The first half of the 2018-19 Premier League season is officially complete.
When the five 10 a.m. ET fixtures kick off on Saturday, the second half will have begun. Everything is still to play from, from the title, to the top-four, to the impending relegation battle set to unfold over the next five months…
Here are the five storylines we’ll be watching most closely on Saturday and Sunday…
Title-chasing Liverpool’s next hurdle: Arsenal at Anfield
Liverpool v. Arsenal, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]
Following Manchester City’s upset defeat at the hands of Leicester City on Wednesday, it’s official: the PL title is Liverpool’s to lose. Round 20 will see the Reds face one of only three sides to take a point off them this season — Arsenal held Jurgen Klopp‘s side, which is still unbeaten at the halfway marker, to a 1-1 draw in November. Only Man City have come away from Anfield with anything to show for their efforts (a 0-0 draw in October). The seven goals conceded by Liverpool (in 19 games) are equal to the number of goals conceded by Arsenal in their last five games (2W-2D-1L).
City, meanwhile, have not only fallen out of first place in recent weeks, but also dropped out of second following Wednesday’s defeat, their third in four league games. Now second, six points behind Liverpool, are Tottenham Hotspur, winners of five straight league fixtures and unquestionably the second-hottest team in the PL after winning those five games by a combined score of 18-3 (Liverpool have tallied their five most recent victories, excluding the three to precede them, to the tune of 16-2).
Man United loving life (and results) under Solskjaer
Man United vs. Bournemouth, 11:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]
As difficult as this will be for some to believe, perhaps Jose Mourinho was the problem at Manchester United. Since he was fired nine days ago, the Red Devils have won both times out, against Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, by an overwhelming 8-2 margin. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has achieved objective no. 1 — bringing the feel-good factor back to Old Trafford — but he’s yet to face a side currently residing in the top-16 of the league table. Bournemouth, Sunday’s opponent, are 11th; Newcastle United, who United will visit next Wednesday, are 15th; Solskjaer will round out his first five league games when United visit Spurs on Jan. 13.
Resurgent West Ham to continue their climb?
Burnley vs. West Ham, 9:15 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]
Don’t look now, but West Ham United have won five of their last six games and have climbed their way into ninth place following a worryingly poor start to the season (four straight losses, by a combined score of 10-2). Felipe Anderson, with seven goals (plus an assist) in his last eight league games, is doing his best to justify his $48-million price tag from the summer. A trip to 18th-place Burnley is up next, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s side will expect nothing but three points on Sunday. A victory could take them as high as seventh in the table.
Battle at the very bottom
Fulham vs. Huddersfield, 10 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]
19th-place Fulham and 20th-place Huddersfield have just four wins and 21 points between them this season. Neither side has won any of their last six games since coincidentally pulling off mid-table upsets on the same weekend in late November. Fulham have won three points from those six games; Huddersfield have taken none. It comes as little surprise, given recent form, that they begin the second half of the season stacked together at the bottom of the table. It’s still early-ish in the campaign — especially given that the gap to 17th place is just four and five points, respectively — but we’ll dub this one the first true relegation six-pointer of the run-in.