There's nothing quite like the festive football schedule to get Premier League fans excited. It's a time-honoured tradition to have football on the TV, and to place a few crafty bets, while the Brussels sprouts are going down. With that in mind, let's take a look at the predictions and best bets for all of the upcoming games around Christmas and Boxing Day, from December 26 to 28. We'll cover the games on December 30 through January 1 in our next preview article.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 26
Watford vs. Crystal Palace
Both of these Greater London sides have lost two games in a row, though Watford is six points up on Palace, a team which teeters above the relegation zone and needs points to avoid being sucked into the bottom three. In spite of this, both teams look evenly-matched and seem likely to fight out a draw.
Top Bet: 12/5 with William Hill for a draw
Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion
Two successive defeats, to Everton and Manchester City, and it suddenly looks like high-flying Arsenal is suffering its regular Christmas burnout. A third loss, especially to good-but-limited West Brom, would really sound the alarm.
With West Brom's defence so resolute usually, it's almost certainly going to be a low-scoring match, but Arsenal should still make it through with a win.
Top Bet: 15/2 with BetStars for a 1-0 Arsenal win
Burnley vs. Middlesbrough
In 14th and 16th, these two promoted sides have different playing styles and levels of resources. Boro have shown themselves to be comfortable defending for long periods of time, though this is a side that still instinctively plays the ball on the ground. Burnley is far ore direct, and will look to play the ball forward as quickly as possible.
The contrasting styles won't necessarily make for a pretty game, and it's one that could easily end 0-0.
Top Bet: 23/10 with Bet365 for a draw
Chelsea vs. Bournemouth
Bournemouth has lost eight games this season but still finds itself in an excellent, for a team its size, 10th place at almost the half-way mark in the campaign. Although it has beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (last season), it's far less of a prospect with Antonio Conte's Blues at full steam.
Although Diego Costa will be suspended, Chelsea still has Michy Batshuayi waiting for a chance to start a match, and an all-star supporting cast playing with the fluidity of potential champions.
Top Bet: 15/4 with William Hill for a half-time/full-time result of Draw/Chelsea
Leicester City vs. Everton
Everton seems to have rediscovered something of its early-season vigour, and though this is still a team in transition, it's also one that seems far more confident taking the game to the opposition than was the case two or three games ago.
Leicester City, famously, enjoys playing on the back foot, but its defence looks less comfortable sitting back than it did during the title run, and Romelu Lukaku has the strength and invention to make something happen against Leicester's ponderous centre-backs.
Top Bet: 21/10 with BetVictor for an Everton win
Manchester United vs. Sunderland
With three victories in a row, things finally seem to be really happening for Jose Mourinho at United. The return to Old Trafford of former manager David Moyes is something the United fans have probably been looking forward to more than the Sunderland manager, who still can't extricate his threadbare side from the bottom three, and probably doesn't have enough attacking options to dent a steadfast home defence.
Top Bet: 11/2 with BetStars for a 2-0 Manchester United win
Swansea City vs. West Ham United
Swansea is entering the time of year when, for a club of its position, it's stick or twist time. With some terrible results and performances of late, Bob Bradley's position as manager is not safe, and West Ham, unbeaten in three, looks in prime position to take advantage of a Swans backline full of holes, especially if Andy Carroll is back to full fitness alongside Dimitri Payet.
Top Bet: 9/5 with Betfair for a West Ham win
Hull City vs. Manchester City
Bottom side Hull has put in some decent performances while still being on the losing side, but that won't come as any consolation with this Manchester City fixture looming. Even without Sergio Aguero, City showed against Arsenal that it has the firepower to put paid to anyone.
Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling both look to be in great form, and will surely be too much for the overworked Hull defence.
Top Bet: 17/5 with BetVictor for a half-time/full-time result of Draw/Manchester City
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 27
Liverpool vs. Stoke City
Seeming to be over recent wobbles, Liverpool still doesn't look forward to festive fixtures against Stoke: the matches, at least in the days of Tony Pulis's management of the Potters, seemed to play to the strengths of Stoke far more than Liverpool.
With Mark Hughes having introduced a more flowing style to his team's play, the likes of Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana will relish this particular challenge more than they would have done several years ago. Nonetheless, festive games shake up the form book, and Stoke can take a point at Anfield if the team sticks to a firm strategy and tires Liverpool out in the second half.
Top Bet: 5/1 with BetVictor for a draw