Rotation, rotation, rotation was the prevailing mood in the Premier League’s midweek schedule.
Mindful of the rigours of a congested December fixture list, the likes of Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho and David Silva were all benched by their respective managers.
Those decisions were just about vindicated as Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City each emerged with three vital points.
Another packed weekend of action sees Sam Allardyce begin his Everton tenure at home to Huddersfield, while Alan Pardew is at the helm for West Brom’s clash with his former club Crystal Palace.
The clash of the weekend comes at The Emirates on Saturday evening when Arsene Wenger’s revitalised Arsenal host Manchester United.
Out-of-form Spurs have a point to prove at Watford, while Paul Clement’s Swansea City visit Stoke City.
Elsewhere on Saturday afternoon, free-scoring Liverpool make the trip to Brighton, Chelsea host Newcastle United, and Burnley head to Leicester City.
A south coast derby on Sunday sees Bournemouth entertain Southampton, while David Moyes’ West Ham must be fearing their visit to Manchester City.
Once again the Leader’s sports writers go head-to-head and try to predict the outcome of all 10 top-flight games.
Tom Norris leads the way with 94 points so far this term, with Dan Heald and Nick Harrison languishing behind on 84 and 80 respectively.
With three points for predicting the correct score, or one for the correct match outcome (win/lose/draw), let us know your thoughts on this weekend’s action.
CHELSEA v NEWCASTLE UNITED
NICK HARRISON: Tuesday’s comeback will give Benitez heart heading back to The Bridge but after failing to hit the heights against Swansea, Chelsea will be going all out to put on a much-improverd performance. 4-1
TOM NORRIS: Rafa’s Magpies found West Brom in generous mood on Tuesday, but things won’t be as straight-forward at Stamford Bridge. Hazard’s back and together with Morata and Willian, they should enjoy it. 3-0
DAN HEALD: Hazard’s midweek omission will surely have the Belgian primed for this game, but Morata needs to find some consistency after some poor finishing against Swansea. Newcastle will set up to contain but this could be a miserable return to the Bridge for Benitez. 3-1
BRIGHTON v LIVERPOOL
NH: Klopp’s rotation worked much better than most of his illustrious managerial rivals in midweek – even if he did need the magical Salah to finally kill off The Potters. An away clean sheet was a bonus ball for the Reds and there’s no reason why they can’t do it again at Brighton. 0-3
TN: Liverpool showed that they can win at difficult places when they thumped Stoke 3-0 on Wednesday and this could be more of the same, although Brighton might not be as inviting as open as Stoke. Salah is in superb form and he and Mane will be too good. 1-3
DH: Brighton’s miserly defence has the fifth best goals against record in the Premier League, while Liverpool boast one of the most potent attacks with Salah and Mane in ominous form. Coutinho’s return should also aid the visitors cause here and can inspire an away win. 1-2
EVERTON v HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
NH: Cracking game for big Sam to kick off with. Rooney was back with a bang but Huddersfield – even though they let in five at Arsenal – won’t roll over like Moyes’ Hammers did at Goodison Park. Sigurdsson to star in a comfortable home win. 3-1
TN: Big Sam’s managerial magic worked from the stands at Goodison on Wednesday, so imagine what he can do on the touchline. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Everton looked like a team. Huddersfield had a go at Arsenal so the hosts will have to be cautious. 2-1
DH: Allardyce could hardly have asked for a better game to begin his Everton tenure. Huddersfield were whipped at Arsenal and their confidence will be through the floor, while the Rooney-inspired mauling of West Ham in midweek will have heartened the Toffees faithful. 2-0
LEICESTER CITY v BURNLEY
NH: Tuesday’s terrific win at home to Spurs will give Leicester players some much-needed confidence and here’s a good chance to follow it up with another three points with Vardy again on the scoresheet. 2-1
TN: Leicester got the result they needed to kickstart their campaign. If Vardy and Mahrez are good then so are the Foxes. Burnley won’t allow space in behind, however, and Dyche’s men won’t make life easy. 1-1
DH: Fine results for both clubs in midweek makes this contest too close to call. Vardy seems close to recapturing the scintiallating form of two seasons ago and is capable of terrorising most defences, even those as solid as Burnley’s. A narrow home win. 2-1
STOKE CITY v SWANSEA CITY
NH: Stoke need a win but not as much as The Swans, who may need a change at the helm to stop them from the dreaded end of season scenario – swapping places with arch enemies Cardiff City. 2-0
TN: By all accounts Swansea were much improved at Chelsea. But they still lost and heading to Stoke isn’t one to savour when you’re struggling. Mark Hughes’ men will be glad it’s Swansea visiting. 2-0
DH: A narrow defeat at Stamford Bridge was probably the best Swans boss Paul Clement could have hoped for in the context of the season thus far. Mark Hughes’ side have generally performed well at home, Wednesday’s defeat to Liverpool notwithstanding, and can edge this one. 2-0
WATFORD v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
NH: Watford can attack but it’s a different story at the other where City have scored six and United four at Vicarage Road this season. That should encourage Spurs, who need a confidence-booster, to fill their boots. 2-3
TN: Life on the road appears to suit Watford better. They enjoy teams attacking them before counter attacking. Spurs will play with a high press and that will force the shaky looking Watford defence to panic. Kane could have a field day. 1-3
DH: Spurs need a performance and a victory here to silence the dissenting voices that get louder with every dropped point. Marco Silva’s side have recovered from heavy defeats already this season and will make life tough for the visitors here. 1-2
WEST BROM v CRYSTAL PALACE
NH: What a first game for Pardew, who has done yet another job swap with Pulis. Hodgson has set up Palace to be tight away and a draw would probably suit both sides at The Hawthorns. 1-1
TN: What a time to be alive. We’ve had the Moyes derby this week and now it’s time for the Pardew derby. The Baggies new boss has been working hard since taking charge by all accounts and the visit of Palace is why. 2-1
DH: If nothing else, Pardew is a heart-on-the-sleeve motivator and his arrival will enthuse the dressing room and Baggies fans at least temporarily. Palace look a much tougher proposition under Hodgson and can emerge from this with a point if Zaha shows his class. 1-1
ARSENAL v MANCHESTER UNITED
NH: Both teams impressed in midweek but did they use up all their goal tally in one go. Mourinho doesn’t like losing big games but Arsenal have a superb record at home and might just have enough to sneak it. I’m still going for the draw though. 1-1
TN: This is when we find out that Arsenal are still poor at the back, but can’t quite cut through the good teams like they do the lesser sides. Wenger needs to put a marker down with Sanchez and Ozil purring on Wednesday. Just can’t see it, however. 0-1
DH: The goals were spread throughout the Gunners side in their 5-0 midweek demolition of Huddersfield. That has to bode well here, particularlly if the mercurial talents of Ozil return to the fore. Mourinho would happily set United up to nick a goal on the counter attack, but Wenger’s Arsenal can prevail here. 2-1
BOURNEMOUTH v SOUTHAMPTON
NH: The Saints didn’t disgrace themselves at City but The Cherries did, losing 2-1 at home to Burnley. A lot of pride at stake on the South coast where Southampton fans will have the bragging rights going into work on Monday. 1-2
TN: There will be lots of hype around this match, but will the 90 minutes live up to it? Southampton impressed at City, but seem to struggle to do it consistently, a problem Bournemouth are struggling with. 1-1
DH: The Saints caused City enough problems and frustrated them enough to take confidence into this game. Howe’s Bournemouuth seem to lack a Plan B when their attacking set-up fails to yield goals. Introducing Defoe earlier would enhance their goal threat no end. 1-1
MANCHESTER CITY v WEST HAM UNITED
NH: Not what you want if you’re a Hammer fan. City didn’t exactly fire on all cylinders – they never do with Aguero and Jesus playing together – in midweek but the return of Sane and another Sterling goal will form part of a big home win. 4-1
TN: Oh dear. Moyes doesn’t need this trip on the back of a mauling at Everton. Sterling and De Bruyne are in sparkling form and with Sane and Silva to come back this game only ends one way. 6-0
DH: The horror-show at Goodison did nothing to dispel the myth that Moyes is not the man to keep the Hammers up this season. City are blessed with the league’s most lethal attackers and every one of them will be relishing the chance to dismantle the fragile visitors. 5-1