After the final round of fixtures before Christmas, here are five things we learned from the weekend’s games.
MANCHESTER CITY DO NOT NEED STRIKERS
Playing James Milner as a false nine does not appear to be the stuff Premier League titles are made of, but it worked for City in their 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Milner’s running allowed David Silva and Yaya Toure to exploit space in the box and, for one game at least, the absence of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic did not hurt City.
Their festive fixture list is relatively kind but boss Manuel Pellegrini will surely consider signing another forward in January.
ENGLAND HAVE STRIKING OPTIONS
Charlie Austin was playing in non-league football for Poole Town as recently as 2009 but, with 11 Premier League goals to his name already in his debut top-flight season after a hat-trick for QPR, he must be on Roy Hodgson’s radar.
Only Aguero and Diego Costa have scored more times in the Premier League and Austin is playing for a team who are struggling, having netted just 20 goals in total.
Andy Carroll and Harry Kane were also on the scoresheet on Saturday for West Ham and Tottenham, respectively, to push their claims.
BENTEKE IS BACK
Christian Benteke’s ruptured Achilles in April robbed Aston Villa of their key attacking threat for six months and it has taken him time to settle back into the side.
But against Manchester United on Saturday, the Belgian striker looked back to his best form, bullying the Red Devils' defence and scoring a stunning goal.
If he can continue in the same vein, Villa should not have to spend too much time looking over their shoulder.
SUNDERLAND LOVE THE DERBY
Newcastle went into Sunday's clash with Sunderland seven points and seven places above their North East neighbours but slumped to a fourth successive derby defeat thanks to Adam Johnson's late strike.
It is the first time Sunderland have ever won four straight derbies, and three of those have come at St James’ Park.
Gus Poyet’s side had won just once since the 8-0 mauling by Southampton in October but Christmas dinner will taste extra sweet for Sunderland fans on Thursday.
LIVERPOOL ARE GETTING THERE
A 3-0 defeat by Manchester United followed by a last-gasp 2-2 draw at home to Arsenal may not spell glad tidings for Liverpool fans but at least Brendan Rodgers' side are now recognisable as the same one that nearly won the title last season.
They are creating chances again, bucketloads against both United and Arsenal, but converting them remains a problem, as does leaking poor goals at the other end.
Daniel Sturridge will be welcomed back as the Messiah when he is finally fit. Whether he can live up to that remains to be seen.
English Premier League results & fixtures
Hull City 0 Swansea City 1
Queens Park Rangers 3 West Bromwich Albion 2
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Burnley 1
West Ham United 2 Leicester City 0
Monday (in UAE time)
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