Nevertheless, Louis van Gaal’s boys found time to spend Wednesday Night enjoying the Man United Christmas Party® at Carrington (otherwise known as the party capital of the world).
Robin van Persie, ever the joker, came dressed as Marouane Fellaini in 40 years’ time.
As for this weekend’s matches, there’ll be no party games as the teams battle it out for another all-important three points. If you’re feeling unsure about what to make of a number of the tricky ties, Predikta players, fear not – we’ve done the crunched the numbers so you don’t have to.
Newcastle vs Chelsea
Whispers of an unbeaten season have been circulating round Stamford Bridge in recent times. It’s possible that those whispers have become audible murmurs this week as Chelsea cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win against Spurs on Wednesday night.
Newcastle, though, have won 3 out of their last 5 games against Chelsea. Loic Remy scored a fabulous second in Newcastle’s 2-0 triumph in last season’s corresponding fixture – clearly a rather emotional occasion for one fan – but he’s now playing for the league leaders and will surely be buoyed by his goal mid-week. You wouldn’t bet against the Frenchman finding the back of the net again against his old side this weekend.
Predikta verdict: a narrow 1-0 win for the visitors, who’ll hold off a late Newcastle surge.
Liverpool vs Sunderland
Liverpool have seriously struggled when playing away against the so-called ‘lesser’ sides this season – West Ham, Newcastle and Palace spring to mind – so Brendan Rodgers will be relieved that his side will face Sunderland in front of the Kop this weekend.
The Black Cats, however, despite taking a thumping from Man City earlier this week, will certainly have taken heart from last weekend’s well-deserved point against Chelsea. We spoke about their tactic of sitting deep against the league leaders, and they may well repeat the trick this weekend – particularly if Liverpool choose to combat by playing long balls. The Merseysiders have only scored one headed goal all season.
Predikta verdict: the draw specialists will draw again.
Stoke vs Arsenal
Arsène Wenger was in a spirited mood on Wednesday night, claiming that the side he’s assembled will win the league with the next three years. It was a bold call for a team that is currently 11 points worse off than they were at this stage last season. And without the sparkling Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal would be down in 14th position this year.
For their game this weekend against the Potters, one thing is clear: Arsène’s men must be ready for the physical battle. Stoke have committed the third highest number of fouls (178) in the league this season; only Leicester and Crystal Palace have committed more. Arsenal must roll with the punches and strike at the right time if they are to avoid replicating what was a damaging loss last season at the Britannia.
Predikta verdict: 1-2, with a controversial Alexis Sanchez penalty securing the points for Arsenal.
West Ham vs Swansea
There’ll be an interesting contrast of styles at Upton Park as 5th take on 7th on Sunday afternoon.
West Ham, as we all know, love getting balls into the box. The numbers back it up: Allardyce’s team have delivered 81 corners into the penalty area this season; only Arsenal have more. More importantly, 10 of the Hammers’ 23 goals have come from headers, more than any other team by some distance.
Conversely, nobody has put fewer corners into the box than Swansea this campaign. For all their inconsistencies, though, the Swans can be relied upon to fight right up until the final whistle: they’ve scored an impressive 5 goals in the last 15 minutes of games this campaign. The home side will have to maintain their focus for the full 90 minutes if they want to take all three points this weekend.
Predikta verdict: Swansea’s neat midfield play will prove too much for West Ham to handle, and it’ll finish 0-2 to Monk’s men.
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