The Premier League is back on Boxing Day.
That in itself is a strange thing to do. But then, this is the first time we’ve been watching the World Cup in the winter months.
Credit to Qatar. They hosted one of the best World Cup tournaments in history.
But our bias towards domestic football and its irrepressible drama is evident.
We start with the London derby, when Brentford hosts Tottenham Hotspur.
The derby is usually a melting pot of blood, sweat and energy. It is therefore important that players get rid of any leftovers from the World Cup.
Deji Faremi, co-owner of Busy Buddies and sports analyst, believes that Manchester United more than any other club is at risk of suffering from a hangover.
“United is easy here.
“Their capacity-building partnership started right up to the final day of the World Cup.
“Varane could be injured, Martinez could literally be hungry,” Varemi tells the Daily Post.
Conley Elemo, media officer of one of the largest bookmakers, agrees.
Rashford, Shaw, McGuire and Varane will be understandably upset at not winning the title while Sancho is still upset about not making the squad with his stick dangling (not meant in an unkind way, mind)
“Martinez won it, yes, but many Manchester United players would be upset at missing out on a legitimate opportunity to win it all,” Elemo explains.
Arsenal host West Ham in Monday’s late game. Mikel Arteta will miss striker Gabriel Jesus, who suffered a knee injury while playing in Qatar.
Can Arsenal, five points clear at the front, retain their title without Jesus being injured?
That will be difficult. They would need a bitmap to produce maybe twice as much as they have produced so far.
“Jesus brings a lot to the Arsenal team beyond just scoring goals; creativity, work rate and even experience. I think this could be Arsenal’s biggest test.
“I suspect they will struggle and may lose some ground,” Varimi says.
Elemo, who admits to being a Gooner, disagrees.
“I don’t think so. Nketiah is a bit of a different player and Joao Felix can’t replicate that work rate.
“I see Arteta moving Martinelli upfront, especially if he signs Modric and/or Smith Rowe back to full fitness. In that case, we can play in a similar fashion, at a similar level until Jesus returns,” he says.
What surprises do you expect?
Newcastle will continue to do well.
“I think many would expect them to stumble, but they will surprise the skeptics and they will still be in the Champions League squad until later in the season,” Varemi adds.
So, Boxing Day. We reveal the latest episode of Britain’s most watched series!
Premier League: What to expect as the second half of the Premier League kicks off on Boxing Day