The Premier League has announced that it will be making allowance for a 2 week winter break in the month of February, but this break will only be put into effect next season forth.
Ergo, like it has been for quite some time now, the English clubs will have to fight through the unforgiving Christmas spell without any respite awaiting them on the other end. Here’s a look at who has to dig the deepest and fight the most during this winter spell.
On paper, Southampton seem to be in for a very torrid December, because not only do they play 8 games spread over a mere month, those 8 are including, but not limited to last season’s runners up Manchester United (H), Tottenham (A), Europa League semi-finalists Arsenal (H), defending champions and centurions Manchester City (H), and also Chelsea (A).
In the same boat as the Saints are Bournemouth from the south coast of England. Eddie Howe’s men saw their squad depth stretched well beyond its elastic limit when simultaneous injuries saw as many as half the first team lining up on the treatment table instead. It really threw a curveball about their survival chances, but the young English manager pulled his side through. He will have to do much of the same through December, taking every precaution to avoid injury, as his side take on Manchester City (A), Liverpool (H), Spurs (A) on boxing day and to open the new year, Man United (A).
December also sees Champions League finalists Liverpool engage cross town rivals Everton in a Merseyside Derby, which precedes the visit of bitter rivals Manchester United to Anfield only 2 games later. They round off 2018 by hosting Arsenal, in a spectacle that has produced some truly memorable matches in the recent past. And if that wasn’t enough, the start to their new year sees them travel to Manchester City, who will be more than hungry to upset the new year celebrations for Jurgen Klopp and his men, and who may have themselves resolved to avenge their CL defeat at the hands of the Merseyside club.
Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, 2 clubs who fought tooth and nail for the final Champions League spot last season, have the more desirable of fixture lists, with only one headline encounter each – The North London Derby to kick off December for Spurs, and the visit of Manchester City to Stamford Bridge respectively – for the London sides, giving them a little more comfort at a time when adrenaline, fatigue, tensions and endurance take a severe, severe toll on players and management alike.
Considering the promoted sides, the Christmas spell will be the most severe test of the squad’s depth, quality, grit, and physicality, in addition to the manager’s ability to rotate his players without sacrificing points, especially considering that being the new players on the pitch, they are likely to face heavily rotated teams themselves. Two encounters stand out: Wolverhampton’s encounters with Cardiff City and with Fulham. These two games are surely going to be at the very top of their respective gaffers’ priority list for it may, if things don’t go fruitfully at the start of the season, turn into a possible relegation 6 pointer. Despite it being nowhere near the season’s end, it does have the potential to define whether or not the club can sustain its stay in the English top flight for over a season.
The torrid Christmas spell offers respite after the fixtures on New Year’s Day, following which action resumes after an 11 day gap.
Key Encounters, with prospective dates (Subject to rescheduling due to broadcasting constraints):
- December 1st, Arsenal v/s Tottenham
- December 1st, Liverpool v/s Everton
- December 5th, Man United v/s Arsenal
- December 8th, Chelsea v/s Man City
- December 15th, Liverpool v/s Man Utd
- December 29th, Liverpool v/s Arsenal
- January 1st, Man City v/s Liverpool