The Premier League has taken a back seat for now…but not for long.
The Qatar World Cup kicks off today and lasts exactly four weeks, with the final on Sunday 18 December.
Then eight days later the real fun starts again with the Premier League Boxing Day fixtures.
The festive fixtures very often set the direction for the rest of the season, with a lot of fixtures in a short space of time at a crucial juncture of the 38 match season.
Well along with the FA Cup third round (and a League Cup game for a number of Premier League clubs), all clubs in top tier face five PL matches in less than four weeks, when proper football resumes.
Below, I have looked at what is likely to happen to the current top eight Premier League clubs in the table, in that mad dash after Qatar.
First of all, if you are wondering when Premier League players might be finished with World Cup exertions, all group games end by Friday 2 December, then…
World Cup knockout dates:
Last Sixteen – Matches played Saturday 3 December to Tuesday 6 December
Quarter-Finals – Friday 9 December / Saturday 10 December
Semi-Finals – Tuesday 13 December / Wednesday 14 December
Third/Fourth place play-off – Saturday 17 December
Final – Sunday 18 December
This is how the Premier League table looks and will continue to do, until Boxing Day:
By the end of Monday 23 January 2023, these are the five Premier League games that each of the top eight will have played, with my prediction of how many points each will have picked up from the 15 available.
Arsenal (37 points – Played 14)
West Ham (H), Brighton (A), Newcastle (H), Tottenham (A), Man Utd (H) (6 points)
Man City (32 points – Played 14)
Leeds (A), Everton (H), Chelsea (A), Man Utd (A), Wolves (H) (11 points)
Newcastle United (30 points – Played 15)
Leicester (A), Leeds (H), Arsenal (A), Fulham (H), Crystal Palace (A) (9 points)
Tottenham (29 points – Played 15)
Brentford (A), Villa (H), Palace (A), Arsenal (H), Fulham (A) (7 points)
Man Utd (26 points – Played 14)
Forest (H), Wolves (A), Bournemouth (H), Man City (H), Arsenal (A) (9 points)
Liverpool (22 points – Played 14)
Villa (A), Leicester (H), Brentford (A), Brighton (A), Chelsea (H) (7 points)
Brighton (21 points – Played 14)
Southampton (A), Arsenal (H), Everton (A), Liverpool (H), Leicester (A) (7 points)
Chelsea (21 points – Played 14)
Bournemouth (H), Forest (A), Man City (H), Palace (H), Liverpool (A) (9 points)
So by Monday 23 January, all clubs will have reached the halfway point, Newcastle and Tottenham will have played 20 PL matches and the other six it will be 19 PL games played.
Arsenal (43 points – Played 19)
Man City (43 points – Played 19)
Newcastle United (39 points – Played 20)
Tottenham (36 points – Played 20)
Man Utd (35 points – Played 19)
Chelsea (30 points – Played 19)
Liverpool (29 points – Played 19)
Brighton (28 points – Played 19)
Bottom line is that after the World Cup, I am predicting a lot of tough hard fought games and draws – maybe surprise results, the clubs who have had a lot of players away in Qatar, not finding it easy. Man City though finding it a bit easier than the rest, with the strength of their squad AND especially a fully fit and raring to go Erling Haaland, who isn’t at this World Cup.
For my money, I think this is the point where Man City start to reassert and Arsenal start hitting a tough spot. A lot of games in these five rounds of matches where top eight clubs play each other and whilst I see the Gunners beating West Ham, I predict they will lose at Tottenham and draw with Brighton, Newcastle and Man Utd.
As you can see, Arsenal play four teams who are also in the top eight. On the other hand, if say they picked up 12+ points from this tough run of games then they would be on at least 47 points at the halfway stage of the season and quite possibly have built the foundations to go on and win this title.
As for Newcastle United, with only one defeat in the last 19 played (all competitions), I think it is fair to believe (especially with recent form of eight wins and a draw in the last nine matches) that NUFC can give anybody a game and at least come out undefeated. I have gone for nine points from Newcastle’s five matches, with wins over Leeds and Fulham at home, then draws at Leicester, Arsenal and Palace.
If Eddie Howe’s team could get that kind of return and have 39 points after 20 PL games played, no reason why we can’t attack the second half of the season with confidence. Particularly so when mid-February will see all but Brighton and ourselves of this top eight, back in European action.
All to play for and every confidence that Eddie Howe will have a super fit and well prepared Newcastle United ready to hit the ground running at Leicester on Boxing Day.