It’s a wonderful time of the year to be a football fan, with wall-to-wall games on television even if the festive tradition of actually going to the match will be denied to many this year.
In the Premier League, the packed Christmas fixture schedule simply adds another layer of chaos and unpredictability to a season that has already delivered the unexpected.
The gap between table-toppers Tottenham and Aston Villa down in 10th stands at just seven points – the closest it has ever been after 12 matches of the season. Oh, and Villa have two games in hand.
Harry Kane scored as table-toppers Tottenham drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon
Liverpool had the opportunity to overtake them and return top but could only draw at Fulham
A classic title race is taking shape with any number of teams set to be involved. What is for certain is that, unlike with Liverpool last season, no one team will be running away with it.
But how is the table likely to look come the New Year after that hectic festive schedule? We predict the results that will impact the top 10 in the five matchdays between now and January 2.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
Tottenham were forced to settle for a draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon but the leaders remained in first position after Liverpool were surprisingly held to a draw at Fulham later in the afternoon.
The top two dropping points led to Leicester and Southampton, who both won handsomely on Sunday, to squeeze up into third and fourth respectively, overtaking Chelsea, who lost at Everton on Saturday.
Surprise packages West Ham and Everton find themselves in nosebleed territory above the two Manchester clubs after Saturday’s damp squib derby and Villa are 10th.
Table as it stands: 1. Tottenham (25 points), 2. Liverpool (25), 3. Leicester (24), 4. Southampton (23), 5. Chelsea (22), 6. West Ham (20), 7. Everton (20), 8. Manchester United (20), 9. Manchester City (19), 10. Aston Villa (18).
Leicester moved to third place with their 3-0 home win over Brighton on Sunday evening
How the tightly-packed top 10 in the Premier League looks as we stand in mid-December
MIDWEEK FIXTURES – DECEMBER 15/16/17
This week sees a full schedule shoehorned in over three nights. On Tuesday, you’d fully expect Chelsea to return to winning ways at a Wolves side who have failed to recapture last season’s momentum, while Manchester City will almost certainly take three points against struggling West Brom.
On Wednesday, Southampton will absolutely fancy their chances of inflicting a fifth consecutive home defeat on Arsenal and they could briefly move top of the table. Leicester and Everton are likely to play out a draw at the same time.
Liverpool will offer Jose Mourinho and Spurs a stern test of their championship credentials but you can see this top of the table clash ending in the pre-Christmas truce of a draw to further congest things at the summit.
This week’s meeting of Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool promises fireworks as the current top two in the table clash on Wednesday
West Ham should have enough to see of Crystal Palace at home, while Villa will keep up their good form by beating Burnley on Thursday and Manchester United will beat rock bottom Sheffield United while no doubt making really hard work of it.
Predictions: Wins for Chelsea, Manchester City, West Ham, Southampton, Aston Villa and Manchester United. Liverpool vs Tottenham and Leicester vs Everton are draws.
Predicted table: 1. Tottenham (26 points), 2. Liverpool (26), 3. Southampton (26), 4. Chelsea (25), 5. Leicester (25), 6. West Ham (23), 7. Man United (23), 8. Man City (22), 9. Aston Villa (21), 10. Everton (21)
Nathan Redmond celebrates scoring for in-form Southampton against Sheffield United
NEXT WEEKEND – DECEMBER 19/20/21
The last round of matches pre-Christmas starts with Liverpool making the trip to Crystal Palace and, in a similar fashion to Spurs, you can see them dropping a couple of points at Selhurst Park.
Manchester City make the visit to Southampton later in the afternoon, another likely draw given Saints are in impressive form at the moment. You would then back Everton to beat Arsenal in the teatime match at Goodison Park.
On Sunday, Tottenham pull clear at the top once again with a slender victory over Leicester on home turf as more and more people start to talk up the title chances of Mourinho’s men – as he plays them down.
Manchester City haven’t been at their best this season but can still make up ground
Later in the day, Man United’s struggles at Old Trafford continue as they are held to a draw by old foes Leeds, while Aston Villa win away at local rivals West Brom.
On the Monday night, Chelsea beat West Ham at Stamford Bridge to lift themselves into second as they keep the chase up on London rivals Spurs.
Predictions: Wins for Everton, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Chelsea. Draws for Liverpool, Southampton, Manchester United, Manchester City. Defeats for Leicester and West Ham.
Predicted table: 1. Tottenham (29 points), 2. Chelsea (28), 3. Liverpool (27), 4. Southampton (27), 5. Leicester (25), 6. Aston Villa (24), 7. Man United (24), 8. Everton (24), 9. Man City (23), 10. West Ham (23)
Everton play Leicester and Arsenal this week and could propel themselves up the table
BOXING DAY PLUS ONE – DECEMBER 26/27
After the briefest of Christmas pauses, the Premier League returns on Boxing Day and the following day with another set of games.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer complains again about the fixture calendar as his Man United side are beaten at Leicester in the lunchtime game on Boxing Day.
Villa beat Palace and Southampton win at Fulham later in the afternoon, before Chelsea pile more misery on Arsenal and Mikel Arteta by taking all three points from the Emirates Stadium.
In the 8pm matches, Man City easily see off Newcastle at the Etihad and Everton win away at Sheffield United.
Manchester United have been inconsistent all season and face some tough tests ahead
The following day, West Ham keep up their good form with a home win over Brighton. Liverpool prove too strong for West Brom at Anfield as they move back to second.
And in the late game, Spurs grind out a slender win over Wolves at Molineux to move back above Chelsea and Liverpool to the summit.
Predictions: Wins for Leicester, Aston Villa, Southampton, Chelsea, Man City, Everton, West Ham, Liverpool and Tottenham. Defeat for Man United
Predicted table: 1. Tottenham (32 points), 2. Chelsea (31), 3. Liverpool (30), 4. Southampton (30), 5. Leicester (28), 6. Aston Villa (27), 7. Everton (27), 8. Man City (26), 9. West Ham (26), 10. Man United (24)
Tomas Soucek (right) celebrates with Angelo Ogbonna during West Ham’s win at Leeds United
FINAL GAMES OF 2020 – DECEMBER 28/29/30
Barely 48 hours after their last matches, many Premier League teams will take to the field once again for the final set of games in 2020.
It starts with Leicester held to a draw away at Crystal Palace and a similar result between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge as tired legs ruin the entertainment. The evening game on December 28 between Everton and Man City also ends with honours even.
The following day sees Southampton get the better of West Ham at St Mary’s to move to the top of the table. Man United ease the pressure on Solskjaer with a hard-fought win over Wolves at Old Trafford in the late game.
Aston Villa are 10th as it stands but could soon close the gap if they win two games in hand
On Wednesday 30, Tottenham roll over Fulham at home to retake their top spot and Liverpool win at Newcastle later that day to go back into second.
Predictions: Wins for Southampton, Man United, Tottenham and Liverpool. Draws for Leicester, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Everton, Man City. Defeat for West Ham.
Predicted table: 1. Tottenham (35 points), 2. Liverpool (33), 3. Southampton (33), 4. Chelsea (32), 5. Leicester (29), 6. Aston Villa (28), 7. Everton (28), 8. Man City (27), 9. Man United (27), 10. West Ham (26)
FIRST FIXTURES OF 2021
The exact schedule for the first set of fixtures in January hasn’t yet been confirmed but they will follow hot on the heels of the preceding matchday.
One of the stand-out fixtures sees Chelsea play Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, which ends all-square. It’s the same outcome at Goodison Park as Everton and Aston Villa share the spoils.
Man United get the better of Aston Villa at Old Trafford, while Leicester win away to Newcastle.
Chelsea are set to take on Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in their first match of 2021
Liverpool squeeze past Southampton in a tight match at St Mary’s but Tottenham respond with a home win against Leeds to ensure they continue to top the table.
So as the league pauses for the third round of the FA Cup, Spurs and Liverpool have pulled slightly clear of the pack but Chelsea, Southampton and Leicester form a tightly-bunched pack behind them.
Man United and Man City are slightly back but retain games in hand over those above them.
Predictions: Wins for Man United, Leicester, Liverpool and Tottenham. Draws for Chelsea, Man City, Everton and West Ham. Defeats for Aston Villa and Southampton.
Predicted table: 1. Tottenham (38 points), 2. Liverpool (36), 3. Chelsea (33), 4. Southampton (33), 5. Leicester (32), 6. Man United (30), 7. Everton (29), 8. Man City (28), 9. Aston Villa (28), 10. West Ham (27)