Following the final round of Premier League fixtures before Christmas Day, the table certainly makes for an interesting read.
A fact we’ve known for a few weeks now is that Liverpool will be top, but what we didn’t know until Saturday evening is that their lead will be 10 points following Leicester City’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City. In English top-flight history, only one side has failed to win the league from the same position, with that team being Newcastle United in 1995/96.
At the other end of the table it’s Watford who find themselves bottom ahead of the Boxing Day fixtures. Of the three teams however who have avoided relegation after being in the same position, Nigel Pearson’s Leicester side in 2014/15 were one of them, eventually finishing 14th.
In terms of this season’s promoted sides, Sheffield United have easily had the best start out the three. Currently fifth, it’s the highest a promoted will have been on Christmas Day in the top-flight since Ipswich Town in 2000/01 (also fifth), highlighting the outstanding job Chris Wilder has done at Bramall Lane.
Match of the Round – Leicester City vs Liverpool
It’s a festive treat to savour on a Boxing Day night when Liverpool take on their closest challengers in the Premier League in Leicester.
Defeat for the Foxes last time out against Manchester City means they remain 10 points behind the league leaders having now played a game more, so know the importance of a win against a side that haven’t lost in the Premier League since January 3.
Brendan Rodger’s side will primarily rely on both the pace and form of Jamie Vardy to help them get a result. The Premier League’s top scorer – with 17 so far – has certainly enjoyed himself against Liverpool with seven goals in 10 games. Only against Arsenal (nine) does he have more goals against one opponent in the competition.
Liverpool meanwhile will be riding the crest of a wave when they arrive in the Midlands, as they added the Club World Cup to their enviable trophy cabinet over the weekend. It’s just the latest success enjoyed by the Reds this season as they look to widen the gap further between themselves and both Leicester and Manchester City.
While many believe Jurgen Klopp’s side have failed to hit the heights of last season performance-wise, recent signs look more promising. Their 2-0 win over Watford in their previous league game saw them keep back-to-back clean sheets in the league for the first time this season – a feat they achieved by their second league game in August in the 2018/19 campaign.
A feature for Liverpool is undoubtedly the productivity of their full-backs. Trent Alexander-Arnold (six) and Andrew Robertson (five) comfortably lead the way for assists by defenders in the league, with their output something that Leicester will have to try and nullify if they’re to take anything from a game that feels like must-win for them.
Rest of the Round
The Boxing Day action begins in the capital with two sides looking to bounce back from weekend defeats when Tottenham Hotspur host Brighton & Hove Albion in the early kick off.
Two promoted sides meet at Villa Park when Aston Villa face Norwich City. The Canaries enjoyed this fixture in the Championship last season, winning 2-1 on both occasions.
Bournemouth host Arsenal in what will be Mikel Arteta’s first appearance on the touchline as manager following his recent appointment.
Mikel Arteta, the new manager of Arsenal Football Club 🔴
— Football Index (@FootballIndex) December 18, 2019
Chelsea face Southampton in a fixture the hosts have had the better of in recent times, winning seven of the last eight Premier League meetings.
It’s an all-London affair at Selhurst Park when Crystal Palace – who are without a win in three league games – take on West Ham United.
Carlo Ancelotti’s first game as Everton manager will be at Goodison Park against Burnley.
Watford make the trip to Yorkshire to face a Sheffield United side that are currently embroiled in the race to secure European football next season.
Manchester United – who haven’t lost a home Boxing Day fixture since 1978 (W15 D3) – host Newcastle United at Old Trafford, with the Magpies losing just one of their last five league games (W3 D1).
8th – Manchester United have been outside the top four at Christmas in four of the last five Premier League campaigns. They had been outside the top four on Christmas Day in just three of the first 23 seasons in the competition. Humbug. pic.twitter.com/rqQdtScx4q
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 23, 2019
The day after sees Wolverhampton Wanderers take on Manchester City, as the hosts look to complete a league double in the top-flight for the first time since 1960/61.
Premier League Player to Watch: Todd Cantwell – Norwich City – £1.94
It’s been a difficult return to the Premier League for Norwich, what with them currently six points from safety heading into the Boxing Day games, although one major positive has been the form of England U21 international Todd Cantwell.
It’s not just his goal output though but also his work-rate and subsequent quality on the left-hand side that has caught the eye, which could result in a move in the summer should the Canaries suffer relegation, making him a useful portfolio addition for both now and the future.