20 Dec Festive fixture list sees tough tests ahead for surprise package Burnley
Liverpool’s trip to Arsenal on Friday night kicks off a busy fortnight of festive football which could significantly shape the chase for Champions League places.
With 12 points up for grabs for each club, the next 14 days could make or break a team’s European push or help them stay in the Premier League.
Press Association Sport analysed each club’s festive fixtures based on current league positions and Burnley have the toughest run of games, with their opponents having an average league position of sixth. By contrast, West Ham have the most favourable schedule, facing opponents ranked 15th on average.
Simple for City?
The bad news for those hoping Manchester City slip up is that the runaway leaders have the second easiest schedule on paper, just behind the Hammers with an average league position of 14.5 for their opponents. Tenth-placed Watford are the highest-ranked side standing in the way of Pep Guardiola’s men.
Burnley, who have been the surprise package of the season so far, face home games against Tottenham and Liverpool and a trip to Manchester United – if they can stay in the top six through that run, hopes will rise that Turf Moor could be hosting European football next season.
Arsenal face Chelsea as well as Liverpool and, coupled with Burnley’s run, that could spell good news for Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino’s side lie seventh but have the third most favourable schedule, with their opponents having an average league position of 13.25 – a trip to Burnley is the toughest game on paper for a team who took a maximum 12 points this time last year.
Problems mount for Swansea
At the bottom of the table, Swansea need to start picking up points before they find themselves falling further away from safety – but Paul Clement’s side have the fourth toughest schedule, facing teams with an average league position of 8.75.
A crunch game at home to Crystal Palace is followed by clashes with Liverpool, Watford and Tottenham. The Swans only managed to collect three points during the same period 12 months ago and a repeat haul will not make their chances of survival any easier, and could increase the pressure on Clement.
Alan Pardew has yet to taste victory as West Brom manager and will have to hope that changes over the next fortnight. The stand-out games for Pardew’s men are trips to Stoke and West Ham to start and end the festive fortnight.
Stoke, hovering one point and one place above the relegation zone, have not had much to cheer this season but the good news for Mark Hughes is their festive opponents have an average position of 12.75. They will no doubt target home games against West Brom and Newcastle – the two sides directly below them in the table – as games they simply have to win.
Brighton, who sit 13th, will see their festive fixtures – against opponents with an average league position of 11.75 – as an opportunity to pick up points, especially with Newcastle and Bournemouth both below them in the table.