The Premier League has been pedal to the metal since early August in order to make room in the calendar for the 2022 World Cup. That time is finally here, with this the last round of fixtures before players are officially released for international duty on Monday.
Once all 20 clubs have played on either Saturday or Sunday, there will be no more Premier League fixtures until Boxing Day, which is six weeks away. That means the table as it sits by close of play on Sunday evening is how it will stay for some time.
Depending on how the results go, there is potential for there to be a new leader and a new bottom club, making it vital to end on a positive note.
Manchester City will go top of the table if they beat Brentford in Saturday’s early kick-off and put the pressure on Arsenal to respond when the Gunners play a few hours later.
Erling Haaland is still not guaranteed to feature for the champions, although Pep Guardiola has at least confirmed the Norwegian is getting better following a recent knock. The City boss has also recently expressed concern that some players could have one eye on the World Cup next week.
Brentford were knocked out of the Carabao Cup on penalties by Gillingham in midweek, although have only been beaten once in 90 minutes in their last six games.
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Brentford
Bournemouth responded well to losing 9-0 against Liverpool in August, putting together a run of six Premier League game unbeaten at that point. But the Cherries have started to slide again since then and go into this weekend on a run of four successive league defeats.
Both clubs rotated a little when they faced each other in the Carabao Cup only a few days ago and it was Bournemouth that ran out big 4-1 winners.
Everton had been on a poor run in the Premier League, losing successive games against Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle in October, but winning one, drawing one and losing one in their last three fixtures in the league.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-1 Everton
This hasn’t been a particularly positive season for Liverpool so far after winning only five of their first 13 Premier League fixtures. But the Reds will be keen to finish this intense portion of the campaign on a good note by beating Southampton here.
The Saints have a new manager in Nathan Jones, who will get this one game in charge before then having around six weeks to really knuckle down and familiarise himself with the club.
Southampton had a good record against Liverpool in the first five years after their return to the Premier League in 2012. But nine of the last 10 meetings have ended in Liverpool wins.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace haven’t met since 2012, while their last Premier League clash was way back in 1995 – before several players who will feature in this game were even born.
Forest are still bottom of the table going into this game but have at least stemmed the flow of defeats, taking points off Brighton and Brentford either side of beating Liverpool. They also have the confidence boost of knocking Tottenham out of the Carabao Cup in midweek.
Palace are also in a decent run of form, having taken maximum points in four of their last six Premier League fixtures. They didn’t have the same midweek boost, though, losing a Carabao Cup tie agianst Newcastle on penalties.
Prediction: Nottingham Forest 0-0 Crystal Palace
Spurs haven’t had a good run of late, winning only one of their last five domestic games and losing four of them. Antonio Conte’s side were particularly hapless against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday and the boss admitted Harry Kane is struggling with fatigue.
They now face a Leeds side that has beaten Liverpool and Bournemouth in the last few weeks, but fell to Wolves in the Carabao Cup. Jesse Marsch’s side are also not far removed from a four-game losing streak that had brought some pressure on the American coach.
Since Leeds returned to the top flight in 2020, they have only won once against Spurs.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Leeds
Leicester have been a different team since the start of October, winning four of the seven Premier League games they have played during that time. It has moved them off the bottom of the table and relived the pressure on Brendan Rodgers.
West Ham, meanwhile, still aren’t where they want to be. David Moyes’ side showed improvement in early October when they finally started getting some more regular wins. But three defeats in their last four in the league and a penalty shootout defeat to Blackburn have dampened that.
West Ham’s domestic form has been in stark contrast to their European performances, where they took maximum points in the Europa Conference League group stage.
Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Leicester
Newcastle are the team to beat in the Premier League at the moment. The Magpies have taken 19 points from the last 21 available to them to surge into the top three, past Chelsea and Manchester United.
Eddie Howe and Miguel Almiron even won Premier League Manager of the Month and Player of the Month awards respectively for October.
Graham Potter has insisted that Chelsea are continuing to make progress, despite defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup, which was a third straight domestic loss. The Blues haven’t won a Premier League game since 16 October.
Prediction: Newcastle 3-2 Chelsea
Arsenal will be top of the Premier League on Christmas Day for the first time since 2007 as long as they match Manchester City’s result this weekend.
Despite a setback in the Carabao Cup against Brighton in midweek, a full strength Gunners side should have what it takes to beat Wolves. Points on the board now are especially important as Mikel Arteta has admitted the squad is ‘very short’ on depth.
For Wolves, this is a last game in charge of interim head coach Steve Davis, with permanent new boss Julen Lopetegui to get started in the job during the World Cup break.
Prediction: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
New Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi had to wait a little while for his first win since taking over from Graham Potter in September, but Carabao Cup victory over Arsenal in midweek wa a third straight victory for the Seagulls.
Brighton thrashed Chelsea on Potter’s return to the Amex Stadium and secured a late win over Wolves in their last Premier League outing. Another win here would cement their place in the top six.
Aston Villa have been up and down since Steven Gerrard was sacked last month. Unai Emery oversaw an impressive win over Manchester United last weekend but then fell to defeat to the same opposiiton in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
Prediction: Brighton 2-1 Aston Villa
Manchester United played Aston Villa twice in a matter of days recently, losing 3-1 and winning 4-2. It perhaps best summarises the club’s fortunes under Erik ten Hag in this opening chunk of the season – some setbacks, but generally moving in the right direction.
Ten Hag has pledged his support for Anthony Martial this week, with the Frenchman on the scoresheet in the win over Villa and seemingly a perfect fit for the system if he stays fit.
But in Fulham, United have an opponent who have punched above their weight this season. The Cottagers were hot favourites for relegation when the campaign began but have so far lost only one game more than United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Prediction: Fulham 1-3 Man Utd