How will the top of the Premier League table look after Matchday 19?
On Boxing Day alone, Liverpool went from first to fourth, while Arsenal went top, Manchester City rose to second and Chelsea to third.
There could be more movement this weekend. Arsenal have a tough match on the road to Newcastle, while Chelsea welcome in Liverpool.
It's been one of the most open title races in recent memory, and the longer it continues, the more the drama builds.
But this weekend may help to sift some of the contenders from the pretenders.
|West Ham||West Brom||WHU 1-0|
|Aston Villa||Swansea City||Draw|
|Manchester City||Crystal Palace||MC 3-1|
|Norwich City||Manchester United||MUN 2-0|
|Cardiff City||Sunderland||SUN 1-0|
|Newcastle United||Arsenal||ARS 2-0|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Stoke City||TOT 2-1|
Fixtures via ESPN FC
Liverpool Will Get a Result at Stamford Bridge
Boxing Day was a major test for Liverpool, and while the Reds lost, their performance at least solidified the quality of the squad and maintained their push for the top four.
You hate to play the "What If?" game, but Simon Mignolet's poor effort on Alvaro Negredo's winning goal and Raheem Sterling's phantom offside call are two moments that could've seen the result flipped if they went differently.
Surely thinking of the lineman's offside call on Sterling in the first half, Brendan Rodgers wasn't afraid to voice his displeasure with the officiating, saying, via Sky Sports:
I was very proud of the players. I thought they were outstanding and they had no help from the officials.
I don't want it to cloud the performance of my team. I never speak about officials, I normally stay clear of that, but I feel I need to protect the players.
The officials make mistakes, I just felt the mistakes made tonight shouldn't have happened at this level. This is a big game.
While Liverpool failed to get a point, a 2-1 loss isn't the worst result considering how strong Manchester City have been in the Etihad, and it should encourage supporters heading into the weekend.
Against top sides, Jose Mourinho has a habit of playing an ultra-pragmatic style, with the goal more so keeping points off the opposition rather than going for the win. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing of tactics, but it's served the "Special One" well throughout his career.
Don't expect to see anything close to the excitement of Thursday's Liverpool-Manchester City match when the Reds make the trip to Stamford Bridge. It will likely be closer in quality to the Blues' 0-0 draw with Arsenal on Monday.
That's also how the second half played out for Liverpool against Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini had his team drop deeper, which made the pitch more compact and cut off the Reds' supply lines in the final third.
However, Liverpool were able to create some chances in the second half and nearly walked away with a draw. It makes you believe that the Reds could find a breakthrough against the Blues.
Chelsea's attack has looked far from assured, and Liverpool's back four remains a strong unit. When having time to organize, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho were able to break up City's best attacking moves.
The Reds should hold strong in Stamford Bridge and secure at least a draw. Luis Suarez is on the form of his life, and all it takes is one moment of magic for him to find the score sheet. Also, Liverpool displayed some beautiful passing against Manchester City. With Jordan Henderson pulling the strings, they could find that one ball that rips apart the Chelsea back line.
Tim Sherwood Will Earn First Home Win at Tottenham
Stoke City will be without Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson after the two were sent off against Newcastle. To make matters worse, the club announced Asmir Begovic broke his finger on Wednesday:
#SCFC Mark Hughes has just confirmed in his pre-match TV interview that Asmir Begovic broke a finger in training yesterday— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 26, 2013
Losing Begovic will be the harshest blow, as he's been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League this season. Without their regular No. 1, the Potters will find it difficult getting any points from White Hart Lane on Sunday.
You also have to add in how Tottenham are likely to see a bump following the appointment of Tim Sherwood.
Andre Villas-Boas was undone by his prickly demeanor and micro-managing style.
Sometimes the best possible thing you can do when replacing a manager like that is selecting somebody who won't focus so much on tactics, instead excelling in the man management side of the game.
Think back to Chelsea's success after swapping AVB with the more laid-back Roberto Di Matteo.
When it comes to the tactical side of the game, Sherwood won't fool anybody into thinking he's the next Marcelo Bielsa. He didn't even play any central midfielders against West Brom on Thursday, per the AFP's Tom Williams:
Tim Sherwood eschewing recognised central midfielders altogether today.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) December 26, 2013
The Guardian's Jacob Steinberg coined a new term to describe Sherwood's style:
I like that Tim Sherwood is a Redknappista.— Jacob Steinberg (@JacobSteinberg) December 26, 2013
You watch, all those hipsters will be referencing Redknappistas in their pieces soon. "He just said I should tell them to run about a bit"— Jacob Steinberg (@JacobSteinberg) December 26, 2013
You'll see a much more effective Spurs attack against a weakened Stoke defense. In addition, the absence of the high line that was a staple of Villas-Boas' style will only serve to strengthen Tottenham's back four.
They should take all three points against the Potters. Spurs have more talent, and with Sherwood on the touchline, the players will be more willing to take chances.
Although you can debate the potential long-term success of Sherwood, he's the right kind of manager to get Spurs through to the end of the season.
West Ham Will Crawl Out of the Relegation Zone
West Ham aren't at that stage where you think they're too big to fail, rather you look at the squad and come to the conclusion that they shouldn't be in the relegation zone. You'd think it's only a matter of time before they're in the 13th to 17th range.
With a win on Saturday, they could well do that.
The Hammers have what looks to be an easier fixture against West Brom. The Baggies are a point above relegation and without a manager. Although The Telegraph's John Percy and Paul Hirst are reporting that Pepe Mel will be the next head man, he wouldn't take charge until after the West Ham match.
Will West Ham be relegated this season?
This match is huge for West Ham because it could mean they jump out of the relegation zone. If the Hammers win and Crystal Palace lose to Manchester City, which is a strong possibility, Sam Allardyce's men would be at least up to 17th. Fulham would also have to do their part, so considering Hull City's strength at home, the Cottagers could be held to at least a draw.
West Ham will only improve when Andy Carroll returns, so it would be nice to get out of the relegation zone before he steps foot back on the pitch.
Both of these clubs are difficult to break down, and it could easily end as a draw.
But the West Ham players know what the stakes are. Combine that with the home crowd, and you get what should be a tough 1-0 victory for the Hammers.