Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Schedule

Ho ho ho! The Christmas season is upon us and as far as the Premiership goes, this is probably the most exciting time of the season for fans and the most defining time of the season for teams with the packed schedule that this time of the year brings.

The current situation at the top of the table is not one that is unexpected; although the order in which the teams in 1st-4th place may not be the same as many pundits, myself included, predicted it would be at the end of the year, the teams themselves were in most people's Top 4 at the start of the season. I picked Manchester United to win the Premiership this year (currently in 2nd), Chelsea to finish 2nd (3rd), Liverpool to finish 3rd (4th, but with a game in hand), and Arsenal to finish 5th (1st).

However as I said before, the busy holiday schedule will be an exciting one with each team playing four league games in two weeks (three of those in one week), not counting the Carling Cup quarterfinal round matches which are mixed in during this period as well. Only Premiership clubs are left standing in the Carling Cup and for eight of them, (West Ham, Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham, Blackburn, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool) these fixtures have varying degrees of priority compared to league matches.

It's the league games that matter most to most people, though, and so what I want to do here is list the schedules for each team in the Top 4, followed by my predictions for each of their games, and then come up with what I believe will be the way the top of the table looks heading into January. These two weeks could prove to be the most important two weeks of the season for a lot of teams, especially for the Top 4 but also for those in the relegation fight.

Current Table:

1. Arsenal (37 points, 15 games played)
2. Manchester United (33 pts., 15 GP)
3. Chelsea (31 pts., 15 GP)
4. Liverpool (30 pts., 14 GP)

Holiday Schedules and My Predictions:

Arsenal---Chelsea (2-1 win), Tottenham (3-2 win), @Portsmouth (1-2 loss), @Everton (1-1 draw)
Total Points: 7 out of 12

Manchester United---@Liverpool (1-1 draw), Everton (2-1 win), @Sunderland (3-1 win), @West Ham (2-0 win)
Total Points: 10 out of 12

Chelsea---@Arsenal (1-2 loss), @Blackburn (1-1 draw), Aston Villa (1-1 draw), Newcastle (2-0 win)
Total Points: 5 out of 12

Liverpool---Manchester United (1-1 draw), Portsmouth (2-1 win), @Derby County (3-0 win), @Manchester City (2-0 win)
Total Points: 10 out of 12

Teams also play on either January 1st or the 2nd to round off the holiday schedule. Liverpool will still have a game in hand on the rest of the "Big Four", who may not be the Top 4 after these couple of weeks depending on other results but I believe they will be, just in a different order than they are now.

According to my predictions then, here's what I believe the top of the table will look like heading into January 1/2:

1. Arsenal (47 points, 20 games played)
2. Manchester United (46 pts., 20 GP)
3. Liverpool (43 pts., 19 GP)
4. Chelsea (39 pts., 20 GP)

I didn't list it up above because it's not part of the holiday schedule, but these point totals and games played reflect what I believe will occur this weekend.

The knee injury to Didier Drogba has essentially ended the Blues' title hopes, and what a race it will be between Liverpool, United, and Arsenal for the Premiership trophy in the second half of the season, one that could very well come down to the last couple of weeks.

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