Liverpool face Christmas heat, Man City and Arsenal to profit
Hectic festive schedule could leave Man City and Arsenal out in front
CHRISTMAS is here and for Britain's footballers that means three games in seven hectic days while the rest of the country puts its feet up. So, while the festive season is about as popular among the players as it is with turkeys, it means a feast of football for the fans.
And putting aside the sensibilities of the worn-out players, it promises to be a fascinating few days in the Premier League, with some massive games that could go a long way to deciding the title.
With the top five separated by just two points at Christmas, any of them could be leading the table by the time the festivities are over.
BOXING DAY: As ever there is a full programme of top-flight games on Boxing Day, and it is dominated by the huge clash between league leaders Liverpool and third placed Manchester City at the Etihad, where the Citizens have a 100 per cent record this season.
If City triumph they will leapfrog their opponents and could go top if Arsenal fail to beat lowly West Ham on Boxing Day afternoon. Given the Gunners' travails of late that is not out of the question. Chelsea and Everton could also force themselves into the mix at the top as they will expect to win their home games against Swansea and Sunderland respectively.
With West Ham and Sunderland facing two of the big five, the other clubs at the bottom will hope to take advantage. Fulham, Crystal Palace and West Brom, however, all face tricky away games - against Norwich, Aston Villa and Spurs.
CHRISTMAS WEEKEND: The games are split across Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend, but once again it is Liverpool who will be centre stage as they travel to Chelsea in what should be another massive game. Chelsea's home record is almost as daunting as that of Man City, and if Liverpool can emerge with at least one win from those two games they will be delighted. They may fancy their chances of a win at Stamford Bridge, despite Jose Mourinho's unbeaten Premier League record.
Man United visit Norwich on Saturday, having paid a visit to Hull a few days earlier. David Moyes will demand six points from those two trips and anything else could seriously undermine United's hopes of forcing their way back into the title race.
Man City are also in action on Saturday and will be delighted to be facing Crystal Palace at home and should dispose of the south Londoners with ease.
On Sunday Arsenal have a tricky trip to Newcastle, and if they fail to perform against West Ham then the pressure will be intense. It could be the game that defines their season.
NEW YEAR'S DAY: Liverpool will breathe a sigh of relief as 2014 arrives and, after two away games against their title rivals, they face Hull at Anfield. Arsenal also have a home game against one of the division's strugglers as Cardiff City come to the Emirates.
Chelsea head south to face Southampton and Everton visit Stoke, while Man City are also away, at Swansea.
The biggest game on paper pits Man United against Spurs at Old Trafford that evening. It's not inconceivable that a win for United would see them earning nine points over the festive season, and that could put them up there with Liverpool.
POINTS: How many points will the big teams win over Christmas, and where will they be come 2 January? Here's what The Week predicts:
Man City: Nine points to leave them top with 44 points
Arsenal: Seven points to leave them second with 43 points
Everton: Seven points to leave them third with 41 points
Liverpool: Four points to leave them fourth with 40 points
Chelsea: Five points leave them fifth with 39 points
Man Utd: Nine points to leave them sixth with 37 points ·