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Around the Premier League: The second half begins

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The immediacy of fixtures slows after an entertaining welcome to 2017

The Premier League returns this weekend after a bit of a breather, with 18 rounds of 38 remaining. Just past the halfway point of the season, let’s refresh our memories of where things stand after the hectic holiday period.

There’s a rather distinct top six that’s developed — all six “big teams” in there in orderly fashion; no Leicester City-esque shenanigans this season! — with five points separating sixth place Manchester United from second place Liverpool and Chelsea more or less staying clear so far with a further five points ahead of them.

The big story of Round 20 was Chelsea’s loss at Spurs, ending the Blues’ 13-match winning streak, but the damage to Chelsea’s standing in the table was limited thanks to Liverpool dropping points against Sunderland. The Black Cats came from behind twice to surely annoy Klopp, who was gleefully trying to do the same to Chelsea in the press just the day prior. Further compounding Klopp’s frustrations was the 0-0 draw against lowly Plymouth in the FA Cup (adding a replay to their already busy January schedule) and a 1-0 loss to Southampton in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal. And now they get to travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United!

United meanwhile have become England’s hottest team, having notched six straight wins in the Premier League, part of an 11-match unbeaten run. They haven’t lost in the league since the Chelsea match, and haven’t lost in any competition in over two months. It may have been controversial as can be against West Ham on Matchday 20, but soon nobody will care. A nine-match winning streak, after a 4-0 win over Reading and a 2-0 win over Hull City in the League Cup semifinal first leg, is what Jose takes into the big derby this weekend.

The far less intense reciprocal match taking place earlier on Sunday will see Everton hosting Manchester City who got past Burnley with just 10 men on Matchday 20 and then blew away West Ham United 5-0 in the FA Cup.

With City and Spurs level on 42 points, Arsenal drop to Wenger-firing territory in fifth. Despite doing their best to concentrate on the positives of the massive three-goal comeback against Bournemouth, the reality remains that those two dropped points in the 3-3 draw against a still-Aké’d Cherries could be quite important later this season. Arsenal needed similar late heroics in their FA Cup third round match against Preston North End, whom they didn’t eliminate until the 89th minute.

So, plenty to look forward to this weekend and beyond and Chelsea look to build on our accomplishments of the first-half of the season and bring home another Premier League title! First up: Leicester City away in Saturday’s late kick off.