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A condensed English Premier League fixture
schedule this weekend provides opportunities for those playing to steal a march
at both end of the EPL table.
The start of the inaugural winter break brings
the league more into line with its European counterparts, with the 20 top
flight clubs putting their feet up either this week or next amid a packed
Reigning champions Manchester City are the big
hitters taking their leave a little later, giving them the opportunity this
weekend to put at least a tiny chip into the massive edifice that is the lead
of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League standings.
Jurgen Klopp’s side take a well-earned
breather with an unprecedented, 22-point lead at the top after thumping
Southampton 4-0 to make it 24 wins out of 25 in the league this season.
City at least have the chance to solidify
their position in second on Sunday when they host West Ham at the Etihad
They do so, however, having lost their sixth
EPL fixture of the season last Sunday when they were 2-0 losers away to
It left Pep Guardiola’s side just two points
clear of Leicester in third but with the chance to edge away, with the Foxes
also not in action until the following Friday.
Boss David Moyes was left seething with his
West Ham side last Saturday, as two late goals saw fellow strugglers Brighton
pinch a point from a 3-3 draw at the London Stadium.
Results elsewhere saw the Hammers slip back
into the relegation zone having failed to win in five Premier League games
since Moyes’ victorious first match back in charge.
Bournemouth were the victims that day – and
they were also the side that dumped the Londoners back below the dotted line
after winning their second match on the bounce last time out.
Eddie Howe’s men leapfrogged Aston Villa at
the wrong end of the table, too, with a 2-1 victory over the Villans at the
They now take that cautious optimism on a
daunting trip to surprise package Sheffield United in Sunday’s other game.
The Blades went back above Manchester United
into sixth in the standings after a hard-fought, 1-0 success at Crystal Palace
Chris Wilder’s side kick off knowing that
three more points this weekend will take them above resting Tottenham into
fifth ahead of their own mini-break.
Brighton and Watford face a basement battle on
the south coast in one of two Saturday fixtures.
The Seagulls are 15th but just two points
clear of the drop zone and without a win in five matches since the turn of the
Nigel Pearson’s resurgent Hornets have also
slipped back off the survival pace thanks to back-to-back defeats, including a
3-2 reverse against Everton at Vicarage Road last Saturday.
The Toffees help complete the Saturday
programme when they host Crystal Palace in the lunchtime kick off.
It’s a mid-table contest with Carlo
Ancelotti’s Toffees unbeaten in four and into the top half thanks to their
success in Hertfordshire.
Palace haven’t won in six attempts since
Boxing Day and could be forgiven a few relegation jitters ahead of their trip
north to Goodison Park.
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