Five Premier League storylines to watch out for on Boxing Day

It's Boxing Day, which means that lots of teams play football on a day where there are minimal public transport provisions

Ed Malyon
Monday 25 December 2017 12:40
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Winter transfer window: Ten players looking for a move in January

Ho ho ho and all that. It's Christmas Day today, which is all well and good but the real significance of that is that tomorrow is one of the biggest footballing days of the year!

That's right, despite the Boxing Day name it's not about fighting or anything, it's pure footbally worldness.

And with so many fixtures tomorrow, there must be loads to write about, right?

Well precisely, and that's what we've done, purely so you can have a little think about the biggest storylines going into the Boxing Day game.

1. It’s the Mauricio clásico

Pellegrino's side will move into the top ten with a win

Mauricio Pellegrino and Mauricio Pochettino have a lot more in common than just 83% of their names, they’re both Argentinean and both played centre-back for their country at a time when ratty mullets were - seemingly, from the pictures - in style.

Now they’re both Premier League coaches and while Pochettino has blazed a trail, Pellegrino is still somewhat feeling his way through the English top flight.

Southampton fans seemed to expect an exciting new era when the Argentine pitched up at the start of the season but his Alavés team were never particularly thrilling. It was narrow victories and a strong defence which is a formula we’ve seen Saints get closer to in recent weeks. Puel’s success at Leicester poses some different questions but broadly, the jury is probably still out on Pellegrino on the south coast.

Poch, of course, has proven himself and is now being talked about as a future coach of Real Madrid or Manchester United. Either club would be lucky to have him, but we have seen a little more adversity this season than Pochettino has been through in the last couple of seasons. So far he has dealt with it admirably and it may be that Manchester City’s utter dominance will help him by allowing him to focus elsewhere. That said, his team need to finish in the top four - which is by no means guaranteed - and their Champions League draw wasn’t kind. Things could look far bleaker for Pochettino by the time February is out.

Which is why he needs his side to keep ticking over in the league and a win at Wembley on Boxing Day will help. Dele Alli managing to stay out of the news for the wrong reasons would also be a Christmas treat for his manager.

READ MORE: Jonathan Liew interviews new Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino

2. Cherries by no means on top

Howe can Eddie revive Bournemouth?

Bournemouth have not won in eight games and Jermain Defoe has just been ruled out with a long-term injury. It’s a bleak midwinter for the Cherries and not even the promise of a January transfer window feels likely to reverse that for now.

Eddie Howe’s side got a lot of praise for ‘trying to play football’ against Liverpool, which is synonymous with ‘letting Liverpool stroll through them’ as Bournemouth slid into the relegation zone. We know that the bottom half of the table is pretty much ten or eleven teams of similar quality but there will be a point in the spring when the larger mush begins to fracture and teams will be left behind. Swansea are threatening to be one of those but would it surprise anyone if Bournemouth sunk with them?

Only the Swans and West Bromwich Albion have fewer goals than Bournemouth this season - take away Defoe and that isn’t going to get any better. Their season, and Premier League status, might just depend on whether they can find another goalscorer.

3. Battle of the Mourinhos

Sean Dyche's Burnley are sixth in the Premier League

The Ginger Mourinho travels to Old Trafford to take on the original in a game that doesn’t exactly seem ripe for flowing, attacking football.

Miguel Delaney gave this match a far better preview than I ever could so I’ll let that speak for itself, but after tossing away what should have been a regulation victory at Leicester with profligate finishing, Manchester United will know that there are no excuses when the Clarets come to town.

4. WTFord

Marco Silva is handsome and Watford are pretty good. These were two things we took for granted in early season as the glory Hornet boys milled about the top of the table with the established elite, but far quieter has been their gradual slide down the table and four consecutive defeats have them threatening to join the mid-table mess below.

Marco Silva's Watford have slowed down 

Watford have what should be an eminently winnable home game against Leicester but their performance at Brighton on Saturday suggests no win will be easy for them ever again and the Foxes are in fine form themselves.

This fixture has history, of course, with one of the all-time great passages of play occurring in that play-off semi-final second leg when Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty that probably should never have been awarded, Watford countered and Troy Deeney smashed home the decisive goal to send Vicarage Road absolutely wild

It has no relevance to this match, which will see an almost entirely different cast of players but it’s Christmas Day so you’ve got time to watch the video - which is brilliant.

5. Stoking the fires

Just when you think Stoke City can’t possibly stick by Mark Hughes any longer, he gets the win that buys him more time.

It means a team that is stuck in a sort of purgatory - not good enough to do anything exciting but not quite bad enough (yet) to get relegated.

A trip to Huddersfield will be a game Hughes expects to win and the fans will feel similarly but David Wagner’s side have finally started scoring goals, which was their main barrier to winning games (funny how that works).

Should Stoke lose though, there will be more rumblings, more frustration and - almost certainly - more defeats until he’s on the brink of the sack and manages to pull out a win again. That’s just how it is.

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