The preview to Premier League’s festive season fixtures threw up some surprising results this past weekend, which made things interesting at the top and bottom of the table. League leaders Liverpool were not in action due to their involvement in the Club World Cup, but Manchester City and Leicester City played each other, with the former winning the match, and closing the gap to just 1 point with the Foxes.
Elsewhere, Chelsea extended their lead over the rest of the top four contenders after a vital win against Tottenham Hotspur. Down at the bottom end of the table, Watford got a vital win against Manchester United, giving them some hope of survival this season.
Let’s take a look at the 5 takeaways from Premier League Matchweek 18
Leicester City’s title race is all but over
Coming into this weekend, Leicester City had to win against Manchester City to close the gap on Liverpool. But the Foxes’ loss means that they are now 10 points behind the Merseyside club, who have a game in hand, while Leicester and Liverpool face-off next.
This huge points gap all but surely ends Leicester’s involvement in the title race but it does not make their upcoming clash any less exciting.
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United turnaround
Ahead of the season, it looked all doom and gloom at Newcastle United following the appointment of Steve Bruce as manager, with many making the Magpies favourites for relegation. But, Bruce has turned things around after a poor start to the season. Bruce’s men registered a vital win over Crystal Palace, taking them to two points shy of a top 6 position.
Newcastle are now certain to stay in the league, while they could realistically push for a finish in the top 10, which would be a fantastic achievement.
Manchester United need a serious overhaul
Manchester United hit another hurdle this past weekend when they lost to bottom-placed Watford, who had won only one game before this fixture. The Red Devils looked bereft of ideas in the final third, and it seems that the wins over Tottenham and Manchester City massively papered over the cracks that exist in the United team.
They desperately need a creative player to unlock tough defences, and also a quality striker as the experiment to play Anthony Martial as a striker hasn’t quite worked out.
Wolves and Sheffield United genuine top 6 contenders
Like Newcastle United, two other teams that have surprised many are Wolves and Sheffield United, both winning away from home this weekend. The former finished in a respectable 7th place last season, but many predicted them to struggle this season owing to their involvement in the Europa League. Wolves have not only qualified for the knockout phases of the Europa League but also managed to break into the top 6.
Sheffield United, meanwhile, have done exceedingly well since being promoted to the Premier League, with Chris Wilder’s team showing great fight this season. They have been well organised and fantastic away from home and will be desperate to cement their place in the top half of the table.
Huge relegation scrap
A few weeks ago, many had written off Watford, but their win this past weekend shows that they still stand a chance of staying up, despite it being a huge task. 7 points separate Bournemouth in 14th to Watford in 20th, and a run of a few wins during the festive season could take the likes of Watford or Norwich City out of the relegation zone.
All in all, despite Liverpool’s blistering start, there is everything to play for in the Premier League still this season.