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A festive feast of football lies in store on Boxing Day with just two points separating the top five as they head back out after Christmas.

Last Updated: 27/12/13 at 07:51

Luis Suarez: In fantastic form for Liverpool ahead of clash with Manchester City

Luis Suarez: In fantastic form for Liverpool ahead of clash with Manchester City

Man City meet Liverpool; Man Utd travel to Hull; West Ham face Arsenal

A festive feast of football lies in store on Boxing Day with just two points separating the top five as they head back out after Christmas.

Liverpool were able to claim the No.1 position after Arsenal could only draw with Chelsea in Monday Night Football, but it is all about finishing first at the end of the season and the title race is currently closer than ever.

It is so tight at the moment that Brendan Rodgers' Reds could drop to fifth if they lose to Manchester City, with Arsenal travelling to West Ham United, Chelsea hosting Swansea City and Everton at home to Sunderland.

Newcastle United are also very much in the running for a European spot ahead of their clash with Stoke City, while Tim Sherwood will be looking to celebrate the permanent contract he signed as Tottenham Hotspur manager with a win against West Bromwich Albion.

It is also a crucial period at the bottom of the table as Fulham prepare to visit Norwich City and Crystal Palace journey to Aston Villa, while Cardiff City will hope to put a turbulent time behind them against Southampton.

The action kicks off at lunchtime with Premier League champions Manchester United making the trip to the KC Stadium to face Hull City, in a game that can be seen live on Sky Sports 1HD. United have had to contend with criticism this season and are down in eighth place after an inconsistent start, but they remain just eight points off the summit and will be aiming for a third straight win, or fifth in all competitions. Former Red Devils captain Steve Bruce will be out to put a dent in that mini-revival, though, and his Hull side have proved tough to beat after drawing three in a row to consolidate a mid-table standing.

Boxing Day's heavyweight showdown pits together a couple of teams in scintillating form as Manchester City host Liverpool. Manuel Pellegrini's men have ruthlessly swept aside all their previous opponents at the Etihad Stadium and scored 35 goals in eight home games, including six against Spurs and Arsenal, but there were signs of defensive frailty in a 4-2 success at Fulham. Liverpool will be relishing the challenge and, in Luis Suarez, they have one of the most potent attacking weapons in world football at the current time. The Uruguayan was once again the inspiration behind Saturday's 3-1 victory at Cardiff as he took his goal tally for December to ten and extended the Reds' winning run to four games.

Frustrating

Arsenal are currently squeezed in just behind Liverpool on goal difference, a point better off than Man City, and can reassert their title credentials by beating West Ham. Arsene Wenger felt the Gunners deserved more than a 0-0 draw against Chelsea on Monday, a result which left his side without a victory in three games, and West Ham will hope they can be similarly frustrating. Sam Allardyce's men are just a point clear of the relegation zone after a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United extended their winless run to four matches.

Chelsea can keep the pressure on at the top by picking up three points against Swansea at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho admitted it was important not to lose to Arsenal and will have been delighted with his team's solidity at the Emirates Stadium, but a greater cutting edge will be required after a dour stalemate. Swansea are still striving to hit the heights of last season after a steady rather than spectacular first half to the campaign, with the weekend loss to Everton leaving them in 11th place.

Everton's triumph at the Liberty Stadium propelled them to within two points of first place and, with a friendlier-looking set of fixtures in the next few weeks, they have emerged as surprise challengers in Roberto Martinez's first season at the helm. They have been beaten just once in the league and there will be a lot of scrutiny once again on promising youngsters such as Ross Barkley as Sunderland visit Goodison Park. Bottom of the table at Christmas, history is against the Black Cats staying up, but Gus Poyet drew confidence from their recent Capital One Cup victory over Chelsea and will now want to build on Saturday's goalless draw against Norwich.

All eyes will be on the dugout as Tottenham welcome West Brom to White Hart Lane. Sherwood is the new man in charge of Spurs after signing a deal until 2015 and will be desperate to follow up a thrilling 3-2 win over Southampton which kept his side in touch with the leading pack. Emmanuel Adebayor was the star of the show at St Mary's with two goals and it will be down to interim Baggies boss Keith Downing to try and devise a plan to combat the striker. Downing was able to halt a four-match losing streak at the weekend as a 1-1 draw with Hull kept three points between Albion and the bottom three.

Impressive

Sixth-placed Newcastle are just four points off the Champions League places after an impressive run of six wins in their last eight games. Alan Pardew is convinced his French imports can cope with what will be for many of them their first experience of a gruelling Christmas schedule, and there were few signs of fatigue in a 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace. It will not be an easy task for the Magpies against Stoke, though, with the Potters moving into the top half of the table on Saturday after defeating Aston Villa 2-1.

It looked as though Malky Mackay's Cardiff reign was about to come to an end at the weekend after he was issued an ultimatum to resign or face the sack, but his dignified defiance and the widespread backing of fans convinced owner Vincent Tan to lift his threat. The Bluebirds performed admirably against Liverpool but still lost 3-1 and will be determined to get back on track and increase their four-point cushion over the drop zone. Southampton are the visitors to Wales and are without a win in six games, which has seen them slide back into mid-table.

There have been some encouraging signals for Fulham under Rene Meulensteen, but they remain in the bottom three ahead of Thursday's trip to Norwich. Having conceded four against Everton and Manchester City, Meulensteen has targeted the next few games as an opportunity to gain quick points. Norwich are six points clear of trouble after a decent spell before Christmas, when they defeated West Brom before drawing with Swansea and Sunderland.

Crystal Palace have just fallen back after an initial resurgence under Tony Pulis, having been beaten by Chelsea and Newcastle. A victory away to Aston Villa could lift them out of the relegation zone, with Paul Lambert's men on a three-match losing stretch and eager to push back towards the top half.

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Readers' Comments

I

f Klopp is available and willing to go there, they have to sign him up. Far better manager than Rodgers. The reason Liverpool fail in so many big games is the inflexible nature of their manager and his inability to find strikers who fit into his inflexible style of play. A feature of nearly every game that the team comes up short is the way the opposition midfield appears to overpower them. It's too easy.

Gab1965
Make Way For A Proper Genius, Brendan

B

est player award should not go to a player who's second best at all the importent categories (i.e goals, assists etc) just because his team is at the top. If you are not first you are last; if you're second you are the first loser ( looking at you Hazard). David De Gea for POTY.

mrbigstuff
Chelsea Not Worthy? Oh Please Stop It...

Y

ou can win five in a row or lose five in a row... Or in Carver's case you can win one in a row or lose five in a row.

black_waltz
Carver: I'm up to the job

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