Manchester United face Wigan, Manchester City face West Brom, Liverpool face Blackburn, Chelsea face Fulham. Four of the strongest teams in the land, all apart from Manchester City are at home, against three of the weakest travelling teams in the country and the other, West Brom, with a dismal home record. Logic suggests we are going to see four matches where the home teams smash down the barriers they face and win by a plethora of goals. Will it work out like that?
Well, Manchester United are on a stupendously good run of form. Since losing 6-1 to Manchester City at Old Trafford in the Manchester derby, and top of the table clash, they have collected 22 points out of a possible 24. Where did they drop 2 points? At home against Newcastle when they were 1-0 up and the referee awarded Newcastle a penalty in what was, up until now, the most ridiculous decision of the season. Rio Ferdinand changed the direction of the ball with his tackle and everybody in the stadium saw it to be so. Unperturbed the assistant referee saw it differently and instructed the referee to award a penalty. Newcastle took it, scored, and stole a point. Manchester United were robbed, but it doesn’t change the fact that the team have been in wonderful form, excluding their European travails, and everybody expects a comfortable home victory here, despite Wigan sneaking draws against Chelsea and Liverpool recently – once due to a missed penalty and once thanks to a last minute goalkeeping howler.
Manchester City face West Brom. West Brom are in a decent run of form, having won two away matches in a row, and will fancy their chances of taking a point in this fixture but the away side and league leaders will step onto the pitch at the Hawthorns as obvious favourites. Manchester City have no major injury worries, plenty of incentive (they are chasing their first Premier League title in modern history), and good morale. It should be tighter than the individual names on each teams player sheet suggests, but, few would be surprised if Manchester City left the Midlands with all 3 points.
Liverpool, yet to win comprehensively at home all season, face a pitiful Blackburn side. Steve Kean, seemingly one match away from being sacked for the past couple of months, is desperate for a point but he can do little about the amount of quality at his disposal. He will be hoping he has the opportunity to change things around in the January transfer window but there is little expectation that he will be afforded the chance. Liverpool, with Luis Suarez yet to begin his suspension, will be planning on rewarding their supporters with a belated Christmas present with a comfortable victory at Anfield.
In the earlier kick off Chelsea face Fulham in a West London derby. Fulham, fresh after a 5-0 hammering at home against Manchester United, are hardly in the best of form whereas Chelsea, after a satisfactory point at White Hart Lane against Tottenham, are in decent shape. The home side, Chelsea, will anticipate taking all the points with some comfort.