The Premier League grinds to a halt this weekend – with the final round of fixtures until Christmas.
England’s top-flight will pause for an unprecedented six-week break to accommodate the first-ever winter World Cup.
While players will be desperate to avoid injury ahead of the Qatar finals, it’s a vital weekend for Premier League teams as three points could prove crucial come the end of the season.
Mikel Arteta’s impressive Arsenal travel away to Wolves in Saturday’s late kick-off bidding to remain at the summit on Christmas day.
While Arteta has been eager to play down their title hopes, being top on Christmas Day will be an undoubted boost.
Since the 2010/11 season, nine teams who topped the Premier League table at Christmas have gone on to lift the title.
However, Arsenal haven’t gone on to win the title in any of the last five times they’ve topped the table at Christmas (1951-52, 1986-87, 1989-90, 2002-03 and 2007-08) so the omens aren’t exactly great for them!
Man City too are breathing down their necks and can put the pressure on by beating Brentford in the early kick-off on Saturday, where a win will put them top before the Gunners play at Molineux later that day.
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Wolves will be determined to upset Arsenal as they are joint-bottom on points with Nottingham Forest – who face Crystal Palace in a must-win showdown – and will not want to stay there for Christmas.
Elsewhere in the top four, Spurs are involved in one of the five matches in the traditional 3pm slot and are bidding to return to winning ways against a rejuvenated Leeds.
Antonio Conte’s side have lost three of their last four league games following their 2-1 defeat to Liverpool last time out and crashed out of the Carabao Cup in midweek.
Liverpool for their part kick-off their game against Southampton – who will have a new boss in Nathan Jones at the helm – at the same time desperate for some momentum.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are still languishing seven points behind fourth-placed Tottenham but boast a game in hand.
Two other top-four hopefuls Newcastle and Chelsea collide in a showdown that could prove massive for the psychology of both.
The Magpies have stunned the early season predictions with their form thus far and a victory over the Blues – who dropped to seventh after losing to Arsenal – would cement their spot in third and show their Champions League ambitions are serious.
Meanwhile, Everton will be out for revenge on their second trip to Bournemouth in a matter of days.
A second-string Toffees side were humbled 4-1 by the Cherries in the Carabao Cup in midweek which raised doubts over Frank Lampard.
Lampard’s boyhood club West Ham are similarly in need of a victory but face a tough task to reverse their recent run of losses against inform Leicester.
There will only be two fixtures to be played on Sunday, with Unai Emery keen to start life at Aston Villa with back-to-back wins on the road to Brighton.
Manchester United will then be the headline act in the final Premier League game before the World Cup with a London game at Fulham.
The Red Devils have an outside chance of going level on points with Spurs if results go their way but realistically will just be glad to keep the distance between rivals Chelsea and Liverpool.
Having been humbled by Villa last weekend, United boss Erik ten Hag will be desperate to go into the break with a positive result.
Here are the key stats for all this weekend’s Premier League games…
Manchester City vs Brentford: 12:30pm
- Manchester City have won each of their last 11 Premier League home games, their longest such run since a run of 14 in the 2017-18 campaign. They’ve scored at least twice in their last 15 at the Etihad, with only Liverpool having a longer run of scoring 2+ goals in Premier League home games (16 between February and December 2019).
- Brentford have won just one of their five away league games against Manchester City, winning 2-0 on Christmas Day in 1937 in the top-flight.
Bournemouth vs Everton: 3pm
- Alex Iwobi has been involved in 55% of Everton’s Premier League goals so far this season (6/11 – 1 goal, 5 assists), the highest ratio of any player in the competition this term.
- Everton have faced more shots than any other Premier League side this season (238) and have the third highest expected goals against total so far (23.5). However, they’ve conceded just 14 goals, with their difference of 9.5 between xG against and goals conceded the highest in the division.
- Bournemouth have had fewer shots (106), fewer shots on target (42) and have the lowest expected goals total (9.3) in the Premier League so far this season. However, they’ve managed to score 15 goals, with only four sides having a higher shot conversion rate than the Cherries (14.2%).
Liverpool vs Southampton: 3pm
- Mohamed Salah has 99 goals + assists in 99 Premier League appearances for Liverpool at Anfield (70 goals, 29 assists); in the competition’s history, only Thierry Henry for Arsenal has been directly involved in 100+ goals in his first 100 home appearances for a single club (113; 85 goals, 28 assists).
- Southampton have won just one of their last nine Premier League games (D2 L6), though two of their three victories in the competition this season has come away from home (against Leicester and Bournemouth).
- Liverpool have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Southampton (L1), scoring at least twice in each victory.
Nottingham Forest vs Crystal Palace: 3pm
- Wilfried Zaha’s eight goals and assists in the Premier League this season have been worth 11 points to Crystal Palace – only Erling Haaland’s goal involvements have been more valuable so far this term (21 goals + assists, 14 points).
- Crystal Palace have won more points from losing positions than any other side in the Premier League this season (12), while only Leicester (14) have dropped more points from winning positions than Nottingham Forest (12) so far this term.
Tottenham vs Leeds: 3pm
- This will be Leeds boss Jesse Marsch’s first meeting with Tottenham Hotspur – American managers have lost all four of their Premier League games against Spurs, failing to score a single goal while conceding 13 in the process.
- Tottenham have trailed by at least two goals in each of their last four Premier League games, their longest such run in the competition’s history. Meanwhile, they’ve been behind at half-time in each of their last three league games, last having a longer such run in December/January in 2019-20 (5).
- Tottenham have lost three of their last four Premier League games (W1), as many as they had in their previous 24 (W17 D4). They’ve lost their last two home league games, last losing three in a row between May and September 2008.
West Ham vs Leicester City: 3pm
- Harvey Barnes has scored in all four of Leicester’s Premier League victories so far this season – he’s one of three players to have scored in each of his side’s wins this term, along with Rodrigo at Leeds and Taiwo Awoniyi at Nottingham Forest.
- With 13 goals and nine assists, Leicester’s James Maddison has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other English midfielder in 2022. Indeed, among all players, only Harry Kane (33), Kevin De Bruyne (29) and Son Heung-min (25) have been involved in more than Maddison this calendar year.
- Both West Ham and Leicester have lost a joint league-high eight Premier League games so far this season. The Hammers have lost the most Premier League games by a one-goal margin this term (6).
Newcastle vs Chelsea: 5:30pm
- Only Kevin De Bruyne (45) and Andreas Pereira (34) have created more chances for teammates in the Premier League this season than Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier (32). The England full-back’s 32 chances created is at least twice as many as any other Newcastle player this season.
- Miguel Almirón has scored eight goals in 14 Premier League games this season, just one fewer than he managed in his first 110 in the competition combined. He could be the first Newcastle player to score in five consecutive Premier League appearances since Joe Willock’s run of seven at the end of the 2020-21 campaign.
- Chelsea have lost their last two Premier League games, as many as they had in their previous 15 (W8 D5). The Blues haven’t lost three consecutive league games since November 2015, under José Mourinho.
- Newcastle have won their last four Premier League games, last winning five in a row between October/November 2014. They’ve won their last two by 4-0 and 4-1 scorelines respectively, last netting at least four goals in three consecutive league games in October 1961.
Wolves vs Arsenal: 7:45pm
- Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka – whose first ever Premier League goal came against Wolves at Molineux in July 2020 – has been involved in 10 goals in his last 10 Premier League games (4 goals, 6 assists), with no Gunners player having a hand in more league goals this season.
- Victory for Arsenal will mean they are top of the Premier League table at Christmas for the first time since 2007-08. However, the Gunners haven’t gone on to win the title in any of the last five times they’ve topped the table at Christmas (1951-52, 1986-87, 1989-90, 2002-03 and 2007-08), last doing so in 1947-48.
- Wolves have won just one of their last eight Premier League games, drawing one and losing six. They’ve conceded at least three goals in four of these eight games, as many times as they had in their previous 49 matches in the competition
Brighton vs Aston Villa: 2pm
- Aston Villa are winless in their last eight Premier League away games (D2 L6), with only Nottingham Forest (1) scoring fewer on the road than the Villans this term (3). They last had a longer run without an away win in the top-flight between August 2015 and September 2019 (21 games).
- Aston Villa have won two of their last three Premier League games (L1), as many as they had in their previous 15 (D5 L8). They’re looking to pick up back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time since May.
- Brighton have won back-to-back Premier League games, having won none of their first five under Roberto De Zerbi (D2 L3). The Seagulls haven’t won three consecutive league games since October 2018 under Chris Hughton.
Fulham vs Man United: 4:30pm
- Bruno Fernandes could make his 100th Premier League appearance in this game. He has 38 goals and 26 assists in his 99 games so far, with only three players being involved in more goals in their first 100 for Manchester United in the Premier League – Eric Cantona (84), Ruud van Nistelrooy (78) and Dwight Yorke (66, in 96 games).
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven goals in his last seven Premier League starts for Manchester United against Fulham – only against Aston Villa and Tottenham (8 each) has he netted more against in the competition.
- Fulham have lost just one of their seven Premier League home games this season (W3 D3). They’ve already earned more points (12), won more games (3), and scored more goals (13) at Craven Cottage this season than they did in the entirety of their last Premier League campaign (10 points, 2 wins, 9 goals).