With all the commercialisation that surrounds Christmas these days, it’s easy to forget what the holiday season is really about: football. Lots and lots of football.
There are few things as iconic about English football as a packed Christmas schedule. Other leagues may take a winter break but the Premier League ploughs on, with the games coming thick and fast to the delight of fans and the chagrin of managers.
It is a hectic time of year, but 90min’s Ultimate Guide to watching football over Christmas has got you covered. We’ve picked the best festive offerings from across the UK and Europe for the next two weeks, with details on when and where you can catch all the best bits.
So sit back and relax with a seasonal snack of your choosing, and take it all in.
Friday 21st December
TV PICK – Wolves vs Liverpool (
The latest stop on Liverpool’s title trail takes them to Molineux to face a Wolves side who have fared well against the other members of of the big six this season, drawing against the Manchester clubs and Arsenal, and beating Chelsea.
Jurgen Klopp’s men will still be on a high after their win over Manchester United but they can’t allow complacency to get the better of them. Wolves have bounced back from a blip to rack up three consecutive victories and they will show no fear.
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It’s not just in England where the league leaders are aiming to extend their advantage, but in Germany too. Borussia Dortmund recently lost their unbeaten record, but they remain six points clear at the top and can temporarily make it nine with a win over closest rivals Borussia M
- Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Mönchengladbach (BT Sport 2, 19:30 GMT)
Saturday 22nd December
TV PICK – Cardiff City vs Manchester United (BT Sport 1, 17:30 GMT)
Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes charge of the Red Devils for the first time since replacing Jose Mourinho in the dugout, although he won’t be expecting a warm welcome from the Cardiff crowd. He led the Bluebirds to relegation during his previous foray into the Premier League.
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The Premier League’s early kick off sees Arsenal host Burnley before a packed afternoon including a full Football League programme, followed by Match of the Day in the evening.
In Europe, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are in action for the last time before the winter break, and Juventus vs Roma is the pick of the bunch from Serie A.
- Arsenal vs Burnley (Sky Sports Premier League, 12:30 BST)
- Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich (BT Sport 2, 17:30 BST)
- Barcelona vs Celta Vigo (Eleven Sports 2, 17:30 BST)
- Juventus vs Roma (Eleven Sports 1, 19:30 BST)
- Match of the Day (BBC One, 22:30 BST)
Sunday 23rd December
TV PICK – Everton vs Tottenham (Sky Sports Premier League, 16:00 BST)
The Premier League’s final offering before Christmas pits Everton against Tottenham, with the hosts aiming to end a four match winless run and the visitors targeting their fourth consecutive victory.
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The Championship has a delightful festive offering of Aston Villa against Leeds to warm the cockles. Dean Smith has turned the Villans into promotion contenders but this will be one of his toughest tests so far against a Leeds side top of the division under Marcelo Bielsa.
Eleven Sports has got you covered from dawn (well, 11am) til dusk with three La Liga games on the spin, and there’s also action from Scotland as Steven Gerrard’s Rangers travel to St Johnstone.
- Aston Villa vs Leeds United (Sky Sports Football, 13:30 BST)
- St Johnstone vs Rangers (BT Sport 1, 12:15 BST)
- Match of the Day 2 (BBC One, 22:30 BST)
TV PICK – The State of New York vs Kris Kringle (Channel 4, 18:00 BST)
Unfortunately, if you’re reading this you’ve already missed the original (and best) Miracle on 34th Street, but the 1994 version is a passable remake.
TV PICK – John McClane vs Hans Gruber (Sky Movies on Demand)
Ok, so Die Hard isn’t actually on television this year, but it is available on Sky Movies and Christmas wouldn’t be complete without this classic Skyscraper caper. Unless, y’know, you actually want to spend time with your family rather than watching TV all day.
Obviously there’s no football on, it’s Christmas Day. Maybe you can crack open that new Subbuteo set Grandad got you because he thought it was FIFA 19.
TV PICK – Watford vs Chelsea (Sky Sports Premier League, 19:30 GMT)
There are nine Premier League matches and a full set of Football League fixtures to keep you entertained while you gorge on turkey sandwiches and set up your new phone / model railway / copy of FIFA 19 which you exchanged for the Subbuteo set (don’t tell Grandad).
The most appealing of the televised top flight games is probably Chelsea’s trip to Watford. The Blues lost 4-1 at Vicarage Road last season and Javi Gracia finally seems to have brought some stability to the Hornets, who are a dangerous team on their day.
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The early Premier League kick off between Fulham and Wolves is a crucial one for the Cottagers in their attempts to stave off relegation. Later on, Brighton host Arsenal in a tricky-looking fixture for the Gunners, before the busiest Match of the Day until May.
There are no fewer than SIX Serie A matches on TV throughout the day as Italy also gets into the festive spirit with a full top flight programme. There’s even a 3pm offering from the Championship as promotion chasers
Fulham vs Wolves (Sky Sports Premier League, 12:30 GMT)
- Brighton vs Arsenal (Sky Sports Premier League, 17:15 GMT)
- Atalanta vs Juventus (Eleven Sports 1, 14:00 GMT)
- Inter vs Napoli (Eleven Sports 1, 19:30 GMT)
- Sheffield United vs Derby County (Sky Sports Football, 15:00 GMT)
- Match of the Day (BBC One, 22:20 GMT)
Thursday 27th December
TV PICK – Southampton vs West Ham (Sky Sports Premier League, 19:45 GMT)
However, West Ham finally seem to have found their stride under Manuel Pellegrini and they head into the festive period on a four-match winning run. This could be a surprisingly entertaining encounter between two teams on the rise.
Friday 28th December
TV PICK – Eddie the Eagle vs His Own Failings as a Skier (Channel 4, 20:00 GMT)
This is arguably the worst day of the entire festive schedule as there isn’t even a stand-out film to save us from the mundanity of a football-less day.
However, this biopic of famously bad British skier Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards features the talents of Kingsman star Taron Egerton and sounds like harmless, heartwarming fare.
Saturday 29th December
TV PICK – Liverpool vs Arsenal (BT Sport 1, 17:30 GMT)
The visit of Arsenal represents another big test of Liverpool’s title credentials. If the Reds beat Wolves and Newcastle then a win here guarantees that they will end the year as Premier League leaders for the first time since the 2008/09 season.
Regardless of the result, Arsenal will end 2018 in much better spirits than they began it. Unai Emery has stamped his authority on the Gunners and although they won’t win the Premier League themselves, they could yet have a big say in the title race.
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It’s derby day in Scotland as Rangers and Celtic meet in the second Old Firm match of the season. It’s a friendly affair in the dugouts these days as Steven Gerrard faces his old Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, but there’s never any love lost on the pitch.
That’s followed by Hibernian vs Hearts in the Edinburgh derby later in the day. Before then, there’s five other Premier League matches and the final Football League fixtures of the year, plus Serie A action featuring Juventus and AC Milan.
- Rangers vs Celtic (Sky Sports Football, 12:30 GMT)
- Hibernian vs Hearts (Sky Sports Football, 17:30 GMT)
- Juventus vs Sampdoria (Eleven Sports 1, 11:30 GMT)
- AC Milan vs SPAL (Eleven Sports 1, 19:30 GMT)
- Match of the Day (BBC One, 22:30 GMT)
Sunday 30th December
TV PICK – Southampton vs Manchester City (Sky Sports Premier League, 14:15 GMT)
Sky Sports brings you three consecutive Premier League matches, and this one is probably the most interesting for its importance at both ends of the table. Manchester City will be hoping to take advantage of a Liverpool slip-up the day before so they can end 2018 how they started it: top of the tree.
Admittedly, you’d expect City to make light work of Southampton, but Ralph
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Bournemouth caused Manchester United’s defence no end of problems when the two sides met at the Vitality Stadium earlier this season, although United ended up winning thanks to a last minute Marcus Rashford goal. Can the Cherries get revenge at Old Trafford?
Chelsea also visit Crystal Palace in the day’s early kick off. That should be fairly straightforward for Maurizio Sarri’s men, but Palace won the corresponding fixture last season, so the Blues will have to be on their toes to avoid another shock at Selhurst Park.
- Crystal Palace vs Chelsea (Sky Sports Premier League, 12:00 GMT)
- Manchester United vs Bournemouth (Sky Sports Premier League, 16:30 GMT)
- Match of the Day 2 (BBC One, 22:30 GMT)
New Year’s Eve
TV PICK – Kevin McAllister vs the Wet Bandits (Channel 4, 16:50 GMT)
Confession time: I’ve never actually seen Home Alone, but I believe that it’s about two middle-aged men who break into the home of a young child, which doesn’t seem very Christmassy of them. Apparently it’s good though, despite the rather dark premise.
Again, no football.
New Year’s Day
TV PICK – Leeds United vs Nottingham Forest (Sky Sports Football, 15:00 GMT)
Cure your hangover with this special tonic courtesy of the Championship as two fallen giants
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Three Premier League fixtures is a disappointingly small number for New Year’s Day but two of them are televised, with Leicester going to Everton in the early kick off before Tottenham visit Cardiff in the evening.
- Everton vs Leicester City (Sky Sports Premier League, 12:30 GMT)
- Cardiff City vs Tottenham (Sky Sports Premier League, 17:30 GMT)
Wednesday 2nd January
TV PICK – Newcastle vs Manchester United (Sky Sports Premier League, 20:00 GMT)
There are six Premier League matches to choose from, but Sky Sports are beginning the year as they mean to go on: with Manchester United on TV. Both teams will be hoping it’s a case of ‘new year, new me’ after their respective struggles in 2018.
The Benitez vs Mourinho edge will be lacking from this one (no doubt the Spaniard will be pleased that he outlasted his old rival), but hopefully it’ll be just as entertaining as United’s 3-2 win in the reverse fixture back in October.
Match of the Day (BBC One, 22:45 GMT)
Thursday 3rd January
TV PICK – Manchester City vs Liverpool (Sky Sports Premier League, 20:00 GMT)
Our festive roundup may be ending but the title race is just getting started as the Premier League’s top two meet at the Etihad Stadium in a match which could define the rest of the season.