David John and Ben Coley preview Saturday's Premier League action.
Everton v Chelsea (1230 GMT, Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League)
The Toffees were certainly not at their best for Sam Allardyce in the first half of Monday’s game against Swansea but Roque Mesa’s clumsy challenge on Aaron Lennon led to the penalty incident which gave the home side a chance to get level before the break and change all the half-time team talks.
The belief in themselves was clearly the difference in the second period and a soft penalty late in the day made the scoreline more comfortable but it is full marks to Allardyce and his staff so far for making such a commendable impact this quickly.
Truthfully, the situation has been helped by some favourable fixtures outside of the Merseyside derby but the visit of the champions could seriously compromise the new manager’s unbeaten start to life at Goodison Park.
That threat has been reduced somewhat with striker Alvaro Morata unavailable for selection due to a suspension and although not quite at their very best, Chelsea have still won three on the trot since losing to West Ham with a place in the last four of the Carabao Cup secured along the way.
They had eight attempts on target last weekend against Southampton so in all honesty should have made things slightly easier than the final 1-0 winning margin but Antonio Conte has already admitted he will have to get his thinking cap on if he wants to get the better of an improving Everton defence.
This rival has certainly been a handy one for Chelsea to face in recent years as they go for five on the spin with just one goal conceded during that spell but they might have to settle for a share of the spoils against an outfit with momentum well capable of making things awkward.
Prediction: Everton 1-1 Chelsea (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 11/2
Brighton v Watford (1500 GMT)
This could well be a tense affair at the Amex Stadium with two teams currently on a slippery slope and looking for a glimmer of hope to try to get things turned around.
The Hornets have slightly more rope to play with on 22 points currently but four defeats in five is testing the leadership of Marco Silva as his frustration following the capitulation at Crystal Palace was replaced by one of annoyance after their "worst performance" against Huddersfield.
That 4-1 reverse also saw them end the game without a full complement of players on the pitch for a third straight fixture – a statistical blip for a team that does not strike me as overly dirty or perhaps frustrations starting to boil over?
Shining star Richarlison has not been quite as sharp recently although the shooting prowess of an excellent Abdoulaye Doucoure has not dropped off at all judged by another blinding strike for their consolation against the Terriers.
It is a time for some calm heads then and an away game may not be the worst thing in the world if they can recapture anywhere near their best form from the early weeks of the season when they scored frequently and picked up points.
The Seagulls had their chances to snap out of their own winless spell at home to Burnley but eventually settled for a point after Anthony Knockaert rattled a post and Glenn Murray blasted a penalty into the crowd.
They should have had another penalty too after Murray was felled by an intentional James Tarkowski elbow to the midriff but very much like the visitors, this spell is a test of character for manager Chris Hughton as the gap with those towards the bottom of the table is gradually eaten away.
The outcome may well boil down to who blinks first and I would just favour the hosts to gain some respite by the narrowest of margins.
Prediction: Brighton 1-0 Watford (DJ) - Sky Bet odds - 6/1
Manchester City v Bournemouth (1500 GMT)
Manchester City begin what's a kind run of Festive fixtures against Bournemouth, for whom focus will surely be on the home games against West Ham and Everton which follow this fearsome test.
But given their 11-point advantage at the top of the Premier League table and the rapid-fire nature of this time of year, City could be forgiven for engaging nothing higher than second gear here and the question for punters is how that will affect the outcome.
City are odds-on to win by two or more in places, no bigger than 1/8 to collect three points, and there's a feeling that now isn't the time to get seriously stuck into the champions elect whatever the market.
Tuesday's Carabao Cup success over Leicester, which came only after a penalty shootout, did demonstrate once more their desire to win as much as they can, but it could also leave them ever so slightly vulnerable despite the changes Pep Guardiola made to his line-up.
Back in October, City were taken the distance by Wolves in the League Cup and what's interesting is that they were far from convincing against West Brom just four days later, even if they never really looked like failing to win.
That was a busy period for City, too - they went to Napoli in the Champions League before facing Arsenal back on domestic duty - so while the comfort of the Etihad should ensure that they keep up this remarkable winning run, Bournemouth might do enough to keep things respectable.
Eddie Howe's side have struggled for points lately but only once this season, away to Arsenal, have they been thumped on the road. They lost 1-0 at Manchester United and Spurs and their form against the big sides is very strong in general - they also lost 1-0 to Chelsea and were a tad unfortunate that Raheem Sterling popped up with one of his late goals to earn City a 2-1 win in the reverse of this fixture.
Bournemouth are 21/20 with a three-goal start - in other words, to get a result or lose by no more than two - and that looks a bet all things considered. Southampton, West Ham and Everton have all achieved this, the first two very recently, and the Cherries have managed it twice against City in 2017. Given the timing of the game they can do so again.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Bournemouth (BC) - Sky Bet odds: 12/1
Southampton v Huddersfield (1500 GMT)
The Saints are enduring a bit of a rocky spell currently and without doing a huge amount wrong, they have managed just one victory over Everton in nine Premier League outings.
One lapse from goalkeeper Fraser Forster – who had been in much more confident form lately - at Chelsea saw them concede the only goal of the game from a free-kick and they never really looked like getting back on terms with the champions if truth be told.
Manager Mauricio Pellegrino is battling to overcome a lack of confidence in his squad at the moment while a spate of injuries has suddenly hindered plans with lively wing-backs Cedric and Ryan Bertrand both doubtful to make the game on Saturday.
To my eyes then, this does not add up to much of a recipe for them to land an odds-on quote of around 8/13 and the visitors might just fancy their chances of bagging back-to-back away victories.
Watford certainly gave them a helping hand along the way last week by playing two-thirds of the game with 10 men but the Terriers were already well on top at 2-0 and showed no mercy with another two goals after the break – not bad for a team scoring for the first time on the road since the opening day.
The outstanding player on the pitch at Vicarage Road was Collin Quaner, who put in a muscular display to drive the Terriers forward and make sure they got the maximum out of their opportunity.
His work down the right flank and subsequent cross set up Aaron Mooy for the second goal and he later saw an effort of his own cleared off the line – I fancy the German to get in amongst the home side’s back line again and it could pay off with his first goal of the season.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Huddersfield (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 6/1
Stoke v West Brom (1500 GMT)
The Stoke ownership are showing a great deal of patience to their credit with Mark Hughes still at the helm as they plunge down the table but some signs of life will be required against a team two places below them in the relegation zone.
Hughes is a 1/2 chance to be the next top flight manager to be handed his P45 and his Potters side were taken apart by West Ham last weekend in the latter stages having squandered chances to get level when still only 1-0 down.
The damage could have been a lot worse than 3-0 too as they showed little ability to cope with the Hammers’ speed on the counter-attack but I expect the Baggies to have a lot less to offer on that front with this setting up to be the afternoon’s stodgiest spectacle.
The distinct possibility of spending Christmas in the relegation zone should be motivation enough for the home side but I would not be too keen on rowing in at around the 5/4 mark with plenty to prove despite a rallying cry for unity from Mame Biram Diouf, one of their more effective players so far.
It looks like being a long struggle for the visitors under new boss Alan Pardew and any craving for some more stylish football at The Hawthorns is going to have to take a back seat until they get some points on the board.
There have been small signs of improvement but not enough yet to end a winless spell that now stands at 17 games but punters certainly think they have a chance of getting back on course here with some solid support in the build-up to the trip to the bet365 Stadium.
A little like the Brighton game above, one chance or one mistake could prove the difference and I think the hosts will deliver just about enough of a performance to give Hughes another stay of execution.
Prediction: Stoke 1-0 West Brom (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 5/1
Swansea v Crystal Palace (1500 GMT)
The Premier League’s worst kept secret finally became public knowledge as a beleaguered Paul Clement left the Liberty Stadium in the week with Swansea looking up on everyone else in the standings.
While there were brief signs of a spark in Monday’s 3-1 defeat against Everton as the curtain came down on Clement’s time in south Wales, I can’t remember a team in their position possessing so little appetite for getting out of the predicament they find themselves in.
Luciano Narsingh, Roque Mesa and Tom Carroll did the manager no favours at all and were virtual passengers at Goodison Park, so it was probably no shock to see them eventually picked off by the hosts despite taking the lead.
It sounds like the hugely popular Leon Britton will be at the helm for this game as he attempts to rally the team for some sort of pre-Christmas boost or at the very least extract some sort of positive performance, which will not involve Wilfried Bony now due to a hamstring issue.
The tried and trusted method for punters is to back a team ahead of an expected revitalised effort but unlucky for the Swans, they run into a Palace outfit just finding their own stride after a dire early part of the campaign.
Their undefeated streak now stands at seven games and they made an in-form Leicester side last weekend look bang average having got a couple of goals up before the break and then never looked back.
Wily old Roy Hodgson has been around the block enough times to know what to expect from a home side who could suddenly be half-a-yard quicker across the ground but the money for them to pick up another three points looks worth following and they very much get the vote.
Prediction: Swansea 1-2 Crystal Palace (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 17/2
West Ham v Newcastle (1500 GMT)
It is onward and upwards for the Hammers but they will have to cope for one more game without the influential Manuel Lanzini as he completes a ban for his dive at Stoke last weekend.
That is a crucial creative edge missing for the home side and it will be interesting to see how they respond to a little bump in the road under David Moyes following their exit from the Carabao Cup in midweek to Arsenal.
That hiccup may not stop plenty of punters including them as some sort of Saturday banker at the London Stadium with them trading on the happy side of even money currently as Moyes starts to get to grips with a squad that has the quality to be trading blows much higher up the table.
The visitors have endured eight defeats from their last nine outings and now reside in the bottom three but are not without hope of getting something from the capital judged on their own efforts at Arsenal.
They still lack a consistent threat up front but certainly gave the Gunners an edgy last 10 minutes and converting opportunities for either Joselu or Ayoze Perez could have seen them claim a very valuable away point.
That duo plus Dwight Gayle have had their moments lately but perhaps an improving Jacob Murphy could pop up and give the travelling Toon army something to cheer.
Petr Cech needed to make a good save from one of his shots and the former Norwich midfielder certainly has the ability to create something out of nothing – side with him at 4/1 in the anytime goalscorer betting.
Prediction: West Ham 2-2 Newcastle (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 14/1
Burnley v Tottenham (1730 GMT)
Sixth plays seventh here.
The side in sixth have been outstanding at home for a season and a half. They've managed six clean sheets in nine at home, so impressive a record as to mean they've been able to pick up 17 points from a possible 27 despite scoring just seven.
They've lost once at home since August and defeat came because of a questionable penalty in the final minute awarded to Arsenal, who converted it for a scarcely deserved 1-0 win.
The visitors have won four of their nine away games, losing four. In other words their record is average. Those four defeats have come in their last five away games, too, meaning they are in unquestionably poor form on their travels even allowing for a tricky run of fixtures.
The chief point is that the tricky run of fixtures continues here and Burnley are overpriced at 13/2.
On these pages last season, we backed Burnley most weeks at home, where they won 10 of 19 games, more often than not as underdogs. It's remarkable that, almost halfway through the new campaign, they continue to be underrated.
Spurs may well win the game, but 8/15 that they do so is wrong. They failed to beat Burnley on home soil earlier in the season and while that was in their Wembley adjustment phase, it underlines once more than for all Spurs have the better players and play the more stylish football, there's not all that much between them and Burnley at the final whistle.
Burnley should be underdogs, but at half the price quoted. As such the bet is Burnley to win.
It's tempting to add a small play on 1-0 at 16/1 given that six of their nine league wins have come by this scoreline. A one-goal Burnley win is an equally obvious play but at 8/1, there's not enough upside versus a straightforward bet on the hosts and we really don't need scorelines like 3-2 and 4-3; they simply won't win such a game.
The worry for Burnley backers is that they don't score often, which means they'll likely have to produce an outstanding defensive display to keep Spurs quiet, but that's something we've seen from them all season.
To underline the issue we have with the odds here, take a look at Leicester v Manchester United. Leicester aren't quite as good as Burnley, on this season's form. United are a little better than Spurs by the same measure, yet Leicester are 7/2.
At 7/2, we could have left Burnley alone. At 13/2, we can't.
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Tottenham (BC) - Sky Bet odds: 20/1
Leicester v Manchester United (1945 GMT)
Both these sides suffered painful Carabao Cup defeats in midweek, Leicester losing a penalty shootout while United were undone by Championship side Bristol City as their trophy hopes took a huge hit.
Perhaps in that respect a late, televised game under the floodlights will serve as the perfect antidote before Christmas and United can call upon a fine record whenever they're not facing the division's best sides, which is enough to suggest they should just about account for Leicester here.
Jose Mourinho's men were caught napping by Huddersfield in October when a degree of complacency had perhaps crept in following a fine start to the campaign but they've been near-flawless otherwise, including when beating Leicester at Old Trafford to extend what's become a very good record against Saturday's rivals.
Claude Puel has done well to get Riyad Mahrez back on track and improve Leicester's collective effort, but both Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were guilty of missing penalties which saw them knocked out of the League Cup and having been so heavily involved must count as a negative, particularly in light of how the contest ended.
United are able to recall previously-suspended Paul Pogba to league duty after he played 90 minutes on Wednesday and the Frenchman has been hugely influential this season, to the point that United without him are an altogether more beatable side.
But the key man here could be Jesse Lingard, who is thriving in a more central role and is particularly dangerous when afforded space, often away from home where all four of his league goals this season have been scored. In fact, seven of his nine league goals for United have been on the road.
Lingard turned 25 earlier this week and was given the night off against Bristol City, and having scored against Leicester twice before looks worth supporting to strike for the fourth game in six here.
It's 100/30 that Lingard scores in a United win but given that you can have 56/19 that he scores, there's no need to worry too much about the match result - even if the visitors do look a solid proposition.
Prediction: Leicester 1-2 Manchester United (BC) - Sky Bet odds: 7/1
Posted at 0750 GMT on 22/12/17.