Finally, after six weeks away and a huge month of international football, the Premier League comes back to our screens on Boxing Day.
Kicking off the festive football period, Brentford will host Spurs in the lunchtime game on the 26th, followed by six more games later that day.
Here’s everything you need to know as the topflight returns…
A Day for Derbies
On Boxing Day, six of the seven London-based sides meet as Antonio Conte’s Spurs side make the journey west to the Brentford Community Stadium; Fulham go south of the River Thames to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park; while West Ham go up against league leaders Arsenal.
Spurs started their first full campaign under Conte brightly. Going unbeaten in their first seven victories, it wasn’t until a crushing 3-1 loss in the North London Derby did their form turn. Including that game, they’ve lost four of their last eight before the break, finishing with a 4-3 win against Leeds after Rodrigo Bentancur’s brace within the final ten minutes.
Thomas Frank’s Brentford have had a mixed bag so far this season. With just four wins from 15, it could seem a below-par start for them, but wins over both Manchester sides has kept them at 10th place for now. Can they add another big name to their hit list?
In the evening game, Arsenal will be hoping they can keep their unrivalled form. Buoyed by Man City’s loss to Brentford last month, they’re now five points clear at the top, having dropped points in just two games this season.
But with Brazilian starlet Gabriel Jesus out for several months with a knee injury, will the Gunners have enough in attack to see off West Ham?
Managers New and Old
Rooted to last place, Wolves parted ways with Bruno Lage after just two wins this season. New manager Julen Lopetegui has had ample time with the squad that didn’t travel to Qatar, getting used to his new environment in Wolverhampton.
Elsewhere, two of the league’s most in-form sides meet as Leicester City welcome Newcastle United to the King Power Stadium. Having been stuck in the relegation zone after shipping 11 goals in two games against Brighton and Spurs, 16 points from a possible 24 puts the Foxes back up to mid-table.
Newcastle’s fortunes are similar. Since their big money takeover, fans have expected the results to come from new man Eddie Howe with a relatively similar squad. A handful of draws left them with one win from seven. Quick to turn it around, the Magpies have bagged five wins on the spin, with goals Miguel Almirón and Callum Wilson taking them up to third in the league.
Top Four Struggles
Last year’s Champions League winners, Chelsea, are hoping the break away from the league will have them refreshed and motivated to get back on track.
An uncharacteristic season has seen them score just 17 times in 14 games and concede the same number in that time. Problems at both ends of the pitch resulted in no wins from their last five matches before the break. This was compounded by three straight losses to Brighton, Arsenal and Newcastle – all sitting above the Blues in the league.
Up against 14th-placed Bournemouth, the Cherries have conceded the most goals in the league, and only managed to break four straight losses with an emphatic 3-0 win against Everton.
In the other clash on the 27th, Manchester United fans will be relatively pleased with their form. Starting August with back-to-back losses to Brighton and Brentford, they’ve managed to find ways to win since then, winning by a margin of just one goal on six occasions. A 6-3 loss on derby day and a 3-1 loss away at Villa in between shows there are still some fragilities at the back, but Harry Maguire’s impressive form for England may finally see him feature at the heart of their defence.
They’re up against a Forest side that have flirted with the foot of the table all season, eventually lifting themselves to 18th with a 1-0 victory at home to Crystal Palace.
Can they upset the Old Trafford faithful? Or will Erik ten Hag’s men put real pressure on the sides above them with a win?
A Christmas Cracker 🎊
In the final game of the first round back, Leeds will be ready to take on the current Premier League champions, Man City.
The Citizens have the greatest goal difference and the most goals in the league, largely thanks to new man Erling Haaland bagging an unbelievable 18 goals. The standout stats don’t stop there though, he’s also the first player to score three successive home hat-tricks in Premier League matches.
Linking up with Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne perfectly this year, he won’t be letting any goal-scoring records distract him from the five-point gap to Arsenal at the top. That gap grew after a passive display against Brentford last month.
Leeds United, on the other hand, were on a downward spiral earlier this campaign. No wins in eight saw them plummet into the bottom three, but entertaining games away to Liverpool and home to Bournemouth lifted spirits. They were 10 minutes from a third win on the spin, until Spurs turned it around…
Will Haaland pick up where he left off, or can the home support spur Leeds on to a big win?
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JD Football | November 21, 2023