Match Day 26 will have a different feel in the Premier League as for the first time in the competition’s history, there will be a winter break.
In an attempt to be in line with the rest of Europe’s top leagues, it’s been implemented with the hope of offering players a rest during the always busy season, especially with Euro 2020 to come following the season’s end.
Unlike those leagues however, it won’t mean a complete shutdown. Eight teams will play this weekend while the remaining 12 play the following weekend.
The break has been met with mixed responses, mainly from managers who have had to play their FA Cup 4th round replays during the allotted break.
Ralph Hasenhuttl claimed it “didn’t make sense” for Southampton to play their reply – which they lost 3-2 to Tottenham – during the scheduled time off, while Jurgen Klopp highlighted the importance of the “mental rest and physical rest” the break should bring.
Match of the Weekend – Brighton & Hove Albion vs Watford
There’s just four games this weekend with Watford’s trip to Brighton & Hove Albion arguably the fixture as the one with the most riding on it.
Following a run of four wins from six games, with the other two fixtures finishing in draws, the Hornets have lost their last two in the league, as it appears the honeymoon period for Nigel Pearson is now over.
What will hurt him even more however was the manner of both defeats. The 2-1 loss to Aston Villa saw them concede the decisive goal in the 95th minute, while their 3-2 defeat to 10-man Everton came courtesy of Theo Walcott‘s 90th minute winner.
Had they held on for those two points, they’d now be outside the relegation zone, but instead they start the weekend in 19th, highlighting the importance of every point between now and the end of the season.
They travel to a Brigton side however that have failed to win any of their last five league games (D3 L2) as they sit just two points above the relegation zone.
Their 3-3 draw with West Ham United last time out – where they came from behind twice to secure a point – should give Graham Potter’s side confidence heading into the game, while their 3-0 win over Saturday’s opponents on the opening weekend of the season should serve as a reminder of what they’re capable of under the new regime.
Rest of the Weekend
The only other game to take place on Saturday is the early kick-off between Everton and Crystal Palace.
Sunday’s action begins at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United take on a Bournemouth side in desperate need of the points.
The weekend is then rounded off with reigning champions Manchester City when they welcome West Ham to the Etihad Stadium.
Premier League Player to Watch – Moise Kean – Everton – £1.96
It looks as if things are beginning to fall into place for Moise Kean at Everton following a difficult initial transition to life in the Premier League.
After scoring his first goals for the club against Newcastle United, he followed that up with the ‘assist’ for Walcott’s late winner against Watford having been introduced with the best part of half an hour left to play.
With his compatriot, Carlo Ancelotti, preferring to play with two strikers, it gives the 19-year-old more opportunity to play against a Crystal Palace side that have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last seven league games.