After a quick FA Cup break, the English Premier League will resume action on Jan. 11. The Week 21 fixtures are intriguing in that only two matches pit teams in the top half of the standings against each other. So while the predictability of the week seems higher, it also increases the possibility of a table-changing upset.
|EPL Table, Jan. 1|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||20||4||9||7|
|19||West Ham United||20||3||6||11|
Here, then, are the full predictions for Matchday 21 in the Premier League, as well as analysis for three of the tougher decisions:
|Matchday 21 Predictions|
|Everton||Norwich City||EVE 2-1|
|Tottenham||Crystal Palace||TOT 3-1|
|Southampton||West Brom||SOU 2-0|
|Cardiff City||West Ham||Draw|
|Man United||Swansea||MU 2-1|
|Newcastle||Man City||MC 3-2|
|Stoke City||Liverpool||LIV 4-2|
|Aston Villa||Arsenal||ARS 2-1|
Hull City vs. Chelsea
Apart from a home match against Fulham, Hull have had a brutal draw the past month. The Tigers' match against Chelsea will bookend a four-week stretch that also included Man United and Liverpool. But Hull have represented themselves well and even controlled stretches of action against the big boys.
Moreover, the match being at KC Stadium should buoy the odds of Hull earning at least a point, as they have earned 18 out of a possible 30 home points this season. That ranks in the upper half of the league, and while Chelsea are a capable road squad, the Tigers are simply a different beast on their own turf.
That truth manifested itself in these teams' first meeting, when Chelsea dominated the action in a resounding 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge. And while the Blues were certainly the better squad that day, Hull's issues were also partially self-inflicted, stemming from flat-footed defense and careless penalties.
Chelsea are fighting to stay near the top of the table, and while three points would be tremendous in a difficult venue, a closely contested draw seems more likely.
Stoke City vs. Liverpool
Like Hull, Stoke are underdogs whose home prowess afford them a puncher's chance against a more powerful squad. While the Potters are among the worst road teams in the league, they have conceded just seven goals in 10 games at home, a formula fit to combat Liverpool's dynamite offense.
Except for one factor:
Luis Suarez has been on a tear that makes him virtually site-proof. Even with Suarez suspended in the season-opening match between these two clubs, Liverpool were able to pull out a 1-0 victory. Now, it seems unlikely that Stoke will put a lid on a squad that has produced multiple goals in five of their past seven matches.
Newcastle vs. Man City
City's bizarre road woes are well-documented, and Newcastle have earned a result in five of their past six home matches. But the Citizens have corrected much of their early-season struggles, with only a 1-1 draw against a solid Southampton squad even qualifying as a road hiccup the past seven weeks.
Indeed, City's struggles tend to come against squads they underestimate (Cardiff, Aston Villa, Stoke). The Potters have sustained their status at the top of the table, however, and Manuel Pellegrini is starting to gear up his troops for a more focused stretch run, per Football365.com:
Every team in the Premier League can cause problems to our team and to all other teams. That is why it is so close, this Premier League.
I repeat what I have said, six or seven teams will be fighting for the Premier League until the end.
Man City's true form likely lies somewhere in between the indomitable beasts they are at the Etihad and the inconsistent middling squad they have been everywhere else. Finding that middle ground on the road will be crucial toward capturing a Premier League title. Expect the road version of City to start pulling itself up soon.