What better way to kick off the New Year than with a full slate of Premier League matches?
Most people use the changing of the calendars to pretend they're starting anew, even though the same amount of time passes between Dec. 6 and 7 and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. For the 20 Premier League squads clashing for a title, they're not afforded a chance to play that mental trick since the records don't wash away.
Of course, there's still ample time for clubs to turn the corner and strive for a more successful 2014. With each team playing on Wednesday, Jan. 1, the entire league will get a chance to immediately start the year right.
While no 5-star matchups exist on the Matchday 20 schedule, there's still plenty of intrigue worth following. Liverpool will look to snap out of a losing funk, and Southampton can gain some ground by upsetting Chelsea.
In the day's most appealing contest, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will look to break a tie at 34 points apiece to gain sole possession of sixth place, or possibly higher.
|Time (ET)||Time (GMT)||Home||Predicted Score||Away|
|7:45 a.m.||12:45 p.m.||Swansea City||0-4||Manchester City|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Sunderland||1-1||Aston Villa|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Stoke City||1-3||Everton|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Crystal Palace||1-0||Norwich City|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Southampton||1-3||Chelsea|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Fulham||2-4||West Ham United|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Liverpool||4-1||Hull City|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||West Bromwich Albion||1-1||Newcastle|
|10 a.m.||3 p.m.||Arsenal||4-0||Cardiff City|
|12:30 p.m.||5:30 p.m.||Manchester United||2-1||Tottenham|
Schedule courtesy of ESPN FC
Liverpool vs. Hull City
Liverpool must wake up quickly before they lose any more ground.
Vying for first place a few short weeks ago, they now find themselves sitting in fifth after sustaining two straight losses to title contenders Manchester City and Chelsea. For a powerhouse like Liverpool, a string of defeats rarely happens.
According to Uber Football Facts, that marks the first time manager Brendan Rodgers lost consecutive bouts with the Reds.
Last night Brendan Rodgers suffered back to back league defeats as Liverpool manager for the first time since he took over the Reds— Uber Football Facts (@UberFotbalFacts) December 30, 2013
While Liverpool limp into this match, Hull City enter on a thunderous high note. Last weekend, they tormented Fulham in a 6-0 slaughter, scoring all six goals in the second half from six different players. They jumped to 12th place after obtaining the demonstrative victory.
It's easier to look at the recent results and say momentum sits firmly in Hull City's corner, but they beat up the league's worst defense while Liverpool lost two close matches to elite squads. There's no way Hull are coming close to scoring six times against a much stingier defense.
Per PremierLeague.com, Hull City have scored one quarter of their goals inside the six-yard area while Liverpool have not surrendered a single score around those premises. Even though Simon Mignolet's error cost Liverpool the match against Manchester City, the goalkeeper will be crucial to Liverpool's success.
Southampton vs. Chelsea
A month ago, these two squads met under different circumstances.
At the time of their last meeting in early December, Southampton joined Chelsea in the table's top five, but they have since slid down to ninth place with 27 points.
Who will win on New Year's Day?
Jay Rodriguez scored a goal 13 seconds into that match, but Southampton could not generate any offense for the remaining 89:47. That was their only shot on goal throughout the entire match, and Chelsea eventually caught up, and then some, with three second-half scores.
Another loss could create an insurmountable mountain to climb for a club now 10 points behind fourth-place Everton.
As for Chelsea, they're inching closer to the top due to sensational play from 22-year-old Eden Hazard. The midfielder, who provided the deciding goal to knock off Liverpool, leads the team with eight goals and four assists.
Per Squawka Football, Hazard also leads the league in chances created this year.
Chelsea's Eden Hazard has created more chances (47) than any other Premier League player this season. pic.twitter.com/lPhbtjnU17— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 30, 2013
Just two points out of first place's reach, Chelsea have distinguished themselves as the clearly superior squad, so don't count on a New Year's Day miracle.
Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
The identical records say these two clubs are even, but the other stats suggest otherwise.
Manchester United and Tottenham each have 10 wins, four draws and five losses this season, but United sport a plus-10 goal differential while Tottenham have been outscored by two goals during the season.
Most of that damage on Tottenham's differential was inflicted in blowouts against Liverpool and Manchester City, the EPL's two top scoring teams. Then again, United rank fifth in that category, and it's not encouraging for a team built around defense to get shredded by anyone.
But they have upset the Red Devils before. Last season, Spurs scooped up their first victory at Old Trafford since 1989. According to Goal.com's Liam Twomey, midfielder Mousa Dembele believes his team can duplicate the feat to usher in 2014.
We have a different team to last year, so it's difficult to think about that game. They will be motivated against us, but we're not scared to play there and surprise everyone. They are a top team. We have a lot of respect for them but not too much. We are a good team and we have to play our own game, and we can do something.
They played to a draw in December, but United controlled the ball for 60 percent of the match. Until Spurs prove they can beat a top squad, they can't be predicted to take home three points.