THE Boxing Day round threw up no great surprises.
Each of the top six picked up wins to maintain the status quo at the upper end of the 2016-17 English Premier League table.
It wasn’t all joy and merriment for Liverpool after their star forward, Roberto Firmino, was arrested for drink driving over Christmas.
That didn’t stop the Brazilian from scoring in the Reds’ resounding 4-1 victory over Stoke City.
But the big news of the week was the sacking of Bob Bradley, who was given his marching orders after Swansea City’s 4-1 defeat to West Ham United.
The American coach lasted less than three months in south Wales, in which time the Swans conceded 29 goals in 11 EPL games to become firmly entrenched in the relegation zone.
Now Swansea, like the rest of the division, must brace themselves for a jam-packed New Year’s scheduled in which each team will play twice in the space of a few days.
Here are the best bets, value picks and first goalscorer specials for our featured games in weeks 19 and 20 of Premier League 2016-17, with top odds from Australia’s best online bookies.
Premier League match odds
All odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Hull City $4.33 – Draw $3.50 – Everton $1.83
Burnley $2.40 – Draw $3.30 – Sunderland $2.90
Chelsea $1.25 – Draw $5.50 – Stoke City $12
Leicester City $2.10 – Draw $3.40 – West Ham $3.50
Man United $1.25 – Draw $5.50 – Middlesbrough $15
Southampton $1.67 – Draw $3.60 – West Brom $5.50
Swansea City $2.70 – Draw $3.40 – Bournemouth $2.50
Liverpool $2.37 – Draw $3.50 – Man City $3
Watford $5 – Draw $3.50 – Tottenham $1.70
Arsenal $1.30 – Draw $3.25 – Crystal Palace $10
Middlesbrough $2.40 – Draw $3.30 – Leicester City $2.75
Everton $2.10 – Draw $3.30 – Southampton $3.30
Man City $1.14 – Draw $7 – Burnley $17
Sunderland $8 – Draw $5 – Liverpool $1.33
West Brom $1.73 – Draw $3.60 – Hull City $4.50
Bournemouth $4.50 – Draw $3.50 – Arsenal $1.75
Crystal Palace $1.67 – Draw $3.60 – Swansea $5
Stoke City $1.91 – Draw $3.40 – Watford $3.80
Tottenham $2.90 – Draw $3.30 – Chelsea $2.30
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
4:30am AEDT on Sunday, January 1, 2017 at Anfield
- Liverpool win/over 2.5 goals – $3.25 at Sportsbet
- Sadio Mane first goalscorer – $7
The obvious highlight of the New Year’s Eve fixtures will see Chelsea’s challengers-in-chief duke it out for second spot.
Liverpool rallied from a goal down against Stoke to secure their third straight win and keep the gap at the top to six points.
That game saw Daniel Sturridge – whose future at Anfield remains a source of constant speculation – come off the bench to net his first Premier League goal of the season.
The Reds have felt the twin absences of Philippe Coutinho and Joel Matip at either end of the pitch, but both could be back from ankle injuries in time for Man City’s visit.
The Citizens will be able to call on star striker Sergio Aguero for the first time since he was sent off for a wild challenge on Chelsea’s David Luiz at the start of December.
Also dismissed in that match was Fernandinho, who slotted back into midfield for the 3-0 win over Hull.
It is not yet clear whether City boss Pep Guardiola will have the services of Vincent Kompany and John Stones, as both defenders remain in doubt with knee trouble.
The smart money is with Liverpool, who have won each of their last three EPL games against City and haven’t lost to them at Anfield in any comp since 2003.
Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
3am AEDT on Monday, January 2, 2016 at Emirates Stadium
- Arsenal 3-0 correct score – $9 at Bet365
- Alexis Sanchez first goalscorer – $4 at William Hill
The Gunners needed a Boxing Day win after two straight losses put them way back in the title race.
West Brom didn’t want to give it to them, but a lone strike from Olivier Giroud in the 86th minute was enough to keep them in fourth spot.
Theo Walcott (calf) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (thigh) both missed that game, but the England duo are a good chance to return for the New Year’s fixtures.
Also on the way back is summer signing Shkodran Mustafi, who has missed several weeks with a thigh injury.
Whomever makes the starting XI will come up against a Crystal Palace side searching for its first win under the new manager, Sam Allardyce.
The Eagles were held by Watford last time out as Troy Deeney netted his 100th Hornets goal to cancel out Yohan Cabaye’s opener.
Their injury list is something else, with seven first-team players – including starting keeper Steve Mandanda – stuck in the treatment room.
Palace are also missing Damien Delaney through suspension, while both Joe Ledley and James McArthur are touch-and-go with minor knocks.
The south Londoners have beaten Arsenal only twice in league play since 1969, and another defeat here could see them slip into the drop zone.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea
7am AEDT at Thursday, January 5, 2016 at White Hart Lane
- Chelsea win/both teams to score – $4.50 at CrownBet
- Over 3.5 goals – $3.25
Three wins on the trot have put Spurs right back in the mix for the Champions League places.
They are only a point outside the top four after their dominant 4-1 victory at Southampton, where Dele Alli continued his good form with a brace.
Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker both picked up timely yellow cards in that game to ensure they will serve their one-match suspensions during the Watford clash on New Year’s Day.
The Lilywhites could also have Belgian star Toby Alderweireld back in defence for Chelsea’s visit, while Erik Lamela is there or thereabouts after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
If the Blues beat Stoke as expected, they will march on White Hart Lane looking to make it 14 wins in a row.
They cruised to a 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Boxing Day as Eden Hazard became only the sixth Chelsea player to score 50 Premier League goals.
Antonio Conte’s men could hardly be in better shape to tackle the hectic holiday schedule.
Their injury list is the shortest in the division, consisting of only John Terry, while no players are unavailable through suspension.
Besides form, fitness and a six-point lead atop the table, Chelsea also have a very solid track record against their London rivals.
Spurs have beaten the Blues only four times since the Premier League’s inception in 1992, and only once since 2010.
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