After a short turnaround the Premier League returns on Tuesday for a bumper set of midweek features.
Manchester United will not be in action as their game against Brentford was forced to be postponed following a Covid outbreak in the club which closed their Carrington facilities.
But all 18 other league sides will play midweek, including Tottenham and Brighton who return after their game at the weekend was postponed following Spurs’ Covid outbreak.
Sportsmail previews the things to look out for as the top three all host sides in the bottom nine, Romelu Lukaku faces former side Everton, and Watford and Burnley face an early relegation battle.
Manchester City have the chance to equal Liverpool’s record of 33 wins in a calendar year
Man City can hit 33 wins in a calendar year
Manchester City are one game away from matching Liverpool for an English football record.
Their 1-0 win over Wolves at the weekend meant they have won 32 of their 40 Premier League fixtures in 2021 (drawn two, lost six).
Only Liverpool have won more matches in a calendar year in English top-flight history when the won 33 in 1982.
But Pep Guardiola’s side have the chance to tally – a eventually break – the Reds’ longstanding record before we ring in the New Year.
Raheem Sterling (centre) scored his 100th league goal to take Man City up to 32 wins in 2021
A win against Leeds at the Etihad on Tuesday will see City reach that milestone with three games left to spare.
The Premier League champions failed to beat a newly-promoted Leeds side last season as Marcelo Bielsa’s side pulled off a shock 2-1 win and a 1-1 draw.
But City have seemed unstoppable in recent weeks, extending their winning run to six games against Wolves and will be expected to make it a seventh and record-breaking one against Leeds.
Romelu Lukaku needs to start firing as he faces his former side
Thomas Tuchel needs to get £98million signing Romelu Lukaku firing for Chelsea’s clash against the striker’s former side, Everton.
Chelsea lost their grip on the top of the table after their 3-2 defeat to West Ham and although they bounced back with a win over Leeds at the weekend, they still needed a late Jorginho penalty to secure the victory.
Tuchel is becoming ever reliant on his attack in response to his leaky defence but the Blues boss has been keeping Lukaku in check recently, having only picked the Belgian from the bench in the last two league matches.
Lukaku has not scored in the Premier League since mid-September and has only bagged three goals in 11 appearances.
However, Everton are in a bit of rut after losing to Crystal Palace, their fourth defeat in their last five Premier League outings which could provide Lukaku with the opportunity to rediscover his firing form if Tuchel decided to start the striker against his former side at Stamford Bridge.
Thomas Tuchel (right) picked Romelu Lukaku (left) from the bench in the last two league games
Dean Smith faces his old side
Dean Smith successfully lead his boyhood club Aston Villa back to the top-flight and consolidated their position over the last three years but a string of five consecutive defeats heading into November saw him lose his job.
But, remarkably, the axed Villa boss found himself back in a job within a week as he took up the vacancy at Carrow Road.
Smith will face his former side for the first time since taking charge at Norwich as the Canaries welcome Villa on Tuesday.
Smith admitted the fixture could be awkward for his friends and family but insisted he had moved on quickly.
‘It’s the next game to be honest,’ he said ahead of the game. ‘I was manager there a month ago and somebody made a decision where I’m not the manager any more. I’m not in control of that so I move on very quickly.’
Dean Smith will face former side Aston Villa for the first time since signing a deal with Norwich
Burnley host Watford in a potential early relegation battle
Burnley have the chance to claw themselves out of the bottom three, while Watford will be looking stay afloat and distance themselves further from 18th.
Sean Dyche’s side have missed several opportunities to win this season and as a result sit 18th, two points behind Watford.
But alarm bells are not ringing at Turf Moor just yet and the Clarets can leapfrog Watford with a win on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Claudio Ranieri’s Hornets need to take advantage of the clash to extend their margin from the relegation zone to five points.
In attacking asset Emmanuel Dennis, Ranieri has the weapon to come out of this potential early relegation battle on top.
The Nigerian has scored in four of the last five Premier League fixtures and with Burnley conceding in six of their last eight league games, he could look to extend his firing streak.
Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis has scored in four of the last five Premier League fixtures
Liverpool to return to goals galore against Newcastle
After a rampaging 4-1 victory over Everton in the Merseyside derby and 4-0 triumphs over Arsenal and Southampton, Liverpool have struggled to eke out narrow 1-0 wins in their last two league games.
But Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could return to heavy-metal football as Newcastle travel to Anfield on Thursday.
Newcastle are still floundering in 19th and failed to follow up their first league win of the season against Burnley as they suffered a 4-0 defeat to Leicester.
The Magpies have the worst defensive record in the league having shipped 34 goals so far, while in Salah Liverpool have the most in-form striker in the league.
In front of the Kop, the Reds are sure to take advantage of a leaky Newcastle backline and return to thumping scorelines.
Jurgen Klopp have the most in-form striker in Mohamed Salah who has scored 14 league goals
Spurs return after Covid outbreak
Tottenham will be hoping they can return to action against Leicester this week following the club’s best efforts to ensure the contest goes ahead.
Spurs have endured a week full of disruption, after a Covid-19 outbreak within Antonio Conte’s squad forced their last two fixtures against Rennes and Brighton to be called off.
Since then, available first-team players have been allowed to train at Hotspur Way but another positive case in the first team has put the fixture in jeopardy.
If Tottenham are allowed to play it will be interesting to see how they fare following a week of havoc.
Eight Spurs players have contracted the virus leaving Conte’s squad depleted but a week off could give them a fresh advantage over the Foxes who ran riot against Newcastle.
Available first-team Tottenham players were allowed to return to training after Covid outbreak
Chelsea’s leaky defence could help Rafa Benitez
It is no secret that Everton boss is under fire.
So far, Blues fans have directed their anger at the board but the Spaniard will be feeling the pressure after their miserable run of form continued as they were beaten by Crystal Palace on Sunday.
After just one win in 10, Benitez desperately needs a change in fortune but he faces a tough challenge against Chelsea.
Rafa Benitez (right) is under fire after Everton have won just one of their least 10 games
The struggling Blues have been hindered by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s absence but their attack could be handed the opportunity to break through against Chelsea on Thursday.
Thomas Tuchel’s side have suffered with a leaky defence in recent games.
Chelsea have conceded ten goals in their last five games and let their lead slip five times in three games.
Benitez’s side could capitalise on a shaky Chelsea backline to rescue the boss from further humiliation.
Three-way battle at the top
The title race at the top of the table remains tight. One point separates Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea with last season’s champions clinching the top spot.
The three sides seem inseparable as all three eked out narrow victories at the weekend, relying on penalties to win.
In the midweek action, the top trio are all at home to teams in the bottom nine, with City facing Leeds, Liverpool welcoming Newcastle and Chelsea tackling Everton, providing them with the chance to stay in the race.
Guardiola’s City have the opportunity to put pressure on second and third as they play first on Tuesday before Liverpool and Chelsea look to respond on Thursday.
With two points separating Chelsea from leaders City and Liverpool sandwiched in the middle, any of the three could come out on top heading into the weekend.