The English Premiership is back after the FA Cup hiatus.
Here, we make previews plus score predictions of all the matches in this mouth-watering round.
Saturday, 14 January 2017
Tottenham V West Brom, 1.30pm
Tottenham fans are giddy with joy. Breaking Chelsea’s winning streak with a convincing 2-0 victory plus the icing of an FA Cup victory over spirited Aston Villa should make anyone happy.
And, for a club that makes DVDs for every triumph and replays them for ten years (quoting Frank Lampard), there is a festive atmosphere in White Hart Lane.
Is it ripe to start talk of winning the league, breaking a 55 years jinx? A little premature but there is no doubt Spurs have put the shame of finishing third in a two-horse race the season past behind them.
Can West Brom stop them? Doubtful. West Brom, embarrassed at home last week, losing 2-0 to Championship side Derby County in the FA Cup, stand little chance.
Final Score: 3-1 #TOTWBA
Hull City V Bournemouth, 4.00pm
Hull City sacked their coach in the New Year. Kudos to chairman Assem Allam and co for sparing Mike Phelan the hardship of losing his job at Christmas.
New coach Marco Silva is faced with the daunting task of starring Hull City out of the drop zone. Not many clubs have succeeded in escaping relegation having been last in January.
The Portuguese tactician has started well, beating Swansea in the FA Cup (no shame losing in Old Trafford on Tuesday), but he must cement that with maximum points against the South Coast team.
See Also: Hull City Confirms Marco Silva Manager
Bournemouth on their part are smarting. They threw away a 3-0 lead against Arsenal in their previous match, then lost 3-0 to Millwall three days later; 24 hours after, they lost the energetic Nathan Aké to Chelsea recall.
One week three headaches. 38 years old manager Howe will look to put a stop to these; to do this, he needs to bring Fraser and Wilson to full fitness (a major doubt).
Motivated, they should be a handful for Hull. They can’t beat City 6-1 like we saw in October. A score draw will leave both teams dissatisfied and relieved.
Final score: 3-3 #HULBOU
Swansea City V Arsenal, 4.00pm
Swansea City’s third coach of the season, Paul Clement will be handling his first premiership match.
As Assistant to Ancellotti in Bayern, he would need something close to the excellence of the German giants to keep the Welsh club in England top flight, something that didn’t quite work out in the FA Cup.
Arsenal is not the club he would have favoured now but the fixtures have been done and biting fingernails a mere distraction.
With Koscienly, Sanchez and Ozil set to return to the team that struggled to beat Preston North End, Arsenal will look to improve on their fifth position on the table.
The talk of winning the title is getting vaguer by the day and failure to take maximum points here will make such talks in the future awkward.
This fixture the last time ended in a 3-2 Arsenal victory with many Arsenal fans just spared cardiac complications.
Another thriller is almost granted on Saturday. Who will win the match? Arsenal are favourites. But a lot depends on which team scores the first goal.
Final score: 1-3 #SWAARS
West Ham V Crystal Palace, 4.00pm
West Ham were unlucky against Man United. They should have put this behind them.
They haven’t helped their cause by losing 0-5 at home to Man City in the FA Cup. Now, Payet is crying to leave.
But they have the players, the coach and the FA gifted stadium to overcome this crisis-laden hangover and win the derby.
Crystal Palace Sam Allardyce is on a rescue mission. He lost at home to relegation-haunted Swans and, managed a draw in the FA Cup. The unflattering streak should continue? Maybe not.
Final score: 2:2 #WHUCRY
Sunderland V Stoke City, 4.00pm
David Moyes’ men have shown incredible inconsistency. Losing 4-1 to Burnley two days before holding Liverpool to a 2-2 draw echoes the handiwork of an ambitious novelist.
Stoke City won their last league match against Watford 2-0, but their previous two saw them ship eight in (no shame conceding eight against a combined Man United and Chelsea force, but no achievement either).
Can Stoke commence a rare non-losing streak? Can Moyes manage his first win of the year? Ninety minutes shall tell.
Final score: 1:0 #SUNSTO
Burnley V Southampton, 4.00pm
Burnley are on form, winning two of their last three.
The match in the Turf Moor will provide them a platform to solidify their form. If they win, Southampton would suffer their fourth league loss in a row.
Claude Puel’s team is further hampered by the transfer request from Captain Jose Fonte.
There is the usual ‘no time to panic’ downplaying of the crisis in the Southampton and largely downgraded in their 1-0 defeat of Liverpool in the league cup mid-week. Doubts remain.
Final score: 1-1 #BURSOU
Watford V Middlesbrough, 4.00pm
Middlesborough are 16th on the table, a fair place to be for the newly promoted side.
They have the most decorated player in the premiership in goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
He has inspired them to important points against the big teams, but they have fared poorly against their peers, losing 0-1 at home to Watford in the first half of the season.
Watford have lost three of their last four, their last home a 1-4 loss to Spurs. Can they get anything against Middlesbrough? They can. Will they? Perhaps.
Final Score: 1-0 #WATMID
Leicester City V Chelsea, 6.30pm
How time speeds. This fixture a little more than seven months ago would have left Chelsea fans less noisy and less cheerful on the train down the East Midland.
Leicester were 31 points better than Chelsea last season. Halfway in the season, Leicester are 27 points below the league leaders.
Leicester are arguably the whipping boys of the top six but a surprise hat-trick by last year sensation Vardy that helped beat Man City 4-2 has shown they have the ability to pull a surprise and Chelsea should be wary.
Losing their winning streak shouldn’t derail Chelsea and they showed their steel in the thumping of Peterborough.
Leicester are not Peterborough but they need to be near magical to get maximum points Saturday night. The absence of Marhez and Silmani in the Nations Cup won’t help them. Fancy Chelsea with a slight edge.
Final score: 1-2 #LEICHE
Sunday, 15 Jan., 2017
Everton V Manchester City, 2.30pm
Man City is in a see-saw. Win-lose lose-win see-saw. Everton are seventh in the table which is where they ought to be but they are not contented.
Man City should be topping the table not fourth with their manager hinting on his coaching career reaching its epilogue and sending the British media in a frenzy of ‘we told you so’, ‘the premiership is the best’.
Friday night whitewashing of West Ham is a general warning. If Aguero remains at his best and playmaking goalkeeper Bravo keeps his head (a big ask) City would take maximum points.
See Also: Pep Guardiola Hints at Career End
Koeman’s team won’t make it any easy. A surprise loss at home to Leicester in the FA Cup has raised more questions for Everton.
One of such, which Man City must dig deep to answer, will Everton lose twice in a row at home? The two teams will really drag this. Man City won’t be happy with a draw but they may not help it.
Final score: 2:2 #EVEMCI
Manchester United V Liverpool, 5.00pm
Star match of the week, if you like, Manchester United versus Liverpool once thought to be premiership nearest equivalence to El Classico is here!
Fergie no longer chews gum on the touchline and Gerard no longer score screamers. It would still make a decent watch.
Mourinho might kick something and the referee might lose a nut. There should be drama on Sunday evening. Man United currently hold the longest winning streak in England, nine wins in nine. They are favourites.
Liverpool are second on the table but a draw at home to League Two Plymouth and a 1-0 loss to Southampton means they have not won a match this year.
Klopp is a bright tactician and might proffer answers to this, which include shields to whatever Pogba and Ibramovitch throw at them.
This is a match for Sadio Mane but the return of Coutinho might cushion his absence. A draw seems the likeliest maximum for the reds. And for Mourinho, the sad minimum.
United would likely nick this but a draw is a safer bet.
Final score: 1-1 #MNULIV
Note: All times in Nigerian Time (GMT+1)