Welcome to the happiest time of the Premier League season, Nuclear Wessel lovers!
Seriously, we have matches on matches on matches. The run from now until New Year's Day has enough soccer that it could easily be grounds for divorce for a lot of people. Forty matches in 13 days. Every team plays four matches. Get ready for the table to be more jumbled than a jigsaw puzzle being done by drunk person wearing mittens in the back of a moving pickup truck.
Lets break it down for you. We have a normal full slate of matches spread out over the weeknd coming up. Then, every team plays on Boxing Day (December 26th). Then there are two days off before a full Sunday/Monday slate. Followed up by every team playing on New Years Day. I got misty-eyed just typing that.
It can be a glorious time or a disastrous time for your favorite 11. This is where squad depth and health come play a huge factor. A lot can, and will change from 1-20.
So saddle up and enjoy. One quick programming note: the matches come so fast and furious that I doubt there will be time for more Nuclear Wessels during the holiday stretch. Maybe I’ll claw out an update before the New Year's Day matches if time (and Rand) allows. I am on vacation for two weeks and the more time my hands spend typing is less time they have to go for the Donkey Kong world record and eat wings. I know you understand.
No. 1: Manchester City vs Crystal Palace at Etihad Stadium
When: Saturday at 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: City won this match last season 1-0. Happened just about a year ago on December 28th. The eventual champions got the full three thanks to a 66th minute goal by Edin Dzeko
If you have a pair of cleats and have ever played striker in your life, you might as well report to Etihad on Saturday for a tryout with City.
Yes, the current title-holders are indeed having issues up top. And by issues, I mean they don't have a single healthy striker. Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic will all be watching the match in their little jumpers and scarves from the seats against Palace. And since watching a soccer match is more fun with friends, they'll be joined by captain Vincent Kompany who continues to be nagged by that hamstring. Time to catch up on their gossip!
So City are striker-less and captain-less. Thankfully for them they have the grubby Crystal Palace who have just one win since October (it was against Liverpool, but still) and sit at 16th place, just a point ahead of the drop zone.
Even without a striker and a captain, City should be fine, right? But wait! In the completely meaningless stats department, four of the five teams that City have dropped points to this season have been clubs based out of London. And where is Palace based out of?! London. So Palace have that, and only that, going for them, which is nice.
It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Palace could be competitive in this one, but Pellegrini has these guys playing well and they now have Chelsea in their cross-hairs. December sets up pretty nicely for them, too, with matches against West Brom, Burnley, and Sunderland to follow this. If you're gonna have a boat-load of players gossiping in the stands in their jumpers, better to have it now than after the first of the year when matches with Chelsea, Arsenal and a Champions League tie with Barcelona looming large.
City roll by a pair of goals.
No. 2: Aston Villa vs Manchester United at Villa Park
When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: This fixture was not a contest last year, with United winning 3-0. Current Arsenal man Danny Welbeck had himself a brace and Tom Cleverley added one to rub Villa's face in it.
You want a take so hot that it'll scorch your face worse than Clark Griswold's christmas tree?
OK. Get your fire proximity suit on….
Manchester United will be atop the league at some point this season.
Hot enough for ya? I picked this club to finish top four but I thought it would be in a dogfight for that 4th spot with Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham etc. But Louis van Gaal's men have separated themselves and taken hold of that third spot in the table. United have won six games in a row, and if some semblance of that form continues, they can definitely challenge Chelsea and Manchester City.
This kinda bums me out. I was hoping the United downfall was going to last more than a year. Don't get me wrong, I wanted them to eventually return to prominence. The world is better with Darth Vader, Shredder and Manchester United. But I feel like I didn't cherish the embarrassment that was the Manchester United season enough. So let that be a lesson to you kids out there, anytime a rival team is laying face down in dog poo, enjoy every second. Take pictures, Keep a journal. Paint a picture. It will end faster than you know.
But back to the match, there is little reason to believe United won't win their seventh straight game. Villa haven't beaten the Red Devils at Villa Park since 1995. Villa started December with a pair of wins before taking an egg to the face against the mighty West Brom last week.
United are rolling. Sounds like they might even get Angel di Maria back in the fold. Villa are Villa. United will pick up all three points to tighten their grip on third and continue to show the league they are for real.
No. 3: Liverpool vs Arsenal at Anfield
When: Sunday at 10:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: This one, uh, this one didn't go so well for Arsenal. The Gunners left Anfield after a 5-1 beating. Martin Skrtel, of all people, had two goals inside of 10 minutes. Raheem Sterling also had two of his own.
Brendan Rodgers is a desperate man. Liverpool's season has been an abject failure thus far and he knows his days could be numbered. He is now saying he hopes that Liverpool's 3-1 win over Bournemouth in the League Cup quarterfinals will be a turning point for the Reds this season.
Brendie, I know you are desperate, and I know you have to say things like that, but it's the League Cup. Semifinal berths are nice and all, but they don't make up for Champions League group stage knockouts and 3-0 embarrassments at Manchester United. You are grasping at straws here and it really shows.
Arsenal come into this match after demolishing an in-form Newcastle team 4-1 last weekend. You have to imagine they are licking their chops looking at their wounded rivals. They sit in the middle of that 4-8 logjam in the table with 26 points. They desperately want to keep collecting wins to separate themselves from the Tottenhams and Southamptons of the world.
Liverpool have only won three of their eight matches at Anfield this season. They also have just two wins against Arsenal in their last 14 meetings. Something tells me that those stats will be even worse once the match ends Sunday and Arsenal will be leaving with all three points.
Alright, that'll do it for this week, Nuclear Warheads. Enjoy the holiday season. Be safe. Have fun. Watch the Premier League until your eyes fall out.
Until next time, keep your socks up and your headers down.