The Boxing Day fixtures are the matches that all Premier League fans have earmarked at the beginning of the season. This time of year can play a crucial role for the sides that will be looking to achieve their goals at the end of the season. But what can we expect from two of the biggest games on Thursday?
Leicester City vs Liverpool
All eyes on Thursday will be locked on the King Power Stadium, as Leicester City can put the champagne on ice for Liverpool. Meanwhile, the newly crowned World Club Champions could take a giant stride towards their first Premier League crown with a win in the East Midlands, as that would extend their lead at the summit to 13 points from the Foxes.
Leicester have been in inconsistent form over recent weeks and missed their opportunity to close the gap at the weekend as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad against Manchester City. Jamie Vardy scored a brilliant opener in that game, but Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogen and Gabriel Jesus turned the fixture on its head. The Foxes have now not won in their last two Premier League games.
Meanwhile, Liverpool would have been celebrating over the weekend as they were crowned World champions for the first time in their history. They recorded a 1-0 win against Flamingo in Qatar. Now, their attention is firmly back on the Premier League, as they look to continue their 17-match unbeaten record. Last time out in the league, they beat Watford 2-0 at Anfield. Furthermore, they have kept two clean sheets on the bounce in the league.
The Reds hold the advantage in the overall record as they have won on 49 occasions compared to Leicester’s 39. There have also been 25 draws. The match earlier in the season was a cagey affair, with Liverpool scoring a late goal to take all three points. Punters would fancy Liverpool’s chances again on Boxing Day.
Manchester United vs Newcastle United
Just when you think Manchester United have turned a corner, they take two more steps backwards. They will welcome a defensively strong Newcastle to Old Trafford on Boxing Day, in a fixture that United can’t afford to drop points in if they have aspirations of a top-four finish.
United were once again poor with the possession in their recent outing in the league, as they were beaten 2-0 by bottom of the league Watford. The Hornets went into that game having won just once all season, but they punished the Red Devils for their defensive mistakes. David De Gea was at fault for the opener, before Aaron Wan-Bissaka handed Troy Deeney a golden opportunity to double the lead - which they did. Paul Pogba made his United return, but he was unable to help them get back into the game.
Newcastle have been quietly going about their business all season, and comfortably sit in the top half. Their fears over a relegation scrap have been eased over recent weeks as they have gone on a run of just one defeat in five. Their last outing saw them come out on top against Crystal Palace at St James’ Park. Miguel Almiron scored the only goal of the game. That was the Paraguayan’s first goal for the Toon.
The Red Devils hold a dominant advantage in the overall record as they have won 86 times. Newcastle won the last meeting between the two, and that was their 43rd success against United. Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s side have been poor against teams that allow them to have the ball, as they have a 7% win percentage in games where they have bossed possession. It could be a tricky assignment on Boxing Day, but punters should look at the under 2.5 goals market for some value.