As we approach Gameweek 23 of the 2020 Premier League, it's that time again to begin licking our lips at the propsect of some quality football. Whether you're heading down to the pub with your mates, watching it at home, or making your significant other suffer through ninety minutes, this weekends fixtures look to be a tasty prospect. So here's your weekend round-up, starting with Saturdays clashes:
Saturday (source for information: www.premierleague.com)
- Game 1: Watford (H) vs Tottenham Hostpur (A) | Venue: Vicarage Road | Kick Off: 12:30pm | Live on BT Sport
Our first match-up looks to pit 17th placed Watford at home against 8th placed Tottenham. However, league position cannot be expected to be an indicator for this lunchtime fixture, with Jose Mourinho's men without a win in three games after losses to frontrunners Liverpool and mid-table Southampton, and a draw to relegation favourites Norwich. Meanwhile, since appointing Nigel Pearson as manager on the 9th of December 2019, Watford have found a purple patch, and approach this fixture with four wins from their last five games. With confidence running high, we can expect this fixture to be a gritty start to the weekend.
Prediction: Watford 2 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur | Ones to Watch: Ismaila Sarr (Watford), Heung Min Son (Tottenham) | Excitement Rating: 8/10
- Game 2: Arsenal (H) vs Sheffield United (A) | Venue: Emirates Stadium | Kick Off: 3pm
Arsenal against Sheffield United is the first of six Premier League games kicking off at 3pm this Saturday. It's not really surprising that this game has failed to be allocated a spot on either Sky or BT Sport, with each club entering this weekends fixture in mixed form. With both teams having failed to win the majority of their last five matches, it is incredibly hard to say how this one could pan out. Sheffield find themselves in an incredible 6th place, a superb achievement for a newly promoted side at any stage of the season, but at times have lacked the finishing touch, scoring an average of only 1.09 goals per match despite creating 1.86 chances per game on average. Comparatively, Arsenal find themselves in 10th, having struggled to adapt under the new management of Mikel Arteta. Yet, despite creating less chances than Sheffield, only 1.14 per game on average, Arsenal have been much more clincal, with a 1.32 goal per game average. Despite having a leaky defense, Arsenal's firepower in attack with Nicolas Pepe and Alexander Lacazette should prove to be the turning point in an otherwise missable fixture, despite hosting two top table sides.
Prediction: Arsenal 2 - 0 Sheffield United | Ones to Watch: Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Lys Mousset (Sheffield) | Excitement Rating: 4/10
- Game 3: Brighton & Hove Albion (H) vs Aston Villa (A) | Venue: Amex Stadium | Kick Off: 3pm
In what many would consider to be a rather boring encounter, we may find a hidden gem of Gameweek 23. Despite being 18th in the Premier League table, Aston Villa have shown themselves to be capable of playing some excellent football this season, and sit only a single point from safety. Spurred on by the stellar performances of their number 10 Jack Grealish (who has 6 goals and 5 assists in 20 appearances) a win for Villa could see them climb out of the bottom three. Alternatively, a loss for Brighton could spell real trouble this weekend, and could see them pulled closer to the dreaded red line which Villa sit just below. Admittedly, Brighton are not in terrible form approaching this encounter, the lack of a stand out performer for the Seagulls this season could prove to be the decisive factor in this Saturday afternoon clash. Don't write this fixture off just yet, because it could produce something special.
Prediction: Brighton 2 - 4 Aston Villa | Ones to Watch: Jack Grealish ( Aston Villa), Neal Maupay (Brighton) | Excitement Rating: 7.5/10
- Game 4: Manchester City (H) vs Crystal Palace (A) | Venue: Etihad Stadium | Kick Off: 3pm
Those of us who appreciate fine strikes will fondly remember Andros Townsend's incredible volley which helped Palace to an unprecendented away victory in December of 2018. However, it would be unrealistic to expect such an event again following Manchester City's recent run of form, most notably after their demolition of Aston Villa 6-1 just last weekend. Furthermore, Pep Guardiola's side will be keen to add three more points to their tally to fend off interest in second spot from Leicester City, who sit just two points behind. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, come into this affair on the back of three draws, and will not be comforted by the fact that they have only beaten last year's Premier League Champions 3 times out of 19 previous attempts. This fixture would appear to be one of the more straightfoward predictions of this weekend, and I fully expect the blue shirts from Manchester to run amok on their own turf this Saturday. If you're an avid Match of The Day viewer, then this fixture should certainly feature early in the programme.
Prediction: Manchester City 4 - 0 Crystal Palace | Ones to Watch: Sergio Aguero (Man City), Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) | Excitement Rating: 6/10
- Game 5: Norwich City (H) vs Bournemouth (A) | Venue: Carrow Road | Kick Off: 3pm
Every game is a must win for Daniel Farke's Norwich City at the moment. The Canaries find themselves bottom of the table and winless in five, meaning that they are already 8 points from safety with 16 games remaining. However, this weekend's home fixture against Eddie Howe's struggling Bournemouth side may provide a lifeline. The Cherries also find themselves winless in five games, and currently sit in 19th position in the table. Posting an average goal per game ratio of just 0.91, they have scored the joint lowest number of goals of any Premier League side this season. With both sides desperate to collect three points, we can expect a fiesty encounter at Carrow Road, albeit it minus the presence of quality football. Whilst relegation battles aren't the prettiest, they have a tendency to produce lots of entertainment, so this game may prove worth paying attention to. However, I feel that the lack of consistency in the final third will hurt both teams in this fixture, and no clear winner looks to be evident, something that would be a disaster for both clubs.
Prediction: Norwich 0 - 0 Bournemouth | Ones to Watch: Teemu Pukki (Norwich), Josh King (Bournemouth) | Excitement Rating: 4/10
- Game 6: Southampton (H) vs Wolverhampton Wanderers (A) | Venue: St. Mary's Stadium | Kick Off: 3pm
It's been a remarkable transition for Southampton, from being tipped for relegation to now being on the verge of attaining a place in Europe. Their form has been so incredible, that only Liverpool and Manchester City have taken more points from their last ten games than Ralph Hassenhutl's side. This impressive charge has been led by loanee striker Danny Ings, who has netted 10 times in his last 11 games, and the Saints will be hoping that he adds another on Saturday. Meanwhile, Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves are looking for their first win in five games. There seems to be no real explanation for why this Wolves team is struggling of late, as it is packed full of talented individuals. Wolves have also been a free scoring team this season, with an average goal per game ratio of 1.41. However, Southampton seem to be on a mission at the moment, and with the support of their home fans, I predict an unfortunate away day for Wolves, in what promises to be a quality game.
Prediction: Southampton 2-0 Wolves | Ones to Watch: Danny Ings (Southampton), Adama Traore (Wolves) | Excitement Rating: 7.5/10
- Game 7: West Ham United (H) vs Everton (A) | Venue: London Stadium | Kick Off: 3pm
The last of Saturdays 3pm fixtures pits mid table Everton against relegation candidates West Ham. Both clubs have recently appointed new managers, yet it is Everton alone who have enjoyed the bounce that frequently comes with a new coach. Three wins from their last five games has seen Carlo Ancelotti's team perform predictably, and his managerial expertise already looks to be steadying the ship at Goodison Park. Since taking over at West Ham in late December of last year , David Moyes has only managed to coach his side to one win in four games. With relegation looking a possibility whilst they occupy 16th place in the table, Moyes will be hoping that his side can grab a much needed three points. This one doesn't look to be a stand out fixture unless you are a fan of the respective teams, and I predict a share of the points.
Prediction: West Ham 1 - 1 Everton | Ones to Watch: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Sebastian Haller (West Ham) | Excitement Rating: 5/10
- Game 8: Newcastle United (H) vs Chelsea (A) | Venue: St. James' Park | Kick Off: 5:30pm |Live on Sky Sports
Saturdays evening game looks to be a promising one. Although Newcastle are winless in four, at times this season they have shown that they are capable of playing top tier football, and have beaten the likes of Manchester United. Chelsea on the other hand have been consistently exciting to watch, and if what we have seen so far this season is anything to go by, the Frank Lampard era looks promising. Despite losing arguably their star player, and the leagues best player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid in the summer, Chelsea have still been free scoring (1.77 gpg average) with youngsters Tabby Abraham and Mason Mount being the usual suspects. Furthermore, the emergence of Fikayo Tomori at the back for Chelsea has been a revelation, and is reflected by their league position (4th), worthy of a place in the prestigious Champions League. It would not be uncommon for an upset to occur in this kind of fixture, yet I feel that the quality in Lampard's Chelsea will overwhelm the heart of Newcastle. This should definitely be an interesting match, and one worth watching.
Predicition: Newcastle 1 - 3 Chelsea | Ones to Watch: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Joelinton (Newcastle), Willian (Chelsea) | Excitement Rating: 8/10
- Game 9: Burnley (H) vs Leicester City (A) | Venue: Turf Moor | Kick Off: 2pm | Live on Sky Sports
Recent times have not been kind to Burnley or Leicester, yet they could barely be further apart in the table. Even though they have lost three out of their last five games, Leicester still comfortably sit third in the Premier League, and remain only two points off second place. A win away at Burnley could be just the spark they've been missing in recent times, and Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that his star striker Jamie Vardy can find his form again after failing to score for four games in a row. In comparison, Sean Dyche's Burnley find themselves 15th in the table, and are winless since the 21st of December. With 30 big chances missed this season (6th out of every team) it is not hard to see why The Clarets are struggling to obtain points. The lack of a top class finisher has hurt Burnley this season, and in a fixture where Leicester can boast the likes of James Maddison and Jamie Vardy, the odds do not stack up well for the men in claret and blue. If you're sitting down for a relaxing Sunday then you may as well tune into this one, otherwise don't go out of your way to catch it.
Prediction: Burnley 0 - 3 Leicester | Ones to Watch: Ashley Barnes (Burnley), James Maddison (Leicester), Jamie Vardy (Leicester) | Excitement Rating: 6/10
- Game 10: Liverpool (H) vs Manchester United (A) | Venue: Anfield | Kick Off: 4:30pm |Live on Sky Sports
Saving the best till last is an understatement for this firecracker. The final match of Gameweek 23 pits the two most successful clubs in England against each other. Liverpool sit first in the table, with an astonishing 14 points seperating them from second place. They have looked the complete package this season, and have dropped points in only a single game, and of course, remain undefeated. The power of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah up front has torn through almost every opponent this season, and the god-like presence of Virgil Van Dijk at the back has crushed strikers into submission. Should Liverpool take three points this weekend, it may be the final piece of the puzzle that will see them lift the Premier League trophy for the first time. However, the one team that has taken points from The Reds this season is Manchester United. Despite struggling to play well against teams situated in the lower half of the table, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have been notoriously good against the top 6 this season. The prominence of Marcus Rashford for the Red Devils this season has been undeniable, and backed up by Anthony Martial and young sensation Mason Greenwood, United have a formidable attack. Unfortunately though, Rashford is expected to miss Sunday's derby through injury, as is midfield general Scott McTominay and pass master Paul Pogba. The injury concerns don't stop there for Solskjaer either, with Harry Maguire having been injured too recently. It would be foolish though to expect that a set of injuries will dampen the mood on Sunday, and as the players walk out to a chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone" we can still expect this to be another classic in this fixtures esteemed list. Passion is something that is never short in this derby, and wondergoals are not uncommon, yet despite the heart of Manchester United I do not feel that they will be able to wrestle any points away from the Champions to be. I expect a game of free-flowing attacking football from Liverpool, and a result that reflects their dominance so far in the league this season. This game promises to be unmissable.
Prediction: Liverpool 3 - 2 Manchester United | Ones to Watch: Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Anthony Martial (Man U), Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool), Fred (Man U) | Excitement Rating: 11/10
All in all, Gameweek 23 looks to be a mixture of some lesser quality games, and some thrillers. If you have limited time this weekend, I would highly reccomend that you set aside what little time you have to watch Sundays 4:30pm game, which promises to be a classic. The turn of the New Year means that we are rapidly approaching the return of European football too, so the top teams will be hoping to accumulate as many points as possible before then. I will be back at the same time next week with a preview of Gameweek 24's fixtures and predictions.
By Andrew Hill