Football Sport

No rest for the wicked

Written by Ben Blaschke

While the rest of the sporting world is winding down, the action is heating up in the English Premier League as the hectic Christmas period arrives. Rather than taking a two-week hiatus like Spain’s La Liga or Germany’s Bundesliga, the EPL gladly fills the sporting void at this time of year with the 20 EPL clubs all set to play between two and three games each over the coming week.

This is marketing genius by the English FA, who have recognized the fact that not only do sports lovers the world over still crave something to watch over Christmas, many of them also have more time to do so given this is their traditional holiday period.

For the clubs themselves, however, entire campaigns can be won or lost over the coming week or two. A sudden burst of form at the right time and you can find yourself rocketing up the ladder in the blink of an eye, but drop your bundle and two or three losses in rapid succession can see you fall out of touch with the leaders. And results will prove particularly telling this Christmas given how tight it is at the top, with just three points separating the top four clubs.

Ironically, all four of those clubs – Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City – play at least one of their rival top four teams over the next week, but it is Liverpool and Chelsea facing the biggest test. The Reds travel to Manchester on Boxing Day for what has become known as the toughest road trip in the EPL, then find themselves on the road again to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. And before they host Liverpool, Chelsea are away to local rivals Arsenal as the big guns jostle for position.

By comparison, the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham have an opportunity to make ground on the top four, with United facing Hull and Norwich and Spurs up against West Brom and Stoke before the two EPL giants meet one another at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day.

As for current fifth-placed side Everton, they could well be the biggest winners of all. With games against Sunderland, Southampton and Stoke to come, they have a rare opportunity to set themselves up for a huge run in 2014 and potentially better their best ever EPL finish of fourth in 2004/05.