Premier League clubs bid farewell to 2017 with games across Saturday and Sunday as the hectic festive schedule continues.
Here Press Association Sport details what to look out for during this weekend’s round of fixtures.
The Premier League’s most recent managerial appointment was a surprise given Carvalhal departed Sheffield Wednesday on Christmas Eve following a seven-game winless run.
The Portuguese has been parachuted into a top-flight relegation battle as his new team are five points from safety ahead of a trip to Watford.
City coasted to an 18th successive Premier League victory on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory at Newcastle where the hosts’ tactics were criticised.
Gary Neville claimed the Magpies showed “no ambition” and were “embarrassing” but Rafael Benitez defended the way he set his team up to ensure City did not shred them apart.
Palace, thumped 5-0 by Pep Guardiola’s outfit earlier in the season, are fully aware of how that can be done, though Roy Hodgson may be a bit more adventurous in light of a recent improvement.
It is fair to say Jose Mourinho’s Christmas was far from merry. A Carabao Cup defeat to Championship side Bristol City was followed by disappointing draws with Leicester and Burnley as Manchester City extended their lead over United to 15 points.
Mourinho’s moans about an inadequate transfer kitty and his players being “childish” has only added to the gloom.
Fortunately, Southampton are the next visitors to Old Trafford and their poor spell has lasted far longer, with Mauricio Pellegrino’s side without a win in seven. It would seem a perfect chance for Mourinho to end 2017 with a modicum of joy.
Mark Hughes’ Potters have suffered defeats to Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham this term, conceding 19 goals in the process.
Furthermore, they are visiting Chelsea without three centre-backs – Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Kurt Zouma – and Erik Pieters may not be fit to feature at left-back.
Hughes’ side could therefore be forced to play two 18-year-olds in the full-back spots along with midfielder Geoff Cameron in central defence. Alvaro Morata will be licking his lips.
It is possible that both Bournemouth and West Brom can finish the calendar year outside the bottom three, though in the case of Alan Pardew’s side they would need to snap their dreadful winless run against Arsenal.
It is 18 top-flight games since the Baggies last had a win to celebrate and Pardew is still yet to toast three points in six attempts.
Bournemouth, who entertain Everton, have gone eight matches without a victory but perhaps Callum Wilson’s late equaliser against West Ham could be a turning point.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Arsene Wenger admits he is no nearer to establishing where Arsenal’s Chilean star Alexis Sanchez’s future lies.
Wenger praised the 29-year-old’s two-goal display that helped secure a 3-2 victory at Crystal Palace on an evening where the French manager equalled Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson’s Premier League record of 810 matches in charge.
Sanchez’s commitment has been questioned this season following his failure to reach agreement with the north London club about an extension to his current contract that expires at the end of this season.
Wenger believes the player’s performance at Selhurst Park showed there has been no let up in the player’s effort, but with the January transfer window about to open, has no idea about the player’s next move.
Sanchez scored his first goal in the 62nd minute but not all his team-mates celebrated the strike with him.
“First of all nobody knows what will happen really,” said Wenger.
“It’s difficult to speculate. At the moment we are focused on short-term, that means the next game (against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday) with the players committed and ready to fight.
“It’s not a guarantee of how long you stay somewhere. As long as you are somewhere, you give your best.
“I felt he was very good tonight from the first minute on, focused on the game. This kind of Sanchez is a great football player, as we know. That’s the kind of performance we want from him.”
Jack Wilshere — starting his fourth successive match his longest run in several years — is also in the final year of his contract and Wenger believes he too showed his remains committed to the cause.
“They are questioned, always, when people don’t have long contracts,” said Wenger.
“The best way to show they are committed is to give that kind of performance.
“Jack is coming back in competitive shape. He gives something to the team at the moment, and gave a good final ball for the third goal.”
Wenger said Arsenal and Wilshere are due to open talks in January.
“The situation is that we need to sit down with him. Beginning of January, it’s planned. There is no delay.
“I said we would sort out his situation in December, end of December, and so I told him we want to meet and sit down with him to talk about the future.
“Now we play today, we play on Sunday, we play on Wednesday. At the moment the focus has to be on the games.”
Antonio Conte has urged Chelsea to take a significant step towards a top four finish in the Premier League by beating Stoke on Saturday.
Conte’s side know their chances of retaining the Premier League title are slim given Manchester City’s record-breaking run has left Chelsea 16 points adrift of the leaders.
But they have won their last six Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge and are currently just a single point behind Manchester United in second place.
Chelsea also boast a four-point advantage over Liverpool, the club directly below them, and Blues boss Conte is looking to maintain that advantage heading into 2018.
“In this league there is great motivation for all to try to stay there and fight until the end,” Conte said.
“I don’t know if we can do this for the title because it depends on Manchester City, who are doing something extraordinary.
“To win every game and draw one means you are having a fantastic run.
“But there is great motivation to find a place in the Champions League next year, there are four places for six top teams.
“Our start wasn’t easy for many reasons but we want to work and improve. There are many competitions and we must be very proud to play every game.”
Chelsea have struggled to replicate last season’s title-winning heroics, with Conte spending much of the summer in a bitter dispute with Diego Costa.
Costa was eventually replaced by fellow Spain international Alvaro Morata and the former Real Madrid man will go into the weekend with 12 Chelsea goals to his name, including a hat-trick in the 4-0 win at Stoke in September.
Conte is delighted with Morata’s contribution but is also mindful that this was his first experience of a hectic festive period, with the same applying to fellow new recruits Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko.
“It’s the first time they’ve played at Christmas,” he said. “It’s not simple but this atmosphere is great.
“During this period you have your parents, brothers, daughters with you and the family come to watch the game.
“It’s a busy period for us but it started in November and will continue through January and February.”