In Review

Sport on TV: what to watch and when this Christmas

While the rest of us enjoy a festive break, sportsmen and women will be working hard to keep us entertained

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Most people look forward to a well-earned holiday at Christmas, but spare a thought for the athletes (and horses) who will spend the festive period hard at work.

While most of us will be knocking back the sherry and weighing up the merits of another mince pie, they will be doing their best to prevent us from dozing off in front of the telly.

Here's the best of what's on TV – and when – over the next week:

Football:

As ever, it's the hectic Premier League Christmas schedule that forms the centrepiece of this year's festive offering, with most clubs playing three times between Boxing Day and the big return to work on 3 January.

This year the biggest televised showdown will be between title hopefuls Manchester City and Liverpool on BT Sport on New Year's Eve.

Man City and Liverpool both have two televised games this festive season as do Spurs, but, remarkably, there are no games involving Chelsea and only one featuring Arsenal on TV this Christmas.

In the Championship, promotion contenders Newcastle, Brighton, Birmingham and Leeds all feature at least once.

The third round of the FA Cup does not get underway until 7 January, meaning that there is no live football on terrestrial TV.

Saturday 24 December

Scottish Premier:

12.30pm: Hamilton Academical v Celtic (Sky Sport)

Monday 26 December

Premier League:

12.30pm: Watford v Crystal Palace (Sky Sports)

5.15pm: Hull City v Manchester City (Sky Sports)

Championship:

7.45pm: Newcastle United v Sheffield Wednesday (Sky Sports) 

Tuesday 27 December

Premier League:

5.15pm: Liverpool v Stoke City (Sky Sports)

Championship:

12.30pm: Brighton & Hove Albion v QPR (Sky Sports)

3pm: Derby County v Birmingham City (Sky Sports)

Wednesday 28 December

Premier League

7.45pm: Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur (Sky Sports)

Scottish Premier:

7.45pm: St Johnstone v Rangers (BT Sport)

Thursday 29 December

Championship:

7.45pm: Aston Villa v Leeds United (Sky Sports)

Friday 30 December

Premier League

8pm: Hull City v Everton (Sky Sports)

Scottish Premier:

7.45pm: Hearts v Aberdeen (BT Sport)

Saturday 31 December

Premier League

5.30pm: Liverpool v Manchester City (BT Sport)

Championship:

5.30pm Brentford v Norwich City (Sky Sports)

Scottish Premier:

12.15pm: Rangers v Celtic (Sky Sports) 

Sunday 1 January

Premier League

1.30pm: Watford v Tottenham Hotspur (Sky Sports)

4pm: Arsenal v Crystal Palace (Sky Sports)

Monday 2 January

Premier League

12.30pm: Middlesbrough v Leicester City (Sky Sports)

5.15pm: West Ham United v Manchester United (Sky Sports)

Championship

3pm: Blackburn Rovers v Newcastle United (Sky Sports)

The BBC and Channel 5 will show highlights of the Premier League and Championship action on terrestrial.

Cricket:

With the Test series against India done and dusted, England's cricketers will have a rare Christmas off. They do not play again until mid January.

However, there will still be cricket on TV over the festive period. BT Sport will show the second Test between Australia and Pakistan, which starts at 11pm on Christmas Day.

Insomniacs can then switch over to Sky Sports to watch South Africa take on Sri Lanka, with the first Test starting at 8am on Boxing Day.

For the real die-hards there are one-day internationals between New Zealand and Bangladesh to enjoy, starting at 10pm on 28 and 30 December, also on Sky.

Rugby:

The festive rugby calendar is just as hectic as the football version, and just to add to the confusion you can watch live games from different competitions on the BBC, other stations Wales and Ireland, as well as Sky and BT Sport.

BT Sport has six Aviva Premiership games over the Christmas break.

Saturday 24 December: Wasps v Bath Rugby (2pm)

Monday 26 December: Bristol Rugby v Worcester Warriors (3pm)

Tuesday 27 December: Harlequins v Gloucester (4pm)

Friday 30 December: Newcastle Falcons v Wasps (7.45pm)

Saturday 31 December: Bath Rugby v Exeter Chiefs (3pm)

Sunday 1 January: Leicester Tigers v Saracens (3pm)

There are also several Guinness Pro 12 games featuring teams from Wales, Ireland and Scotland fighting for local supremacy on Sky Sports and regional BBC channels over the Christmas break, as well as two French Top 14 matches on Sky on 30 December and 1 January.

American football:

The NFL is bigger than ever in the UK and there is plenty of action over Christmas as the season reaches a climax. Sky Sports is showing several of the matches from Week 16 of the regular season with coverage from all the others.

There are eight early and three late games on Christmas Eve. Live coverage begins on Christmas Day.

Live games:

Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans, 1am, 25 December 

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 9pm, 25 December

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1.30am, 26 December

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys, 1.30am, 27 December

The BBC also has a highlights show for terrestrial viewers once the dust has settled.

Racing:

If you think footballers have it tough over Christmas spare a thought for the nation's jockeys who will be out in force at meetings up and down the country every day of the holidays from Boxing Day onwards.

Races from around the country will be shown on Channel 4, At The Races and Racing UK throughout the festive period.

The big race on Boxing Day is the George VI Chase at 3.10pm at Kempton, which will be shown on Channel 4. A day later is the Welsh Grand National at 2.35pm at Chepstow.

ITV take over from Channel 4, which has shown racing for more than 30 years, as the terrestrial racing broadcaster in the new year and there will not be a dry eye in the house for its coverage of the Challow Hurdle meeting at Newbury on 31 December, its final broadcast.

UFC:

Fight fans have something to look forward to at the end of the year, with BT Sport showing UFC 207 on 30 December. This features the long-awaited comeback of Ronda Rousey, whose bout with Amanda Nunes tops the bill.

Darts:

Finally, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some arrows. The PDC World Darts Championship is already underway, with the second round concluding on 28 December. The final will take place on 2 January.

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