As the EPL fixtures continue to come thick and fast, squad rotation takes on greater significance this weekend. Team selection will be crucial and getting the balance right between resting players and sticking with first choice regulars, could be the difference in winning and losing. Liverpool start the weekend top of the standings following their 2-1 win over Tottenham on Wednesday night and a win at Crystal Palace will ensure the defending champions wake up on Christmas morning top of the tree. The standout game this weekend takes place at Old Trafford as Leeds United visits Manchester United in the league for the first time in 16 seasons.
Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool
Both teams to score (-148)
Liverpool is back at the top of the standings and they’ll hope to stay there for the remainder of the campaign. Having won their last six meetings with Crystal Palace, Jurgen Klopp’s side will be well backed to remain in pole position after their trip to Selhurst Park where they’ve won their last five visits. Liverpool reached the summit after a late Roberto Firmino header sealed a 2-1 win against Tottenham, who were joint-leaders ahead of the fixture on Wednesday. Palace is unbeaten in the last three EPL games but the Eagles have tied 1-1 in each of their last two contests.
Against the leaders, Roy Hodgson’s side will be happy to register a third successive 1-1 draw. Liverpool has drawn their last four league games on the road and the last three have ended 1-1 (+700). Liverpool is unbeaten in their last nine league games and should be able to make that 10 this weekend in what could be an open game.
Southampton vs. Manchester City
Southampton to win (+575)
Something is not quite right at Manchester City and if Pep Guardiola’s side do not find a way to win quickly, then they can forget about being considered serious title contenders. Four points dropped from back-to-back ties could prove costly later in the season and those lost points has made their trip to Southampton all the most important. Defeat, and City could find themselves 11 points behind Liverpool. Southampton beat City 1-0 in the corresponding fixture last season despite City having 74% of the possession.
Southampton is a much better side now than at the time of that fixture in July and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side will be confident of claiming the three points which will put them move seven points clear of City. The home team won both meetings last season and while home advantage is not the same as what it was before lockdown, it does give the Saints a slight edge.
Manchester United vs. Leeds
Both teams to score (-195)
During its 16 seasons in exile, Leeds supporters kept alive the hope that one day they will be able to visit Old Trafford in a league meeting. That day is finally here and while Leeds may be seven places behind their Manchester rivals, an away win will close the gap between the Yorkshire team and the 13-times EPL champions. Leeds has not won a league game at Old Trafford since Brian Flynn scored the only goal in February 1981 and their last 15 visits have either ended in a tie or a loss.
Marcelo Bielsa is famed for having in-depth dossiers on every team he faces and you can bet he will have a special game plan for this contest. Leeds have won over a lot of football supporters with the style of football they play and a win will more than make up for the 16-year absence from the top flight. Already this season, five league games Leeds has played have seen five or more total goals while Manchester United’s 3-2 win at Sheffield United on Thursday was their fifth league game with five or more goals. Both sides are capable of conceding goals which makes over 4.5 total goals (+300) another bet to consider.
West Bromwich vs. Aston Villa
West Brom to win (+275)
Slaven Bilic’s reward for guiding West Brom to a point after a 1-1 tie at Manchester City on Tuesday was the sack. Bilic has been replaced by Sam Allardyce who has a great record of keeping relegation-threatened sides in the top flight. Allardyce takes charge of his first game against Aston with his side three points from safety. Appointing new managers midway through a season often brings an immediate improvement in terms of results, but Villa will be a tough team to beat. Villa has picked up four points in their last two EPL games and they are looking to record a third successive shutout for the first time since winning promotion back to the top flight. But with a new manager in charge, this could be West Brom’s second win of the season.
Chelsea vs. West Ham
Both teams to score (-162)
Just when Chelsea looked to be emerging as genuine title contenders, Frank Lampard’s side dropped back-to-back road games at Everton and Wolves. To put that into context, victory would have seen the Blues move top of the standings ahead of this home game with West Ham. Instead they go into this home game seventh. West Ham is just one point behind the Blues and this could be a close game.
Of the last 12 meetings played in the EPL, 11 have been tied or decided by a single-goal margin. If there is to be a winner by the slimmest of margins, Lampard will hope the verdict goes his way (+280) and not to West Ham (+750) where Lampard began his playing career before joining Chelsea. West Ham came from behind to win the most recent meeting at the London Stadium thanks to Andriy Yarmolenko’s late winner in an entertaining 3-2 outcome at the start of July.
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