Friday, December 30, 2022

Premier League Results; Matchweek 18 Preview

The hectic Premier League holiday schedule merrily rolls along with two matches scheduled on Friday. West Ham will try to pull itself out of the club’s current funk when the Hammers host Brentford at London Stadium which has been the site of the joint greatest number of home defeats by a Premier League side this season. West Ham manager David Moyes needs to find goals from somewhere as only three clubs have scored fewer goals this season than the Hammers. The manager, however, has quizzically been reported to not be interested in pursuing a new striker and to be content with current options Michail Antonio and Gianluca Scamacca. That decision may not end well for Moyes. The Bees, meanwhile, are masters of the draw, having played a league high eight matches with no winner this season. Newcastle is the only other Premier League club with more than four draws.

Anfield is the site of Friday’s other match as Liverpool hosts a Leicester side which hasn’t won a league match at Anfield in more than 20 years.

Leicester manager Brendan Rogers will face his former club without the Foxes’ star midfielder James Maddison who is out with a knee injury. Liverpool has won three straight league matches and has lost but once at Anfield this season. Reds supporters were buoyed this week with the news that PSV winger and Dutch international Cody Gakpo will be joining Jurgen Klopp’s side in January.

Making the transaction all the sweeter for the Reds is the fact that Gakpo had previously been linked with rival Manchester United. United manager Eric ten Hag will no doubt be gritting his teeth over losing out on the Dutch star, but the Red Devil attack did look fluid and dangerous in Tuesday’s win over Nottingham Forest. Marcus Rashford is in good form and even the oft injured Anthony Martial found the net Tuesday. United travels to Wolverhampton Saturday where Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui will look to repeat the success of his debut win over Everton against a much tougher opponent in the Red Devils.

Everton also faces a tougher opponent Saturday when manager Frank Lampard drags the beleaguered Toffees to Manchester City where Pep Guardiola’s title chasing squad has lost only once this season. The Toffees, meanwhile, have only a single away win in what is shaping up to be another relegation fight for Everton. Things could get ugly at the Etihad. Manchester City star Erling Haaland already has eight more goals this season than the entire Everton squad.

Newcastle is just two points behind second place Manchester City as the Magpies prepare to host Leeds on Saturday. Eddie Howe’s surprising contenders are one of only two clubs, league leading Arsenal being the other, not to have lost a home match all season. Leeds have lost six of their last eight matches, though one of their two wins during that poor stretch was a shocker over Liverpool. The defense of Leeds manager Jesse Marsch has conceded more goals than all but three clubs in the league this season.

Arsenal could be tested Saturday when the Gunners head to the south coast to face Brighton. Brighton knocked the Gunners out of the Carabao Cup earlier this season and won the last league encounter between the clubs at the Emirates in April. Seagulls Manager Roberto De Zerbi has seen his side win three of their last four league matches although that stretch has included a disappointing home loss to Aston Villa.

Crystal Palace will also be on the southern coast when they face Bournemouth Saturday. Palace has failed to put a shot on goal in losses either side of the break and the Eagles’ attack is yet to see any consistent production from young players such as Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise despite their much-ballyhooed potential. A loss at Bournemouth on Saturday could result in the first real questions being asked of Palace manager and league legend Patrick Vieira. Bournemouth, meanwhile, are descending towards the relegation fight after losing five of their last six.

Southampton has already sunk to the bottom of the table after four straight losses. The Saints travel to London on Saturday to face a Fulham side which is currently in the top half of the table in its first year back in the league. Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has 11 goals for the Cottagers as the league’s fourth highest scorer despite being hampered before the World Cup break by a persistent foot injury.

Sunday matches will see Tottenham Hotspur at home to Aston Villa while Chelsea travels to Nottingham Forest. Spurs are battling to keep their place in the top four with fifth place Manchester United just a point back in the table and Liverpool lurking behind United. Harry Kane became the league’s all-time Boxing Day scorer this past Monday and a goal on Sunday would make him the Premier League’s all-time New Year’s Day scorer. Villa Manager Unai Emery, meanwhile, will be trying to get his club back on track after being smashed by Liverpool on Boxing Day.

All three of Nottingham Forest’s victories have come at home this season and they will be hosting a Chelsea squad which has lost its last three road contests across all competitions. Chelsea snapped a five-match winless run with its win on Tuesday while Forest was hammered by Manchester United that same day.

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