Paul Merson's predictions for Liverpool vs Aston Villa and other Premier League GW 16 fixtures

A lot can change this month in the Premier League
A lot can change this month in the Premier League

After an eventful week of European football, we’re back in action with another set of Premier League matches over the weekend. December has been an intriguing month for English football so far and is set to produce a relentless fixture list as we approach the new year.

We’re nearly halfway through the 2021-22 Premier League season at the moment and the league table is already beginning to take shape. The top three have carved out a title race of their own this season and the Premier League’s Christmas schedule could have a massive impact on their fortunes.

Fourth place remains up for grabs in the Premier League, with several contenders lining up to take their shot. Manchester United seem to be riding another wave at the moment but will face stiff competition from Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham for a fourth-place finish.

The Premier League relegation battle is also heating up with Norwich and Newcastle fighting for their places in the top flight. Here are my predictions for this weekend’s crucial Premier League fixtures.

Brentford vs Watford

Watford v Southampton - Premier League
Watford v Southampton - Premier League

This is a massive football game for both teams. Brentford have got some tough fixtures coming up this month. Ivan Toney is still out with COVID-19 and won’t play this game. He’s a big miss for them. If Toney plays, I give them every chance. Without him, I don’t see how they’ll hurt Watford.

Brentford will likely go after this game and that will play into Watford’s hands. This could be a bad result for Brentford, and I’m predicting a crucial victory for Claudio Ranieri’s Watford this weekend.

Prediction: Brentford 1-2 Watford

Manchester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manchester City v Everton - Premier League
Manchester City v Everton - Premier League

I don’t see Wolves scoring a single goal against Manchester City. They can hold on for quite a bit and have been tight at the back, but they just aren’t able to find the back of the net. I thought Wolves did very well against Liverpool last week, but they’ve got to take their chances when they push forward.

Bernardo Silva is at the top of his game and is doing very well for himself. Mahrez, Sterling, and De Bruyne have been untouchable in the team in the past – now, Bernardo Silva is the talisman. Pep Guardiola has been pretty fortunate in that sense.

I think Bernardo Silva’s the best Portuguese player in the Premier League at the moment. It isn’t even close, is it? Make no mistake – he’s never going to achieve the heights Ronaldo has scaled in his career. At the moment, however, you’d be hard-pressed to look past Bernardo Silva. With the talent Pep Guardiola has at his disposal, I’m going to go with a very comfortable victory for Manchester City.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Chelsea vs Leeds United

Malmo FF v Chelsea FC: Group H - UEFA Champions League
Malmo FF v Chelsea FC: Group H - UEFA Champions League

This is a big game for Chelsea. They were poor against a West Ham side that wasn’t really going anywhere and have a few defensive issues to fix at the moment. Mendy has been absolutely outstanding so far but made a mistake against West Ham – Tuchel will just have to let it go at this point.

Chelsea still have the upper hand over Leeds in terms of quality and they did give them the run-around last season. Leeds haven’t been major goalscorers in the Premier League this season and I think Chelsea will go back to keeping a clean sheet in this game.

Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Leeds United

Liverpool vs Aston Villa

Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League

Aston Villa will cause Liverpool a few problems along the way this weekend, but will their defense turn up? Steven Gerrard's biggest problem at the moment is consistency - can they step up for a full 90 minutes? They managed it against Crystal Palace, but not against Brighton and Leicester.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane played 60 minutes in what effectively was a dead rubber in the Champions League, and fair play to them. Who wouldn't want to play at the San Siro? I think Liverpool have too much quality for Aston Villa and should be able to win this game.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Aston Villa

Arsenal vs Southampton

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League
Everton v Arsenal - Premier League

This is a huge Premier League game for Arsenal. These are the games they have managed to win this season. You don’t really know what you’re going to get with Southampton. One minute they’re good, and the next, they’re not.

I think Aubameyang will start again this weekend, but he needs to work hard. His form has taken a dip. Arsenal have a lot of youngsters at the moment and as captain, he needs to set an example. When he works hard, Arsenal are very good, and that shows how the youngsters look up to him. He’s the catalyst for the team and the young kids in the squad respect him.

Mikel Arteta will realize that this is a crucial game. If they win this fixture, it puts them in a nice position. They can kick on after this game and have a few nice fixtures coming up. I’m going to go with an Arsenal victory this weekend.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Southampton

Norwich City vs Manchester United

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Manchester United rested many of their key players in the Champions League this week. They’ve gone a couple of games without defeat and it now seems all rosy again at Manchester United. We’ve seen this a lot, with both Manchester United and Arsenal – they go on impressive unbeaten runs.

If United win this game, they’re right back in the top-four hunt. They’ve had a set of challenging games over the past month, but what follows hard fixtures? Easy fixtures. Premier League fixtures come quickly over Christmas and I don’t think Manchester United will have much of a problem against Norwich.

Prediction: Norwich City 1-3 Manchester United

Burnley vs West Ham United

West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League
West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League

Burnley are a hard team to beat and they most likely won’t go down this season. A lot depends on Maxwell Cornet’s fitness this weekend. He wreaked havoc against Newcastle and I thought Burnley would go on to win. After he picked up his knock, their attack disappeared.

This is another big game for West Ham. They got a massive result against Chelsea last week and have been excellent this season. West Ham have a big team and have been very strong at set-pieces. You need to defend well when you go to Burnley and I think David Moyes will pick up another victory here.

Prediction: Burnley 0-2 West Ham United

Leicester City vs Newcastle United

Newcastle United v Burnley - Premier League
Newcastle United v Burnley - Premier League

Newcastle have got to realize the importance of this game. At the start of the Premier League season, you’d think this would be a tough game for them. Now, you’re going to Leicester expecting to score at least one goal.

There’s no point playing for a draw – Newcastle need to have a go, score goals, and hope their defenders keep it tight. They’re in trouble at the moment and they need to make this game count. Leicester are all over the place at the moment but with Newcastle’s problems this season, Brendan Rodgers should be able to lead his team to a victory.

Prediction: Leicester City 2-1 Newcastle United

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Tottenham Hotspur

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Tottenham’s Europa Conference League game has been called off this week, and nobody’s sure when the match is going to be played. They’ve already had a postponed game against Burnley. They’re playing in the Carling Cup this month and have a Premier League midweek game next week - there are not many gaps left in the calendar.

I’ve got to go with a Brighton victory here. With the number of players Tottenham are missing at the moment, Conte will find it hard to win this Premier League game. I think I would’ve gone with Brighton anyway – they’re a decent team and are as good as anybody from box to box. If the game does go on, I’d back Brighton to win it.

Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Crystal Palace vs Everton

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League
Everton v Arsenal - Premier League

Crystal Palace are in a situation where they’re playing well but can’t seem to win a game at the moment. They keep playing well and losing – that worries me, because when they do start playing badly, they’ll definitely lose.

Injuries have been a massive concern for Everton in the Premier League. Calvert-Lewin is a big miss for them, and I’d make a little bit of an excuse for them because he does improve Everton. They’ll be a different team when he’s back, but will they be able to keep him?

I don’t think Everton are very good at the moment. They were very fortunate to win the Arsenal game, and I don’t think they’ll be able to defeat Crystal Palace this weekend.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Everton

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