EPL Match day 18 Preview: Battle of the top two as Christmas ESpirito is summoned in the Forest

Written by on December 22, 2023

Written by: Floyd Nkanyane

 

2023/24 season of the English Premier League continues to be the most unpredictable season in almost a decade and no one is certain how it will all end come May the 19th 2024.  Who do you bet on to lift the trophy in May? Defending champions Manchester City to continue their dominance with a record 4th in a row? Or will the Arsenal make up for their slip up? How about Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool with his smart recruits? Could you be siding with the upsetters, Aston Villa?  Interesting to see which teams will miss out on a top 4 finish.

While snooping around in the mid table section as usual in recent times are 5x Champions Chelsea who seem to be comfortable with winning the West London League after losing it to Brentford last season. All 3 clubs from West London in the shape of Chelsea, Fulham and Brentford occupy the 10th -12th   positions respectively.

If you are enjoying your Festive Season then you must be in the relegation zone with Santa Claus because that is where his dishing out his Christmas gifts for good boys and bad boys. Last season no manager was sacked in December however Southampton and Leeds United (2 of the 3 relegated teams) did make managerial changes in November and February, a moment too soon and a little too late.  Not in Nottingham.  The Tricky Trees have made a deal with local lumberjacks to chop down Steve Cooper’s recently barren tree and instead opted to summon the spirit of Nuno Espirito Santo to guide them through this Christmas Carols and beyond.

What to Witness in Match day 18 of the Premier League:

The Battle of Christmas: Liverpool vs Arsenal (23 Dec 2023, Anfield)

Liverpool coach And Arsenal Coach
image by Fotomoh

With Defending Champions Man City out on World Cup duty, 3 of the Title contenders to dethrone the Sky Blues will be in action with the top 2 going head-to-head. Arsenal travel to Anfield with only one advantage, physical rest. Meanwhile Liverpool thumped West Ham 5-1 in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday to setup a Semi-Final clash Against Fulham with one goal in mind, avoid Injuries. It will be a mountain to climb for the Gunners who are winless at Anfield in their last 10 league visits, losing 7 of those matches. The Clash for Christmas 2023, will be the seventh time these two teams meet before Christmas, the most played such fixture in the history of the competition. The Reds won the first two in 1995 and 2000, The Gunners in 2001 and the last three has ended in draws 2008, 2014 & 2017.

Liverpool Last 5: DWWWD

Arsenal Last 5: WLWWW

Who will win? Unpredictable but I do predict some goals.

Sneak Attack: Aston Villa vs Sheffield United (22 Dec 2023, Villa Park)

Surprise package and the current team of the season (in my opinion) Aston Villa have a chance to compile more stress on Treble winning Champions Man City by not only cementing their name as a title contender but by going top of the Best League in the world. The stats from their past work in Birmingham is impressive, unbeaten in 14 matches (8W 6D) against The Blades dating as far back as January 1966,  they’ve won the last five matches against Promoted sides since Steven Gerrard’s sacking from a 3-0 defeat to Fulham. What stands out is the fact that Villa, have won 15 of their last home league games, the longest run in their history and only surpassed by Liverpool with 24 from 2019-2020, Manchester City with 20 from 2011-2012 and Manchester United with 19 from 2010-2011. All these 3 teams ended up lifting the Premier League title during those runs so could this mean Villa are the true contenders? How intriguing.

Aston Villa Last 5: WWWDW

Sheffield United Last 5: LWLLL

Who will win? Aston Villa 3-0

 

Tricky Trees, Cherries and some Christmas Espirito: Nottingham Forest vs Bournemouth (23 Dec 2023, City Ground)

Nottingham Coach
Image by Football365

Nottingham Forest has become the 2nd team to sack a manager this month and season. The sacking of Steve Cooper was written on the wall despite his popularity with the club. 1 win from previous 13 games, 5 points above relegation, that’s Championship football (excuse the contrast). In fact, the sacking should’ve taken place last season had it not been the fan affair the former U/17 World and European champion maintained just as much as he got & kept The Reds up in the Premier League. A Legacy Nuno is aware of.  “We didn’t mark ourselves big expectations just on a day-to-day process.

“He (Evangelos Marinakis, Club Owner) told me what Steve Cooper did here was huge. Getting Forest back in the Premier League was huge and we are now trying to improve on that legacy.”Nuno will take charge of Saturday’s match against Bournemouth, following a two-year absence from the English Premier League when he left Tottenham after a mind-boggling four-month stay. He has been out of work since leaving Saudi Pro League champions Al Ittihad in November and has little time to shake off the dust because Bournemouth have won 4 of their last 5 matches, drawing the other.  Nottingham Forests Next 5 :

December 23: Bournemouth (H), Premier League

December 26: Newcastle (A), Premier League,

December 30: Manchester United (H), Premier League,

January 7: Blackpool or Forest Green (H), FA Cup third round

January 20: Brentford (A), Premier League

 

Nottingham Last 5: LDLLL

Bournemouth Last 5: WWDWW

Who will win? Nottingham Forest 2-0

 

Other Match Day 18 fixtures:

21 Dec 2023

Crystal Palace vs Brighton @ Selhurst Park

23 Dec 2023

West Ham vs Manchester United @ The London Stadium

Tottenham vs Everton @ The Tottenham Stadium

Fulham vs Burnley @ The Craven Cottage

Luton Town vs Newcastle United @ Kenilworth Road

 

24 Dec 2023

Wolves vs Chelsea @ The Molineux

Postponed:

Manchester City vs Brentford @ The COMS

My question of the week to you Wise Reader is who will be sacked first between Erik Ten Hag of Manchester United and Mauricio Pochettino of Chelsea FC?

Manchester United Coach and Chelsea Coach
Image by Getty/Goal

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