A football feast is guaranteed when the English Premier League continues with game week 18 today. The top five are just separated by two points and the two on-form teams, Manchester City and Liverpool, meet each other in a direct contender.
Soccer-Laduma previews the main match of the day and also updates you on the games of the other main contenders (Everton will feature in this category if they can continue their impressive start into the season until the short EPL break in January).
Match of the Week
Manchester City v Liverpool
When Man City and Liverpool meet in the main match of Boxing Day, it’s a clash of the third placed City against the Christmas leaders from Anfield. So far, the Etihad Stadium has been a real fortress with City winning all their eight home games and scoring 35 goals in the process.
The Reds could have dropped to fourth place before their game even starts and could drop one further place, if City were to beat them in the late fixture of Boxing Day. However, Brendan Rodgers and his side will be hoping their on-form striker Luis Suarez adds his tenth December goal to his tally.
The Reds have won their last four games in a row, but their impressive 5-0 at White Hart Lane was their only victory in their last five assignments on the road.
City, meanwhile, have beaten all their direct title contenders at home (Utd 4-1, Tottenham 6-0, Arsenal 6-3) so far, but Liverpool will definitely be a hard nut to crack.
Manuel Pellegrini will have to replace his best striker, Sergio Aguero, as well as City’s first choice right-back Pablo Zabaleta. But of course, if one Premier League team has enough depth to replace the two, it’s the Citizens.
On the other side, Liverpool still have to replace their injured captain Steven Gerrard and striker Daniel Sturridge, but Rodgers will probably field the same team which has impressed with 18 goals in December already.
Whilst City will be hoping their midfield motor, Yaya Toure, will continue his brilliant form with nine goals already, Liverpool will surely try to set up their main striker and captain to score his 20th goal of the season.
Last year’s matches between the two both ended 2-2 and the scene is set for another high-scoring clash.
The other ‘big guns’
In the early fixture of Boxing Day, David Moyes’ Red Devils travel to Hull City. Whilst they are still some points apart from the top five of the league, Man United have won their past four fixtures in all competitions and only conceded one goal. However, Hull will be trying to continue their strong home form with four wins, three draws and only one loss so far.
Hull City manager and former United player, Steve Bruce, has not won a single of his 18 games as manager against his old club and the last time Hull beat United was in November 1974.
When Arsenal travel to West Ham, Arsene Wenger’s team have to proof their title material and bounce back from three successive league games without a victory. The Gunners hosts, West Ham, are also without a win in their last four league games, but proved their dangerous side when they kicked Tottenham out of the League Cup last week.
Arsenal, having been unbeaten against West Ham in their past 10 matches and winning the past five in a row, surely are the favourites in this fixture and should be able to recall Laurent Koscielny.
When Tottenham host West Brom, the Spurs will be hoping the tactical changes of their new manager, Tim Sherwood, and recalled striker Emmanuel Adebayor will ensure their first home victory since October.
With West Brom, there couldn’t be a better opponent arriving at White Hart Lane. The Baggies have not won a single of their past seven games and are still without a new head coach after Steve Clarke got the axe two weeks ago.
Jose Mourinho will target an extension of his brilliant home record at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea host Swansea. Under Mourinho the Blues are 68 games unbeaten at home and have won eight out of their nine games at the Bridge this season.
Whilst Chelsea will be hoping their strikers will find their form, Swansea comes on the back of a very inconsistent first half of the season. Michael Laudrup’s side struggles to cope with the Thursday-Sunday rhythm and also have to replace their key forward Michu for at least another six weeks.
The other matches
Everton – Sunderland
Aston Villa – Crystal Palace
Norwich – Fulham
Newcastle – Stoke
Cardiff – Southampton
Who will lead the Premier League table after Boxing Day? Can Mourinho continue his impressive home record and can Tottenham and Man United close the gap to the top five? Have your say in the comment section below.