Premier League Week 18 Predictions: Players Set to Star in Boxing Day Matches

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IDecember 23, 2013

The Boxing Day football calendar is one of the most hotly anticipated days of the season, and this year's is no different, with 10 big Premier League encounters to look forward to.

Football is a team game, but is increasingly becoming a sport dominated by major personalities and individual awards. Will Luis Suarez continue making headlines for Liverpool? Can Wayne Rooney lead Manchester United's revival?

Which players' abilities will shine through on Boxing Day? We make our predictions here.

Week 18 Fixtures and TV Info
FixtureDateTimeTV InfoPrediction
Hull vs. Man UtdDec. 2612:45 GMT/7.45 ETSky Sports1-3
Aston Villa vs. Crystal PalaceDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-1
Cardiff vs. SouthamptonDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET0-1
Chelsea vs. SwanseaDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-0
Everton vs. SunderlandDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET3-0
Newcastle vs. StokeDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-0
Norwich vs. FulhamDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET1-1
Tottenham vs. West BromDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-1
West Ham vs. ArsenalDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ETBT Sport0-2
Man City vs. LiverpoolDec. 2617:30 GMT/12.30 ETBT Sport4-1
Premier League

 

Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)

Mexican forward Hernandez has started just three fixtures in the Premier League this season. With the World Cup just a few months away, he will be determined to make an impact when opportunities arise.

With Robin van Persie currently injured and Danny Welbeck a doubt following Saturday's clash with West Ham, per the Independent's Ian Herbert, it may be that such an opportunity arises on Thursday.

Last season, per the Daily Mail's Adam Crafton, the diminutive goal poacher was the club's best striker in terms of both goals per minute and shots on target—adding further weight to frustrations at a lack of game time.

On current form, United will expect to beat Hull in style, having looked good during their past couple of outings.

Hernandez has much to prove, but judging by his performances since joining the club in 2010, he will soon rediscover his scoring touch.

 

Roberto Soldado (Tottenham)

Another player who has been searching for his scoring touch in the Premier League is Tottenham's Soldado, having found the back of the net just four times in the English top flight in the current campaign.

For four consecutive campaigns in Spain, Soldado scored over 15 goals. Last season, he netted 24 times, per Soccerway. Adaptation, though, was always going to take some time.

In Tim Sherwood's first Premier League game in charge on Sunday, his side played a variation of 4-4-2, and goals flowed as a result against an out-of-sorts Southampton side. Soldado may not have scored, but he put himself in the right positions and was unlucky not to find the net on more than one occasion.

West Brom have not won in their past five league games and will not be expected to come away from White Hart Lane with much to their name.

Soldado may not have found form in London yet, but there are signs that he is not far off bursting into life.

 

Fernandinho (Manchester City)

Manchester City against Liverpool is undoubtedly the game of the round on Boxing Day, and while Brendan Rodgers' Reds are in fine fettle, there is no tougher task in the Premier League at present than a trip to the Etihad Stadium.

In encounters with Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United at the ground, City have amassed 16 goals and have won all eight of their home fixtures thus far. It is a remarkable record and one built upon a powerful midfield unit.

More often than not, it has been the marauding Yaya Toure who has claimed the headlines, but Brazilian Fernandinho has come into his own in recent weeks. Sitting deeper than he was known for at Shakhtar, he is now beginning to regularly assert his influence on games.

With Steven Gerrard absent, Joe Allen has shown that he is an able deputy in recent weeks, but he and Lucas Leiva will face a formidable challenge to assert themselves on this occasion.

The Reds have been free-scoring in recent games, but it is difficult to see them being afforded freedom to express themselves as Fernandinho and Toure make their presence felt in the centre of the park.

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