t lost at home in the league under Jose Mourinho, and who are unbeaten on December 26th since 2004.
Everton vs. Sunderland
Fifth placed Everton continued their fine form with a good 2-1 win away to Swansea.
The Toffees have lost only once this season—away to Manchester City—and have been tipped as potential dark horses in the title race by former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, who claims they are the best side he has seen this season.
Ross Barkley played well once again, scoring the vital free-kick to give the Toffees all three-points at Swansea. His performance led former Everton and England striker Gary Linker to tip the 19-year-old for a starring role at next summer’s World Cup in Brazil and even caused coach Roberto Martinez to claim Everton wouldn’t sell the youngster for any amount of money.
Bottom of the EPL Sunderland picked up a point with a 0-0 draw at home with Norwich, but badly need a win as they fight to avoid relegation. The Black Cats are on a six-match winless streak (D3, L3), their worst run of form since an eight-game spell without a win at the start of the season. However, they have the league’s 11th-best record against clubs in the top half (W2, D1, L6). Those wins came against Newcastle and Manchester City, their only victories this season.
Everton left-back Leighton Baines is pushing for a starting berth after recovering from a broken toe that has kept him out of action for a month.
Sunderland on the other hand have defensive issues, with Wes Brown starting a three-match ban and John O’Shea doubtful with a shoulder injury.
Everton have won their last six league matches at home against Sunderland, scoring 20 goals in the process, and if you couple that stat with their good form it means this result should only go one way.
Tottenhan vs. West Brom
Tottenham bounced back from a couple of defeats with an excellent 3-2 away win at Southampton on Sunday.
Spurs have struggled with goals this season, but looked dangerous against Southampton as new boss Tim Sherwood elected to field two strikers up top. Emmanuel Adebayor, who was frozen out and made to train with the reserves by former coach Andre Villas-Boas, has been an inspiration scoring three times in his last two games.
West Brom managed to salvage a point at home, scoring late on to draw 1-1 with Hull as they continued without a manager following the sacking of Steve Clarke just over a week ago. The Baggies currently sit 16th just three points above the relegation zone, but have shown themselves to be a good side with a win against Manchester United and draws with Arsenal and Chelsea.
Tottenham could name the same side that beat Southampton at the weekend, but remain without Aaron Lennon, Younes Kaboul, Paulinho, Andros Townsend and Jan Vertonghen, though Mousa Dembele should overcome a twisted ankle.
West Brom’s only reported injury doubt is striker Victor Anichebe, who has a groin problem. While Ben Foster is expected to retain his place in goal following a long absence through injury.
West Brom have only won two of 14 Premier League matches against Tottenham, and with Adebayor in inspirational form I cannot see them improving that record.
West Ham vs. Arsenal
The neighbors are getting together to celebrate the holidays as east Londoners West Ham host north Londoners Arsenal on Boxing day.
West Ham sit precariously above the relegation just a point above Crystal Palace on 14 points. They were easily dispatched by Manchester United going down 3-1 away at Old Trafford to continue their woeful form in their last ten games (W1 D3 L6).
Sam Allardyce’s team are a tough side to play against, but they just can’t score goals and desperately need to find a striker to help them—the Hammers have failed to score in nine of their 17 league games – the joint worst record in the top flight.
Arsenal dropped to second place in the EPL on goal difference following a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea. The Gunners did not play particularly well and looked a bit jaded, as they mustered only one shot on target during the 90-minutes. However, they are still at joint top and will now be looking to go on another run before their Champions League clash with Bayern in February.
West Ham captain Kevin Nolan returns for the visit of Arsenal after completing a three-match ban.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere will miss the game as he completes a two-match suspension, though Laurent Koscielny could return, having missed the draw against Chelsea with a cut to his knee.
Arsenal have a good record against West Ham, winning their last six encounters against the Hammers. In fact, West Ham’s last win was back during the 2006-07 season, when they won both Premier League encounters 1-0 (at Upton Park in November 2006 and at the Emirates in April 2007).
The Gunners have claimed 16 points from their eight away league games, the joint-best record in the top flight. While Arsene Wenger’s only defeat in a Premier League game on December 26th came in 1999 (a 3-2 loss away to Coventry), so this game should be business as usual for Arsenal.
Man City vs. Liverpool
Boxing day closes with a humdinger of a game as leaders Liverpool face third placed Manchester City.
City saw off a Fulham fight-back winning 4-2 late on after the Cottagers had pegged their way back to 2-2 after being two goals down. That win was only their third win away from home this season, and they do still seem vulnerable on their travels. However, at home they look almost invincible and seem like they could thrash every team they face at the Etihad this term—City have scored an incredible 35 goals in 8 home games this season.
But if there is one man that City players and fans may fear visiting them at home it is Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, who is arguably the best player on the planet at the moment—he already has 10 goals this December, the most in a month by any player in Premier League history and has 29 goals in 26 league appearances this calendar year.
City remain without injured leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero and defenders Matija Nastasic, Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards for the Boxing Day visit of Liverpool.
Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan is a doubt with a hamstring strain, while Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Jose Enrique and Sebastian Coates are all long-term absentees.
Six of the last nine Premier League meetings between these two sides have ended in draws, suggesting we could be in for another stalemate. However, City have been so good at home this season that I cannot see anything other than them winning, though I think Luis Suarez may help Liverpool to make the score a respectable one.