Gameweek 26 Predictions: Mid-Season Break(up) - a Valentine's Day Special

It's a strange, strange time for Premier League fans.

Foreign managers have been clamoring for a winter break since the beginning of time and come 2020, it is officially (and finally) introduced. Teams are now given two weeks off at different intervals, ensuring that players will be able to jet back home to their families or to sunny Miami for a well-deserved break. Unless you are James Milner of course.

To be honest we are still not exactly sure how the winter break works, with fixtures being played out sporadically over a few weekends without seemingly much of a logic behind it. Or any that we know of anyway.

The guys at ESPN does a good job of explaining how it works, but with VAR and a thousand new laws introduced this season, we are still struggling to wrap our heads with all the changes - and decided to just sit patiently and wait for the football to return.

So it's been weeks since we last saw Trent Alexander-Arnold whip a delicious ball into the box for Mo Salah to gleefully lap up, or Virgil van Dijk's majestic glides around Anfield - and we are not sure how much more of this heartache we can endure.

What do you mean, we don't get to see another episode of everyone’s favorite comedy directed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

They say absence makes the heart fonder - we are guessing it’s especially so if you are a Liverpool fan - and life has truly been nothing short of meaningless since the resounding victory over Southampton. We guessed we finally figured out what Celine Dion was referring to when she talked about the power of love...

So thank god and cupid's little angels, for football's finally back and here's a quick(ie) one - predicting some of the games for this weekend.

Runaway champions vs cellar-dwellers: A potential banana skin for the Reds?

Time flies when you are having fun. Liverpool played Norwich City in their opening game of the season, beating the Canaries 4-1. It was a resounding scoreline, but it wasn't a particularly impressive performance by the Reds. A Teemu Pukki goal kick-started his impressive streak, while a brave showing put up by Daniel Farke's men gave the newly-promoted side much needed confidence. Todd Cantwell too, caught the eye with a dynamic display.

Fast-forward seven months, Pukki's goals has considerably dried up and Norwich are sitting rock bottom with confidence at a premium, while Jurgen Klopp's men are flying high, occupying top spot in the table. Sadio Mane was missing in the starting line-up during the season opener, and will most likely be on the bench for this weekend's encounter too. The Senegalese has returned to training earlier this week, providing more timely good news for the runaway leaders as they prepare for their defence of the Champions League too.

Do we foresee a potential upset here?

Not a chance. Liverpool will have sufficient quality to overcome the Canaries, piling more pressure as the prospect of relegation looms closer.

Prediction: Norwich City 0-2 Liverpool

Never judge a season by its opener

While Liverpool's opening day victory proved to be a sign of things to come, we cannot say the same for Newcastle United. Fans will be able to recall the toothless performance in the opening fixture against Arsenal, and they were so poor that even the most ardent Magpie fans would have been tempted to place their life's fortune on their team going down.

We cannot be sure if any of such stupid decisions were made, as Steve Bruce's side have bounced back and are enjoying a fairly decent season so far.

Arsenal fans were on the other end of the spectrum after opening day victory, with hopes of winning the league bolstered by new exciting signing in the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos. Fans were singing about Unai Emery, and the glory days felt like they were returning to the Emirates.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we all know how all that turned out, as Arsenal and Newcastle are now sitting level on points. In fact, we are not even sure if we should label this weekend's encounter as a relegation battle or a fight for a European spot.

We have warned you, it's a strange time.

Prediction: Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle United

The weekend's big game: Chelsea vs Manchester United

Regardless of the situation the two clubs find themselves in at the moment, a Chelsea vs Manchester United encounter is always one to watch out for.

There are huge stakes involved this time, with the final Champions League spot that Frank Lampard's men are sitting on still very much up for grabs. Six points sit between the two teams, and a defeat for Manchester United could effectively end their hopes for a run at Europe's elite competition next season.

Then again, no one has shown much of a desire to clinch that final spot this season - fingers crossed we hope Chris Wilder's side nicks it - so who really knows?

Bruno Fernandes will be the one to watch, as Solskjaer will be desperately hoping for the Portuguese to shine, adding much needed firepower in the absence of Marcus Rashford. He will be key part in the midfield battle that can decide the outcome of the game, and a duel with N'Golo Kante is a tantalizing prospect.

It's not all smooth sailing for Lampard too, as he faces a sticky situation on his hands. The Chelsea legend has to decide if Willy Caballero keeps his place after a display that was far from assuring, or recall Kepa Arrizabalaga back to the starting lineup after a string of poor performances. One's a decent goalkeeper with vast experience, while the other is a 80 million pound fraud.

We think we have got the answer.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United

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