Week 18 of the 2013-14 Premier League schedule presents us with a number of very intriguing clashes, so fans will have a lot to look forward to on Boxing Day.
We'll have a critical North London showdown, a tilt between two of the league's best, as well as a number of other matches with big league-table implications. Needless to say, this won't be a week of EPL play you'll want to miss.
As things stand now, there are no fewer than eight teams still in contention for the league title, with reigning champion Manchester United sitting all the way down in eighth place, but with so much of the schedule left, there's no telling who the top four will be by season's end.
Heading into a pivotal week of play for teams across the EPL, here's a look at how each of Matchday 18's 10 matches will finish.
|Hull City||Man Utd.||Man Utd.|
|Aston Villa||Crystal Palace||Aston Villa|
Manchester United at Hull City
In what will be a vital match for both clubs, Manchester United will be looking to build upon consecutive victories in which the Red Devils looked absolutely dominant.
Winning by a combined 6-1 margin, David Moyes finally seems to be getting what he wants out of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and player-coach Ryan Giggs.
But Hull City will be no pushover, especially at KC Stadium, where the Tigers are an impressive 4-1-3 this season. Their only home defeat came against Crystal Palace on Nov. 23.
And, with Robin van Persie still on the mend, the Dutch star may not be available for the Boxing Day match, which means that United will be relying upon Rooney (no goals and three assists in his last two), as well as secondary scorers such as Welbeck and Tom Cleverley to pick up the slack:
Against a clearly less talented squad such as the Tigers, who have already upset one giant this month by means of a 4-1 victory against Liverpool, the Red Devils' talent should win out.
For all of their defensive lapses this season, Man United's skill and improving team play will get them the win and move them closer to being back in contention.
Prediction: Manchester United 2, Hull City 1
Swansea at Chelsea
The first 17 matches of the season have been wildly inconsistent for the Blues, who appear to have needed an adjustment period to reacquaint themselves with Jose Mourinho's style of play.
While victorious over Man City and Southampton, Chelsea have also dropped losses to Newcastle, Stoke City and Everton, so with Mourinho's bunch, an upset is always possible.
And, Swans have demonstrated the ability to stifle a more talented offensive team, as they did during their draw with Liverpool and blowout win over Newcastle.
Chelsea's offense is simply too reliant on production from the midfield, and until Samuel Eto'o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres start looking like threats to score, no victory is certain.
But the Blues, for all of their offensive woes earlier in the season, now have 14 goals in their last five matches, so one has to assume that Swansea will have trouble keeping pace with Chelsea's vastly more talented attack.
Prediction: Chelsea 2, Swansea 0
Liverpool at Manchester City
In what will undoubtedly be the most star-studded match of the day, Brendan Rodgers' Reds will head to Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City.
Both teams have remained among the league's best thus far, and though a loss won't hurt the title chances of either too much, this will be a good measuring stick for each club.
Offensively, these two clubs are incredibly dangerous, which is why they've combined for 18 goals in their last two matches.
But Man City have been unstoppable at home, and despite the absurd clip at which Luis Suarez has scored, Manuel Pellegrini's boys boast a balanced offensive attack headlined by Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo. If Suarez can be contained, this is anyone's match.
The Uruguayan star has been the most dangerous offensive threat in England this year, but at some point, he'll have to have an off-day, right?
Joe Hart's had a very inconsistent body of work this season, but the English national keeper looks to be getting the call for this all-important tilt, via Sky Sports:
Manuel Pellegrini has revealed Joe Hart will keep his place in the side for the Boxing Day clash with Liverpool. http://t.co/MbfcvPZfGt— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) December 22, 2013
Barring any goalkeeping lapses from the home side, this could end in a draw, because neither team will be able to hold the other scoreless.
Prediction: Manchester City 2, Liverpool 2