Updated: Jan 16
Having elapsed the halfway stage of the 2021/22 Premier League season, the storyline looks destined for a feisty climax to another fascinating campaign.
16 Premier League matches were postponed during December as well as another two fixtures on New Year‘s Day, as the dominant Omicron variant of Covid-19 has taken its toll on several clubs across Britain and Europe.
Many Premier League games which went ahead saw a host of players and coaching staff miss out through isolation. Managers Jürgen Klopp, Patrick Vieira, Mikel Arteta, and Steven Gerrard were all forced to watch their teams from their homes as their delegates took charge in the dugouts.
Across the final five weeks of 2021 the Premier League reported a total 341 positive tests amongst players and staff, representing a 0,70 per cent positivity rate from 48 740 tests administered over a 35-day period.
29Nov-5Dec 3,154 tests administered, 12 positive cases
6-12Dec 3,805 tests administered, 42 positive cases
13-19Dec 12,345 tests administered, 90 positive cases
20-26Dec 15,186 tests administered, 103 positive cases
27Dec-2Jan 14,250 tests administered, 94 positive cases
Defending Premier League champions Manchester City occupy the summit of the log with 50 points from 20 matches. Pep Guardiola's men were top of the tree at Christmas – by six points over Liverpool and Chelsea – and since 2009 all but three times has the title-winning team been top on December 25.
In 2021 alone, Man City recorded 36 victories in 44 league meetings (a win-rate of 81 per cent), and collected 110 points – 27 more than next-best Chelsea.
Man City also netted a mammoth 113 league goals, the most English top-flight goals scored in a calendar year.
Liverpool now lie ten points behind the Citizens, with Chelsea a further point adrift of Klopp’s Reds. City have won 11 league games on the trot whilst Liverpool have dropped points in all of their last three matches. Liverpool suffered their second loss of the season, last week at Leicester City, surrounded by a couple of 2-2 stalemates in London against Spurs and later Chelsea.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have picked up two wins in their last seven during which time Thomas Tuchel's side shared the spoils four times.
With three of four UEFA Champions League places seemingly reserved, an enticing scrap may culminate for the remaining spot in Europe's elite. Five points currently separate the four teams in positions 4-7.
Premier League, selected results:
Arsenal 2-0 West Ham
Arsenal 1-2 Man City
Chelsea 1-1 Everton
Leicester 1-0 Liverpool
Liverpool 1-0 Aston Villa
Man City 7-0 Leeds Utd
Man City 6-3 Leicester
Tottenham 2-2 Liverpool
West Ham 2-3 Southampton
Premier League, selected fixtures:
15 Jan - Man City vs Chelsea
15 Jan - Aston Villa vs Man Utd
16 Jan - Tottenham vs Arsenal
19 Jan - Leicester vs Tottenham
22 Jan - Man Utd vs West Ham
23 Jan - Chelsea vs Tottenham
Premier League standings:
P W L PTS
1. Man City 21 17 2 53
2. Liverpool 21 12 2 43
3. Chelsea 20 12 2 42
4. Arsenal 20 11 7 35
5. West Ham 20 10 6 34
6. Tottenham 18 10 5 33
7. Man Utd 19 9 6 31
Liverpool ace Mohamed Salah will be looking to become a three-time PL Golden Boot winner as he continues to lead the race with a stellar 16 goals, six more than teammate Diogo Jota. Salah scored the most Premier League goals in 2021, netting 24 times – six more than Tottenham's Harry Kane.
Salah may want to get his hands on the Playmaker of the Season award, too, with the Egyptian forward top of the assists charts on nine, tied with fellow Red, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Salah now takes absence from club football as he together with a host of other Premier League players will be representing their countries at the imminent Africa Cup of Nations.
31 players from the English top-flight have been called up for the 33rd edition of the tournament, due to commence on Sunday in Cameroon. The Final takes place on 6 February.
Algeria Riyad Mahrez (Man City); Saïd Benrahma (West Ham)
Burkina Faso Bertrand Traore (Aston Villa)
Egypt Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal); Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Gabon Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Ghana Daniel Amartey (Leicester); Thomas Partey (Arsenal); Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)
Guinea Naby Keïta (Liverpool)
Ivory Coast Eric Bailly (Man Utd); Willy Boly (Wolves) Maxwel Cornet (Burnley); Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace); Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal)
Mali Moussa Djenepo (Southampton); Yves Bissouma (Brighton)
Morocco Roman Saiss (Wolves); Adam Masina (Watford); Imran Louza (Watford)
Nigeria William Troost-Ekong (Watford); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester); Frank Onyeka (Brentford); Alex Iwobi (Everton); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester)
Senegal Édouard Mendy (Chelsea); Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace); Nampalys Mendy (Leicester); Sadio Mané (Liverpool); Ismaila Sarr (Watford)
Tunisia Hannibal Mejbri (Man Utd)
The FA Cup 3rd Round draw was made on 6 December as holders Leicester were drawn to take on Watford, one of just three all-PL ties. 2021 runners-up Chelsea entertain fifth-tier Chesterfield whilst Liverpool host third-tier Shrewsbury, and Man City travel to fourth-tier Swindon Town.
14-time FA Cup winners Arsenal visit Championship outfit Nottingham Forest, and Man United welcome Aston Villa to Old Trafford.
FA Cup 3rd Round, selected fixtures:
Chelsea vs Chesterfield
Leicester vs Watford
Liverpool vs Shrewsbury
Man Utd vs Aston Villa
Nottingham Forest vs Arsenal
Swindon Town vs Man City
Tottenham vs Morecambe
West Ham vs Leeds Utd
It was a goal fest in the Carabao Cup two weeks back, with a total 17 goals across the four quarterfinal ties. Arsenal put five past League One side Sunderland before Liverpool edged Leicester on penalties at Anfield. Chelsea overcame Brentford, and Spurs edged West Ham in an all-London battle.
EFL Cup, quarterfinal results:
Arsenal 5-1 Sunderland
Brentford 0-2 Chelsea
Liverpool 3-3 Leicester (5-4 pens)
Tottenham 2-1 West Ham
Arsenal play Liverpool in the semifinals, while Chelsea tackle Tottenham in the corresponding semi. The first legs will be contested tonight and tomorrow evening, with the return fixtures next week.
EFL Cup, semifinal fixtures:
5 Jan - Chelsea vs Tottenham
6 Jan - Arsenal vs Liverpool
12 Jan - Tottenham vs Chelsea
13 Jan - Liverpool vs Arsenal
Elsewhere in Europe, Inter Milan occupy top spot in the Italian Serie A at the turn of the year, four points ahead of city rivals AC Milan, with Napoli three points shy of the Rossoneri. Inter accrued 104 points from 43 games in 2021, ten points more than Atalanta despite the Nerazzuri playing a game fewer than the team from Bergamo.
Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic has scored a league-high 16 goals in 19 appearances.
Serie A, selected results & fixtures:
Atalanta 1-4 Roma
AC Milan 0-1 Napoli
6 Jan - AC Milan vs Roma
6 Jan - Juventus vs Napoli
9 Jan - Roma vs Juventus
9 Jan - Inter vs Lazio
16 Jan - Atalanta vs Inter
22 Jan - Lazio vs Atalanta
23 Jan - AC Milan vs Juventus
Serie A standings:
P W L PTS
1. Inter Milan 19 14 1 46
2. AC Milan 19 13 3 42
3. Napoli 19 12 4 39
4. Atalanta 19 11 3 38
5. Juventus 19 10 5 34
In Spain, Real Madrid are five points clear at the top of La Liga, albeit second-placed Sevilla have played one game fewer than the league leaders. As many as 12 Real Madrid players tested positive for coronavirus in December, while rivals Barcelona also had seven players ruled out with the virus in the final days of 2021.
Last year Los Blancos won more points (97) than any other team in La Liga, with Sevilla taking 89 points throughout 2021. Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema has bagged 15 goals in 19 league appearances this term.
LaLiga, selected results & fixtures:
Real Betis 4-0 Real Sociedad
Real Madrid 2-0 Atlético Madrid
Sevilla 2-1 Atlético Madrid
Sevilla 1-1 Barcelona
8 Jan - Real Madrid vs Valencia
9 Jan - Villarreal vs Atlético Madrid
19 Jan - Valencia vs Sevilla
22 Jan - Atlético Madrid vs Valencia
P W L PTS
1. Real Madrid 20 14 2 46
2. Sevilla 19 12 2 41
3. Real Betis 19 10 6 33
4. Atlético Madrid 19 9 5 32
5. Barcelona 19 8 4 31
Bayern Munich have a comfortable 9-point advantage in the Bundesliga, after Borussia Dortmund dropped points in three of their last four league matches of 2021.
The Bavarians won 29 of their 38 league games in 2021, taking 91 points from a possible 114. Robert Lewandowski so far has a terrific 19 goals to his name in just 17 outings this season, the Bayern striker averaging a league goal every 76 minutes.
Bundesliga, selected results & fixtures:
17 Dec - Bayern 4-0 Wolfsburg
18 Dec - Hertha Berlin 3-2 Dortmund
19 Dec - Freiburg 2-1 Leverkusen
8 Jan - Frankurt vs Dortmund
14 Jan - Dortmund vs Freiburg
22 Jan - RB Leipzig vs Wolfsburg
22 Jan - Hoffenheim vs Dortmund
P W L PTS
1. Bayern 17 14 2 43
2. Dortmund 17 11 5 34
3. Freiburg 17 8 4 29
4. Leverkusen 17 8 5 28
5. Hoffenheim 17 8 5 28
Ajax Amsterdam surrendered first-place in the Dutch Eredivisie, with PSV Eindhoven now in command of the standings. PSV lead Ajax by a solitary point as the two teams prepare to lock horns in 18 days' time.
Ajax striker Sebastien Haller has scored 12 league goals this season, with teammate Dusan Tadic providing a league-high 11 assists.
Eredivisie, selected results & fixtures:
Feyenoord 0-2 Ajax
23 Jan - PSV vs Ajax
P W L PTS
1. PSV 18 14 3 43
2. Ajax 18 13 2 42
3. Feyenoord 18 12 3 39
Porto and Sporting Lisbon remain inseparable at the head of the Primeira Liga table, with either team yet to taste defeat after 16 matches.
Primeira Liga, selected results & fixtures:
Benfica 6-1 Sporting Braga
Benfica 1-3 Sporting CP
Porto 3-1 Benfica
Primeira Liga standings:
P W L PTS
1. Porto 16 14 0 44
2. Sporting CP 16 14 0 44
3. Benfica 16 12 3 37
Paris St-Germain hold a 13-point buffer over 2nd-placed OGC Nice in the French Ligue 1. Lille striker Jonathan David has scored the most goals with 12, two more than Wissam Ben Yeddder of Monaco, and three more than PSG's Kylian Mbappé.
Ligue 1 standings:
P W L PTS
1. PSG 19 14 1 46
2. Nice 19 10 5 33
3. Marseille 18 9 3 33
Top scorers 2021, club & country:
🇵🇱R. Lewandowski, 69 in 59
🇫🇷K. Mbappé, 51 in 67
🇳🇴E. Haaland, 49 in 51
🇫🇷K. Benzema, 47 in 63
🇵🇹C. Ronaldo, 46 in 64
🇦🇷L. Messi, 43 in 60