While most of Europe enjoys a winter break and some well-earned respite, there’s no chance for Premier League footballers to put their feet up and enjoy a game of Fifa or two with their nearest and dearest. In fact, the Christmas period is one of the busiest in the EPL calendar, with games coming thicker and faster than the gravy you’ll be pouring on your turkey.
After a full programme of fixtures on Wednesday December 14, more than half the league are back in action three days later, where we start our round-up of the best of the festive footie action.
The early kick-off on Saturday December 17 sees a London derby between two sides having had hugely contrasting campaigns. Crystal Palace’s dismal form in 2016 (especially the two wins in 20 at the back end of last season) shows few signs of letting up. Their leaky defence will be hoping the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have an off day as Chelsea, rejuvenated under Antonio Conte, come to Selhurst Park.
Sunday December 18 offers a clash between two sides firmly in the title mix. Hosts Manchester City have flourished under Pep Guardiola, although after an unbeaten start their form has dipped a little. But they’ll be mindful that perennial bridesmaids Arsenal have been showing signs of a better mental toughness and are unbeaten in five league games between the two sides.
A Merseyside derby is the Monday night offering (December 19) as an Everton outfit who lost their way after a cracking start (four wins, one draw) battle bitter rivals Liverpool who have the look of genuine title contenders at long last, thanks in no small part to Jürgen Klopp’s tactical nous.
Boxing Day is normally one of the highlights in any fan’s football calendar, but this year serves up some unseasonably flat fixtures. Let’s face it, only die-hard supporters would go out of their way to watch Burnley take on Middlesbrough.
However, an intriguing clash between everyone’s favourite feeder team Southampton and last year’s nearly men Spurs on Wednesday December 28 should prove a touch more enticing.
And 2016 ends with a bang as Klopp’s Liverpool take on Guardiola’s gang at Anfield, both hoping to make a real statement of intent. That’ll take you up until nearly midnight on New Year’s Eve, so let’s hope no-one at the party minds you taking “fashionably late” to a new level.
Live on beIN Sports. www.beinsports.com.