Top 5 Premier League storylines: Boxing Day

Leave a comment

Here’s a look at what we should keep an eye out for on Boxing Day in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

December 26 always dishes out some late Christmas gifts, and shocks, around the PL.

This year should be no different…


Liverpool to stay unbeaten? – Liverpool v. Newcastle United, 10 a.m. ET NBCSN [STREAM]

It is 18 and counting for Jurgen Klopp‘s men, who host Newcastle United at Anfield in a fixture which has historically provided plenty of goals and dramatic moments. Klopp and the Liverpool faithful will be hoping it is nothing more than a routine win to keep them four points clear atop the table. With just seven goals conceded so far this season, Virgil Van Dijk in majestic form and squad rotation working out very well, the Reds should be just fine. Newcastle have the potential to cause a shock with Salomon Rondon getting on the end of things, but everything points to Liverpool being unbeaten for the first half of the season.


Man City, Guardiola need a positive response – Leicester City v. Man City, 10 a.m. ET – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

After their shock loss at home to Crystal Palace, Pep Guardiola needs a big response from his stars away at Leicester. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero have returned form injury in recent weeks, but the loss of David Silva and Fernandinho has arguably been a bigger blow in City’s engine room. Leicester will be buoyed by their win away at Chelsea and they will look to stay tight and use James Maddison and Jamie Vardy on the counter to cause City problems. Ahead of their Jan. 3 game against Liverpool, City need to keep the gap between themselves and Liverpool to at least four points. But Leicester is a tough place to go, especially on Boxing Day and especially with plenty of doubts creeping in about City repeating their title heroics of last season.


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s Old Trafford return – Man United v. Huddersfield Town, 10 a.m. ET – NBC Sports Gold[STREAM]

A perfect start for Solskjaer at Cardiff saw United score five times in a Premier League game for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge. After that big win, the Norwegian’s return to Old Trafford as United’s manager will have the home fans lauding him even more. He is a club legend and he is trying to help them return to the glory years of the Ferguson era. Alongside him is Mick Phelan, Sir Alex’s former assistant, and they’ve simply taken the shackles off this team. Jose Mourinho asked this group of young, attack-minded players to play in a safety-first manner and they couldn’t do it. Solskjaer may not be the right man to lead United beyond this season when his caretaker role is due to expire, but beating Huddersfield (who have lost five on the trot) and Bournemouth in the next two games will give the Red Devils plenty of momentum heading into the next year. The top four dream is now back on for United.


Chelsea aim to get back on track – Watford v. Chelsea, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN [STREAM]

Antonio Rudiger called Chelsea’s defeat at home to Leicester “stupid” and that was a fair summation. Maurizio Sarri‘s men are the most Jekyll and Hyde team in the Premier League this season. They’ve beaten Man City and Arsenal, pushed Liverpool all the way but lost to Wolves and now Leicester and were humiliated by Tottenham. The mentality issue is something Sarri and his players keep bringing up and that is a pretty easy excuse. The issues run a lot deeper at Chelsea, as this squad is largely the same one which downed tools first under Mourinho and then under Antonio Conte just a season after winning the Premier League title for both. A trip to Watford, who have won two on the spin and sit seventh, will be a real test for Chelsea’s creaking defense. It will be intriguing to see if either Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud return to the starting lineup as the false nine with Eden Hazard as the fulcrum faltered against Leicester. More than that, it will be intriguing to see if Chelsea can get themselves up for a clash against a team outside of the top six.


Big home games for basement boys – Fulham v. Wolves, 7:30 a.m. ET – NBCSN [STREAM& Burnley v. Everton, 10 a.m. ET – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Boy, how both Fulham and Burnley need big wins on Boxing Day. Both play at home and both have tricky tests against top 10 teams. Fulham host Wolves, while Burnley welcome Everton to Turf Moor. Being in the bottom three for Christmas has been compounded by big wins for Southampton, Crystal Palace and Newcastle over the past few weeks. The only saving grace for Fulham is that Claudio Ranieri‘s men are just four points from safety despite all of their struggles, while Burnley are two points from safety. Both teams need to focus on sorting out their defensive issues if they’re going to remain in the top-flight and getting big wins on Boxing Day can propel an upturn in the second half of the season.

Premier League club Power Rankings: Week 18

AP Photo/Jon Super
Leave a comment

Let the festive gifts keep flowing, with a brand new, Sunday edition of the Premier League club power rankings.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]


20. Huddersfield Town — Eighteen games, 11 goals. They’ve scored two goals in a game once.
Last week: 19
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

19. Fulham — A clean sheet against Newcastle was nice, but three points would’ve been nicer.
Last week: 20
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

18. Burnley — Sean Dyche would be well served by using the festive season to find any combination of attacking philosophy that works for his men.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

17. Cardiff City — The Bluebirds allowed two total goals in their first three Premier League matches. They’ve since allowed 36 in 15, including five to Manchester United on Saturday, and kept one clean sheet.
Last week: 16
Season high: 15
Season low: 20

16. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl has the Saints on the up-and-up, and Danny Ings is back in form.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

15. Newcastle United — Is the January window open yet? Because Ayoze Perez, Matt Ritchie, and Christian Atsu are not setting Salomon Rondon up for success.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

14. Crystal Palace — Palace probably deserved to beat City last season, but got the job done this time around. Just needed to get rid of Big Sam is all.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

13. Brighton and Hove Albion —  Here’s what we wrote last week: “Hung tough with Chelsea, and can get redemption for the Burnley loss by beating up a struggling Bournemouth.” Narrator voice meme: They didn’t.
Last week: 10
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

12. Bournemouth — That’s a collective sigh of relief coming from the South Coast.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

11. Everton — Two points in their last five games have the Toffees sliding down the table with an exclamation point heading into Christmas.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

10. Leicester City — Jamie Vardy gets the Foxes back on track with a notable win at Chelsea.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

9. Watford —  The mercurial Hornets knocked off in-form West Ham, even if the three points were probably a fortunate haul given their performance.
Last week: 11
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

8. Wolves — No shame in losing to Liverpool.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

7. West Ham United — Manuel Pellegrini‘s men were unlucky in a 2-0 loss to Watford, and will want to immediately right the ship at Southampton.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

6. Manchester United — 5-1 on the road is 5-1 on the road, even against the woeful defense of Cardiff City.
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

5. Chelsea — That’s a bad loss, Petey. Antonio Rudiger is right to fume.
Last week: 4
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

4. Arsenal — Slides up by default thanks to Chelsea’s loss, but some good signs in the 3-1 defeat of Burnley.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

3. Man City *New season low* — Granted Kevin De Bruyne was on the bench for an hour and immediately injected life into the sky blue side, but losing to Palace at home is not on the blueprint for defending a title.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3

2. Tottenham Hotspur — What a performance at Goodison Park. In terms of producing goals, it might’ve been the most irrepressible of the Premier League season so far.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

1. Liverpool — For Christmas, the unbeaten Reds get a visit from Newcastle United. Don’t blow it.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

Rudiger, Sarri brood: ‘We only talk now about Top Four’ after Chelsea loss

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

Stupid.

That’s the word Antonio Rudiger used to label Chelsea’s performance in a 1-0 loss to Leicester City, as both the defender and his manager admitted it’s the end of their chances to win the Premier League this season.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 0-1 Leicester City ]

Chelsea is now 11 points back of Liverpool and seven behind second place Man City after Jamie Vardy scored the lone goal on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

The loss is the Blues’ first at home in league play this season.

Manager Maurizio Sarri said that Vardy’s goal shouldn’t have been the end of Chelsea’s chances, saying there was enough remaining “time to score two goals” on Saturday.

He also reiterated that Chelsea won’t be winning the league in his first season at Stamford Bridge.

“It was impossible from the beginning of the season. As I said at the beginning of the Premier League it is impossible to catch Liverpool and Manchester City, we have to be careful to stay close to the first four positions.”

Chelsea next plays away Watford, then away to Crystal Palace.

Early lead enough as Chelsea blanks Fulham

Leave a comment
  • Pedro scores in 4th minute
  • Arrizabalaga makes 3 saves
  • Loftus-Cheek puts it to bed

Chelsea outlasted a game Fulham thanks to an early goal from Pedro and late insurance from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, claiming London Derby honors with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The Blues go third for the moment, a point better than Chelsea and three ahead of Arsenal before the North London Derby (Watch live at 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fulham sits bottom of the table with eight points, two points back of 17th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Fulham’s Cyrus Christie dribbled 40 yards for a shot on Kepa Arrizabalaga before the match was a half-minute old.

Pedro danced around weak defending to make it 1-0 three minutes later, with N'Golo Kante stealing a sloppy Fulham touch and slipping the Spaniard into Sergio Rico‘s office for a cutback and finish.

Calum Chambers hit a 20-yard shot at Arrizabalaga at the quarter-hour mark.

At the other end, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard put Olivier Giroud into the path of Rico as the Fulham goalkeeper managed another stop.

Azpilicueta then cued up Giroud for a chance Rico did well to stop in the 43rd minute.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Fulham’s second half challenge started well, with Antonio Rudiger forced to stop a bid to meet Mitrovic followed by an Arrizabalaga save on Chambers off the ensuing corner.

Chelsea sub Alvaro Morata missed an in-tight bid to cut an Eden Hazard rebound on goal in the 73rd.

It was another sub who made it 2-0, as Loftus-Cheek left no doubt when presented with a Hazard square ball in the right of the box.

Super Spurs end Chelsea’s unbeaten run

1 Comment

As odd as this sounds, Tottenham Hotspur was wasteful in a 3-1 demolition of Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Ascendant all afternoon, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men missed several chances to further a score line which would not have deceived anyone who watched Spurs climb over their London rivals and into third place.

Tottenham now has 30 points, five back of first, thanks to goals from Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane, and Dele Alli.

Chelsea will finish the weekend fourth, with 28 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Kepa Arrizabalaga had a pair of early moments, including a collection of a ball Harry Kane nodded off the head of his marker.

It was a precursor to the opener, as Arrizabalaga could not handle Dele’s header to the back post. The effort was enough to throw off the keeper, as Christian Eriksen‘s free kick was on a similar trajectory before the turn.

Eriksen was in the richest vein of form, chipping an effort over three backs for Heung-min Son to hammer just over the frame.

Son then cooked Antonio Rudiger to force Arrizabalaga into a leg save.

Kane was shown acres of space and Arrizabalaga was nowhere to be found when Luiz moved to stop the Spurs’ man shot from hitting his backside. 2-0 after 16 minutes.

Eden Hazard sprung to life as the match reached the latter stages of the first half, forcing Hugo Lloris into a couple interventions.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

And then, my goodness, an exclamation point from Son.

The South Korean star torched Jorginho for pace, rounded the corner, and cut back David Luiz before beating Arrizabalaga low inside the far post.

Magical stuff.

Kane missed a chance to make it 4-0 in the 68th, firing an 8-yard effort well over the bar.

Chelsea substitute Olivier Giroud rose above Serge Aurier to pound a header off the ground and past Lloris in the 85th minute to ruin the clean sheet.