The 8 best televised games you NEED to watch over the festive period
Because let’s be honest – you’ll have some free time on your hands, and anything is better than idle chit-chat with the in-laws. Joe Brewin and Matthew Griffiths pick out the best of the bunch
1. Fiorentina vs Napoli, Dec 22, BT Sport 1 (7:45pm)
Two of Serie A’s most iconic teams collide. Napoli are pushing for their now-customary Champions League place in third, but Fiorentina are also in desperate need of points to avoid being cut adrift in the fight for Europa League football next season.
Dries Mertens stuck four past Torino last time out – the fourth you really need to see (below) – and Jose Callejon helped himself to three assists. For the Viola, meanwhile, goalscoring hopes rest firmly on the shoulders of Nikola Kalinic (eight goals so far this season) and the exciting Federico Bernardeschi (seven).
2. Juventus vs Milan, Dec 23, Sky Sports 4 (4:30pm)
There is seemingly no logic around where the Italian Supercup is held each year. This time they’re back in Doha’s Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium for the second time in three years, after an edition in Shanghai.
In the 12 years preceding that, host cities have included Beijing (three times), Milan (five times), Turin (once), New Jersey (once) and, of course, Libya’s Tripoli (once, in 2002).
Anyway, Big Boring Juve vs a rejuvenated Milan side slowly clawing their way back to respectability: what’s not to like about this one? Well, that’s if it goes ahead – Milan were due to fly out yesterday but their plane got stuck in London. If there are further delays, they won’t fly. “We’ve suffered a serious sporting disadvantage,” groaned big cheese Adriano Galliani.
3. Newcastle vs Sheffield Wednesday, Dec 26, Sky Sports 1 (7:45pm)
A classic ‘90s Premier League fixture in the second tier – though Sheffield Wednesday fans won’t have too many fond memories of St James’ Park, having been stuffed 8-0 there in their final top-flight campaign of 1998/99.
These two did face off a year ago in the League Cup, however, when the Owls scooped a 1-0 win on Tyneside, and twice in 2009/10 when Newcastle last dropped into the Championship. En route to the Magpies’ title win stroll – and the Owls’ relegation – they came out 1-0 winners in this fixture thanks to Shola Ameobi’s early goal.
But while Newcastle look good value to claim another immediate route back to the Premier League, Sheffield Wednesday are a very different side seven years on. With four wins from their last five, Carlos Carvalhal's team are once again challenging for the play-offs.
4. Liverpool vs Stoke, Dec 27, Sky Sports 1, (5:15pm)
Here lies a fixture that has thrown up some odd results in the past. Last season Liverpool trounced Stoke 4-1, fully avenging the Potters’ 6-1 home demolition on a crazy final day of 2014/15. Poor Stevie G won’t ever forget his final game for the Reds.
Liverpool also edged a tight game on the opening day of last season, won 1-0 courtesy of Philippe Coutinho’s 86th-minute stonker. Their late win at Everton on Monday night only added to the entertainment value under Jurgen Klopp – but which team will turn up at Anfield?
You could say similar of Stoke, who chucked away a two-goal home lead against Leicester with a man advantage in their last game. But four words for you: Joe Allen, goal machine. Right? Right.
Next: Who the heck put this on New Year's Eve?
5. Aston Villa vs Leeds, Dec 29, Sky Sports 1, (7:45pm)
Leeds fans had long gotten used to their side being garbage – but then Garry Monk came along to get the Whites firing again. Going into this fixture they sit fourth, albeit only seven points ahead of lowly Aston Villa in 13th.
Villa, for their latest sins, can’t string two wins together – they’ve only managed it once this season – but could here after a narrow 1-0 win at QPR last time out. Jonathan Kodjia weighed in with another for the struggling West Midlanders, his eighth in 17 games since signing from Bristol City for a fee that could rise to (wait for it)... £15m.
The reverse fixture ended 2-0 in Leeds's favour, but Villa will be determined to prove they can give their fans something (seriously, anything) to cheer about before 2016 is up.
6. Liverpool vs Man City, Dec 31, BT Sport 1 (5:30pm)
Fourth time lucky for Manchester City? The Citizens have come off second best in their last three Premier League meetings with Liverpool, quite convincingly so last season in 4-1 and 3-1 defeats respectively.
But although the Reds have been the side to watch this season, with a number of high-scoring games to their name (33 goals in their last nine matches, averaging a net-bulging 3.67 per tussle), Pep Guardiola’s City have been buoyed by their vital win over Arsenal.
With just a point between them and Chelsea darting away into the sunset, expect drama in this titanic clash between two teams who have previously mounted some fierce title challenges.
7. Rangers vs Celtic, Dec 31, Sky Sports 1 (12:15pm)
Who thought this was a good idea for New Year’s Eve? Anyway: 5-1. In the reverse fixture on September 10, Celtic's margin of victory was handsome indeed. But four years ago Rangers were in Scotland’s lowest tier and have since been on a mission to regain their SPL status.
Now that target has been hit, the Gers are suffering the effects of the chasm that has widened between them and their Old Firm rivals since 2012. For now they hold a firm grip on second, but that’s all they’ll get this term with a 14-point deficit separating them from Celtic at the time of writing.
Their last meeting in the cup was more respectable – only a 1-0 defeat courtesy of Moussa Dembele’s 87th-minute winner – so they’ll at least go into this new year’s knees-up with hopes of seeing in 2017 with style.
8. West Ham vs Man United, Jan 2, Sky Sports 1 (5:15pm)
If you’re not sick of football by this point, try this for your bank holiday.
This fixture has tended to throw up surprises in recent years: a smashing 3-2 win for West Ham last season after bus bashing and FA Cup drama a month prior; in 2014/15 Daley Blind rescued a late point for United; the year before Wayne Rooney dropped one from the halfway line.
Both teams have underwhelmed so far this year, but that’s only more reason for them to rectify that at the London Stadium.
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Joe was the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo until 2022, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities.
By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.