With three defeats in their past four Premier League games, December has been a bleak month so far for Manchester City – but can the champions end 2018 on a high?
Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Southampton on Sunday and BBC Sport’s football expert Mark Lawrenson says: “This is actually a good game for City because in a strange way they will be glad if Saints go for it against them.
“That is the way that Saints have been playing under new boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, and I think an open game is exactly what City need at the moment.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week’s guest is Theo Ellis, bassist in 2018 Mercury Prize-winning indie band Wolf Alice and a Arsenal fan.
“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was born,” Ellis told BBC Sport. “I was a season ticket holder with my dad when I was younger – including the season when we were The Invincibles.
“So I probably had the best introduction to football, watching the best team at that time. It was pretty amazing to me when I was a kid.
“From my generation of Arsenal fans, I think everyone’s hero was Thierry Henry. He was so unbelievably cool and unbelievably good. That solo goal he scored against Tottenham in 2002 was one of the greatest moments in Arsenal’s history.”
It has been a while since the Gunners have been as successful as they were when Henry was in his pomp, but Ellis thinks more good times could be just around the corner.
“I am just really excited being an Arsenal fan at the moment,” Ellis added. “I really like Unai Emery as a manager.
“I want to finish in the top four this season. I pray that we do, I believe that we can – and I hope that Tottenham don’t make it.
“I also hope to get on Arsenal Fan TV somehow – I love what they do and I love any channel that has been started by the fans. Troopz is my favourite pundit ever.
“A trophy would be nice, of course, but for me this season is definitely about getting in that top four.
“I fancy our chances in the Europa League but I would just like to see us playing consistent football week in and week out, and getting good results because it has been hard work being an Arsenal fan for the past few years.”
|Premier League predictions – week 20|
|Brighton v Everton||x-x||1-2||1-3|
|Fulham v Huddersfield||x-x||2-0||1-2|
|Leicester v Cardiff||x-x||2-0||3-1|
|Tottenham v Wolves||x-x||2-0||1-2|
|Watford v Newcastle||x-x||2-1||1-1|
|Liverpool v Arsenal||x-x||2-0||0-10|
|Crystal Palace v Chelsea||x-x||0-2||2-2|
|Burnley v West Ham||x-x||2-0||1-5|
|Southampton v Man City||x-x||0-3||3-0|
|Man Utd v Bournemouth||x-x||2-0||0-5|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
All kick-offs 15:00 GMT unless stated.
Brighton v Everton
The Seagulls have become very good at making sure they take something from their home games, but I have a sneaky feeling things might be different this time.
Everton have struggled on their travels this season, and that win at the Clarets was only their second away win in 2018-19, their first on the road since 6 October and their first victory home or away for five matches.
We definitely saw a reaction from their 6-2 home defeat by Tottenham last weekend, and if Marco Silva’s side play with the same freedom they did at Turf Moor, they will win this game too.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Theo’s prediction: Theo Walcott is going to get a hat-trick. 1-3
Fulham v Huddersfield
Aleksandar Mitrovic had enough chances to win the game for the Cottagers but I just felt while I was watching it that Wolves were always going to score, because Fulham were sitting so deep.
I wanted to say to them to get 20 or 30 yards up the pitch because then, if you make a mistake, someone might be able to recover for you.
Instead, Wolves got in down their left to put in a great cross, Fulham left-back Joe Bryan fell asleep a little bit – and that was all it took for them to drop two points.
If they had held a higher line in the first place, then they would still have had a chance to rectify the problem rather than be left trying to clear the ball from underneath their own crossbar.
I can understand what Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri was trying to do by sitting so deep and not giving Wolves any space in and around their area but once somebody gets behind you like that, with time to put in a measured cross like that one, then you are in trouble.
At least Fulham are scrapping for Ranieri, though, even if they have not won since his first match in charge – which was seven games ago – and the fans are still behind his side.
Huddersfield are still fighting for David Wagner as well and they had enough chances in their defeat by Manchester United to make that game a lot closer.
The Terriers very rarely get taken apart by anyone, but they do not score enough goals to get anything out of games.
It will be interesting to see if Wagner is a little bit more adventurous in this game, because Fulham are the nearest team to them, or does he continue to try to keep things tight?
This will be another close one, but I am expecting Fulham to come out on top.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Theo’s prediction: Arsenal had a really hard game against Huddersfield earlier in December. I think they will win this one. 1-2
Leicester v Cardiff
Leicester have had a brilliant festive period, beating Chelsea and then Manchester City, but this is probably a tougher game than either of those fixtures.
The emphasis will be on the Foxes to break down Cardiff, and there is also an expectation that Claude Puel’s side will win.
They don’t usually seem to perform as well in those circumstances, but Saturday should be different.
Cardiff were fortunate to get a point at Crystal Palace, who had 31 shots without managing a goal.
The Bluebirds’ still have an awful away record, though, with two points and a total of five goals scored in nine away games this season, and I don’t see them getting anything out of this game.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Theo’s prediction: 3-1
Tottenham v Wolves
Tottenham are on a roll at the moment – the goals are flowing and they are playing fantastically well.
I would not be surprised if Wolves create a few chances in this game – Bournemouth managed it at Wembley on Wednesday – but Spurs have built up a head of steam and will be difficult to stop.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Theo’s prediction: I think this will be a really good game. Wolves have been great this season and I really like Nuno Espirito Santo a lot as a manager. I hope this will be a Wolves win – it probably won’t, but I am going with them anyway. 1-2
Watford v Newcastle
Newcastle were well beaten by Liverpool on Wednesday and I know what Magpies boss Rafael Benitez is like after a heavy loss – he turns the screw even more to try to make it more difficult for teams to beat them.
They will try to keep Watford quiet but I don’t see that happening.
The Hornets are inconsistent but they have got some very exciting attacking players and they have also got some goals in them – if they play well, they tend to win.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Theo’s prediction: 1-1
Liverpool v Arsenal (17:30 GMT)
I just cannot see past a Liverpool win here, and this is why…
They are playing very well at the moment so I would assume they will have more of the ball than Arsenal will – and I also expect the Reds to make the most of it.
Whoever the Gunners play, they seem to create chances against them – and, whoever Liverpool play, they do not seem to have problems creating lots of chances for themselves.
So, they are going to get openings here and that still stands even if Liverpool are not at their best on the day.
With only seven goals conceded in their 19 league games, Liverpool’s defensive record is very strong too.
I think people forget how hard every single Liverpool player works without the ball, which is a massive part of their success.
Liverpool are a very good team and they are in a very good moment. That doesn’t mean they won’t have bad moments between now and the end of the season but, right now, they are extremely hard to stop.
Can I see them scoring against Arsenal? Yes. Can I see Arsenal scoring at Anfield? No.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Theo’s prediction: An away game at Anfield is so hard but this is definitely going to be a 10-0 Arsenal win. It won’t be an easy one, though.
Crystal Palace v Chelsea (12:00 GMT)
Crystal Palace’s problem is scoring goals at home, even when they make loads of chances.
I don’t see them making loads of chances against Chelsea, so I kind of look at this game and think ‘Can I really tip Palace to get a draw, or better?’
No. I don’t see it. Chelsea had an off-day against Leicester last weekend, but that does not happen very often under Maurizio Sarri.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Theo’s prediction: We had a tough time against Palace as well. I reckon this will be a draw – or at least I hope it will be for our chances of making of the top four this season. 2-2
Burnley v West Ham (14:15 GMT)
West Ham have got a lot of injuries to contend with, and it is hard to know what to expect from them at the moment.
Burnley’s last home game, a 5-1 defeat by Everton on Wednesday, was a disaster and they simply have improve soon because otherwise they are in big trouble.
You can tell Clarets boss Sean Dyche is feeling the pressure from the way he went into rant mode after his side’s defeat by Arsenal last weekend.
After their defeat by the Toffees on Wednesday he admitted they deserve to be in the bottom three, which might be a case of a manager being too honest.
Dyche has to get his players back out on the training ground to put things right, but the problem at this busy time of the year is that there is not much time to do that between games.
Burnley need to show something here – some fight, at least.
One of their problems is that, whoever plays up front, their strikers are all much of a muchness. In the past at least one of them has been in the kind of form to nick them some goals but at the moment none of them look much like scoring.
I am still going to back the Clarets to get a positive result because of what we have seen from them in the past but, at the moment, things do not look good.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Theo’s prediction: West Ham should win this, looking at the way Burnley have been playing. 1-5
Southampton v Man City (14:15 GMT)
City need to forget they are playing Liverpool next week and play their best team in this game, to get back to winning ways.
They have lost two on the trot but they have not started some of their big stars in those games, so now is the time for Pep Guardiola to get them back in the team from the start, if he can.
As well as being without some key players, it would also help City if opposing teams would stop scoring wonder goals against them, and they have also conceded with the first shot they have faced in three of their past four league games.
But, regardless of the circumstances, they have lost some of the aura they once had. It will be interesting to see if Saints do go out and attack them, because I do think it will help City if that happens.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-3
Theo’s prediction: This will be snowed off unfortunately… when it does happen, Danny Ings is going to get a hat-trick, and City are going to lose 3-0.
Man Utd v Bournemouth (16:30 GMT)
Manchester United are on a roll with two wins out of two under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but I still think it is going to be very difficult for them to make the top four.
United have improved because they have got so much quality in their squad and so many of their players had a point to prove, but how long does that last for?
I do think they will beat Bournemouth, who are on a terrible run of eight defeats from their past 10 games, but there are tougher tests to come – such as their trip to Wembley to play Spurs on 13 January.
The Cherries’ form has fallen away since the start of November, when they conceded a last-gasp winner against United – it has all gone horribly wrong for them since then.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Theo’s prediction: United are going to lose with their new manager. 0-5
How did Lawro do last time?
From the last set of Premier League games on 26 & 27 December, Lawro got five correct results, including two perfect scores, from 10 matches, for a total of 110 points.
He beat James bassist Jim Glennie, who got six correct results, with one exact score, for a total of 90 points.
|Total scores after week 19|
|Lawro v Guests|
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2018-19
|140||The 1975’s Ross MacDonald|
|90||Jim Glennie, Karl Pilkington, Chris Stark|
|86||Lawro (average after 19 weeks)|
|80||Richard Ashcroft, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Greg James, Mark Wahlberg|
|60||Idris Elba, Dolph Lundgren, Mumford & Sons, Dillian Whyte|
|50||Bring Me The Horizon, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre.|
|40||Tom Grennan, Josh Warrington|
Lawro’s best score: 260 points (week seven v Karl Pilkington)
Lawro’s worst score: 40 points (week three v Idris Elba, week eight v Chris Stark and week 12 v Mumford & Sons)