After the congested festive schedule and the FA Cup third round, the Premier League gets back to normality again in Week 23.
The standout encounter will see leaders Manchester City take on one of their biggest remaining challenges of the season, as they meet in-form Liverpool at Anfield.
While City are a long way clear in the race for top spot, that match will have a huge impact on the chase for the top four, as will Tottenham Hotspur’s meeting with Everton at Wembley Stadium and Arsenal’s trip to Bournemouth. Manchester United, meanwhile, host struggling Stoke City.
Here are the fixtures to come, a prediction for each and a closer look at some players who will make a difference for their respective sides.
Saturday, January 13
3:00 p.m. – Chelsea vs. Leicester City (2-1)
3:00 p.m. – Crystal Palace vs. Burnley (2-1)
3:00 p.m. – Huddersfield Town vs. West Ham United (1-1)
3:00 p.m. – Newcastle United vs. Swansea City (1-1)
3:00 p.m. – Watford vs. Southampton (3-1)
3:00 p.m. – West Bromwich Albion vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (1-1)
5:30 p.m. – Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton (2-0)
Sunday, January 14
1:30 p.m. – Bournemouth vs. Arsenal (1-3)
4:00 p.m. – Liverpool vs. Manchester City (2-2)
Monday, January 15
8:00 p.m. – Manchester United vs. Stoke City (3-0)
Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
One of the main virtues showcased by Bournemouth since their arrival in the Premier League has been their enterprising approach. But it’s a blueprint that allows players such as Mesut Ozil to thrive against them.
The Germany international has been in outstanding form as of late despite the uncertainty over his future at the Emirates Stadium, and he will be keen to turn in another mesmerising display in this encounter. He was sublime in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea.
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville praised the efforts of Ozil following that pulsating game:
“I enjoyed the game tonight. Some excellent attacking play on show from Arsenal . I’ve been critical of Ozil in the past but his performance tonight was wonderful”.
The Arsenal No. 11 is so adept at finding spaces in the middle of the pitch, and you sense he will have no issue doing so against a Bournemouth side that has been a little brittle defensively this term.
When he gets on the ball with room to run into and time to pick passes, Ozil can be devastating. The 29-year-old is a brilliant dribbler, finds incisive balls to team-mates and is so aware of opposition movements in the final third.
As noted by 101 Great Goals, the former Real Madrid man has been one of the most creative players in European football this season.
Arsenal need their playmaker to turn on the style again in the weeks to come, as they are in a massive battle for a top-four sport.
They sit in sixth place in the Premier League table, five points back on Liverpool who occupy fourth. Ozil’s many attacking qualities will be key to the Gunners grabbing a big win at the Cherries’ expense and keeping the pressure on.
Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
There’s no denying Raheem Sterling has made enormous strides this season, and he will be desperate to show exactly how much he has come on against his former employers.
Ahead of this campaign, the forward was not renowned as a prolific goalscorer, although this term he’s been in the right place so often to cap off City’s attacking patterns.
Against Watford he grabbed his 14th in the Premier League this term and, as noted by Scouted Football, he has netted at crucial times for his side:
Raheem Sterling (23) is the only player in the Premier League this season to have scored in both the first and last minute of a game.
Get you a guy who can do both.
Sterling has never showcased his best against Liverpool, though. In the past, the ire of the Reds supporters has had an impact on his form, with big chances missed and poor decisions made. There have been times when the winger has been hauled off early too.
There have been signs of maturity from the 23-year-old lately, though, and in a team playing formidable football, he will surely be more confident than ever coming up against Liverpool.
James Robson of the Manchester Evening News believes City manager Pep Guardiola has been key to his progress:
“Sterling is a fantastic example of what happens when a player is given the freedom to take risks.
Guardiola had to rewire him to play like he did as a youth”
Liverpool have been flying lately, and Anfield will provide an atmospheric backdrop to what is always one of the league’s most entertaining fixtures.
Sterling will be targeted, as he always is, as the home supporters will want to knock him out of the rhythm he has found. A strong performance from the England winger in another classy City display would be another measure of his outstanding ascension.
Culled from Bleacherreport.