It's been a long, long stretch of games around the holidays for the top teams in the Premier League, and they're the ones who are under the most scrutiny for bettors as we head into the first week of 2017, the de facto start of the second half of the season both in England and all across the European leagues.
Tottenham vs. Chelsea, Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET ( NBC Sports Network )
The winning streak rages on. Chelsea has won 10 straight fixtures across all competitions and 13 straight overall in the Premier League, but the fact of the matter is that it isn't quite clear enough of all of the teams just below it on the table to feel totally safe as we head into January. Then again, championships aren't won this time of year, though they certainly are lost.
In the case of Tottenham, the last thing it can afford here is to drop three points at home against the Blues, a result that would very likely end any hope of an elusive championship. The Spurs have their sights set on ending Chelsea's winning streak, but they have to be more worried about themselves and their own defensive tactics first. Hugo Lloris has been under far more pressure than he should be under at this time of year in net, and Chelsea's offense has been spot on week after week and should provide immense pressure once again.
This match is also the closest thing to a pick 'em you'll ever see. The price on the draw is almost as good as the price on either team to win this match, a complete and utter rarity that proves just how good this one could be.
West Ham vs. Manchester City, Friday, 2:55 p.m. ET ( FOX Sports 1 )
We're about set to enter the business stages of the FA Cup, and this is the time that the top teams in the country make the decision whether silverware is important or not. It's a major decision facing Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side as it heads on the road to take on West Ham in a very tough draw for a January fixture in spite of all of the struggles the Hammers have had, particularly on offense domestically.
The Citizens remember, still have the Champions League coming up once again, and Guardiola would be forgiven if he believed that his team's home and home tie with Sevilla and the second half of the Premier League season was too important to mortgage so early in the FA Cup in an away match against a hungry club that is going to treat the match like the Super Bowl.
Preston North End vs. Arsenal, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET ( FOX Sports 1 )
Arsenal's history in the FA Cup is pretty darn good. The team won it in 2014 and 2015, and last season, it reached the quarterfinals before being ousted by Watford. This draw against Preston North End should end up being relatively easy, but you never know with these lower division teams. There's a few every year in January who rise up and beat Premier League teams, and this is a good spot for it with all of the really tough matches the Gunners have had to play of late.
Preston is in the middle of the table in Championship and has been in merely mediocre form. Still, this is the moment where a team can rise up and do damage. We've already seen North End send Bournemouth packing in the EFL Cup. Could Arsenal be next?
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