Much like how Americans have football on thanksgiving, the English have soccer on Boxing Day and it is one of the most anticipated days of the sporting calendar across the pond. Boxing day and Championship Sunday are usually the two only days that all 20 teams play on the same day, but on Boxing day they spread the fixtures across four different windows throughout the day, with one match this year coming on Thursday.
Matchweek 18 did not disappoint as there were a few big upsets and some interesting scorelines. City lost at home to Crystal Palace 3-2 to drop four points behind Liverpool, Chelsea lost at home to Leicester 1-0, United start off well with their new manager in a 5-1 whoop-ass over Cardiff and Spurs trounced Everton 6-2 at Goodison Park. Here’s how we stand on Christmas:
Realistically a two-horse race at the top between City and Liverpool until Spurs can prove that they can keep up with them. The race for 4th should be interesting between the two London clubs in Chelsea and Arsenal and the bottom three seems to be taking shape between Burnley, Huddersfield and Fulham. One thing to look for at the bottom is the goal differential, with Cardiff tied on -20 with Burnley and Huddersfield. Cardiff had -16 before their big loss on Saturday to United, which could hurt them if they get into that relegation battle later in the season.
This Season’s Record: 104-97-26 (-5.6 Units)
Matchweek 18 Record: 3-6-2 (-3.5 Units)
Again I set myself back but a couple big upsets and few disallowed goals took my week from a possible +2 units down to -3.5 units. But I won’t stop because I’m married to the grind and there’s nothing more I want to do than bring that number back up.
Let’s get started…
Wednesday, December 26th
English Premier League
7:30 am EST
Wolves @ Fulham (NBCSN) – This one sits at a pickem but with CRAZY juice on the side of Wolves. You can’t blame Vegas either since Wolves are just far and away the better side this season and have been pretty good away from home this season. In fact, Wolves have been averaging almost .4 more points per match away from home than Fulham have been at home. I like them here to get at least a draw. Wolves (Pick, -140).
10:00 am EST
Everton @ Burnley – Everton are coming off of a brutal 6-2 loss at home to Spurs where their defense looked totally lifeless. Life under Marcos Silva hasn’t been what they’ve wanted as they’ve allowed eleven goals in the last three matches and have now gone five straight without a win. Going into this match, Everton sit in 16th in the away table and haven’t won away from home since October 6th. Burnley haven’t been good at all either as they sit in the ‘last team out’ spot in the relegation zone, two points shy of safety. But I like the home dogs in Burnley here as they’ve had back-to-back tough matches in Spurs and Arsenal, both away from home, and showed that they can somewhat run with both of them. They covered against Spurs and were covering for 91 minutes at the Emirates until a late goal from Arsenal turned it into a push. I trust Burnley a bit more than Everton at the moment. Burnley (+0.5, -110).
Cardiff City @ Crystal Palace – Palace have been very intriguing at home this season, a place where they’re historically fantastic. That narrative briefly switched this season as they went winless in their first six matches at home, but it seems as if they have turned that around with two straight wins at Selhurst Park. And how are Cardiff away from home? Atrocious. They are 0-1-7 with their one draw coming at Huddersfield and are coming off of a brutal 5-1 loss to United. Even with the somewhat large spread, take Palace at home here. Crystal Palace (-1, +105).
Manchester City @ Leicester City – People are still wondering what happened on Saturday when Palace walked into the Etihad and took a 3-1 lead before City got one back to make it 3-2. Leicester had quite the opposite weekend as they went to Chelsea and won 1-0. Yes, I’m a City fan so I pick them a lot but it make so much sense here to pick them. Pep is brilliant at getting his teams back on track after a loss and I think he learned that he can’t play a mix and match squad anymore in the league as he did on Saturday. Leicester meanwhile are a team to fade after big wins, as they’ve only once had back-to-back wins (Wolves then Southampton in August). City are finally fully healthy and are expected to start Aguero, De Bruyne and Silva this Saturday. The spread is big but City know they can’t slip up as they’re now four points behind leaders Liverpool and will surely be starting those three stars together for the first time all season.