Preview and Predictions for Matchweek 16 of the 2021-22 Premier League Season

Shane Evans@@shanevansContributor IDecember 10, 2021

Preview and Predictions for Matchweek 16 of the 2021-22 Premier League Season

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    Manchester City has been on a run of late.
    Manchester City has been on a run of late.BEN STANSALL/Getty Images

    We are rolling right along through the middle of a busy holiday period in the English Premier League.

    Champions League group play has wrapped up. The Europa League, too. International breaks are on hiatus through the new year. It's just EPL action, and lots of it, until the calendar turns itself to 2022.

    The table is taking shape in a way that some might have predicted, with a clear three-horse race at the top. Champions Manchester City lead the way with challengers Liverpool and Chelsea nipping at their heels. Given the slate of action is slightly below average this weekend, let's lean into the battle at the Premier League summit and see how our title hopefuls might fare in their respective contests.

    Let us begin with the champions, who have been on a roll lately.

Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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    Etihad Stadium, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET

    Streaming: NBCSN, Telemundo

    Despite falling to defeat in a meaningless Champions League group stage finale vs. RB Leipzig in the week, things have been running smoothly for Pep Guardiola's side over the last month or so.

    Undefeated in the league since a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on October 30 (five wins and zero draws), a span that includes a 2-0 win in the Manchester Derby and 2-1 victory over a strong West Ham side, City seem to be clicking into gear and could ride this momentum straight through to a fourth EPL title in five seasons.

    At the center of this most recent run of form has been a player who was nearly off-loaded at his request in the summer, according to Fabrizio Romano. Bernardo Silva, as if resurrected by Pep's renewed faith in him, has returned to prominence in a way that was not expected of him. 

    His form has been so good that he's won three Man City Player of the Month awards in a row, and it has led the foremost football pundits to put him among the ranks of the world's best. It's not hard to understand why with his output. This wasn't even his best goal this month, but it was something. When a player has confidence, the manager's support and great players around him, you can see what's possible.

    Wolves have been quite resolute defensively recently, surrendering only three goals in their last five Prem matches…but a trip to the Etihad when City is in this kind of form is an almost impossible task. They will find it quite difficult to keep Silva and friends off the scoresheet.

    This one has a Portuguese flavor to it with Silva, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo for the home side and as many as nine first-teamers from Wolves hailing from the country. It'll be those in Sky Blue celebrating at the end, though.

    Match Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Wolves

Liverpool vs. Aston Villa

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    Will be lots of applause for this man at Anfield.
    Will be lots of applause for this man at Anfield.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Anfield, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET

    Streaming: USA Network, Universo

    Welcome home, Stevie G. Steven Gerrard, of 710 appearances for Liverpool returns to the club as manager of Aston Villa after spending time gallivanting across the United States with the Los Angeles Galaxy and then as manager of Rangers in Scotland. He's back in England and started his EPL managerial career well with the Midlands club.

    Many think he'll one day take over for Jurgen Klopp as the Reds' skipper, but for now, he'll receive a hero's welcome at Anfield from the fans, and rightly so. Don't expect the ferocious Liverpool squad to take it easy on him, however. The team made it a perfect six-of-six in the so-called Group of Death in this year's Champions League, and Klopp's side has hit form in the league by winning its last four matches by a combined score of 13-1.

    Gerrard's Villa have won three of the four matches he's overseen with the only loss coming against Man City. They'll be up against it this week at Anfield with the exploits of Bernardo Silva replaced by probably the only player in the league in better form than the Portuguese right now: Mohamed Salah. 

    He leads the league in both goals and assists. These aren't just run-of-the-mill goals and assists either. Everything he does he makes look effortless despite the sometimes dizzying levels of difficulty. And he's not alone, either. The rest of Liverpool's attack has been fantastic this season, due in large part to the room and chances he creates.

    Expect more of the same as the Reds keep pace with Man City and give Stevie G a nice round of applause on the way out.

    Match Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Aston Villa

Chelsea vs. Leeds United

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    Werner and Lukaku will be massively important for Chelsea over the holiday period.
    Werner and Lukaku will be massively important for Chelsea over the holiday period.Darren Walsh/Getty Images

    Stamford Bridge, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET

    Streaming: Peacock Premium 

    Chelsea only has two wins in five in the Premier League, including a hard-to-swallow 3-2 defeat to West Ham United in its most recent match, and the Blues even tripped up in the Champions League this week with a 3-3 draw at Zenit St. Petersburg. 

    Panic abound in West London.

    While the form has dipped slightly, and there are a few key cogs in the wheel missing (namely N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Ben Chilwell and now Jorginho), Thomas Tuchel's side will sort it out, and that starts this weekend with Leeds United in town.

    Against Zenit, Romelu Lukaku scored his first goal for the club since Sept. 14, despite his massive $135 million transfer fee. Joining him on the scoresheet was Timo Werner, who chipped in with a brace and an assist. If this pair can gel and start producing goals regularly, particularly while the squad is banged up, it would do wonders for Tuchel's stress levels. 

    Leeds have been bang average of the last month or so, registering a pair of wins, three draws and a loss in its last six. While that is more than half their point total in the league this season and an improvement on their difficult start to the season, it isn't the standard required to get a result at Stamford Bridge against a grumpy set of Blues.

    Match Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Leeds United

Other Fixtures and Predictions

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    Manchester United savior...Fred.
    Manchester United savior...Fred.Ash Donelon/Getty Images

    Friday, Dec. 10 

    Brentford vs. Watford (3 p.m. ET): 2-1 Watford


    Saturday, Dec. 11

    Arsenal vs. Southampton (10 a.m. ET): 3-1 Arsenal

    Norwich vs. Manchester United (12:30 p.m. ET): 3-1 Man Utd


    Sunday, Dec. 12

    Burnley vs. West Ham United (9 a.m. ET): 1-1 Draw

    Leicester City vs. Newcastle United (9 a.m. ET): 2-2 Draw

    Everton vs. Crystal Palace (11:30 a.m. ET): 2-1 Crystal Palace