While the rest of the country winds down for a period of gorging itself silly, board game-based family arguments and general merriment, football cranks up a notch for the festive period.
From this Friday, 16 juicy Premier League fixtures are scattered across 11 of the 14 days up to FA Cup third-round weekend – but that’s only the beginning. Toss in a Clasico, Old Firm derby and some particularly appetising fixtures from the Championship and Serie A, and we have ourselves a right royal football feast. Tuck in!
Friday, December 22
Highlight: Arsenal vs Liverpool (7:45pm, Sky Sports)
Sparks tend to fly when these two sides meet: eight of their last 11 meetings have produced at least four goals. Current evidence points to expecting nothing less this time, as two fearsome attacks meet flimsy defences. Let the madness commence...
See also: Chievo vs Bologna (5pm), Real Betis vs Athletic Bilbao (6:30pm), Cagliari vs Fiorentina (7:45pm), Espanyol vs Atletico Madrid (8:30pm)
Saturday, December 23
Highlight: Real Madrid vs Barcelona (12pm, Sky Sports) • Premier League: Everton vs Chelsea (12:30pm), Burnley vs Tottenham (5.30pm), Leicester vs Man United (7:45pm)
An occasion for remaining horizontal on your sofa for nine hours if ever there was one. You’ll have to choose between the lunchtime Clasico and Everton vs Chelsea, but then follows two more excellent Premier League fixtures and a range of terrific alternatives: a Championship promotion tussle between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, plus a Serie A clash of titans as Roma head to Juventus. Swoon.
See also: Lazio vs Crotone (11:30am), Kilmarnock vs Rangers (12:30pm), Milan vs Atalanta (5pm), Aston Villa vs Sheffield United (5:30pm), Deportivo La Coruna vs Celta Vigo (5:30pm), PSV vs Vitesse (6:45pm), Juventus vs Roma (7:45pm)
Tuesday, December 26
Highlight: Tottenham vs Southampton (12:30pm, Sky Sports) • Premier League: Liverpool vs Swansea (5:30pm)
Plenty to keep you going right through to evening here: kicking off with arguably the game of the day in Spurs vs Southampton, since Liverpool-Swansea may well end up a messy one-sided massacre on current form.
Sandwiched either side of those two are Championship clashes between teams with plenty at stake; perilously-placed Burton host play-off sniffing Leeds, while Steve Bruce’s Villa look to tighten their grip on a top-six place at Brentford.
See also: Dundee vs Celtic (12:30pm), Burton Albion vs Leeds (3pm), Brentford vs Aston Villa (7:30pm),
Wednesday, December 27
Highlight: Newcastle vs Man City (7:45pm, Sky Sports)
Newcastle held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw in this fixture last season, having been whipped 6-1 by Pep Guardiola’s side in the reverse fixture. Rafa Benitez’s struggling players may well be hiding behind their sofas expecting more of the latter this time – and they wouldn’t be the only ones right now.
This one kicks off a quiet streak for festive football – disastrously coinciding with the corridor of uncertainty that is the four-day period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Conclusion: plan some better excuses for missing those high street sales right now.
See also: Hearts vs Hibernian (7:45pm)
Thursday, December 28
Highlight: Crystal Palace vs Arsenal (8pm, Sky Sports)
Premier League football on a Thursday! It may be the only game of the day, but consider this a bonus. Roy Hodgson’s rejuvenated Palace side host Arsenal, having trashed the Gunners 3-0 in this fixture last year. Oh boy.
Friday, December 29
Highlight: Cardiff vs Preston (7:45pm, Sky Sports)
With a lack of top-flight action, more eyes will be on Neil Warnock’s high-flying Bluebirds in the Championship. At the time of writing, second-placed Cardiff have four-point cushions either side of them behind leaders Wolves and ahead of play-off incumbents Bristol City, putting them in a strong position for a return to Premier League Land. There’s still a helluva long way to go yet, though – and play-off chasing Preston are perfectly capable of spoiling things.
See also: Crotone vs Napoli (7:45pm), St Mirren vs Dundee United (7:45pm)
Saturday, December 30
Highlight: Celtic vs Rangers (12pm, Sky Sports) • Premier League: Man United vs Southampton (5:30pm)
A cracking Saturday of action, spearheaded by the Old Firm derby. Celtic’s almighty 69-match unbeaten run came to an abrupt end with their 4-0 thumping against Hearts on Sunday, giving Rangers hope of stopping their seven-match winless run without victory against the Hoops. Manchester United host Southampton in the evening kick-off – and there’s an eclectic smorgasbord of other matches to fill in the gaps.
See also: Fiorentina vs Milan (11:30am), Aldershot vs Maidstone (12:30pm), Inter Milan vs Lazio (5pm), Bristol City vs Wolves (5:30pm), Verona vs Juventus (7:45pm)
Sunday, December 31
Highlight: Crystal Palace vs Man City (12:30pm, BT Sport) • Premier League: West Brom vs Arsenal (4:30pm)
Pards vs Wenger. Need we say any more?
Monday, January 1
Highlight: Everton vs Man United (5:30pm, Sky Sports) • Premier League: Brighton vs Bournemouth (12:30pm)
And a happy new year to you, too. Fresh from a crisp pint of pinot grigio to celebrate the arrival of 2018 (presumably), Big Sam welcomes Jose Mourinho to Goodison Park for the day’s evening kick-off – but only after the first Premier League tussle of the new year; a south-coast seaside battle between Brighton and Bournemouth. We like the look of Leeds-Forest at 3pm in between that, too.
See also: Leeds vs Nottingham Forest (3pm), Bromley vs Ebbsfleet United (7:45pm)
Tuesday, January 2
Highlight: Swansea vs Tottenham (7:45pm, Sky Sports)
Otherwise known as Christmas Day for Harry Kane.
Wednesday, January 3
Highlight: Arsenal vs Chelsea (7:45pm, Sky Sports)
Arsenal need all the help they can get right now to finish in the top four, but it’s unlikely that Chelsea will offer them an easy time here. Arsene Wenger’s side did thrash the Blues 3-0 in this fixture last season, but all that did was convince Antonio Conte to switch to his back three – a change which led to their dominant title win.
Thursday, January 4
Highlight: Tottenham vs West Ham (8pm, Sky Sports)
A second game on the telly in three days for Tottenham, who should face a much sterner test here. Their meetings with West Ham are also generally fruitful for the neutral: three of the last four have finished with a 3-2 scoreline, last time in the Hammers’ favour after their comeback from two goals down in the League Cup at Wembley.
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