One of the great traditions in English football, Boxing Day will see fixtures played around the country across various levels on Monday. While players may not always be particularly pleased this time of year, fans and supporters certainly have much to look forward to.
The holiday period brings an intense test of fitness for any club and the Premier League is no exception.
We take a look at the Boxing Day matches set for December 26th.
Watford vs. Crystal Palace – Vicarage Road
The early match on Monday sees Crystal Palace travel to Watford desperately seeking to improve recent results. Palace manager Alan Pardew was relieved of his duties on Thursday, leaving little time for the club to prepare for a new chapter ahead. The Eagles have lost their last two consecutive league matches and sit only a point above the relegation zone.
Watford have suffered the same fate as of late, most recently a 1-0 loss at Sunderland. Unable to keep a clean sheet in their past seven matches, manager Walter Mazzarri will want to see better performances from his defence and midfield.
Look for Mazzarri to utilise five defenders on the back-line in an effort to contain Palace striker Christian Benteke.
Manchester United vs. Sunderland – Old Trafford
After difficulties earlier in the season, Manchester United have begun to display a strong determination and solid squad cohesion. Manager Jose Mourinho’s side are unbeaten in their last ten matches across all competitions.
Hosting former boss David Moyes and Sunderland should see positive results continue.
Talented forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has adjusted well to life in the Premier League, scoring both goals in United’s 2-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion this past Saturday.
Swansea City vs. West Ham United – Liberty Stadium
West Ham United are rebounding nicely from a disappointing start to the campaign and look to earn maximum points when they visit Swansea City on Monday. The Hammers have won their last two consecutive league matches.
West Ham supporters will be pleased to see midfielder Dimitri Payet beginning to show flashes of what he was capable of last season. Payet and an organised defence were key components to West Ham’s 1-0 victory over Hull City.
Swansea City and manager Bob Bradley know that home form will likely dictate their fate as they battle to move above the relegation places.
Chelsea vs. AFC Bournemouth – Stamford Bridge
First-place Chelsea look to continue their incredible Premier League winning streak when they host Bournemouth. The Blues have won an astounding 11 consecutive matches and hold a six-point lead over second-place Liverpool.
Manager Antonio Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation has been nothing short of brilliant. Chelsea have kept nine clean sheets during the past 11 matches and striker Diego Costa leads the Premier League in goals scored (13).
Bournemouth defenders Steve Cook and Simon Francis will need to be at their best to contain the Chelsea attack and keep the match in front of them.
Leicester City vs. Everton – King Power Stadium
Premier League title-holders Leicester City host Everton, as dropped points throughout the campaign are piling up for the Foxes. Leicester have won only four matches out of 17 in the Premier League this season.
The squad is still capable of the spectacular, as evidenced by Jamie Vardy’s sensational hat-trick against Manchester City earlier this month. But an inconsistent attack and troubles on the defensive end are undermining their success.
Manager Claudio Ranieri will need to modify his tactics to account for Everton’s Romelu Lukaku in an effort to earn three points on Boxing Day.
Burnley vs. Middlesbrough – Turf Moor
Two clubs dealing with similar issues meet at Turf Moor on Monday, as Burnley host Middlesbrough. Both newly-promoted sides are struggling to score goals in the 2015-16 season.
Boro’s 3-0 victory against Swansea was certainly a step in the right direction and the club will want the trend to continue moving ahead.
The Clarets’ work rate and defensive positioning are always stellar, but manager Sean Dyche will need strikers Andre Gray and Sam Vokes to be effective at breaking down a stern Boro back-line.
With points at a premium for both sides, this match could be looked back upon as crucial for Burnley and Middlesbrough later in the season.
Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion – Emirates Stadium
Arsenal were riding high last week heading into their match at Everton. But a frustrating 2-1 loss was followed by the same result at Manchester City, as manager Arsene Wenger will hope that a return to the Emirates will return their form as well.
The Gunners’ attack had been one of their strength’s during a 14-match league unbeaten streak, but Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were not able to dominate play in the past two matches as they have previously.
Manager Tony Pulis brings a physical and straight-forward approach to North London with his West Brom side. Arsenal will need to be prepared to control the tempo early and set the tone for the proceedings.
Hull City vs. Manchester City – KCOM Stadium
Pep Guardiola prepares for his first Boxing Day in the Premier League, as Manchester City visit Hull City in the late match of the holiday fixtures. City have secured victories in their past two league matches.
The start of December was not kind, with a 3-1 loss to Chelsea followed by the Vardy Party’s exploits in a loss at Leicester. But with Yaya Toure’s return to the line-up and fantastic play out of the midfield, City will be favoured heavily to defeat the Tigers.
Manchester City are one point back of second-place Liverpool.
Expect Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling to continue their sparkling form against a Hull side looking up at everyone from the bottom of the table.