One of the most highly anticipated days of any world football calendar makes its return to the English game this week as the Boxing Day schedule prepares for a Premier League blockbuster.
And a host of sides will be hoping for a touch of festive fortune in their bid to rock the standings in what’s already emerged as a campaign where the regular rule book has been thrown out of the window.
Arsenal welcome West Brom to the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day hoping for a sixth successive home Premier League win over the Baggies, who haven’t emerged victorious in north London since September 2010.
That also happened to be the year Hull City pulled off their only top-flight victory over title contenders Manchester City, who make their way to the KCOM Stadium on Monday in desperate need of a pick-me-up.
Goals from George Boateng and Jozy Altidore gave the Tigers three points during that 2009-10 clash, but last-place Hull have conceded 36 goals this season—the most of any Premier League team—and will be up against the odds to craft a similar upset this time around.
Perhaps the most enticing Week 18 fixture on offer doesn’t fall until Wednesday, however, as Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino returns to former club Southampton, against whom he’s enjoyed a mixed bag of results since departing in 2014.
However, it was in the pair’s most recent meeting last May that Spurs surrendered a 2-1 home defeat to the Saints, and St. Mary’s has looked like a fortress of late, with the south-coast team keeping clean sheets in each of their last three home fixtures.
The other promising post-Boxing Day clash comes between title contenders Liverpool and mid-table Stoke City, who will collide at Anfield having produced an average of 4.4 goals per match in their last five showdowns.
Unfortunately for Potters boss Mark Hughes, his outfit have managed to win just one of those meetings and lost the other four, and Stoke are still searching for their first-ever Premier League wi at Anfield eight years after entering the top flight.
Thankfully for Hughes, that 6-1 triumph in May 2015 is the joint-second-highest margin victory ever recorded between these two sides, second only to Liverpool 7-0 demolition of the Potters in 1902.
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