Boxing Day is always the most interesting day for football in a calendar year. Unlike previous years, teams welcome this fixture having more to lose than to gain. With the league table changing shape every weekend, with teams at both ends of the table looking desperately for points, Boxing Day proves to be crucial coming into a new year.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: London Derby
As Arsenal meet high flying Chelsea at the Emirates, the odds are stacked pretty much against the Gunners who hold a greater chance of floundering towards the relegation zone, if results do not go their way on Saturday. Chelsea, on the other hand, will be looking for all three points despite recent losses to Everton and Wolves.
Frank Lampard and his men will be confident coming into the fixture after a solid 3-0 victory against West Ham last weekend. With just a point separating them from fourth-placed Everton, the Blues will be looking to close a 6-point gap between them and league leaders Liverpool. Chelsea will also be looking to improve their away record considering their last two defeats were on the road. With just 3 points separating them from ninth placed Aston Villa, dropping three points would prove to be fatal for Lampard and his men.
With Tammy Abraham in fine form, who scored his fifth goal of the season against West Ham, despite not being a regular starter this season, will prove to be crucial considering Lampard’s search for a perfect number 9 finally seems to be working out. However, a lack of goals from Timo Werner could prove to be a deciding factor as he has failed to score in his last 6 matches. Putting aside the fact that Kai Havertz is struggling in his role, the question remains as to whether Lampard will be looking to reshuffle his midfield. Full backs, Ben Chilwell and Reece James alongside Hakim Ziyech are ruled out of the game with the latter being side lined with a thigh injury.
Meanwhile, Arsenal welcome the fixture, despite failing to win in their last 7 matches in the league, followed by a 4-1 loss last midweek against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup. Their last victory in the league was 1-0 win against Manchester United back in November. Having the worst start since 1974-75 season, with just 14 points in 14 games, the Gunners will be looking to salvage some points out of the game. With just 12 goals scored so far this season, Brighton and Fulham have managed to score more than Arsenal, this could prove to be costly, considering Chelsea have a good defensive record.
Meanwhile Arsenal have not lost in 12 consecutive matches played on Boxing Day. Aubameyang has also found Boxing Day fruitful, considering he scored in the last two consecutive seasons for Arsenal. However, Aubameyang is a doubtful starter for the game despite uninspiring performances in recent weeks as he had only managed 3 goals so far this season. The Gunner’s poor form at the Emirates this season also works against them as they have failed to win in their last 5 outings on their home turf. Gabriel Martini is also doubtful for the game. Thomas Partey is also ruled out of the game following a thigh problem.
Chelsea Possible Lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Silva, Emerson; Mount, Jorginho, Kante; Werner, Abraham, Pulisic
Arsenal Possible Lineup:
Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Xhaka, Saka; Willian, Lacazette, Pepe
Leicester City vs Manchester United
Everything seems to be going pretty well for Ole Gunnar Solskjær now, as a string of positive results in recent weeks solidifies his position at Manchester United. A recent improvement, after a string of disappointing results at the start of the season, proves to be game changing for both the manager and the club now. With 19 points out of 21 points taken in their last 7 games this is interesting, considering they only managed to win 7 points out of their first 6 matches of the season. They also approach this game with 14 consecutive away wins in the league, going back to March. More than winning, they have also managed to score 12 goals in their last three matches, including a 6-2 thrashing of Leeds United last weekend. Bruno Fernandez’s incredible form and the right balance in defence with the introduction of Alex Tellas could prove to be crucial. With 4 games to be played in 10 days, it will be interesting to see what Solskjær’s team selection is following their 2-0 victory against Everton in the Carabao Cup.
Leicester City, on the other hand, got the better of Jose Mourinho’s side last week having snatched a 2-0 win against Spurs. Brendon Rodger’s side sitting second in the table will be looking at the game with the same view as Manchester United considering their position in the table. James Vardy comes into the match with 10 goals to his name so far this season, and he holds a decisive record of scoring 5 goals in 11 appearances against Manchester United in the past. Despite these odds, Leicester have a poor home record this season, managing only 4 wins in 7 games at the King Power stadium. However, they have managed to win 4 of their last 5 matches in all competitions. In addition, the last time they won against Manchester United was back in 2014. Leicester also hold the most wins in the league at 9 alongside league leaders Liverpool. They have not drawn a single match this season, but have lost 5 of their last 14 matches in the league.
Their leading goal scorer Jamie Vardy hobbled off during their last game at Spurs but is deemed fit for selection as per the latest reports. Meanwhile, Caglar Soyuncu will have to wait a little longer as he will probably be on the bench.
Leicester City Predicted Lineup :
Schmeichel; Justin, Evans, Fofana; Albrighton, Ndidi, Tielemans, Castagne; Maddison, Barnes, Vardy
Manchester United Predicted Lineup :
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Matic, Fred; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.