Both the Blues and Red Devils succumbed to frustrating draws at Everton and Leicester City on Saturday (23 December), both results allowing runaway league leaders Manchester City to further tighten their cast-iron grip on the Premier League title, which is surely going to be held aloft at The Etihad Stadium in a few months’ time.
With Pep Guardiola’s side now 13 points ahead of United and 16 ahead of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho’s side and Antonio Conte’s men will now have to focus on being best of the rest. United will hope to maintain their three-point lead over the current Premier League champions when they host high-flying Burnley, who were comprehensively beaten by Tottenham last time out, while Chelsea will look to secure three points against Brighton and Hove Albion, who have picked up form after a rocky few weeks.
As the battle for second hots up, City’s cakewalk to the Premier League title is set to trample on another sorry victim. Guardiola’s men will look to stretch their remarkable winning streak to 18 victories when they travel to Newcastle United on 27 December, though Rafa Benitez’s side will be buoyed by their 3-2 win over a resurgent West Ham United.
Behind Chelsea are Liverpool, who will hope to avoid the effects a change of manager can have on a team when they play host to Swansea City, who have Leon Britton in temporary charge. Jurgen Klopp’s side have been held to frustrating draws during their last two home matches, and their trip to the Emirates Stadium ended in another entertaining stalemate as a six-minute collapse saw the Reds blow a two-goal lead before fighting back to draw 3-3 with Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger’s men are not in action until 28 December, when they travel to face a resurgent Crystal Palace. Arsenal have stuttered significantly in recent weeks, with draws away to Southampton and West Ham hindering their quest for a top-four spot. Their away form has been a cause of concern throughout the season, but they will hope to right some wrongs that occurred on their last trip to Selhurst Park, when they suffered a 3-0 defeat as Sam Allardyce’s side plotted their great escape.
Arsenal’s arch-rivals Tottenham leapfrogged their bitter rivals with their win over Burnley on Saturday, and Mauricio Pochettino’s men will hope to put a bit of daylight between them and the Gunners when they host the Argentine’s former club Southampton, who are lie just three points above the relegation zone with pressure starting to mount on Mauricio Pellegrino. The Saints slumped to a woeful 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town on Saturday, extending their winless run to six matches.
Southampton’s last win came against Everton, who have certainly found form since being on the end of a harrowing hammering on the south coast. The Toffees are unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions and are yet to test defeat under Sam Allardyce, who will hope to add to the feel good factor around Goodison Park when his side travel to face a hapless West Bromwich Albion.
Alan Pardew’s side haven’t won in over four months and suffered yet another damning defeat at the hands of Stoke City last time out. The Baggies are ensconced in the relegation zone, just one point above bottom side Swansea with 14 points, and a loss to Everton could mount significant pressure onto Pardew, who only took charge last month.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes will certainly be encouraged by his side’s 3-1 win over West Brom, but the Welshman knows he needs another positive result away at Huddersfield to keep the detractors away from his door, temporarily at least. The Terriers have picked up slightly in recent weeks and will hope to build on recent wins over Brighton and Watford, whose form has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks.
After a wildly encouraging start to the campaign Marcos Silva’s side have lost five of their last six matches and have now slipped below Everton, who tried so hard to pry the Portuguese away from Vicarage Road before plumping for Allardyce.
The Hornets will hope to get back to winning ways against Leicester, who will no doubt be buoyed by their last-gasp draw with Manchester United and will hope to replicate their last trip away from the King Power Stadium; Claude Puel’s side ran out 4-1 winners against Southampton at the St Mary’s earlier this month.
Saints’ south coast rivals Bournemouth are also in action on Boxing Day. Eddie Howe’s men welcome West Ham to the Vitality Stadium with both sides in desperate need of points to strengthen their survival bids and banish memories of recent defeats suffered at the hands of Manchester City and Newcastle United respectively.