News world news bbc news cnn news sport news
The Premier League’s top two meet on 26 December with Leicester looking to cut the gap on runaway leaders Liverpool.
While the Reds keep on winning – lifting the Club World Cup last week – the Foxes have fallen out of form, and have now gone three games without a win in normal play.
“Leicester had been on such a good run before then, and I just wonder if this is their little iffy period,” said BBC football expert Mark Lawrenson.
“Plus I just think Liverpool are very difficult to stop at the moment. The word I would use to describe them is ‘clinical’, and they showed that again in Qatar.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
For the games on 26 and 27 December, he is up againstsinger-songwriter and Sheffield Wednesday fan Richard Hawley,whose latest album ‘Further’ is out now.
Hawley, a former guitarist in Pulp and Longpigs, hails from the Steel City and is enjoying seeing the Owls flying up the Championship as they look to return to the top flight for the first time since 2000.
Wednesday have won four and drawn one of their past five matches to climb to third place and Hawley told BBC Sport: “If you are a football fan you get used to the the undulations of your team – but it is just so good to see us playing so well and for me the team we have got now is all there.
“We have got a brilliant goalie, decent defence, a proper midfield who play football not hoofball, and strikers who put chances away.
“I am a bit worried we have got Stoke, who are second-bottom, next though. It is a Sheffield Wednesday thing that we always seem to raise our game against equivalent or better teams – but then drop points against the lesser sides.”
While Wednesday are bidding to return to the Premier League, their neighbours and rivals Sheffield United have turned into the season’s surprise package following their promotion, and sit fifth in the table.
But Hawley, who went to watch his first Wednesday match at the age of five with his granddad, does not mind seeing the Blades back in the big time – far from it in fact.
“I am actually quite supportive, and not in a grudgingly way either,” he explained. “I like to see anything to do with Sheffield doing well.
“Obviously I want to see Wednesday get some success but I just love the city I live in. I make that fairly obvious because I make a massive point of it in pretty much everything I do.
“A couple of years ago my management were talking about me doing a concert at Hillsborough and it kind of got so far along the road.
“But then in the end I said ‘actually I don’t want to do it’ and they were asking me ‘why not? It will be an amazing event’.
“And I said ‘because a lot of my fans are Blades’. It would have been a bit of a kick in the face for them if I put on a gig at Wednesday’s ground.
“I’ve got loads of mates who are Blades too and the banter is worth it, basically.
“They had been in the wilderness for so long – a bit like us, or Manchester City were when they were in the third tier a few years ago – and it does test your mettle as a fan when you go through all that – it is bleak.
“I miss us not being in the same division, because you don’t get a derby – and a Sheffield derby is such a day. There is the stigma if you lose, but absolute euphoria if you win.
“Let’s just hope we can play them again next season, but I am genuinely pleased see them doing so well – just don’t tell anyone that!’
|Premier League predictions – week 19|
|THURSDAY 26 DEC|
|Tottenham v Brighton||x-x||3-0||3-1|
|Aston Villa v Norwich||x-x||2-0||2-0|
|Bournemouth v Arsenal||x-x||1-2||1-1|
|Chelsea v Southampton||x-x||2-0||4-0|
|Crystal Palace v West Ham||x-x||1-2||0-2|
|Everton v Burnley||x-x||2-0||0-2|
|Sheff Utd v Watford||x-x||0-1||4-0|
|Man Utd v Newcastle||x-x||2-0||8-0|
|Leicester v Liverpool||x-x||0-2||2-1|
|FRIDAY 27 Dec|
|Wolves v Man City||x-x||0-2||2-2|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth10points. The exact score earns40points.
All kick-offs 15:00 GMT unless stated.
News world news bbc news cnn news sport news THURSDAY, 26 DECEMBER
Tottenham v Brighton (12:30 GMT)
Tottenham were out-thought tactically by Chelsea on Sunday, could not get control of the game in midfield and finished up well beaten.
Brighton, meanwhile, became Sheffield United’s latest victims on the road, and have now won only one of their past seven matches.
It is Spurs who I am expecting to see a response from here, but Jose Mourinho will have to sort his midfield out for that to happen.
Aston Villa v Norwich City
It was worrying to see Aston Villa shipping goals the way they were in Saturday’s defeat by Southampton. Dean Smith’s side have now lost four games in a row, and John McGinn’s injury is another blow for them.
Norwich also have issues at the back of course, and they also paid the price for failing to take their chances when they were 1-0 up against Wolves last time out.
I think Villa will pose the greater threat, but they cannot afford another slip up at home to a team below them
Richard’s prediction:Both of these teams came up from the Championship last season, and they are both struggling. This is a no-brainer for me, though, because my drummer Dean Beresford is a massive Villa fan, and his granddad Joe Beresford played for them from 1927 to 1934. He is in the process of writing a book about him at the moment and the stories are legend.
So, if I don’t say Villa are going to win, I might end up without a drummer. In any case I have always had a secret liking of Villa because of their claret and blue colours. I think that goes to the 1970s because I can always picture Andy Gray in their kit. 2-0
Bournemouth v Arsenal
Bournemouth did not offer much going forward against Burnley on Saturday, and did not even manage one shot on target.
They looked like they were at least going to get a clean sheet but the Clarets nicked it right at the end, and the Cherries have now lost six of their past seven games.
Although we have seen Eddie Howe’s side recover from bad runs like this one in the past, they have got a lot of injuries to contend with at the moment and the busy festive period is going to be especially tough on them.
New Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta clearly has a big job on his hands and it is not just his defence that needs sorting out because the goals have dried up too.
Even so, I would expect the ‘new manager bounce’ to have an effect here.
Richard’s prediction:I am going to go for a really dull draw. 1-1
Chelsea v Southampton
Southampton were very impressive in their win at relegation rivals Aston Villa, but so was Chelsea’s performance to beat Tottenham.
It was a huge win for Blues boss Frank Lampard for all sorts of reasons, not least because they had lost four of their previous five league games.
Chelsea’s problem this season has been consistency and Southampton will make things difficult for them but, after beating Spurs, I don’t think they will follow that up by dropping points here.
Crystal Palace v West Ham
The last time these teams met, Crystal Palace snatched a late winner at the London Stadium at the start of October, to nick a victory that spelt the end of West Ham’s good start to the season.
I am expecting this game to be just as close but this time I am going for the Hammers to edge it. Palace have got a lot of defensive injuries and they could catch up with them here.
Everton v Burnley
I wonder what new Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti was thinking when he was watching his side’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal last weekend?
Ancelotti probably realises now just how big a job he has got on his hands, and Burnley are tricky opponents for his first game back in the Premier League.
If this game was at Turf Moor, it would be even more difficult but Goodison Park will be rocking and I am sure we will see a reaction from the Everton players too.
It probably would not be a bad idea if Ancelotti gave Duncan Ferguson the last word in the dressing room before the team runs out. He would make sure they were fired up and knew exactly what was expected of them.
Sheff Utd v Watford
I was impressed by Watford when I saw them lose at Liverpool 10 days ago and they backed that up with their display as they beat Manchester United on Sunday.
Nigel Pearson has taken charge and has seen two very good performances and it looks like the players have responded to him.
The quality that the Hornets have got in their squad was never in doubt, and now Pearson has got them playing too.
Their luck is maybe starting to turn a bit as well. I can see them going to Bramall Lane, being competitive, and leaving with the points.
That is going to delight the legions of Blades fans who have pointed out to me where Sheffield United are in my league table (bottom of page) compared to reality.
When I tip them to lose it usually means they will win – but I am going to get one right one day.
Richard’s prediction:It is Christmas after all so I am not going to use this as an opportunity to have a little dig at the Blades, although a lot of my Wednesday-supporting mates will probably say ‘why didn’t you just slate them?’
“I am going to get loads of stick from my Wednesday mates here but, for the city’s sake, I hope they win this one. Modern football can leave you cold sometimes but Sheffield United are different. They are not just doing really well, they are the embodiment of a real-life ‘Roy of the Rovers’ story in the Premier League at the moment and they have earned everyone’s respect.
“I admire the hard work and graft they have put in to get the results they have done, and they have had plenty of shining moments along the way. Their manager Chris Wilder is a Sheffield hero too, and I think they are going to have a bumper Boxing Day. 4-0
Man Utd v Newcastle (17:30)
I cannot believe that, after Sunday’s defeat by Watford, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in said they had played like they were in a testimonial in the first half.
I really don’t get that. Even if you thought it, you would not say it to the press because instantly you are going to be asked ‘why you didn’t motivate them better, and get them at it?’
It tells you a lot about the character – or perhaps the lack of it – in Solskjaer’s squad that they go to Manchester City away and play extremely well, then two weeks later they are away at Watford and don’t turn up.
Paul Pogba will probably start in this game after coming off the bench against Watford, but I don’t see Anthony Martial is the answer down the middle.
One week he looks like a proper player, the next it feels like he has barely played the game. It is very strange.
Even so, they should still have too much for Newcastle, if they can get their tempo right.
Magpies boss Steve Bruce is doing a great job at and he will get a great reception from the fans at Old Trafford – but he will not be leaving with the points.
Richard’s prediction:Because of Steve Bruce’s absolutely shocking lack of loyalty to Sheffield Wednesday, I am going for Manchester United to win, 8-0.
Leicester v Liverpool (20:00)
It is a big positive for Liverpool that they have had a week away in the sun together and, while it was not cracking the flags in Qatar, it was warmer and it was a nice change of scenery to train in.
Of course they brought home the Club World Cup too, and if you put all of that together it was perfect preparation for this game.
Leicester, who lost at Manchester City, will not roll over and they have got a decent record against Liverpool in recent years.
Most recently they gave Liverpool a good game Anfield earlier in the season, before losing late on, as well as holding them earlier this year before Brendan Rodgers took charge.
But this Reds team is a different animal, which is why I am tipping them to go to King Power Stadium and win to extend their lead at the top of the table even further.
If I am right, that would all but end Leicester’s title hopes but they would obviously still be well placed to finish in the top four.
That gives Rodgers a good argument to ask for money to spend in the January transfer window to build on their position of strength.
By bringing in a couple of new players, Leicester could cement their spot in next season’s Champions League – which would mean they make up for any outlay.
Richard’s prediction:This is the match that I think everyone is looking forward to. Obviously Liverpool have had such an insane season – my manager, Graham Wrench, is a Liverpool fan and I have got loads of Scouse mates, like allthe Bunnymen,who are all Reds. When I was a kid, Liverpool had so many great teams and I am glad to see them back, the way they are.
Leicester are giving the title a good shout too, and looking for a repeat of the fairytale when they won it in 2016. I don’t see them as massive underdogs in this game, though, even if the points difference is pretty huge. 2-1
News world news bbc news cnn news sport news FRIDAY, 27 DECEMBER
Wolves v Man City (19:45)
Wolves’ half-term report is a glowing one. It is not a case of ‘must do better’, more ‘can they do any better?’
Their win over Manchester City at Etihad Stadium was one of their best results of the first half of the season, and they also showed last week against Norwich that they have the resolve to win games when things initially do not go well for them.
I am sure Wolves will again look to use the pace of Adama Traore, who scored twice against City in October, but I don’t see a repeat result.
Pep Guardiola’s side have looked a lot more like their old selves with their attacking displays against Arsenal and Leicester in the past couple of weeks, scoring three times in both games.
Of course there is still a question mark over City defensively, but they will take the game to Wolves and I think they will win it.
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last week?
Last weekend, Lawro got four correct results with no exact scores from nine Premier League matches, for a total of40 points.
He was beaten bySerge from indie rock band Kasabian,who got three correct results, but with one exact score, for a total of60 points.
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2019-20
|90||Helen Housby, Jo Harten, Bobby Seagull, Geraint Thomas|
|82||Lawro (average after 18 weeks)|
|80||Andy Murray, Stephen Graham|
|70||David Baddiel, Michael Johnson, Craig Mitch, Alex Scott|
|60||Serge from Kasabian, Sonny Bill Williams, Stefan Ratchford|
|50||Chelcee Grimes, Reece Parkinson, Sam Warburton|
|40||Stephen Fry, Neil Jones, Tommy O’Dell|
|Total scores after week 18|