Editors Punt: Lacazette to score first, Man United to win
Arsenal v Liverpool
Obviously all Arsenal fans want for Christmas is for Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to sign new deals. Failing that, how about Alexandre Lacazette to get a full 90 minutes? The Frenchman, who let’s not forget cost £52million, has been hooked more times than a fairground rubber duck this season. Despite this he has still managed to notch eight times for the Gunners, and has opened the scoring three times for them previously in Premier League games at the Emirates. He’s a 5/1 shout to score first against Liverpool on Friday night and that looks a spot of value against a Reds defence that is still prone to throwing in the odd collective howler.
Everton v Chelsea
“It’s not rocket science,” boomed Big Sam when asked about how he has turned around Everton’s fortunes in just a few short weeks. He then spoke about doing the simple things well: Running into space, passing, wearing an oversized earpiece and black coat like you are a head doorman at a Leeds nightclub. You know, the basics. Chelsea have blown hot and cold on the road this season, and with defensive discipline key to Everton’s renaissance under Allardyce I like the draw at half-time here at 13/10.
Brighton v Watford
Brighton’s return to the top flight has been one of the stories of 2017. Not the best story though. That would be the story of Adama Barrow, the new president of Gambia who once worked as a security guard in a north London branch of Argos. This literally proves that anything is possible. So to all of you tossing it off at work right now while hungover reading this column and minimising the page every time the boss walks past, I say sober yourself up with a Greggs Festive Bake, then go and make 2018 your own.
Manchester City v Bournemouth
City have turned this season’s title ‘race’ into a procession. They have been phenomenal, and Chelsea’s previous top-flight points tally of 95 set in the 2004/5 campaign looks in danger of being smashed to bits. After 18 games of that campaign Chelsea had moved six clear at the top having dropped just 11 points. Pep Guardiola’s light blue beast are currently 11 clear having dropped just two. Bournemouth roll into town on Saturday, and Eddie Howe will already be resigned to the fact his Cherries are set to take a severe pasting.
Southampton v Huddersfield
Southampton are really struggling having won just one of their last nine games in the league. If their current form was a Christmas present, it would surely be a pair of ‘Hike’ socks off your Aunt who has a ‘tache and is a bit weird.
Stoke City v West Brom
Both sides have been absolute pony this season. And while Paul Clement may have beaten Mark Hughes in the ‘Next Premier League Manager to lose his job’ market this week, Hughes will surely get the old tin tack if Stoke fall to a sixth defeat in seven games here. They’ve lost 10 out of 18 league matches and another ‘L’ would see them spend Christmas in the bottom three. Grim. On a brighter note, two of the last three meetings between these teams have ended 1-1. So let’s go there.
Swansea v Crystal Palace
Clement was sacked on Wednesday after losing nine of his last 11 games as Swansea boss. The Swans are a 1/4 shot to go down at time of writing and rumoured to be interested in bringing in Ronald Koeman. Koeman of course was last seen spending a fortune at Everton and then spending several months rubbing his chin with a quizzical look on his face as the Blues produced a series of laughably terrible performances both at home and in Europe. Good luck with that one, Swansea.
West Ham v Newcastle United
Two defeats in a week for the Toon, and eight in their last nine. They are bereft of confidence and parked nervously in the bottom three. Can somebody please tell me then why the f**k West Ham are odds against here? Moyes has been busy sprinkling his ginger magic all over this squad in recent weeks and they look an absolute banker at the London Stadium.
Burnley v Tottenham
Spurs look at shadow of the side who lit up the top flight last season and having won on just two of their last nine visits to Turf Moor I can’t have them at 8/15 on here. Burnley are just not getting the respect they deserve from the Camel Coats but they are a seriously organised side who are difficult to beat on their own patch.
Leicester City v Manchester United
The Red Devils were stunned by an inspired Bristol City side in the Carabao Cup in midweek. Jose Mourinho said afterwards it was a “beautiful day for football” and, while that was an odd thing to say on reflection, maybe he was just relieved to be avoiding Manchester City in the next round? Whatever Mourinho’s spiel to the press, he will have been privately raging about that loss at Ashton Gate. However I don’t see them losing back-to-back away games here and they should have too much class (especially with Paul Pogba back) for a Leicester side who got their arses handed to them by Crystal Palace at home last weekend.