A non-stop Premier League calendar continues through the New Year as Manchester United host an in-form Aston Villa to help usher in 2021 on Friday.
West Ham United open Week 17 away to Everton in the first fixture of the new year, with the fourth-placed Toffees hoping to sustain some sweet form over the festive period.
Merseyside’s other major power won’t play their first game of 2021 until Monday when they visit Southampton. Liverpool were held to a goalless stalemate at Newcastle United on Wednesday—their last game of 2020—but were still able to end the year sat at the summit:
Premier League Week 17 Tune-In Information
TV: NBCSN, NBC, Telemundo
Live Stream: fuboTV (watch for free)
Premier League Week 17 Schedule (All Times ET)
Friday, January 1
Everton vs. West Ham United, 12:30 p.m. - NBCSN
Manchester United vs. Aston Villa, 3 p.m. - NBCSN
Saturday, January 2
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leeds United, 7:30 a.m. - NBCSN
Crystal Palace vs. Sheffield United, 10 a.m. - NBCSN
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 12:30 p.m. - NBC
West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal, 3 p.m. - Peacock
Sunday, January 3
Burnley vs. Fulham, 7 a.m. - NBCSN
Newcastle United vs. Leicester City, 9:15 a.m. - NBCSN, Telemundo
Chelsea vs. Manchester City, 11:30 a.m. - NBCSN, Telemundo
Monday, January 4
Southampton vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. - NBCSN
Tottenham Hotspur were also prepared to play Wednesday before a coronavirus outbreak at Fulham meant their clash was postponed. Spurs are next scheduled to host Leeds United in Saturday’s early kick-off, offering Jose Mourinho’s side a stiff challenge to open the new year.
Sixth-place Chelsea and Manchester City (eighth)—two of five teams tied on 26 points—will each have their eyes on a place in the top four after their Stamford Bridge battle on Sunday. Either contender could climb as high as third with a win in west London, a clash between would-be title challengers.
Arsenal also face a tricky test when they travel to West Bromwich Albion having secured back-to-back league wins for just the second time this season. Meanwhile, third-place Leicester City visit Newcastle hoping to deliver a better result than leaders Liverpool.
Brighton & Hove Albion host Wolverhampton Wanderers in the hope they can improve an abysmal home record, while bottom outfit Sheffield United head to Crystal Palace in Week 17 still seeking their first win of the campaign.
Old (Trafford) Enemies, New Threats
Warning signs were on the wall after Aston Villa beat Manchester United 1-0 in a pre-season friendly in September, but the Villans travel to Old Trafford on Friday for a more serious test of their credentials. United are unbeaten in the last 16 competitive clashes between these teams and have won in 12 of those, though the Birmingham club did secure a 2-2 draw when they last visited the Theatre of Dreams in December 2019:
Things could be worse for Dean Smith, whose side sit fifth in the Premier League, coming off a 1-1 draw at Chelsea and unbeaten in five matches with two games in hand over much of the competition.
A 2-1 defeat at West Ham in November remains their only away defeat so far this season, and Villa are one of only two teams able to match United’s joint-high streak of wins, per Miguel Delaney:
A home result on Friday will give the Red Devils their 100th win over Villa, a feat they’ve not accomplished against any other opponent. United are unbeaten in six outings and searching for successive wins after a patient performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers in midweek ended with Marcus grabbing the winner in injury time:
That drama had all the feel of a chaotic but classic victory for United, who can temporarily draw level on points at the top of the Premier League with a third straight home win.
They'll attempt to do so without Edinson Cavani, however. The Uruguay striker was handed a three-match ban and £100,000 fine for an Instagram comment in his native Spanish that had racist connotations, via BBC Sport's Simon Stone:
Alex Telles will be fit for the hosts after coming off at half-time against Wolves, while fellow defender Victor Lindelof remains a doubt after missing that game with a back injury.
Tyrone Mings will be a welcomed into Villa’s defense following his suspension against Chelsea, and Ross Barkley could make a timely comeback in midfield.
Battle of the Blues
The first Super Sunday of 2021 has its headliner as Chelsea face City for the first time since June, but recent form will cast doubt over whether the west Londoners can get a repeat of that result.
Frank Lampard got the best of Pep Guardiola in his first home game against City as Chelsea chief, but the Blues have one win in six ahead of their latest run-in:
The Sky Blues’ standards remain high despite draws against rivals United and West Bromwich Albion during December. City are unbeaten in their last 10 across all competitions (seven wins, three draws) and have still lost just twice all season.
Guardiola & Co. were also the recent victims of fixture rescheduling after Monday’s visit to Everton was delayed following a spike in coronavirus cases in their camp. The Athletic’s Sam Lee wrote on Wednesday their Week 17 game looks likely to go ahead, with only Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker the confirmed absences related to COVID-19 thus far:
Chelsea hope to capitalize on any weakened City lineup as they look to climb from sixth, but the wrong round of results could see them fall as far as mid-table should they lose on Sunday.
Kai Havertz and Timo Werner have been sources of Blues debate following recent dips in form, with the latter having now failed to score in his last 11 appearances (albeit with three assists in that time). It wasn’t long ago Chelsea conceded only two goals across 10 games, but it will worry Lampard they’ve now kept just one clean sheet across their last seven outings.