Since the 1950’s, it’s been a post-Christmas tradition in England to have a full slate of games on December 26, Boxing Day. While most of Europe have just kicked off their winter breaks, UK teams have to be ready for a full schedule. The Boxing Day tradition has seen some thrilling contents over the years, like 2012’s Manchester United win over Newcastle or Chelsea’s dramatic 4-4 draw with Aston Villa in 2007. This year, there might not be a truly mouth-watering fixture, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something worth watching. Here are five matches to keep an eye on.
Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion (10 AM ET – NBC Extra Time)
With pressure mounting from both Tottenham and Manchester United, Arsenal needs to get back into the win column this week. Two losses in a row have them looking lost heading into the new year. Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion has had their own setback of late. After going unbeaten four straight matches, including three wins, the Baggies have lost two of their last three. Both clubs will be itching to build up some momentum heading into 2017. This is also the only match on Monday where both sides featured are in the single digit places on the league table.
Manchester United vs Sunderland (10 AM ET – NBCSN)
David Moyes makes his return to Old Trafford with his new club Sunderland for a game featuring two teams trending in opposite directions. Moyes, who had a horrid spell in charge of the Red Devils, needs three points and bad as Sunderland look like sure fire relegation candidates. Meanwhile, in Manchester, Jose Mourinho seems to have United on the right track for the first time this season. Sunderland can do their boss proud against his former employer, but United know that they’re on a stretch of games where they can’t afford to drop points. It’s going to be a tough ask for Sunderland to get anything from this fixture, but it will be interesting to see Moyes try.
Leicester City vs Everton (10 AM ET – NBC Extra Time)
If you took last seasons Leicester City team and put them against Ronald Koeman’s Everton side from August, you’d have quite a match-up. However, both these teams have been struggling of late. Leicester City didn’t want to find themselves in a relegation battle this year, and Everton was looking like a top four team at the start of the season. That being said, these are two teams capable of putting on a show. Both sides feature star strikers and suspect defenses, meaning we could be in for a high-scoring affair. Leicester hasn’t been scoring as consistently as last year, but maybe a Boxing Day fixture with Everton could get them going. Meanwhile for Everton, they could compound Leicester’s misery and make a push back up the table with a big performance on Monday.
Watford vs Crystal Palace (7:30 AM ET – NBCSN)
Plenty of eyes will be watching Vicarage Road in Watford on Monday, but most of that attention will be directed towards the dugout. Sam Allardyce makes his managerial debut for Crystal Palace this weekend. Palace have had a rough go of it this season, and to no one’s surprise, Alan Pardew was given his marching orders this week. The Eagles are just one point from safety, and have only been saved by the fact that the three teams below them have been worse. Watford sits 12th in table, six points clear of Palace. It’s not the toughest debut game for Allardyce, but it’s one he desperatly needs to win.
Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday (2:45 PM ET – beIN Sports)
If Monday’s slate of Premier League games doesn’t get you off your seat, then beIN Sports has some alternate programming for you. With no real marquee matches in the Premier League, the Championship offers a meeting between two sides currently fighting to get back to the top-flight. Newcastle United is sitting pretty at the top of the table, but Sheffield Wednesday is just about holding onto sixth, the final promotion playoff spot. A win against the league leaders will give them a boost heading into the new year. Newcastle, while bossing the Championship have only won twice in their last 14 Boxing Day fixtures. The Magpies only have a one point advantage over Brighton & Hove Albion, but they are 9 points clear of falling out of the automatic promotion spot. Sheffield Wednesday need a win at St. James’ Park if they’re to hold off Derby County who are just a point back.