The Premier League’s top two teams meet at Anfield on Saturday but will it be Liverpool or Arsenal who make a statement about their title ambitions?
BBC Sport football expert Chris Sutton said: “Arsenal went 2-0 up in this game at the end of last season, but didn’t hold their nerve and it finished 2-2.
“A lot of people think it will end up in another draw this time, but I really like the look of Liverpool this season – and I would not be surprised if Mohamed Salah has a say in the outcome.”
Sutton is making predictions for all 380 Premier League matches again this season, against a variety of guests.
For this weekend’s games, he takes on Felix White, guitarist with 86TVs and a Fulham fan.
86TVs latest single, Higher Love, is out now. Their debut, Worn Out Buildings, made the 6 Music playlist and was Radio X’s Record of the Week.
Fulham’s run to the 2010 Europa League final under Roy Hodgson is still etched on White’s brain, and he has been able to relive it recently with many of the players involved.
White told BBC Sport: “I’ve ended up doing the official Fulham podcast, Fulham Fix, which is so great because I get to speak to all the players from that time, my heroes, almost every week.
“Bobby Zamora came on recently and I have actually got a plectrum signed by him now – I can tell you that is officially the only one in existence.
“But I have met quite a few of the other players from that team and they are just everything you would want them to be really, and they talk about it with such affection.
“That’s the beautiful thing about Fulham, although I’m sure it’s probably true with most clubs – in that most players who have had an association with us talk about the club in the same way that I would.
“They get over-sentimental, well for footballers anyway, and talk really beautifully about it and kind of feel like they are coming home to Craven Cottage, just like a fan does.”
While he has happy memories of Hodgson’s side, White is falling in love with the current Fulham team too, and the freedom they play with under Marco Silva.
“The best Fulham teams I’ve seen have sort of been built on knowing our limits,” he explained. “So, still playing good football but in quite a rigid style.
“But the thing that really kicks your endorphins into action about us now is Silva. There is just something about him – and you can see it in his body language, even if you are miles away from him – that he just won’t accept that idea that we are second best to anyone at all.
“He takes it to the point where it might spill over sometimes, like in the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United last season, where we were 1-0 up and then in the space of a couple of minutes we were down to nine men, had Silva sent off and we were 2-1 down.
“I actually threw my heart into a million pieces all over the floor when I saw that happen, and I still can’t get over it.
“But the amazing thing about that was that Silva was so emotional about it, and he was willing to go that far for the cause, rather than accept just going to United and getting knocked out.
“It is amazing how that mindset feeds into the whole feeling of the club – it kind of lifts how everyone feels about themselves, and you can just kind of sense it when you watch us.
“It changes how you feel about yourself as a fan, and how the club feels about itself. Take our win over Everton in the Carabao Cup this week, for example – I don’t know if we would have won that game if all those things hadn’t happened in the past year.
“There was just that sort of sense at Goodison Park of it not being a case of ‘oh here we go again’, where this is the part where we fall short. So, yes it is just a really cool time at the moment, and really exciting for Fulham.”
Chris Sutton and Felix White were speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
|THURSDAY, 21 DECEMBER
|Crystal Palace v Brighton
|FRIDAY, 22 DECEMBER
|Aston Villa v Sheff Utd
|SATURDAY, 23 DECEMBER
|West Ham v Man Utd
|Fulham v Burnley
|Luton v Newcastle
|Man City v Brentford
|Nott’m Forest v Bournemouth
|Tottenham v Everton
|Liverpool v Arsenal
|SUNDAY, 24 DECEMBER
|Wolves v Chelsea
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
All matches kick off at 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated.
THURSDAY, 21 DECEMBER
Crystal Palace 1-1 Brighton
Crystal Palace have got some good players, but they need to get them fit. Still, Eberechi Eze should be back for this one and Jordan Ayew is available after his suspension.
While the Eagles ended up getting an excellent result at Manchester City last time out, Brighton were a bit disappointing in their defeat by Arsenal.
The Seagulls have not really hit the heights of last season yet – which is probably down to them playing in the Europa League – but I half fancy them to nick this one.
I am going to go for a draw, though – four of the past six games between these two have ended 1-1, so that is the sensible scoreline to go for again.
Sutton’s prediction: 1-1
Felix’s prediction: I reckon Chris is going to go Brighton here so I am going to go with Palace. I just want that to be known that I am doing that for Roy Hodgson, as a gesture of enduring love for him. 2-0
FRIDAY, 22 DECEMBER
Aston Villa 1-1 Sheff Utd
Sheffield United famously scored a ghost goal at Villa Park in 2020, when they were denied a win because Hawk-Eye did not recognise they had scored.
The Blades could do with a few of those at the other end this time, because I don’t see them keeping Villa out otherwise.
I think there has been a slight upturn in performances since Chris Wilder took charge at the start of December but they are still bottom of the table.
Villa, meanwhile, are flying. They had to come from behind to beat Brentford last week but their home form is so impressive. Their long winning run at Villa Park has to end at some point, but it’s hard to see it happening here.
Unai Emery’s side will be top on Christmas Day if they win this one and Arsenal draw with Liverpool. What an incentive that is to keep pushing on.
Sutton’s prediction: 2-0
Felix on Villa midfielder John McGinn: One of things I love to watch at Villa is how well John McGinn is doing. I think one of the most moving things in football is seeing someone realise they are capable of much more than they assumed they would be, and that is what we are seeing from him.
It just struck me the other day when I was watching McGinn when Villa beat City and as a musician I always find that stuff genuinely inspiring, that some sort of change in attitude or circumstance can raise you to a level that no-one ever assume you could reach – including yourself, possibly.
When I see it happen in football, I always think about it in an artistic sense and think ‘wow, what more could I be capable of?’ … but maybe I just need Unai Emery to tell me what to do all the time!?
Felix’s prediction: I have triple-captained Ollie Watkins in my Fantasy team this week so I am going for him to get a hat-trick. I am bottom of my league because I didn’t realise you got charged points for every transfer you make… so I made about 45, and I am so heartbroken about it. I am checking it way more than I should be. 4-1
SATURDAY, 23 DECEMBER
West Ham v Man Utd (12:30)
Manchester United parked the bus at Anfield, so will they do that here too? I don’t think so.
I actually think West Ham will beat them, though. I often go for them to draw games, but I liked the way they went at Wolves.
In contrast, I wasn’t impressed by Erik ten Hag’s side at all. They may celebrate their draw with Liverpool but United fans should not be carried away with the way they got it – that just sums up how far they have fallen.
Sutton’s prediction: 2-1
Felix’s prediction: Because I am doing this Fulham podcast, I get to sit in the press box at Craven Cottage and it is great because everyone is tightly packed together.
Last year I was sitting there on my own watching Fulham play Manchester City, and David Moyes was directly behind me. He was there because West Ham were playing City next. I want to be clear that I wasn’t eavesdropping but he was having a conversation about the game the whole way through and I had the best seat in the house because I was there on my own and didn’t have a mate or anyone to talk to, so I could just listen to the way he was analysing the game. It was extraordinary hearing someone that you never get to hear on that level.
If he can read City like that, I have a feeling he might be able to read United the way they are going, so I am backing West Ham to win this one. 2-1
Fulham v Burnley
Fulham will be without striker Raul Jimenez after his red card against Newcastle, but I don’t think they will struggle for goals without him.
I feel like I say the same thing every week about Burnley but they are not going to change. They need something badly from this game, but they look like a team that just aren’t quite good enough for the Premier League.
Sutton’s prediction: 2-0
Felix’s prediction: This is the big one. I am going to be there with Tailenders co-host Jimmy Anderson, who supports Burnley and, I mean this sincerely, we will have the greatest privilege in football because we will be sitting in the actual cottage at Craven Cottage to watch the game. The dressing rooms are directly underneath it and it is like Fulham Valhalla in there.
You feel like you are going to be walking past the ghosts of our great players of the past – it is like the spirits of our legends live in that cottage. Burnley are struggling, Fulham are flying and we are buzzing after Wednesday so I think the mood will be celebratory. 2-0
Luton v Newcastle
First and foremost, it’s a relief that Luton captain Tom Lockyer is in a stable condition after his collapse during the Bournemouth game.
Luton have been really competitive at Kenilworth Road but they have still only won one out of eight league matches there this season, and picked up five points in total.
Mind you, Newcastle’s away form is hardly convincing either – it is actually identical to Luton’s home record in terms of wins and points, so there is plenty of room for improvement.
Eddie Howe’s side have got to address that if they want to challenge for the top four – and I think they will address it here, although it is going to be close.
Sutton’s prediction: 1-2
Felix’s prediction: I think what happened at Luton last week with Tom Lockyer will inspire them this time. They have been great in every single game at home this season, without getting much reward. So for that reason I think fortune will balance out and the emotive feeling in that ground is going to change something – it will be another smasher of a game and this time, Luton will win. 3-2
Man City P-P Brentford
This game has been postponed because Manchester City are playing in the Fifa Club World Cup in Jeddah.
Nottingham Forest v Bournemouth
I actually thought Nottingham Forest gave it a real go against Tottenham in Steve Cooper’s final game, and looked like a team who were still playing for their manager.
I also thought they would have been good enough to stay up with him in charge, but that didn’t help him in the end.
I am not sure how excited the Forest fans will be to have Nuno Espirito Santo in charge, but the new era starts here. Will it start with a win though?
The City Ground will be bouncing, because the crowd will know they have to play their part, but Bournemouth are in good form and I fancy Dominic Solanke to keep his good run going.
Sutton’s prediction: 1-1
Felix’s prediction: Forest need to win and let’s go for a classic manager bounce. 1-0
Tottenham v Everton
This should be an excellent game, and it is very difficult to call.
Sean Dyche has done an incredible job at Everton, and if you were to pick a manager of the season based on what we’ve seen so far, he has to be in the mix after what he has had to put up with.
This isn’t the Dyche who we saw at Burnley, when he was trying to keep them in the Premier League and was quite direct at times. I actually think his Everton team have a nice balance in the way they get the ball and try to play.
Then you have got Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham, who have been the most watchable team in the top-flight.
Spurs can be reckless at times, and will be without Yves Bissouma here after his red card against Forest.
So, it won’t be straightforward, and I do think Everton will score… but I am going to go with Ange to win it.
Sutton’s prediction: 3-1
Felix’s prediction: Tottenham are obviously a great team to watch at the moment and I don’t think Ossie Ardiles is getting mentioned enough, because they are playing a lot like his Spurs team did when I was growing up.
Having said that, Sharky – who is the Tailenders producer – is a massive Everton fan, to the degree that he will not drink, touch or own anything that has been on the front of a Liverpool shirt. Sharky needs this, and Fulham beat Everton on Tuesday which I feel guilty about, so I am going to say they will nick this in classic Sean Dyche fashion. 0-1
Liverpool v Arsenal (17:30)
Arsenal will be bolder than Manchester United were at Anfield last week, but then Sheffield United would probably show more attacking intent than Erik ten Hag’s side did.
I still think it will be pretty cagey because the Gunners are not as expansive as they were last season, but they still carry a threat.
There is this argument that they are lacking a centre-forward, which I get, but they have shown they can get goals from all areas of their team.
So, I think this will be tight, but Liverpool are at home and I just don’t see them drawing another blank. They only know one way to play, they will take the game to Arsenal – and I think they will edge it.
Sutton’s prediction: 2-1
Felix’s prediction: What I really love about Anfield, and I have heard Gary Neville say it on TV last year when Manchester United got beaten 7-0, and also Mikel Arteta say it on the Arsenal documentary which I absolutely loved and inhaled, is how it doesn’t matter about the personnel in the Liverpool side, or how they are playing, it just has the ability like no other ground in the world to make you feel like you are in quicksand and sort of swallow you up, like things are happening too quickly for you.
I am obsessed with that analogy, that almost spiritual thing how that space just has that effect on the opposition and they get caught up in the moment, and that’s what I think will happen to Arsenal here. 3-1
SUNDAY, 24 DECEMBER
Wolves v Chelsea (13:00)
Wolves lacked intensity against West Ham last week, which makes me think they will bounce back here – but it really does depend on which Chelsea team turns up.
And I’m sorry but I still have absolutely no idea what to expect from Mauricio Pochettino’s side so I am gong to sit firmly on the fence with this one.
Sutton’s prediction: 1-1
Felix’s prediction: We beat Wolves at the start of our recent high-scoring run, but they were unlucky with a couple of penalties that we got given. That seems to have happened to them a lot, but I’ve been really impressed by the way they are playing. Their physical attributes are unbelievable and they are a better side than most people think. 1-1
How did Sutton do last time?
Sutton got six correct results from nine games in week 17, with one exact score, for a total of 90 points.
He beat darts player ‘Hollywood’ Chris Dobey, who got seven correct results, but with no exact scores, which gave him 70 points.
|CBeebies presenter Rhys Stephenson
|Barry Can’t Swim
|Fabian Edwards, Joelah from 1Xtra, KSI, Midas the Jagaban
|81 (average after 17 weeks)
|‘Hollywood’ Chris Dobey, David Earl, Keke from 1Xtra, Jazzie Zonzolo
|Tommy Fury, Joe from Nothing But Thieves
|Gabe of Jamie Johnson FC, Tash from The Football Academy
|AEW wrestler Claudio Castagnoli. Tom Ogden and Joe Donovan from Blossoms
|Vigil star Dougray Scott
|Willie J Healey
How did you get on?
Almost everyone was caught out by Crystal Palace’s draw at Manchester City – only 8% of you went for that outcome, although another 5% went for an Eagles win.
It was a similar story with Liverpool versus Manchester United, where 84% of you went for a Liverpool win, and only 7% correctly went for a draw – but those games were the only results you got wrong.
*Win, draw, loss prediction based on highest % of vote for each match.
Source link Football – BBC Sport