The New Year brings along with it new challenges for the EPL clubs. The expectations will only get higher while fixtures will get more intense. The first round of fixtures in the second half of the season promises to provide a lot of entertainment and will surely lay the platform for the rest of the season for many teams.
Here are 10 things we can learn from the 20th round of the Barclays Premier League:
1. Can the Reds continue their Ascend?
With two clean sheets and 6 points after 4 winless games, Liverpool has clawed their way back into the mix at the top of the table and are just 5 points away from a top 4 spot. They will take on the Hammers in their first fixture of the year and will hope to take revenge of the 3-0 defeat at home earlier this season. A victory will take them to 5th place at least till the results of the other games in the weekend.
2. Most important game of the weekend:
In a grueling encounter between two sides at the bottom of the table, Sunderland will welcome Remi Garde’s Aston Villa side on Saturday for a game that can have a huge say on the season for both clubs. Villa are struggling with just 8 points from the first half of the season and will take on Sam Allardyce’s side who are also badly in need of a victory. This game will surely make for a great watch.
3. Can the Foxes continue their resilience?
Leicester City bounced back from the defeat at Anfield and held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw in the last game of 2015. They enter the New Year at the top of the table level on points with Arsenal and will play a relatively tough fixture against the Cherries who have been hard to beat this season. A positive result from this game will surely get the Foxes off on a right note this year.
4. Steve McClaren has a tough time:
Newcastle United came into the New Year in the drop zone after a disappointing 1-0 loss against the Baggies in the last game. They are 18th in the table, two points from safety and will face a tough game against table-toppers Arsenal on Saturday. With a run of tough fixtures to follow in the month, a strong performance is required by the Magpies to save themselves from a late relegation battle.
5. The Saints need to be consistent:
After a superb 4-0 victory over the Gunners, Ronald Koeman’s men fell to a 2-1 defeat at the Upton Park in the last game. They have to be more consistent to entertain a place in Europe next season and will hope to get all three points when they face newly promoted Norwich City. The Canaries beat Villa in the last game and will surely make it hard for the Saints to take anything from this game.
6. Can Stoke take a plunge?
Stoke City with their recent run of results are at the 10th place in the Premier League table but a victory against the Baggies this weekend can see them jump 5 places into the upper half of the table. But the Baggies have proved to be tough opponents in recent times and it will be important for the Potters to build on their incredible 4-3 victory at Goodison Park in the last match.
7. Louis van Gaal should start delivering the goods:
A month without a victory has damaged Manchester United’s good start to the season and has seen the club fall to the 6th place in the Premier League table. They are still just 5 points away from the top 4 spot but will have to find some form to entertain a top 4 finish. They looked a bit more energetic against Chelsea in the last match and will hope to take all three points against Swansea City this weekend.
8. City face another tough fixture:
Though Watford were beaten by a rampant Tottenham side, they showed plenty of heart in recent times and are a team that are on the rise. Newly promoted to the Premier League, Sanchez Flores has worked wonders with his team and will hope to stun potential champions Manchester City at home this weekend. It will be important for the Citizens to get a result out of this game after being held to a 0-0 draw against Leicester City last weekend.
9. Hiddink’s job not getting easier:
With reports about a number of players wanting out of the team, Chelsea are in a real crisis to get their season back on track and have shown no signs of improvement under their new manager. They were literally mere spectators against United in the last game and will face yet another tough fixture against Crystal Palace who are 5th in the points table. A trip to the Selhurst Park will surely test Guus Hiddink who is yet to lose a game with his new club.
10. High intensity encounter:
Two clubs who love to play with high intensity levels will clash on Sunday in one of the most interesting fixtures of this round. Everton who were beaten by a late penalty against Stoke will take on a high on confidence Tottenham side at the Goodison Park. This game is sure to produce a lot of entertainment with both sides playing for a victory rather than to hold on for a point.