EPL Week 18 Predictions: Picking Boxing Day's Most Thrilling Matches

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring their fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on December 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The festive period throws up a crucial run of games for all Premier League clubs, testing squad depth, fitness and mental strength.

A Boxing Day win can kick-start a jaunt up the division for any side and will go a long way to providing confidence across the busy schedule.

Which games should you be watching out for? Let's take a look.

Premier League Week 18 Fixtures and TV Schedule
FixtureDateTimeTV InfoPrediction
Hull vs. Man UtdDec. 2612:45 GMT/7.45 ETSky Sports1-2
Aston Villa vs. Crystal PalaceDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-1
Cardiff vs. SouthamptonDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET1-3
Chelsea vs. SwanseaDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-0
Everton vs. SunderlandDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET4-0
Newcastle vs. StokeDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-0
Norwich vs. FulhamDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET1-0
Tottenham vs. West BromDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ET2-1
West Ham vs. ArsenalDec. 2615:00 GMT/10:00 ETBT Sport0-2
Man City vs. LiverpoolDec. 2617:30 GMT/12.30 ETBT Sport3-1

Picking Boxing Day’s Most Thrilling Matches

Hull vs. Manchester United

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  Jake Livermore of Hull City shoots celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Hull City at The Hawthorns on December 21, 2013 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Ri
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Steve Bruce will be immensely proud of his side's start to the Premier League season. The former Manchester United player will be particularly pleased with the squad's home form—which has seen Hull lose just one of eight, per WhoScored.com—ahead of the Red Devils' trip to the KC Stadium.

Shrewd summer moves for Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore have paid dividends already, as Hull's side is blessed with the physicality to mix it with the best. Although David Moyes' team have won four consecutive games across all competitions, Hull have very little to fear in their own backyard.

Their dogged style and ability to impose themselves on elite opposition came to the fore during the 3-1 win over Liverpool on Dec. 1. Livermore netted within 20 minutes that day, and if Hull can open the scoring early on once more, the visitors will have to chase the game.

A panicky United is a beatable United, as we saw during their losses to Everton and Newcastle. With a strong crowd and sense of confidence behind them, Hull have enough to make this a thrilling tie—if not a victory.

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Tottenham vs. West Brom

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22:  Emmanuel Adebayor of Spurs is tackled by Calum Chambers of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary's Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Southampton, Englan
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Spurs' 3-2 win over Southampton couldn't have come at a better time for the North London outfit. Tim Sherwood has broken his Premier League duck at the first attempt, but more importantly, the interim manager already has the team playing an exciting brand of attacking football.

This is largely down to dropping Andre Villas-Boas' cautious approach of playing a lone striker and three similarly built central midfielders. Emmanuel Adebayor has joined Roberto Soldado up front, and in two games, has netted three excellent goals.

West Brom also have a caretaker manager in the form of Keith Downing, reported by Sky Sports, and need to get their season back on track after winning just one game in their last six, per WhoScored.com.

The Baggies have had very little to scream about in recent times, and in all honesty, have failed to look consistently threatening after Romelu Lukaku headed back to Chelsea at the end of last season. The defence is out of sync, conceding six in their last three, while the midfield also lacks a certain bite.

Downing would do well to follow Sherwood's lead and employ a more attacking approach ahead of this one. Spurs have intrigued whether they win or lose this season, so expect more of the same at White Hart Lane.

Manchester City vs. Liverpool

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  David Silva, Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrate with Alvaro Negredo of Manchester City after he scored their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester Ci
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

This fixture needs little buildup, but it is a shame we won't see Sergio Aguero lining up against Luis Suarez after the Argentinian recently succumbed to injury, per James Nursey of the Mirror.

Even so, Manuel Pellegrini's squad possess the firepower to waltz through anyone in the Premier League. City have already netted six in matches against Spurs and Arsenal in recent weeks and remain unblemished at home, winning all eight of their fixtures.

Brendan Rodgers' team have no need to be frightened and certainly possess the most potent weapon in the match. Suarez has scored 19 in 12 this season and has contributed 10 of Liverpool's 17 goals across the last four games—not counting his four assists in this time, per WhoScored.com.

Former Liverpool player Alan Hansen suggests the Reds need to continue gaining points until Suarez inevitably comes to a halt, per his column for the Daily Telegraph:

No player in the history of English football has been able to sustain, for an entire season, the kind of form Suárez is producing.

People may point to the modern era throwing up the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have scored in incredible numbers for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, but that is in Spain.

It is a different matter in England and Suárez will, inevitably, go three or four games without scoring and that is when Liverpool could hit trouble.

Whether than run begins now remains to be seen, but we can rightfully expect plenty of goals in this one. Both sides have an affinity for conceding even when they romp through opponents, so expect a back-and-forth encounter of many chances.


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