December is the month of giving, so it's only right we begin with a round of midweek Premier League fixtures to ramp up excitement for the run in to Christmas.
This is the start of a crammed five weeks for England's top flight, one that sees seven games quickly thrown at each club. European divisions may receive a winter break, but for the Premier League, this is the busiest time of the year.
With that in mind, let's wade through the Week 14 schedule, with all statistics provided by WhoScored.com.
|Week 14 Schedule & TV Info|
|Crystal Palace vs. West Ham||Dec. 3||20:00 GMT/15:00 ET||BT Sport||2-0|
|Sunderland vs. Chelsea||Dec. 4||19:45 GMT/14:45 ET||0-2|
|Liverpool vs. Norwich City||Dec. 4||19:45 GMT/14:45 ET||3-0|
|Arsenal vs. Hull City||Dec. 4||19:45 GMT/14:45 ET||2-0|
|Southampton vs. Aston Villa||Dec. 4||19:45 GMT/14:45 ET||2-0|
|Stoke City vs. Cardiff City||Dec. 4||19:45 GMT/14:45 ET||1-1|
|Swansea City vs. Newcastle||Dec. 4||19:45 GMT/14:45 ET||BT Sport||2-1|
|Man United vs. Everton||Dec. 4||19:45 GMT/14:45 ET||2-1|
|Fulham vs. Tottenham||Dec. 4||20:00 GMT/15:00 ET||0-2|
|West Brom vs. Man City||Dec. 4||20:00 GMT/15:00 ET||1-3|
Teams That Will Struggle with Midweek Fixtures
Aston Villa's campaign has been one of complete mediocrity so far. Paul Lambert's men have tallied up four wins, four draws and five losses to sit 11th, but one win in their past six games should have supporters worried ahead of the trip to Southampton.
Villa have fired blanks in four of these six ties and continue to struggle for consistency in front of goal. Christian Benteke hasn't netted since the 2-1 home loss to Newcastle on Sept. 14 and is looking a shadow of the player who racked up 19 goals last season.
Southampton have the joint best defence in the Premier League alongside Arsenal, having conceded 10 goals in 13 games. Mauricio Pochettino's men come into this one having experienced two away losses in a row to the Gunners and Chelsea, meaning they'll want to get back on track in front of their home crowd.
Artur Boruc is ruled out with a fractured hand, per BBC Sport, but with two goals conceded at home in six games, the Saints will punish their visitors' hapless attack.
It's been a long time since Stoke City didn't struggle in the Premier League. The team's hardened way of battle has subsided under Mark Hughes, and although a slightly better footballing side stands in its place, the Potters have become a more fragile outfit.
The same can't be said for Cardiff City, who are more than capable of troubling the division's best, as we saw with their win over Manchester City and draw with Manchester United.
Despite only winning one of six on the road this season, Malky Mackay's men will trouble Stoke if they play with the determination they exerted during the loss to Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger's men had the quality to overcome the battling spirit with free-flowing passes and a lethal attack, something the Britannia Stadium is yet to witness this year.
Stoke are less than confident in front of their own fans, having won two of six games, suggesting they will be wary of suffering defeat to a team many outlined for relegation at the start of the season.
Newcastle's run of four straight victories should be commended. It would have been unthinkable to suggest Alan Pardew's men could compete for a European place when they lost to Sunderland on Oct. 27, but a faultless November has seen the Magpies shoot into sixth.
A trip to Swansea is exactly the game to end such a run. Although Michael Laudrup's team have found it difficult to match the expectations set during last year's Capital One Cup-winning season, recording just two wins from their past six, they face a Newcastle side who are relying on a handful of players.
Yoan Gouffran, Shola Ameobi and Loic Remy have been at the forefront of Pardew's recent success, but tired legs must become an issue under the busy schedule, and there's little sign of anyone else picking up the slack.
If Swansea can hassle, maintain possession and move the ball quickly through midfield, the aforementioned trio will be taken out of the equation. Sometimes it takes a decent win against a high-flying side to get your season back on track, and for the Swans, the time is now.
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