With 19 weeks having gone by in a flash, the second half of the 2013-14 Premier League season is set to kick off on New Year's Day.
Arsenal will begin 2014 with a one-point advantage in the league table while defending champions Manchester United will start the new year nine points off the pace. Both clubs will be home in Week 20 as they look to begin the second half on a high note.
With 10 matches on the slate for New Year's, there are sure to be plenty of wild twists and turns.
Here, I'll project the top performers and biggest surprises in store for Premier League fans on Matchday 20.
|Rank||Player||Club||Avg Match Rating*|
|2||Wayne Rooney||Manchester United||7.8|
*Avg Match Rating via WhoScored.com
Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
Manchester United star Wayne Rooney has played excellent football throughout the season and is sure to turn in another dominant effort for the Red Devils in Week 20.
Which top goalscorer will fare better in Week 20?
Rooney did not play in United's 1-0 win over Norwich on Matchday 19 because of a minor groin injury, but did score and assist in United's come-from-behind win over Hull City on Boxing Day. He earned Man of the Match honors for the fourth time in six Premier League appearances in the process.
Having missed United's last contest, you can bet Rooney will be champing at the bit to take the pitch against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
On top of his current form, Rooney will be up against a Spurs side that have proven vulnerable in front of goal—conceding two dozen goals in league play coming into New Year's Day.
Loic Remy, Newcastle
Surprising Newcastle will travel to The Hawthorns to battle West Bromwich Albion in Week 20, and that bodes well for dynamic goalscorer Loic Remy, who netted two in the Magpies' 5-1 rout of Stoke City on Boxing Day:
3 - Loic Remy has now scored three braces in the Premier League this season, only Luis Suarez (5) has more. Salvo.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 26, 2013
The 26-year-old Frenchman was held under wraps by league-leading Arsenal in Week 19, but he can expect space and scoring chances to be much easier to come by against the struggling Baggies on New Year's.
Only Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero have scored more Premier League goals than Remy through 19 weeks.
Hull City Set to Earn Hard-Fought Draw at Anfield
Watch for Liverpool's struggles to continue on New Year's Day when they play host to a dangerous Hull City squad at Anfield. Brendan Rodgers' Reds have dropped two consecutive matches since Boxing Day and have managed just two goals total over that time.
On top of that, Hull are a squad trending in the right direction, having thrashed Fulham 6-0 in Week 19 and giving defending league champions Manchester United all they could handle on Boxing Day two days earlier.
Keep in mind that it's only been a month since the Tigers dismantled Suarez and company 3-1 at KC Stadium.
Saints Poised to Top Blues at St. Mary's Stadium
The Saints have fallen off following an impressive start to the season. However, Southampton will have an excellent shot to spring an upset of Chelsea on New Year's Day in front of their home crowd.
After all, the Blues have been extremely vulnerable outside of Stamford Bridge this year, winning just three times through nine league matches. Not to mention Southampton have only lost twice at St. Mary's Stadium in 2013-14 and will welcome a return home following trips to Cardiff and Goodison Park over the holidays.
Despite the Saints' recent struggles, head coach Mauricio Pochettino is clearly encouraged by his side's progress on the pitch, per Saintsfc.co.uk:
I think the evolution is correct, it’s positive. We’re on the right path. The team has many young players – we’re a very young side. The philosophy of the team, the style of the team has changed ever since we took over. The team is still growing and maturing.
Chelsea have failed to pick up more than one point over their previous two road games, drawing with Arsenal in Week 17 and losing 3-2 at Stoke City two weeks earlier.
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