football

Crunch Time in the EPL: Four Pivotal Games in December

December 05, 2016

- Grant Whittington

December and the festive season is usually the time that the Premier League table starts to take shape, as teams at both the top and the bottom begin to climb (or in some cases descend) towards their natural position. In this respect, Chelsea’s stunning 3-1 win against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last weekend was a seminal moment in the title race, and one that confirmed Antonio Conte’s team as deserved, Premier League favourites.

This was merely an appetiser for what is set to be a bumper month of EPL action, however, particularly in the upper-echelons of the table. With just four points currently separating the top four in the Premier League, there is no guarantee who will be leading the pack come New Years’ Day.

With this in mind, here are are four key December fixtures to keep your eye on as the month unfolds –

Manchester United vs. Tottenham on December 11th

While Manchester United have drawn four consecutive matches in the league, they have performed exceptionally well during this time and played with a sense of verve and urgency often missing during the last three seasons. They will face a stern test in the form of Tottenham, however, who are notoriously difficult to beat and have lost just once in the EPL all season (while also drawing on six occasions). In truth, this game has draw written all over it, but United will be keen to make a statement as the look to haul themselves back into the title mix.

Manchester City vs. Arsenal on December 18th

While the red half of Manchester may be struggling to win at home, Pep Guardiola’s City have also failed to emerge as victorious from their last four outings at the Etihad. This includes the recent defeat against Chelsea, which has seen the Citizens sink to fourth in the league and caused many to question whether Pep’s unique methods are suitable to the EPL. A clash against high-flying Arsenal is highly unlikely to ease the growing sense of nervousness at the Etihad, particularly with Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez in such a rich vein of form.

Everton vs. Liverpool on December 19th

Monday night games tend to benefit from a raucous atmosphere, particularly when they pit two local rivals against one another in a frenzied derby. This means that Liverpool’s visit to Everton is likely to deliver a wonderful spectacle, even though Ronald Koeman’s Toffees’ may have gone off the boil since their 5-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge. It has yet to be seen how Liverpool will cope without their injured talisman Philippe Coutinho, however, while the inconsistent but prodigiously talented Rommel Lukaku may fancy his chances against the Reds’ vulnerable defence.

Liverpool vs. Manchester City on December 31st

This is a game that the world has been waiting for since the start of the season, and it should provide a fitting spectacle to end what has been a truly incredible (and not to mention unpredictable) 2016. Each of these sides boast a progressive, front-foot pressing style that compensates for occasionally porous defences, while the charisma and the quality of the two managers will add another dimension to the contests. Quite simply, this could be a goal-laden game that could go either way, while both clubs will be keen to steal a march in an increasingly tight title race.

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