Premier League Tips: Top 5 picks of the festive fixtures

Brendan Rodgers, Leicester manager
Bah, humbug

Stephen Tudor looks forward to turkey leftovers and some Premier League Christmas crackers starting with Leicester v Manchester United.

"For both Everton and Many City this could be a defining 90 minutes, a game that doesn’t just affect their immediate futures but potentially shapes their whole season."

Football is as much a part of Christmas as feigning delight at receiving socks - again - or getting so drunk you accidentally watch the first 10 minutes of Mrs Brown's Boys.

There's just something magical about the beautiful game being held over Yuletide. That's the simple truth and it's a truth that is difficult to explain without resorting to sentimentality, so let's not do that. Suffice to say, matches played at this time of year feel that little bit more special.

And better yet, over the next week or so there are some absolute crackers to look forward to, including these five that might as well be gift-wrapped and tied with a bow.

Leicester v Manchester United - Boxing Day, 12:30

It is rare for Boxing Day to feature a top of the table clash so last season was a welcome treat as high-flying Leicester took on the champions elect Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers, however, would be wise not to dwell on that festive period which saw his team plateau, then plummet after a tremendous run of form.

From August to late December his side accrued 39 points from a possible 51. But after losing to Manchester City and subsequently being thumped 4-0 at home to the Reds the results dried up and Leicester slipped out of the top four.

With a fixture quirk once again pitting the Foxes - who are exceeding all expectations again - against a direct rival it means some questions will be answered here. Are Leicester stronger than last term? Have lessons been learned about sustaining their form?

As for the visitors they will be hell-bent on extending their 100% record on the road this season and, more importantly, extending a seven-game unbeaten spell. Having flipped a crisis narrative on its head Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men are rampant, scoring an average of three goals per game since finding themselves two down at the break to Southampton back in November. Nobody could blame Rodgers for siding with the Grinch if United continue that run.

Manchester United are 13/10 to extend their winning ways.

Arsenal v Chelsea - Boxing Day, 17:30

Just a few short hours after second play third we deck the halls at the Emirates for Arsenal's hosting of Chelsea. Maybe a well-known supermarket chain is right and there really isn't a naughty list this year?

Because no matter when this fixture is played it usually produces high drama whether that be in the form of contentious red cards or crazy score-lines or, going back in time, two managers shoving each other on the touchline like playground foes. Even moving past the controversies this is undoubtedly a marquee Premier League match-up so to enjoy it while eating our bodyweight in leftover turkey will be a joy.

Never before have these capital rivals met with one so firmly entrenched in difficulty. This is to date the Gunners worst campaign leading up to Christmas since small boys woke to find Stretch Armstrongs under the tree and the stats just keep getting worse for Mikel Arteta. Our favourite from a welter of incriminating figures is that Arsenal have scored as many own goals as regular goals in their last seven matches illustrating harshly that when catastrophe strikes farce is not far behind.

Chelsea may be experiencing some mixed results after an impressive autumn briefly had them viewed as title contenders but they will surely fancy their chances of compounding Arsenal's woes. This is especially true of a revitalised Oliver Giroud who has found the net every 55 minutes in December. Keep an eye on his prices to find the net when the markets go live.

Harry Kane, Tottenham.jpg

Wolves v Spurs - Dec 27, 19:15

Cast your mind back to December 6th when Spurs easily dispensed with their north London rivals to go 10 games unbeaten. A belief was growing that Jose Mourinho's side were the real deal, maybe even the complete package while the astonishing contributions of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min was widely celebrated.

Yet in hindsight, after picking up just a single point from nine, it could be reasoned that a reliance on two strikers who have scored 76% of their team's league goals is simply not a sustainable strategy. Furthermore, a lack of variation in set-up and approach was always going to be 'found out' at some point.

Is this merely a blip for Tottenham? Probably, and a repeat of last season's triumph at Molineux will go a long way to prove that. But Wolves, for all their unpredictability, will be a tricky proposition even if they are desperately missing Raul Jimenez and his goals.

For the record, the home side last lost a match immediately after Christmas Day in 2013.

If Wolves are to prevail it's highly unlikely to be by a landslide. The 8/1 available on a 1-0 home victory jumps out as does the 15/8 for under 1.5 goals.

Everton v Manchester City - Dec 28, 20:00

Between Christmas and New Year there are 20 Premier League fixtures to savour and arguably the most intriguing is City's jaunt down the M62.

Why? Because for each club this could be a defining 90 minutes, a game that doesn't just affect their immediate futures but potentially shapes their whole season.

That is a big call but consider the evidence. After navigating a troublesome month, the Toffees have bounced back into the top four and victory here, against a team they have managed to best just once in their last 10 encounters, will not only be a huge scalp but propel them forward. Confidence will be sky high ahead of three tough but winnable games in January against mid-table opposition.

City meanwhile may have shown commendable resolve at Southampton this week but the feeling persists that this is an extraordinary creation on the decline. Three points on Merseyside would keep their title hopes alive and indicate that there is a second act to Guardiola's grand project.

Expect set pieces to feature prominently at Goodison. No team have scored more from corners and free-kicks than City while 24% of Everton's goals have arrived courtesy of their centre-backs. Jerry Mina or Mason Holgate could be worth a festive punt to find the net.

West Brom v Leeds United - Dec 29, 18:00

We could analyse this game from a tactical standpoint. We could point out that the Baggies' 3-0 loss at home to Aston Villa at the weekend greatly diminishes their chances of experiencing a 'new manager bounce' and that hardly bodes well for the famous boingers. We could try to make sense of Leeds' chaotic campaign that has seen them thrash one United 5-2 then capitulate 6-2 to another just four days later.

But this is Christmas. A time for cheer. So let's just sit back on December 29th, scoff the last of the mince pies, and revel in the sight of Big Sam Allardyce and Marcelo Bielsa sharing a top flight touchline.

Leeds typically don't do 1-0s. If you fancy the away side, go all-in and take the 25/1 for 1-4.

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