There is no let-up in the English Premier League schedule over the hectic Christmas period, despite Covid-19 playing havoc with the scheduling. On Tuesday, Crystal Palace host Norwich City, Southampton tackle Tottenham Hotspur, Watford face West Ham United and Leicester City play Liverpool. Arsenal’s game against Wolves and the Leeds United v Aston Villa clash have fallen victim to the spike in cases across various football clubs. Ahead of the next round of matches, here is a catch up on the action from a busy Boxing Day that also saw three games postponed.
LEICESTER SPIRIT GIVES HOPE FOR BETTER DAYS
After narrowly missing out on the top four in the last two campaigns, Leicester City have struggled to keep pace with the leaders this season.
A trip to champions Manchester City was the last thing coach Brendan Rodgers needed and the league leaders stormed into a four-goal lead inside 25 minutes at the Etihad. Although City did see out a 6-3 win, however, Leicester’s spirited second-half display should give Rodgers cause for optimism.
“We could have easily just capitulated at 4-0 down to the champions after all the issues that we have had, but we showed incredible spirit and played some great football,” Rodgers said. “I am so proud of them for doing that.”
LUKAKU GIVES CHELSEA A DIFFERENT DIMENSION
Romelu Lukaku’s half-time introduction transformed Chelsea’s display at Aston Villa with the Belgian putting Thomas Tuchel’s side 2-1 up before earning the stoppage-time penalty which secured the win.
Lukaku hasn’t started in the league since picking up an injury in October but after Sunday’s performance, when he gave Chelsea a real attacking focal point, a physical presence and constant goal threat, it is hard to imagine Tuchel will leave him on the bench for long. If Chelsea are to challenge City and Liverpool, they need the former Manchester United and Inter Milan striker to play a big part.
MOURA GIVES SPURS NEW ATTACKING THRUST
For the past two seasons, Tottenham Hotspur’s goals and assists department has been almost entirely about the partnership between Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
But in Lucas Moura, best known at Tottenham for his Champions League semi-final hat-trick against Ajax, Antonio Conte has added a third prong to the attack. Moura has always been a high energy player but his end product has sometimes let him down.
A man-of-the-match performance against Crystal Palace, however, in which he scored one goal and made two, showed the Brazilian is an integral part of Conte’s team.
WEST HAM LOSE GROUND ON TOP FOUR
West Ham United’s challenge for a top-four spot seems to be fading after the East London club dropped to sixth following their 3-2 home defeat by Southampton.
David Moyes’ team were third at the start of November but have secured only one win in their last seven league game. Injuries to defenders Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell have weakened West Ham’s backline and they struggled to create real chances against the Saints.
“In the first half we were really poor,” said Moyes. “We didn’t have enough energy. We couldn’t build any momentum. To be honest, I could have changed four or five (players) at half-time.”
COVID-19 CONTINUES TO IMPACT PREMIER LEAGUE
Tuesday’s games between Leeds United and Aston Villa and Arsenal and Wolves became the latest Premier League matches to be postponed for Covid-19-related reasons, taking the total this month to 15.
“It’s like it is — but this cannot be the right way,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said of the demands of the festive schedule.
With teams forced to carry on with barely viable squad numbers Tuchel is not the only one who thinks there is a danger of damaging the league’s integrity.
“They make us play all the time, even if we have COVID. We have new injuries and it won’t stop. People at the green table, in offices, make these decisions,” Tuchel said. Should more games go, as seems likely, a huge fixture pile-up is looming in the new year.