It's getting interesting across the entire Premier League as clubs enter the second matchday of a packed month. After fourteen league games, six points separate the top two teams vying for Premier League title, third from tenth, and clubs from twelfth to the bottom of the league. Everton will be concerned with the second group of teams, but these sections appear to be where the respective clubs will finish this season. With more than half a season of league games remaining, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions, but it seems that the league has settled into three distinct groups with tiers in a surprisingly large second group.
Swansea, Southampton, West Ham United, and Newcastle are all ahead of teams with more supposed quality and resources whether it's by goal difference or points. This has made for an interesting early contest for spots in and around the the top four, even if Southampton are the only club likely to be challenging for a spot when the season exits winter. As for Liverpool, a couple of wins and a home match against a side that's only won two games in the league this season has altered the mood ahead of a crucial week.
Newcastle entertain Chelsea, Arsenal travel to Stoke, Southampton host Manchester United, Everton visit Manchester City, and surprise packages West Ham and Swansea face off in what could be an intriguing match. Both Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have the easiest opponents on paper and should be able to move closer to sides ahead of them in the league. Southampton have run into a tough schedule as previously discussed when looking at fixtures of clubs vying for the top four. This column still subscribes to the belief that December will be a crucial month where momentum and a strong bargaining position in the January transfer window can be achieved by many clubs in the second group.
The Sunderland game should provide Brendan Rodgers with an opportunity to rotate and continue winning ways ahead of a crucial week in the Premier League and Champions League. A victory against FC Basel secures qualification for the knock-out rounds in the Champions League, and avoiding defeat away to Manchester United at least maintains the improvement desperately required since the grotesque showing at Selhurst Park. The mood around Brendan Rodgers and the club is more relaxed just after a couple of victories with Liverpool still within reach of early season targets: qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, remain within reasonable touch of the top four with a view to qualifying for the Champions League next season, and produce a credible run in a domestic cup.
Despite the defeats and miserable performances, Liverpool reach a stage after six games in December where things are looking good. The first two test Liverpool's ability to best Premier League cannon fodder, the third is the high-stakes pressure game in Europe that tests the nerves of players and staff, the fourth is the trip to the rival's den where defeat would immediately sour any rise inmood and momentum, the fifth is a game where there is everything to lose, and the sixth is a game at Anfield that Liverpool just cannot lose against a Champions League rival. So, no pressure for all concerned.
Liverpool are currently on part two of six, but with a kindly schedule in January before a ghastly run in February, Brendan Rodgers' side could build an impressive run of results on the bones of Stoke City, Leicester City, and Sunderland.