The jam-packed holiday schedule in the English Premier League comes to an end this week, with 10 games spread across three days, starting with a six-game slate on Monday.
The lack of exciting play on the pitch, less than stellar matchups and congested schedule have watered down the quality of the last week and a half, but there is still potential for that to turn around this week with a top-four London derby and a few relegation six-pointers.
First-place Chelsea and fourth-place Tottenham sit atop the Premier League marquee this week, as their Wednesday clash at White Hart Lane is the best game on paper. If Spurs find a way to break Chelsea’s winning streak, it could close the gap between the Blues and the rest of the title contenders.
Down at the bottom of the table, Swansea City and Crystal Palace square off in a contest of clubs that have sacked a combined three managers this season. The Swans dropped down to last place after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Bournemouth on Saturday and Palace remained in 17th following a loss to Arsenal in Sam Allardyce’s first match in charge.
It’s also never too early to keep an eye on the qualification positions for the two European competitions. While most eyes are on the top four, two clubs in contention for UEFA Europa League spots will battle it out in a top of the table clash on Monday.
Here is a look at those two matches and other games of interest across the Premier League over the next three days.
Chelsea at Tottenham (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Injuries of Note: Toby Alderweireld was a question heading into Sunday, but he’s recovered from a virus to be ready for selection this week for Spurs. Erik Lamela will miss the match with a hip injury. John Terry has been involved in training with Chelsea, but he isn’t being rushed back to the matchday squad.
Key to Game: It’s all about midfield and controlling the possession battle in this clash of top-four sides. If Spurs also Chelsea to control the match, the Blues will settle into a rhythm and continue their Premier League dominance. If Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen can pressure Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante and take control of the pace, it would do wonders for the high-flying Spurs.
Player to Watch: Harry Kane picked up a brace in Tottenham’s Sunday win over Watford to match Thierry Henry’s goal total in 100 games played in the Premier League. The skill of the Englishman in the final third will be a key asset to home side against a Chelsea defense that has only conceded on 13 occasions in league play.
Quote: “With their evolution and how they are showing their quality is something to be very proud of and feel good about.”- Mauricio Pochettino on Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Swansea City at Crystal Palace (Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET, Live Extra)
Injuries of Note: It still may be too early for Loic Remy to return for Palace. He wasn’t involved on Sunday, and it’s unlikely he’ll be available for selection with the quick turnaround. Nathan Dyer made his first start for Swansea on Saturday, while Jefferson Montero and Wayne Routledge are still out.
Key to Game: Swansea has conceded a league high off 44 goals through 19 matches. In order to have any semblance of a chance in the fight for survival, the Swans must plug the gaps in defense, but based off their recent games, a quick fix isn’t in sight. Palace put four past the Swans in their 5-4 defeat on November 26, so the Eagles know about Swansea’s defensive flaws all too well.
Player to Watch: Yohan Cabaye has put together a disappointing line of statistics this season for Palace, as he’s contributed two goals in 16 appearances. Tuesday presents a perfect opportunity for the Frenchman to get back on the stat sheet and carve up a defense that is among the worst in Europe.
Quote: “It’s an important game for us and a chance to get three points. Today we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but Swansea we have to come away with the three points.”- Mathieu Flamini
Southampton at Everton (Monday, 10 a.m. ET, Live Extra)
Injuries of Note: Maarten Stekelenburg is still suffering from an injury he picked up against Liverpool, which may lead to Joel Robles starting in net. Southampton will be without Charlie Austin, Jordy Clasie, Alex McCarthy and Matt Targett.
Key to Game: Everton’s front line will have a chance to exploit a weakened Southampton back line after Virgil Van Dijk was sent off on Saturday. The Toffees have scored two goals in four of their last five league matches, a trend that has a good chance of continuing with one of the Premier League’s top defenders on the sidelines.
Player to Watch: Jay Rodriguez burst back onto the scene with a brace against Bournemouth on December 18. With squad rotation expected in the tight turnaround, Rodriguez should get a chance to start up top and give the Saints a chance to gain ground on Everton in the race for the UEFA Europa League places.
Quote: “It’s a really tough period of games for everybody but we know you can’t play three games in seven or eight days with 11 players – you need to do some changes in the team.”– Ronald Koeman
The Week’s Remaining Schedule
Leicester City at Middlesbrough (Monday, 7:30 a.m. ET, Live Extra)
Liverpool at Sunderland (Monday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN)
Burnley at Manchester City (Monday, 10 a.m. ET, Live Extra)
Hull City at West Bromwich Albion (Monday, 10 a.m. ET, Live Extra)
Manchester United at West Ham United (Monday, 12:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Arsenal at Bournemouth (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Watford at Stoke City (Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET, Live Extra)