Simon Mail previews the final Premiership games of the calendar year including Bath's match against Wasps and champions Exeter's clash at home to Leicester...
"Exeter's last league defeat came against Leicester in September but the Chiefs have gone from strength to strength since then and should be too strong for the Tigers. The champions are unbeaten in 13 Premiership matches at Sandy Park and are expected to extend their winning run to seven Premiership games."
Bath v Wasps
Live on BT Sport 1
An important match in the race for a top-four spot takes place at the Rec this weekend with Bath facing Wasps. The hosts are fifth in the Premiership and will not want to slip further behind their third-placed opponents. Bath's form in Europe has been excellent with the team topping their Champions Cup pool after the recent home win over Toulon. But the side were well beaten last week in their 32-9 defeat at Sale which was their second loss in a row in the league.
Wasps have momentum on their side after a superb run of form over the last month. Dai Young's side have won six of their last seven games in all competitions to cast aside a wobble in the autumn. Five successive victories in the Premiership have pushed them up the table with last year's finalists approaching top gear. Six tries in last weekend's 49-24 win over in-form Gloucester was their latest impressive result.
Bath won 25-9 at the Ricoh Arena back at the start of October but Wasps were in the middle of a bad run of form and this game looks to have come at the right time for them. The visitors have won on their last three trips to Bath which bodes well for this match. The hosts are narrow favourites for this match but Wasps are generously priced to come away with another victory and maintain their winning run.
Harlequins v Northampton
Live on BT Sport 2
Two teams in poor form face each other at Twickenham this weekend in Big Game 10 as Harequins take on Northampton. Quins have been a very frustrating side this season having failed to back up the odd impressive performance. The side won at Wasps back in September and also defeated Saracens at home at the start of December but this was their only victory in the last six games.
It has been a dreadful run for Northampton with the side languishing down in tenth place which seemed unthinkable at the start of the season. Their woeful form cost Jim Mallinder his job and the Saints have not been able to halt their losing sequence with 11 defeats in their last 12 games. Without a league victory since September, Northampton are desperate to find a turning point to salvage their season.
Both sides badly need a win but Northampton appear to be in worse shape than their opponents. Harlequins failed to perform at Twickenham on the opening day after losing to London Irish and will want to make amends in front of their fans. Quins can end the year on a high and pile the misery on the Saints with a victory. Backing the hosts to cover a six-point handicap could pay off against a Northampton team which has conceded 134 points in their last four games.
Exeter v Leicester
Live on BT Sport 1
Exeter are in relentless form at the top of the Premiership and the champions will take some stopping in their title defence this season. The Chiefs have built a commanding ten-point lead and it is difficult to see any team displacing them in the regular season. Exeter brushed aside a poor record at Northampton, to ease to a 35-14 win last weekend, which was their sixth successive victory in the competition.
It has been a very different story for Leicester with the side tumbling down the table and facing an early exit from Europe after a five-match losing run. The Tigers were punished last weekend after too many errors in their 29-17 home defeat to Saracens. Sitting sixth in the table, Leicester cannot afford to lose touch with the sides above them and their lack of consistency could cost them a top-four spot.
Exeter's last league defeat came against Leicester in September but the Chiefs have gone from strength to strength since then and should be too strong for the Tigers. The champions are unbeaten in 13 Premiership matches at Sandy Park and are expected to extend their winning run to seven Premiership games. Exeter have won all their home league matches this season by at least ten points and are fancied to maintain this by covering a nine-point handicap against Leicester.
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