Louis, Louis. Has he gotta go now…?
I like Louis van Gaal. There, I said it.
Yes, he’s a bit like that mad uncle who never got married. Yes, he does look out of place in a tracksuit. And yes his head is unnervingly big. But so are his balls.
Fronting up the press in the midst of the worst – and perhaps yet, terminal – period of his Man United career showed cojones. The sort that his team need right now. But he’s going to Stoke to save his career with perhaps the most laid-back set of United players in a generation.
De Gea, Smalling, Blind, Carrick, Mata and Herrera are all nice footballers. All have done okay this season. But you’d fear for them sharing a dressing room with Roy Keane.
Memphis, Martial and Lingard don’t exhibit the bark of the young Nevilles or Beckham. Let alone the bite of a Butt or Scholes.
Enjoy Stoke, gentlemen…
12.45 Stoke v Man United
It wouldn’t be the first great career to hit the buffers away at Stoke (ask Stevie Gerrard). Can’t seeing United copping for six like Liverpool did that day, but a third consecutive defeat – a fourth if you include the CL – might just be the last straw for LVG. No team has scored fewer goals than Stoke this season and they have never kept a clean sheet v United in the PL. One of each might do here.
Score Prediction: 0-0 written all over it.
MVP Prediction: David De Gea will enjoy his last ever trip to Stoke.
15.00 Aston Villa v West Ham
Not a lot between the teams’ recent form. Villa have squeezed three draws out of their last six, West Ham five – including three 0-0s on the spin. With both teams chronically short of goals you wouldn’t rule out another here. Which will spoil around 25k people’s Boxing Day. West Ham are desperate to get Dimitri Payet back. Villa are just desperate.
Score Prediction: Let’s throw caution to the wind. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Villa’s Jordan Ayew is outshining his bro these days.
15.00 Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
Form puts these two in the Top Six. Of course, Palace are in the actual Top Six. Mainly based on their exceptional away day exploits – only bettered by Top Two Arsenal and Leicester. But three wins on the spin (and five unbeaten) will give Bournemouth all the spunk they need to get something here. Might just be the game of the day.
Score Prediction: Am entertaining share of the spoils. 2-2
15.00 Chelsea v Watford
A tough looking reintroduction for Guus. Watford are four from four, with only a couple of narrow and dubious defeats (in that order) v Leicester and Man United preventing eight straight wins. That run includes 12 strikes from the Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo partnership. If you thought JT was showing his age this season, there’ll be a few more grey hairs after this ragging.
Score Prediction: Just what Chelsea don’t need. 2-3
MVP Prediction: Odion Ighalo just pips his partner.
Wealth Warning: Far be it from me to use the pages of Rotoworld to encourage you to gamble. But I feel it is my duty to bring to your attention that bookmakers make Watford 7/1 to win this match. Some offer as big as 9/1 in the Win By One Goal market.
That’s seventh placed, four-in-a-row Watford 7/1. And 15th placed Chelsea 1/2. Just saying.
15.00 Liverpool v Leicester
Jamie Vardy has been nudged out of the limelight recently by fellow gun-slinger Riyad Mahrez. His six goals in three matches (making 14 in total) and more tender years (he’s just 24) will attract plenty of suitors come January. Liverpool might be one. Their lack of width looked like a magic formula when hitting Chelsea, City and Southampton for three, four and six. Now it just looks like a lack of width.
Score Prediction: Leicester’s cutting edge will be the difference. 1-2
MVP Prediction: Riyad Mahrez can make hay against Moreno.
15.00 Man City v Sunderland
If this match had come a month ago in the Big Sam ‘impact’ period, you might have fancied one of City’s blips. But coming on the back of the Arsenal defeat, City should come out swinging. After two big wins, Sunderland have lost their last three and Big Sam will be picking the matches he can win from here on in. This isn’t one of them.
Score Prediction: 4-1. Still no clean sheet.
MVP Prediction: Sergio Aguero will be better for the 90 mins v Arsenal.
15.00 Swansea v West Brom
For the stats-geeks this is a gimme. Swansea can’t score goals at home – just three in a winless last seven. West Brom don’t concede away – no team has conceded fewer in the PL. They have been efficient away too, beating Bottom Half teams, drawing v Mid-table and only losing to Top Six so far. Saido Berahino is line for a start too.
Score Prediction: That’s that then. 0-1
MVP Prediction: Saido Berahino always looks a player around the Transfer Window.
15.00 Tottenham v Norwich
Tottenham are teetering on the verge of a stumble in the PL. Just one win in the last four after they had started to look like Top Four material. A good win is required here ahead of tough trips to Watford and Everton. Norwich will set out the same stall that was successful at Old Trafford but won’t find two goals as easy to come by. Spurs’ stats man Tweeted that Harry Kane needs 21 goals to match Messi this year. Suspect one will do.
Score Prediction: Maybe two. 2-1
MVP Prediction: Harry Kane looks able.
17.30 Newcastle v Everton
My Geordie brother and resident Injury Guru Ben Dinnery highlighted that being live on TV has a big impact on Newcastle’s form: a decent 0-0 v Arsenal, the 6-2 v Norwich, 2-2 v Chelsea, 2-0 v Liverpool, 2-1 at Tottenham… So he should be delighted by his tea-time viewing on Boxing Day (although he also likes Dad’s Army…). Everton have kept just two clean sheets in 13, v toothless Swansea and Villa.
Score Prediction: They like a draw though. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Ross Barkley is blossoming into the player we hoped he would.
19.45 Southampton v Arsenal
You wonder if some of the Saints have had their heads turned by transfer talk. There’s been more marching out than marching in in recent seasons, after all. Just one point from their last five PL matches and ‘that’ Liverpool thumping has made the visit of Arsenal look a little bit horrific. Its five out of six for Arsenal (all comps) with 14 scored to just three the other way. They only won one of their last six visits but this should make it two.
Score Prediction: On a roll. 0-3
MVP Prediction: Mesut Ozil has 15 assists already. Only three players have racked up more in a whole season.
That’s how it looks from here…
Until next time.
Matt Nesbitt’s short, unspectacular but joyful playing career has given way to a much longer, more successful but immeasurably more rubbish one writing about football and providing betting advice. Email: Matt Nesbitt