- The Premier League's holiday schedule can be overwhelming, but here are the matches to watch and which ones carry a bit more significance than the rest during the two-week sprint.
The 2018 calendar is winding down, which can only mean one thing: Dozens of Premier League matches.
The league's annual holiday tradition is stuffing game after game into supporters' stockings. You'll undoubtedly hear managers (although not Jose Mourinho!) moan about the lack of rest and how irresponsible it is to fit so many games in such a tight window. And they may be right! But that doesn't change the fact that over a 14-day period, the league will put on 40 matches, some of which may wind up having a massive impact on the title race, the hunt for the top four and the battle against relegation. Depth will be tested, squads will be rotated and when it's all finished, fortunes on both ends of the table will likely change.
So as the festive season hits, here's a viewer's guide to the Premier League's fixture sprint (all times listed Eastern):
Top 5 Matches
5. Fulham vs. Huddersfield (Dec. 29, 10 a.m.)
You know what's sometimes better than the ferocity of a top-of-the-table clash? The desperation in a bottom-of-the-table one. The last two teams in the table, at time of writing, will be foaming at the mouth to secure all three points in a relegation bout. Anything goes.
4. Everton vs. Tottenham (Dec. 23, 11 a.m.)
Everton is teetering on the edge of showing it should be mentioned in the same breath as the league's top sides, but it's either fallen to (Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Man United) or drawn (Chelsea) all of them so far to maintain its middle-of-the-pack status. Here's another opportunity, while Spurs look to keep pace in the title race while hoping Man City or Liverpool slip up along the way.
3. Cardiff City vs. Manchester United (Dec. 22, 3 p.m.)
The first Man United match of the post-Mourinho era will be fascinating. How will the club react on the field days after the off-field reaction has come and gone? Things weren't working under Mourinho, but is the fix as simple as removing him from the equation? Surely it's more complex than that.
2. Liverpool vs. Arsenal (Dec. 29, 12:30 p.m.)
Liverpool is in for a challenging couple of weeks, but before looking ahead to the finish line it must deal with Unai Emery's surging side. Arsenal's 22-match unbeaten run in all competitions recently came to an end, but make no mistake about Arsenal's ability to compete again at the league's upper echelon. And if Liverpool is caught looking ahead of preparing for its final match of the two-week gauntlet, the Reds could be ripe for the picking.
1. Manchester City vs. Liverpool (Jan. 3, 3 p.m.)
This last one is the one everyone's been waiting for. The top two teams in the league meet in their second and final clash of the season in what could be a title decider. It's anyone's guess what shape they'll be in after having played three matches apiece in the previous 13 days, and both enter the festive season with injury concerns. Liverpool's back line has been decimated by ailments, while Man City's considerable depth has been tested due to injuries to Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Benjamin Mendy and others. The two played, disappointingly, to a scoreless draw in October, one that hinged on Riyad Mahrez missing a late penalty. Expect someone else on the spot if City is given another spot kick.
Three Toughest Schedules
Liverpool (at Wolves, vs. Newcastle, vs. Arsenal, at Man City)
Leicester City (at Chelsea, vs. Man City, vs. Cardiff City, at Everton)
Newcastle (vs. Fulham, at Liverpool, at Watford, vs. Man United)
Three Easiest Schedules
Huddersfield Town (vs. Southampton, at Man United, at Fulham, vs. Burnley)
Arsenal (vs. Burnley, at Brighton & Hove, at Liverpool, vs. Fulham)
Manchester United (at Cardiff City, vs. Huddersfield Town, vs. Bournemouth, at Newcastle)
As is the case throughout the whole Premier League season, all matches are available to stream via NBC Sports Gold (and many are available via FuboTV). But here are the ones given the national TV spotlight across the USA:
Friday, Dec. 21
Wolves vs. Liverpool (3 p.m.) - NBCSN, Universo
Saturday, Dec. 22
Arsenal vs. Burnley (7:30 a.m.) - NBCSN
Chelsea vs. Leicester City (10 a.m.) - CNBC
Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace (10 a.m.) - NBCSN, Universo
Cardiff City vs. Man United (12:30 p.m.) - NBC, Universo
Sunday, Dec. 23
Everton vs. Tottenham (11 a.m.) - NBCSN
Wednesday, Dec. 26
Fulham vs. Wolves (7:30 a.m.) - NBCSN
Liverpool vs. Newcastle (10 a.m.) - NBCSN, Universo
Brighton & Hove vs. Arsenal (12:15 p.m.) - NBCSN
Watford vs. Chelsea (2:30 p.m.) - NBCSN
Thursday, Dec. 27
Southampton vs. West Ham (2:45 p.m.) - NBCSN
NBC will finalize plans and announce its TV scheduling for Dec. 29-Jan 3 next week. Key matches include:
Saturday, Dec. 29
Tottenham vs. Wolves (10 a.m.)
Liverpool vs. Arsenal (12:30 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 30
Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea (7 a.m.)
Southampton vs. Man City (9:15 a.m.)
Manchester United vs. Bournemouth (11:30 a.m.)
Tuesday, Jan. 1
Everton vs. Leicester City (7:30 a.m.)
Arsenal vs. Fulham (10 a.m.)
Cardiff City vs. Tottenham (12:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, Jan. 2
Chelsea vs. Southampton (2:45 p.m.)
Newcastle vs. Manchester United (3 p.m.)
Thursday, Jan. 3
Manchester City vs. Liverpool (3 p.m.)