Premier League Preview: Match Day 18

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The festive period is always a busy time for the Premier League, with this season being no exception as clubs prepare to play four games in the space of 12 days.

In what is the final round of fixtures before Christmas, and with Liverpool and West Ham United not playing this weekend due to the former’s Club World Cup commitments, ground can be made up by sides at both ends of the table.

Match of the Weekend: Manchester City vs Leicester City 

The two closest challengers to current league leaders Liverpool meet this weekend when third-place Manchester City welcome Leicester City – who currently sit second – to the Etihad on Saturday evening.

City’s recent Premier League form has been a little erratic, with their last six league games including three wins, two defeats and a draw. It’s meant that Pep Guardiola’s side are in fact four points behind Saturday’s opponents as they look to bridge the gap between themselves and Leicester, and the chasm between themselves and Liverpool.

Qualifying for the EFL Cup semi-finals in midweek will have been a moral booster, as they look to win the tournament for a fifth time in seven seasons, but they know they have a major job on their hands if their to retain their Premier League crown.

The Foxes meanwhile saw their recent winning run of nine in all competitions come to a disappointing end last weekend with a draw against Norwich. It also signalled the end of Jamie Vardy‘s Premier League goalscoring run, as he failed to find the back of the net for a ninth successive game – although is still the league’s top scorer with 16.

Like their hosts, Leicester are also into the semi-finals of the EFL Cup following their win against Everton, and could be as many as seven points ahead of the Citizens should they head back to the Midlands with all three points.

An added incentive for both is the fact that Liverpool won’t play this weekend so the gap can be shortened somewhat ahead of the Boxing Day fixtures.

Rest of the Weekend

The action starts this Saturday with Everton against Arsenal, as both look on the verge of appointing new managers in Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta respectively.

Southampton travel to the Midlands to take on Aston Villa, with the Saints unbeaten on their previous four visits to Villa Park since their return to the Premier League in 2012 (W2 D2).

Bournemouth – who ended their five-game losing run with victory over Chelsea, welcome Burnley to the Vitality Stadium.

It’s a top-flight first at the Amex Stadium when Brighton & Hove Albion take on Sheffield United, with there previous 24 meetings all taking place in the second tier.

Crystal Palace make the long trip to the north east when they face Newcastle United. The hosts are enjoying their longest unbeaten run at home since 2012, with the Magpies unbeaten in their last seven (W3 D4).

Norwich City play host play to Wolverhampton Wanderers, with the visitors seeing their 11-game unbeaten run in the league end last weekend against Tottenham Hotspur.

Sunday sees Watford – who currently prop up the Premier League – take on a Manchester United side without a clean sheet in the league in their last 12 games.

Jose Mourinho faces another former club when his Tottenham side take on Chelsea. Spurs can move into the top four for the first time since mid-September with a victory over Frank Lampard’s side.

West Ham United will have to wait until Boxing Day for their next game, as their fixture with Liverpool will be rearranged due to the Reds’ participation at the Club World Cup this weekend.

Premier League Player to Watch: Adama Traoré – Wolverhampton Wanderers – £2.02

This season has been somewhat of a breakthrough for Adama Traoré, who appears to have added an end product to his blistering pace and strong dribbling capabilities.

The 23-year-old has already produced his best ever Premier League season in terms of output with three goals and three assists so far, as Nuno Espirito Santo looks to have unlocked the potential of the winger.

Add to that their fixture against Norwich this weekend – the side with the second worst defence in the league – then expect him to enjoy himself at Carrow Road this weekend.

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Social Media Executive @ Football Index - Liverpool fan at just about the right time

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