NOBODY will catch Manchester City this season.
That is the prevailing sentiment among English Premier League followers, and it is hard to dispute when Pep Guardiola’s men enter the holiday schedule with an 11-point lead in the title race.
That leaves the rest of the competition to battle it out for the remaining European places.
Manchester United and Chelsea are well set in the top bracket, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur circulating through the revolving door that is fourth place.
The surprise package of the season so far is Burnley, who are only a game out of the top four as we approach the halfway point.
EPL tips for Matchweek 19
- Chelsea to beat Everton – $1.61
- Stoke to beat West Brom – $2.25
- West Ham to beat Newcastle – $2.10
Everton vs. Chelsea
Saturday, December 23 – 12:30pm GMT – Goodison Park, Liverpool
Everton – +450
Draw – +280
Chelsea – -163.93
Say what you will about his methods – big Sam Allardyce has turned the Toffees around. Everton have not dropped a game since November, winning four and drawing with Liverpool in the Merseyside derby. Most promising of all is the form of Wayne Rooney, who has contributed six goals and two assists in those five games.
Chelsea aren’t doing much wrong either. Although they have had to scrabble for a few 1-0 wins in recent weeks, the record shows that Antonio Conte’s men have lost only one Premier League game since October. Eden Hazard is in very close to career-best form, while Alvaro Morata continues to lead the line with aplomb.
This matchup is nowhere near as straightforward as the odds would appear to suggest. Nevertheless, we are backing Chelsea’s superior top-end talent to make all the difference in the battle of the Blues.
Stoke City vs. West Bromwich Albion
Saturday, December 23 – 3pm GMT – Bet365 Stadium, Stoke
Stoke – +125
Draw – +210
West Brom – +240
The situation at Stoke makes for a fascinating case study. Solid spending in the transfer market has brought in big names such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Wilfried Bony over the past few seasons, but at the expense of the grit and grind that had made the Potters such a difficult proposition before. Now, with one win from the last eight games, the Staffordshire club is fighting for survival.
West Brom are no better off. The sacking of Tony Pulis was supposed to breathe new life into the Baggies, but their lone goal against Manchester United last time out was their first in four games since Alan Pardew took the reins. Only last-placed Swansea City have netted fewer than Albion’s 13 goals this season.
This really is a tussle between one of the division’s worst defences and one of its least effective attacks. We are leaning towards Stoke at home in a result that could prove vital come the business end of the campaign.
West Ham United vs. Newcastle United
Saturday, December 23 – 3pm GMT – London Stadium, Stratford
West Ham – +110
Draw – +230
Newcastle – +250
Much like Allardyce at Goodison Park, former Everton boss David Moyes has turned West Ham into something resembling a top-flight football team. Excellent results against Chelsea (1-0 win) and Arsenal (0-0 draw) mean the Irons are now unbeaten in three and edging away from the relegation zone. Summer signing Marko Arnautovic is hitting his stride at last, while Manuel Lanzini’s midfield string-pulling has produced three assists in as many games.
Things are not looking quite so rosy for Moyes’ old nemesis, Rafa Benitez. The same old speculation about takeovers, transfers and boardroom unrest has done no good for Newcastle, who have slid into the bottom three with eight losses in nine games. The gaffer still appears to have some strong support from the fans, however, and there is talk of a few interesting additions in the January window.
You can never really tell what either of these clubs is going to dish up on any given day, but the form lines in this instance are too clear to ignore. Get on the Hammers to start their Christmas celebrations the right way.
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