There was a full programme of fixtures in the Premier League on Boxing Day and the following evening. This article was written before those matches had been played so there could have been some significant results. Liverpool had a winnable home match against Newcastle while Manchester City had a tough assignment at Leicester. Tottenham were one of the home bankers on Boxing Day so the league table will probably have the same shape ahead of the weekend programme. Arsenal and Chelsea were odds-on to beat Brighton and Watford on the road.
Liverpool are unbeaten after 18 fixtures thanks to outstanding defensive stats. The forwards are now showing the form from last season and that combination could see Liverpool win the title for the first time since 1990. The bench looks stronger than last season and the goalkeeper looks more solid. However, Jurgen Klopp might have to manage his side to win more than 100 points. The intensity of the football may lead to a dip in form towards the end of the season but they can maintain the pace by beating Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday.
Arsenal are keeping in touch with Chelsea for the fourth Champions League place. After losing their first two matches in the Premier League they put together a run of 14 matches unbeaten. Unai Emery has brought a fresh energy to the Emirates but Arsenal have conceded 24 goals which is the most by six goals of the top five. They also have the worst goal difference of the elite quintet. The relative strengths of the teams means Arsenal are up against it to avoid defeat against Liverpool.
Crystal Palace are the epitome of inconsistency. In December they lost at Brighton and West Ham and then beat Manchester City at the Etihad. In terms of bookmaker odds that result is the biggest upset of the Premier League season to date. Assuming a home win against Cardiff on Boxing Day Palace are working their way into mid-table safety. Palace are now an improving outfit and the steady accumulation of points can continue with a draw against Chelsea at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
The visitors lost two of their previous four league matches before the trip to Watford who are another team in form. Chelsea have picked up the points to stay in touch with the top four but they have had the easiest run of fixtures which will even out by the end of the season. The club are in need of a new striker and they are the lowest scorers in the top five. Any side that can select Eden Hazard will be a threat but hauling Chelsea to three points at Palace looks beyond him.
Manchester City did very little wrong against Palace but lost out due to some freak goals. They recorded a typical amount of possession for home matches and won the corner count 13-0. City fans hope it was a blip and the result at Leicester will have revealed a great deal. Southampton won two matches before their Boxing Day fixture and are pulling away from the relegation places. However, City can get their season back on track by picking up maximum points at Southampton.
The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era at Manchester United continues with a home match against Bournemouth. They scored five goals in a league match for the first time since the Alex Ferguson days against Cardiff in Solskjaer’s first match as the caretaker boss. A Boxing Day win over Huddersfield at Old Trafford would maintain the momentum and three points against Bournemouth would complete a perfect start for the temporary replacement for Jose Mourinho.
Boxing Day can be strange for results and matches often do not go to form. Some underdogs will win on the Bank Holiday and there could be some different scenarios at the weekend. Liverpool should still be the league leaders at the start of the New Year and their first match of 2019 is Manchester City away from home.
Today’s Sports Betting Preview – By Rick Elliott
Saints Can Go Marching On
Goals are on the menu when Southampton host West Ham in tonight’s Premier League match and the home team can score most. The fixture has a recent history of producing high scoring matches and seven of the last nine meetings have produced three goals or more. Six West Ham players are long terms absentees while another four are not certain to start.
Southampton have fewer doubts and they are a team playing with more confidence since the arrival of a new coach. Statistically when a club sack a manager there is no significant improvement over the rest of the season but the Saints can defy that trend. A game plan has reaped rewards in terms of points and the process can continue with a SOUTHAMPTON win and that outcome is 5/4 with Betfair.
There are 20 players left in the PDC world darts and six matches today. The double on Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen in the top half of the draw is 3/10 which will only attract the money buyers who see a 30% return on investment worth the risk. MICHAEL SMITH has beaten his opponent in the last 16 five times in a row. The ante post selection is now 10/1 to win the world title for the first time.
It’s the second day of the two jumps festivals in Britain and Ireland. Altior is the best horse running at Kempton but is long-odds to win the Grade 2 Chase over two miles. The 1.20 race is just about the best novice chase run this season and Kalashnikov is another short priced favourite. The weights favour the horse but DYNAMITE DOLLARS is progressive and the nap of the meeting at 7/2.
There are two Grade 1 races on the card at Leopardstown and the Future Champions Hurdle is hard to call. The top level chase over two miles and one furlong is more straight forward and the favourite should oblige. FOOTPAD was a leading novice last season but ran poorly and falling on his reappearance at Naas 42 days ago. The horse can get back on track and is the banker of the card at 5/4 with Paddy Power.