Liverpool are top of the table this Christmas but the big game on 26 December is second-placed Leicester against third-placed Manchester United.
Will the Foxes or United challenge the Reds for the Premier League title in 2021? Or will it be someone else?
“Along with Manchester City, United seem the most likely team to me to run Liverpool close,” said BBC football expert Mark Lawrenson. “After a slow start to the season, they have just started to get it together.
“United will be a threat to Liverpool, and Manchester City will be there or thereabouts too. They have got too much quality not to be.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 Premier League matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This weekend, he is up against singer Rick Astley, whose new festive single ‘Love this Christmas’ is out now.
Astley performed ‘Every One of Us’ at last weekend’s BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year awards – his song was used to launch 2020’s Unsung Hero awards and raise money for Children In Need.
“It was so weird on the one hand, because you are so used to seeing 10,000 people at SPOTY, but it was still a great night and they threw everything they could at it to make it work as well as possible in the circumstances,” he told BBC Sport.
Astley is a Manchester United fan and the last time he took on Lawro, in 2016, he revealed he thought he might be a jinx because his first few visits to Old Trafford saw them lose.
He told BBC Sport: “I don’t think I’m a real jinx, but funnily enough I was talking about that to someone last weekend because [United striker] Marcus Rashford was coming into the building for SPOTY.
“I would have loved to have met him properly – I have spoken to him very briefly before at the club’s training ground in Carrington – and obviously I had see watched him play that day in United’s win over Leeds before he came over, so I thought he’d be in a good mood.
“Then I thought ‘hang on, you are being daft – you can’t just go and say hello to people because everyone is trying to observe social distancing’, which is why we were doing the show that way in the first place.
“So I didn’t talk to him, but it was brilliant to see Marcus recognised for his work to raise awareness of child poverty in the UK with a special award.
“Premier League footballers are usually among the first people in society who are pointed at because of the money they earn, especially when one of them does something stupid.
“But you have to remember a lot of them are very young which can distort your behaviour, I can relate to that a bit with the music industry where you can have a hit record out and a year later your bank manager is saying ‘you’d better sit down’ if it goes really well.
“So I can understand when the money side of it turns players’ heads, but I think it is really good that we have had so many positive role models emerge in football in the past few years and tackling some important topics, not just Marcus but someone like Raheem Sterling at Manchester City as well.
“As professional athletes they are very privileged to earn what they do and are quite sheltered from the realities of life, but listening to Rashford it is clear he can relate to being a kid in a situation where life is not treating you well, and you are not getting the opportunities or – in his case – even getting enough food.
“He’s experienced it, and seen the difference between the haves and the have nots in Manchester, which is quite stark. It’s the same in all big cities of course, but I can relate to it with Manchester because I grew up close by and saw that for myself.
“So it’s important for him to speak out – and I’m really pleased he’s been recognised for what he has done.”
You can still download the charity single ‘Every One of Us’, by Rick Astley featuring The Unsung Heroes, with proceeds going to Children in Need.
|SATURDAY, 26 DECEMBER|
|Leicester v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||2-3|
|Aston Villa v Crystal Palace||x-x||2-0||1-1|
|Fulham v Southampton||x-x||2-1||0-2|
|Arsenal v Chelsea||x-x||1-1||0-3|
|Man City v Newcastle||x-x||3-0||3-1|
|Sheff Utd v Everton||x-x||1-1||0-2|
|SUNDAY, 27 DECEMBER|
|Leeds v Burnley||x-x||2-1||2-1|
|West Ham v Brighton||x-x||2-1||2-0|
|Liverpool v West Brom||x-x||3-0||5-0|
|Wolves v Tottenham||x-x||1-1||1-3|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Leicester v Man Utd (12:30 GMT)
Both of these sides are much better on the road than they are at home – United have won all six of their away league games this season.
Leicester, meanwhile, have got half as many points at the King Power Stadium as they have on their travels – nine at home, compared to 18 away.
The Foxes’ latest excellent away result came against Tottenham last weekend and, although there is a lot more to them than just one player, they are set up to get the best out of Jamie Vardy and they play to his strengths.
An in-form Vardy is hard for anyone to stop, but I look at United and I see a team that is just clicking into gear. I am backing them to make it seven away wins out of seven.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Rick’s prediction: United will go second if we win this game, two points behind a Liverpool team who have been phenomenal for the past couple of years – and I think any United fan would take that at Christmas in any season, including when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager – although he wouldn’t be happy about it!
We obviously don’t like being behind Liverpool under any circumstances but we just have to beat them when we play them and we are above them. So I think we are doing well at the moment, especially considering what a strange season it has been, with no fans and crazy results for every team.
Not having any fans is actually turning into a disadvantage for most people, because you have the pressure of being at home, without any of the usual advantages – which is part of the reason Leicester and ourselves have got such a great away record. There are going to be a lot of goals in this one, and I’m going with United to win again on the road. 2-3
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace (15:00 GMT)
Aston Villa’s results have been up and down all season but they are on a good run at the moment with seven points from their past three games.
In contrast, Palace were taken apart by Liverpool last weekend. Yes, part of the reason for that was that Liverpool were absolutely outstanding in attack, and I’m sure we will see a reaction from the Eagles here, but I still think Villa will be able to open them up.
Jack Grealish is playing well and he is now to Villa what Wilfried Zaha is for Palace – their attacking talisman. On top of that, Villa play like they believe they belong in the Premier League because their results have given them that confidence.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Rick’s prediction: Palace crumbled against Liverpool, which is very unlike them. That won’t happen this time. 1-1
Fulham v Southampton (15:00 GMT)
Southampton could be without a few key players – Oriol Romeu is definitely missing through suspension and Danny Ings, Jannik Vestergaard and Nathan Redmond are all injury doubts. Collectively, their absence would make a big difference.
I’m going to go with Fulham here, even with manager Scott Parker missing from the dugout. After a poor start to the season they have been improving in recent weeks, with three successive draws.
The Cottagers have become much more difficult to beat, now they need to turn those draws into wins.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Rick’s prediction: I quite like Fulham and have been to a few games at Craven Cottage – a friend of mine, Richard Drummie from Go West, has got season tickets there and phones me up sometimes when his son doesn’t want to go – but unfortunately for them I think Southampton are going to win this one. 0-2
Arsenal v Chelsea (17:30 GMT)
Arsenal aren’t winning games but I would not point the finger at their manager, Mikel Arteta, I think their issues run far deeper that.
Their recruitment has not been good enough – I know it probably wasn’t possible but I honestly think they need their former manager Arsene Wenger in charge of that side of things.
I look at some of the Gunners players, and I don’t think they care enough. Are they particularly bothered if they keep losing games? I don’t get the impression that they are.
Again, that’s not Arteta’s fault. Arsenal’s better players this season have been their kids, because some of the older ones do not look like they are playing for Arsenal – I think they are playing for themselves.
Having said all of that, I have a feeling the Gunners will get something here. They are on a poor run, but they still have some quality players in their side, and they are going to show it at some point soon.
I am not totally convinced by Chelsea either. They were on a really good run until the start of December but I don’t think they are consistent enough to challenge Liverpool for the title. The top four is a realistic target for Frank Lampard’s side though.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Rick’s prediction: Arsenal are hopeless at the moment aren’t they? I’ve got to be honest, it does give me a sense of glee to say that. Two of my oldest friends are Arsenal fans, actually, and we are actually pretty civilised about it if they, or United, are having a bad time of it.
There is a rivalry there though, of course, but with the teams you don’t like, the reality is you are just showing respect because the reason you don’t like them is that you sort of fear them a bit, or they have been – as Arsenal were for a long time to United under Arsene Wenger – your main rival. 0-3
Man City v Newcastle (20:00 GMT)
Newcastle did not play well against Brentford when they went out of the Carabao Cup in midweek, and they only managed a draw at home to Fulham last weekend.
The Magpies will have to do a lot better than that to get anything at Etihad Stadium and I don’t see it happening.
Having Sergio Aguero back fully fit to lead their attack would be a big boost for City but I would expect them to beat Newcastle even if he isn’t ready.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Rick’s prediction: At some point, City are going to to put their foot on the gas. I don’t think they are far away from being in the mix for the title either. 3-1
Sheff Utd v Everton (20:00 GMT)
This will be physical because both teams can play that way. Everton have got more quality but Sheffield United showed they were up for the scrap against Brighton last weekend, when they almost held on for a win despite going down to 10 men.
Despite only picking up two points from their first 14 games, I don’t think the Blades’ survival chances are all over just yet. Their hopes are fading fast though.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Rick’s prediction: I feel a bit sorry for Sheffield United but I don’t see anything changing for them here. 0-2
Leeds v Burnley (12:00 GMT)
Burnley are on a good run, with two draws and two wins in their past four games, and this should be a good game.
Leeds are not great defensively in open play or at set-pieces, and their goalkeeper Illan Meslier makes some good saves but doesn’t command the area.
Meslier is just a kid at 20. He looks like he has the makings of a really good keeper, but he isn’t one at the moment. He is still learning, and he is playing behind a porous back four.
Leeds know their strength is going forward, though, and they are not going to change. I think they will win, but there is no way they are getting a clean sheet.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Rick’s prediction: These two sides have very different playing styles. I’d have to say Leeds will win this one. I know we gave them a bit of a lesson last weekend but their attacking approach has been working this season. 2-1
West Ham v Brighton (14:15 GMT)
This is a tough one to call because you know that Brighton play some good football without really hurting teams. West Ham have been playing some decent stuff too, but have gone a couple of games without winning.
I’m going to go with the Hammers, though, mainly because there is a chance that Michail Antonio could be available after his hamstring injury.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Rick’s prediction: 2-0
Liverpool v West Brom (16:30 GMT)
Liverpool’s home record is just unbelievable, fans or no fans. All the time, their young players are getting more and more experience too and, whoever they play at Anfield, they seem to be able to just brush them aside.
It’s hard to make a case for West Brom to get anything out of this one but it would help matters if they can keep 11 players on the pitch this weekend.
I am sure new Baggies boss Sam Allardyce will get that message across to his players pretty quickly but, in terms of results, I am not expecting to see them make much improvement until the January transfer window opens.
Big Sam is the last man to win at Anfield in the Premier League, with Palace in April 2017, but I don’t see a repeat result for him here. I know it has been a strange season, but come on!
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Rick’s prediction: Oh dear! I fear for West Brom here – this could be literally anything. Mr Allardyce will have had a few more days to organise West Brom, but he’s got to work with what he has got for now. 5-0
Wolves v Tottenham (19:15 GMT)
Tottenham have hit a little sticky patch, with two defeats and a draw in their past three matches, and Wolves have not been great either, with three defeats in four games in December.
Goals might be the problem for both teams here, because I can see this being cagey. Both sides really need a win, but they might have to settle for a point apiece.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Rick’s prediction: Wolves have got some excellent players, but they haven’t really got going this season. 1-3
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
Last weekend, Lawro got four correct results from 10 matches, with no exact scores, for a total of 40 points.
He was beaten by singer Becky Hill, who got five correct results, including one exact score, for a total of 90 points.
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2020-21
|110||Sister Bliss, Amy Macdonald, Steve White|
|90||Adam Devonshire, Becky Hill|
|75||Lawro (average after 14 weeks)|
|60||Celeste, Caroline Weir|
|50||Declan McKenna, Paul Smith, DJ Target|
|40||Gavin ‘Mo’ Edgeley|