The Weekend in Numbers: The Magpies show they are home birds and can Leicester clinch Christmas number one?

Being top at Christmas is a big deal in the Premier League, so can Leicester keep the momentum going?

BY Adrian Collins 12:35 Friday 18 December 2015, 12:35 18 Dec 2015

Image: Richard Sellers / PA Archive/PA Images

Ahead of this weekend's Premier League fixtures, we take a look at the numbers you need to know. 

Before the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season kicks into gear, there's one more weekend of Premier League football to contend with, so here are the key stats to keep an eye on as the festive period gets underway.

Ryan Shawcross' incredible run continues

Does Ryan Shawcross have magical powers? It certainly seems that way, as Stoke have yet to concede a goal while he's on the pitch. He may well have set some type of forcefield in front of the goal, but of his 497 minutes on the field so far this season, he has not seen a single goal go in.

However, there is one blot on his copybook: his red card against Sunderland was pivotal, as his side went on to concede twice without him in the backline. 

Jack Butland is also part of this story it should be noted, and with five clean sheets in his last six games (and seven in total), Stoke have one of the best young 'keepers in the league at the moment in between the sticks. 

They face Crystal Palace, who are also relatively tight at the back, but the recent record book actually favours Pardew's side: They have won two of the last three matches against Stoke in the Premier League, and have scored seven in their last three games. 

Aston Villa have let their Garde down

Rooted to the bottom of the table with just six points, things could not get much worse for Aston Villa at the moment. They've conceded 10 goals in their last four games, and they have also failed to win any of their last three games in the Premier League against Newcastle.

Their one and only win this year came back in August, and they take on a Newcastle side who are most definitely trending in the right direction. Perhaps the most worrying part is that, at St. James' Park, Newcastle are far superior to when they travel; at home they've scored 13 and conceded 12, while away from home they've only managed to score five, while conceding 18. 

Giant killing to continue?

There are two games where newly promoted teams take on some big, established names this weekend: Watford welcome Liverpool, while Norwich travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. 

In the past few weeks, fellow newcomers Bournemouth beat Chelsea as well as Louis Van Gaal's side, so can the giant killing continue this weekend? 

When it comes to facing the traditional "big teams", Watford have disappointed so far this season, having lost to Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal already this term.

However, like Newcastle, they're trending in the right direction having won two in a row, and Liverpool are without a win in the same period as they lost to Steve McClaren's side and needed a late goal to rescue a draw against West Brom.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates a late goal from Divock Origi. Image: Peter Byrne / PA Wire/Press Association Images

There are only four meetings between the two in the Premier League era, of which Liverpool have won three, but without Daniel Sturridge to supply the goals and having kept only two clean sheets since Jurgen Klopp's arrival, there could be goals in this one given the last time Watford failed to score in a match was back in October.

Louis Van Gaal's worry is up front, where his side seem unable to score or create enough chances to threaten rival defences. While Rooney returning might be a ray of hope, he is in a historic slump, averaging a goal every 525 minutes. His previous worst was back in 2003, when he was still just a youngster, and averaging a goal every 271 minutes. However, this weekend's game could provide them with a great matchup. 

While Norwich have conceded less goals than the teams around them in contention for the drop such Newcastle, Sunderland, Bournemouth and Aston Villa, they do tend to give up goals in almost every single game: they've kept just one clean sheet so far this season. 

Christmas number one

The league leaders face a tough test as they travel to Goodison Park on Saturday to face the team with one of the best strikers around, Romelu Lukaku. 

The Belgian has scored seven goals in his last six games in the league, and given Leicester's penchant for conceding only to come from behind and win, Lukaku looks a good bet to find the back of the net once again this weekend.  

However, he might not be able to power his side to a win, as Leicester are one of the league leaders when it comes to scoring from set pieces with eight, an area of particular weakness for Everton. Their poor record on that front was criticised by goalkeeper Tim Howard recently after they slumped to a third draw on the bounce, with set pieces being to blame on each occasion.

Image: Peter Byrne / PA Wire/Press Association Images

If Leicester can get another win, they will remain top of the table for the Christmas period and that is a huge step towards keeping their run going. In the last five years, only one team that has been in first place on December 25th has not gone on to win the title: Liverpool in 2013/14. Even then they finished second. 

Injuries taking their toll

Monday night features one of the biggest games of the season as both sides will be hoping that a slip up from Leicester at Everton will see them sit atop the table on Christmas day.

Arsenal's record in this fixture should give them hope, as they've only lost one of the Premier League meetings between these two sides. However, lately they've found this tie to be more difficult, and have only won one of the last six meetings between the sides according to Opta.

Both sides are rushing to get players back fit for this match in the form of Alexis Sanchez and Vincent Kompany, but it is the latter who appears to be more crucial: in the eight matches he's played for Manchester City so far this year, they've only conceded one goal and are unbeaten.  

Image: Nigel French / EMPICS Sport

City have only won two of their last five games however, and are also expected to try and get Sergio Agüero back in the starting lineup as they need goals: the last time they found the back of the net in an away fixture was against Spurs in a 4-1 loss in September.  


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