As always, the Premier League Christmas calendar has delivered on the promise of fantastic holiday football.
Every season, Premier League managers look at the festive schedule and panic, with the quiet week before Christmas serving as a brief respite before launching into the chaos of Boxing Day games and then holiday fixtures running all the way to games on New Year’s day.
This season has proven no different, with title challenging Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s quotes summing it all up: “It’s crazy, it was always crazy and will always be,” said the German coach. “Everything is fine until you reach that Christmas time.”
But just how “crazy” is the 2021 Christmas fixture list for title challengers Liverpool? What about their rivals Premier League champions Manchester City or Champions League winners Chelsea? How do the holiday games for England’s big three (sorry Manchester United, Ralf Rangnick’s rebuild at Old Trafford isn’t far enough along yet to get you back into this conversation) shape up?
We’ve had a look at all the games from this weekend up to the New Year’s fixtures at the very start of 2022 and come up with a conclusion as to which team has the toughest run of games over the festive period.
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Manchester City’s 2021 Christmas fixture list
- 11 December 2021: Man City vs Wolves
- 14 December 2021: Man City vs Leeds
- 19 December 2021: Newcastle vs Man City
- Boxing Day 2021: Man City vs. Leicester
- 29 December 2021: Brentford vs. Man City
- New Year’s Day 2022: Arsenal vs. Man City
City head into the festive period top of the table by one point and looking to be top at Christmas for the first time since 2017. Their games aren’t easy, no run is, but as of writing only two of their six opponents are in the top half of the Premier League table and given that one of those teams is Arsenal it’s basically like only one of their opponents is in the top half.
They open up with Wolves at the Etihad (said top half side), and while Bruno Lage’s men can be defensive and stubborn they have won just once in their last five games, scoring their only goal in that quintet of fixtures, and City beat them twice last season.
Next is a midweek clash against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, which will probably be the trickiest game of the period. Guardiola vs. Bielsa is always box office for the tactical nerds and City failed to beat them last season even as they claimed the title. Keep an eye on this one.
Four days later City travel north to face Newcastle. City have beaten them four times in a row scoring 13 goals in the process.
Boxing Day sees City back at home hosting Leicester. Brendan Rodgers’ men won their last match at the Etihad 2-5, but since then City have beaten them 0-2 and 0-1 in the Premier League.
City then have a three-day rest before travelling to play Brentford, who have really lost the momentum they had at the start of the season and, as such, you’d have to favour City to snatch it.
Finally Guardiola’s men play on New Year’s Day, the only contender to do so, and travel to play Arsenal. And despite Mikel Arteta making advances with the Gunners, any time they’ve played a team even halfway decent they have been taken apart and City are a bit better than halfway decent. This should be yet another win for City and honestly it could even make it six straight wins for the defending champions if Guardiola can hold his nerve against Bielsa, setting an incredible pace as we move into 2022.
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Chelsea’s 2021 Christmas fixture list
- 11 December 2021: Chelsea vs Leeds
- 16 December 2021: Chelsea vs Everton
- 19 December 2021: Wolves vs Chelsea
- 22 December 2021: Brentford vs Chelsea (EFL Cup)
- Boxing Day 2021: Aston Villa vs Chelsea
- 29 December 2021: Chelsea vs Brighton
- 2 January 2022: Chelsea vs Liverpool
The European champions will be out to add the Premier League title to their trophy room, and they kick things off with a match against Leeds. For Chelsea, a physically powerful and direct attacking side loaded with talent and coached by a genius, this is a very favourable match-up. Even Frank Lampard managed to beat Leeds and he isn’t fit to polish the box Bielsa sits on.
Next up Chelsea face Everton and while it’s cute to imagine Rafa Benitez getting one over his former employers where the fanbase treated him horribly it’s far more likely that ex-Everton man Romelu Lukaku, who hasn’t scored in the league since September, will find his form just in time to steamroller his old side.
After that Chelsea travel to face Wolves, and while they didn’t beat them last season they did handily dominate them 0-0 in Tuchel’s first game so you’d fancy them to grind out a win here.
Next, while City get a midweek break, Chelsea contend a London derby with Brentford in the EFL Cup. And given the fixture congestion, you’d expect a lot of rotation here and thus a fired-up Brentford to sneak one over a Blues side with eyes elsewhere.
Chelsea’s Boxing Day game is a trip to the Midlands to face Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa, which could potentially be tricky as the Englishman rebuilds Villa, but again Chelsea have enough talent to out-last Villa, particularly if they get N’Golo Kanté fit to nullify John McGinn.
The Blues get three days of rest before hosting Brighton, a notoriously impressive but profligate side who seem cater-made to dominate at the Bridge yet still somehow losing the game 2-0 as Chelsea give them a lesson in finishing. However, one has to consider that this game may see Kepa Arrizabalaga replace Edouard Mendy in goal as the latter heads off to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.
The final game of Chelsea’s festive fixture list sees the biggest game of the period as they host Liverpool on January 2nd. The Blues held out at Anfield for a 1-1 draw earlier in the season and now they have to contend with the whirlwind of Klopp’s Reds looking for a second consecutive win at Stamford Bridge after they won their last season. The existence of this match takes things up a notch for the Blues as Tuchel looks to negotiate his first Christmas period as Chelsea boss.
Liverpool’s 2021 Christmas Fixture List
- 11 December 2021: Liverpool vs Aston Villa
- 16 December 2021: Liverpool vs Newcastle
- 19 December 2021: Spurs vs Liverpool
- 22 December 2021: Liverpool vs Leicester (EFL Cup)
- Boxing Day 2021: Liverpool vs Leeds
- 28 December 2021: Leicester vs Liverpool
- 2 January 2022: Chelsea vs Liverpool
Liverpool have been top of the Premier League on December 25th for the last three seasons but unless City drop some points (looking at you, Marcelo) then it’s unlikely the Reds will manage to make it four straight years as Christmas champions.
Liverpool’s festive fixtures start with a home match against Aston Villa. And while that looks a lock for Liverpool based on their form and quality, it’s also Steven Gerrard’s first trip to Anfield as a manager and if anyone knows how to do the impossible at Anfield, it’s Gerrard. Chelsea, Man City and Brighton have all got a point at Anfield so far this season, don’t rule Villa out from doing the same.
The Reds’ next game is a stick-on win as they host Newcastle, but they only have three days to recover from it as they travel down south to face Antonio Conte’s Spurs. The only solace Klopp can take is that Spurs will also only have three days rest before the clash, because otherwise a grind-athon against Conte’s pressing machine is the last thing Liverpool need.
Just three days after Spurs, Liverpool host Leicester in the EFL Cup where you’d expect a lot of rotation from Klopp as he readies himself for the whirlwind of Bielsa’s Leeds on Boxing Day. Like Chelsea, Liverpool match up well against Leeds and beat them 3-0 at Elland Road in September. You’d give this to Liverpool, especially as this may be the last game that Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané play for the club before heading off for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Liverpool have requested that Salah, Mané and Naby Keita can delay their departure and at least as pertains Salah; the request is “under consideration,” with “no answer given yet,” according to Osama Ismail, spokesman for the Egyptian FA.
Should they lose their three African players then every fixture becomes doubly difficult given how crucial Salah has been to their fortunes thus far this season. Mané has been good too but Salah has 20 goals and 9 assists in 21 games across both Premier League and Champions League this season and, without him they then have to head for a rematch with Leicester. The Reds usually bring out their best against Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes, but without Salah and Mané there’s a lot being put on Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino’s shoulders.
Once they have negotiated the Leicester match, it’s down to London to face Chelsea on January 2nd. This clash is a monumental title showdown that you’d have to fancy Chelsea in. Sure, the Blues will be missing Edouard Mendy but they can protect Kepa with a more rugged defensive display. How exactly can Liverpool reorient themselves without Salah and Mané? Those two have scored all three of the Reds’ goals against the Blues since the start of the last season and without them, it’s hard to see Liverpool emerging from Stamford Bridge with anything.
Which Premier League title contender has the ‘craziest’ Christmas calendar?
Having looked at all the games, it’s clear that Manchester City have the easiest run of games during the Christmas period. They play less thanks to their early exit in the EFL Cup and their toughest opponents are both visiting the Etihad rather than hosting City.
Chelsea’s run has some difficult spots, but nothing you wouldn’t back the Blues to be able to simply grind out when they have most of their starters available. The trickiest thing will be Thomas Tuchel adapting his training methods to cope with the gruelling Christmas fixture list, which is his first as head coach of Chelsea.
Jurgen Klopp is the manager who bemoaned the “crazy” Christmas fixture list and it’s his Liverpool that suffer the most. Not only do they play seven games like Chelsea but they have by far the hardest run of opponents, travelling for brutal away games against Spurs and Chelsea. And in addition to all of that they are set to lose their two key forwards, including the very best player in the world right now, at the tail end of this crazy run of festive football.