Premier League Preview: Liverpool and Arsenal return with Part Two of the Winter Break
2 min read
Despite a skeletal schedule last weekend in the Premier League, where only half of the top-flight featured in the five games on offer, there was definitely not a lack of talking points on the back pages come Monday morning.
The highlight of last weekend’s Winter Break (Part One) came, unsurprisingly, courtesy of the four big guns in action: Man City, Newcastle, Man Utd and Tottenham. Two absolutely swashbuckling games of football, which saw nine goals scored in total, laid on a perfect amount of excitement spanning across Saturday and Sunday.
City, although unerringly fragile in defence, look back to their box office best in attack. Pep Guardiola’s men have now scored 20 goals in their previous six outings in all competitions and have recently welcomed back star man Kevin de Bruyne, who has been absent through injury since the summer.
The Belgian had been eased in during the 5-0 rout over Huddersfield in the FA Cup last weekend and rose from the bench towards the latter stages against Newcastle, with his side trailing the Magpies 2-1. Just five minutes after his introduction, de Bruyne levelled things with a majestic swooping shot from distance – the type only he can execute – before laying off youngster Oscar Bobb with a contender for assist of the season right at the death to ensure City claimed all three points at the Etihad in dramatic style.
Sunday was a similar affair between two sides gunning for Europe, with Manchester United sharing the points with Tottenham in a thoroughly entertaining four-goal thriller at Old Trafford. Rasmus Højlund found his shooting boots and put United ahead inside three minutes with a rasping effort which almost broke the roof of the Spurs net, before Richarlison levelled proceedings with a well-taken (and poorly defended) header from a corner 16 minutes later.
Marcus Rashford put the hosts back in front with a long-awaited and well-placed goal five minutes before the break, before Rodrigo Bentancur equalised for the north Londoners moments after the restart with another high-class finish to complete a sumptuous afternoon filled with glutinous goalscoring.
Gunners hoping to fire themselves back into title contention
This weekend, the Premier League’s remaining five teams are on show, and it is an all-London affair which kickstarts things at the Emirates as Arsenal host Crystal Palace.
The Gunners, currently sat in third, trail leaders Liverpool by five points after 20 matches and a win here would close that gap to two, for a day at least, with Jurgen Klopp’s side not in action until Sunday.
Mikel Arteta’s men have been faltering of late and enter the match on the back of three straight defeats in all competitions. A victory here is a must if they are to reignite their title-charge and a home tie against Crystal Palace signals the perfect opportunity for them to get back to winning ways, with the Eagles languishing 14th in the top-flight table having won just one of their previous 11 games.
Roy Hodgson is coming under increasing scrutiny in the Selhurst Park dugout and fans of the south London club were not happy with his negative tactical approach during the FA Cup third round replay defeat away at Everton in midweek.
The veteran manager substituted star man Eberechi Eze just after the hour mark in order to protect him ahead of the trip to the Emirates this weekend, but Palace whimpered out of the competition thanks to a 1-0 defeat and are now knocked out of all cup competitions with no real danger of relegation; their season looking likely to fizzle out early once again.
Reds look to extend their lead
Sunday sees Liverpool return to action, and the league-leading Reds will be confident in their chances of defeating Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium. Whilst the mid-table Cherries are doing well in the league and head into this bout in solid form thanks to seven wins from their last nine across all competitions, their record against Liverpool makes for grim reading.
Bournemouth have only beaten Liverpool twice in 17 attempts since 2014 and were memorably thumped 9-0 by the Merseysiders at the start of last season. With the visitors firing on all cylinders, it is difficult to look past them slipping up in this one, although the form of Dominic Solanke certainly perpetuates an err of jeopardy around Sunday’s fixture on the south coast.
The former Liverpool front man, who joined Bournemouth in 2019 having spent two years at Anfield, finds himself in fine company at the top end of the Premier League’s goalscoring chart this term – second only behind Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah (both on 14 goals) with 12 goals to his name.
Solanke will be desperate to get one over on the side who allowed him to leave five years ago, and has struck three goals in his last three outings in the league so will be brimming with confidence ahead of the Reds’ visit.
The scene is set as we welcome in another weekend of ferocious footballing action. Don’t blink, you might just miss it.
SATURDAY 20TH JANUARY
Arsenal 12:30 Crystal Palace
Brentford 17:30 Nottingham Forest
SUNDAY 21ST JANUARY
Sheffield United 14:00 West Ham United
AFC Bournemouth 16:30 Liverpool