The first round of Premier League fixtures of the new year promises to be pivotal in the title race as league leaders Liverpool cross swords with defending champions Manchester City in a season defining clash at the Etihad Stadium.
All eyes will be on City's game against Liverpool with a loss for the reigning champions all but signalling an end to their aspirations of a successful title defence. Pep Guardiola and his men will know that there is no room for error since they already trail the Reds by seven points. The two sides played out a highly competitive draw at Anfield earlier in the season, however, the Sky Blues must take maximum points from this encounter if they want to stop the Liverpool juggernaut that's yet to taste defeat in the league this campaign.
Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur will be targeting returning to winning ways after a defeat at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers in their previous outing. Spurs travel to Wales to face Cardiff City next in a game they should and are expected to win. Tottenham's arch-rivals Arsenal are another side that will be desperate for a win after a poor run of results and a 5-1 humbling at the hands of Liverpool last time around. They face relegation candidates Fulham in a London derby that they should win comfortably.
Staying in London, Chelsea welcome Southampton to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for a game they must win to strengthen their top four hopes. Maurizio Sarri's men endured an inconsistent December and need to step up their game if they want to stay in the top four. The Saints, on the other hand, look revitalized under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl but an away trip to Chelsea may be a step too far for them at the moment.
Meanwhile, Manchester United go up against Newcastle United at St. James' Park. The Red Devils have been in terrific form since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager. They've scored 12 goals in the three games under the Norwegian and should make it four wins from four when they take on Magpies on Wednesday.
Words: Andre Pitts