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Premier League Christmas fixtures: Festive predictions for 'big six'

Premier League Christmas fixtures: Festive predictions for 'big six'
From ESPN - December 7, 2017

The Premier League's Christmas fixture period is always a pivotal time in the season, and with the division's "big six" clubs battling for just four Champions League places this year's festive period is set to be crucial.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all have seven league matches to play between this weekend and 2018's first round of games, after which the FA Cup third round will provide a brief respite.

ESPN FC's club correspondents take a look at the fixture list, provide a prediction for each match and give an overview of their team's prospects over the next month.

ARSENAL:Arsenal are entering this busy period with a well-rested and nearly fully fit squad, thanks to Arsene Wenger's rotation policy in the Europa League. December offers a great chance to take advantage of that, especially as two away games against London clubs will limit their travel. The home games against Liverpool and Chelsea could prove decisive in the battle for top four, but it's equally important to avoid any slip-ups against the "lesser" clubs. -- Mattias Karen

Dec. 10: Southampton (A) - W
Dec. 13: West Ham (A) - W
Dec. 16: Newcastle (H) - W
Dec. 22: Liverpool (H) - D
Dec. 28: Crystal Palace (A) - W
Dec. 31: West Brom (A) - W
Jan. 3: Chelsea (H) - D

Total points: 17

CHELSEA: It's not an exaggeration to say that any hopes Chelsea still harbour of defending the title depend on how they fare in December. The gap to Manchester City is already 11 points and cannot be allowed to grow any further. On the plus side, the fixture schedule that has so annoyed Antonio Conte this season looks decidedly kinder in the coming weeks.

Chelsea do not face another top-six side until a trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal on Jan. 3. Across their six December games, only matches on the road against London rivals West Ham and a Sam Allardyce-rejuvenated Everton carry the air of potential banana skins. Accumulated fatigue could take its toll against the Gunners, who have been strong at home and performed surprisingly well in a feisty goalless draw at Stamford Bridge in September.

Overall, Chelsea can be optimistic of taking close to maximum points from their festive run, and nothing less will do in terms of the title race. More likely, though, is a good rather than great return that keeps them on track for third place. -- Liam Twomey

Dec. 9: West Ham (A) - D
Dec. 12: Huddersfield (A) - W
Dec. 16: Southampton (H) - W
Dec. 23: Everton (A) - D
Dec. 26: Brighton (H) - W
Dec. 30: Stoke (H) - W
Jan. 3: Arsenal (A) - L

Total points: 14

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp has been quick to point out Liverpool's bloated schedule over the festive period, but the fixtures could have been worse for his side. All nine of the games over this period are more than winnable for the Reds, including Arsenal away. But there are a few tricky fixtures ahead. Allardyce always enjoys getting one over Liverpool, and Everton will be hoping he can guide them to their first victory at Anfield since 1999.

For once, Liverpool's injury list is rather short, with Nathaniel Clyne the only player with a long-term injury. In stark contrast to last season, Klopp will be able to use the squad depth he believes he has at his disposal, with rotation during this group of fixtures more a necessity rather than a possibility. It's the moment for summer signings Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andrew Robertson to shine. -- Glenn Price

Dec. 10: Everton (H) - L
Dec. 13: West Brom (H) - W
Dec. 17: Bournemouth (A) - D
Dec. 22: Arsenal (A) - W
Dec. 26: Swansea City (H) - W
Dec. 30: Leicester City (H) - W
Jan. 1: Burnley (A) - L

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