Month kicks off with triple derby Sunday and builds from there
Sunday the 2nd of December is a day of big derbies in the Premier League.
There are seven fixtures the day before, but it will be the three Sunday games that will command the most interest.
The derby matches start at noon in the UK (7pm Thailand) with Chelsea meeting very near neighbours, Fulham. This is a clash that will affect top and bottom of the table and I would be amazed if the Blues did not emerge with three points. They need to bounce back after Spurs ended their unbeaten run in some style.
Given Fulham’s recent change of manager it means Claudio Ranieri will be returning to one of his former clubs in need of a result. The Ranieri-effect worked against Southampton but I doubt if he can repeat the trick.
The west London derby will be followed almost immediately by the north London one. It’s at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and there is a lot more than just bragging rights at stake. Spurs go there knowing that they need to avoid defeat to stay above their bitter rivals.
Kick-off in north London will be at 2.05pm (9.05 Thai time) to allow Sky Sports to screen all three derbies without (they hope) any overlap.
Following these two London-based fixtures we travel north to Merseyside for the final big derby of the day – Liverpool V Everton at Anfield.
Little would give fans of the Toffees greater delight than to scupper the Reds’ title ambitions by taking points off them here. But I can’t see that happening. I expect Liverpool to win by at least two clear goals.
I would apologise to my Pattaya-based mate who is an Everton shareholder but, I suspect, were I to ask him for a prediction, he might, grudgingly, say something similar.
The early part of the month has more big games in the shape of Manchester United V Arsenal on Wednesday, December 5, and Chelsea V Manchester City the following Saturday.
I expect the latter to have a much bigger influence on the title race than the former. But if United are to have any hope of a top four finish they will need to win this match. Their poor showing at home to Crystal Palace would suggest that a high finish in the league may already be beyond them.
It’s increasingly difficult to predict with any conviction poor results for Manchester City. A draw at Chelsea would be acceptable, I feel. But were I putting money on the result I would lean towards a City win.
The next three matches to highlight all involve Liverpool.
On Sunday December 16 (11pm Thailand) they face Manchester United. For fans in Thailand this is the big one. You only have to look at the number of red shirts as you wander around Pattaya to realise the popularity of these two teams compared with others from the Premier League.
United will regard a draw as a decent result, but I expect Liverpool to take all three points.
On the 29th Liverpool are at home again. This time to Arsenal. This fixture has produced some real drama down the years – fairly evenly split in my recollection, so it is sad for fans in Thailand that it kicks off at half past midnight. However, that is the early hours of Sunday morning so, for most, no work later the same day.
Liverpool completes its hat-trick of tough fixtures very early in January when they travel to face Manchester City. But more on that in next month’s round-up.
by Dave Buckley