There must have been something in the air over New Year’s weekend in 2011/12, with the four teams occupying the Champions League qualification spots all failing to emerge victorious in the Premier League. Yet whereas third-placed Tottenham Hotspur at least managed a draw against Swansea City, each of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City were unable to even pick up a point…
Boxing Day is a time for leftover turkey, sales at the shops and wild football matches. The wacky round of post-Christmas fixtures in 1963 has gone down in legend, with the division’s 20 teams sharing an astonishing 66 goals – a ludicrous tally which led to much questioning about just how many pigs in blankets the league’s defenders had demolished the day before.
The Boxing Day fixture list is widely seen as an intrinsic part of the English football calendar, with its continued presence in 2019 representing a rare nod to tradition.
Perhaps, though, the primary reason for its endurance is the widespread hope that a repeat of the 1963 edition cannot be too much further around the corner.
Tottenham 3-5 Manchester United, 2001
Spurs were in dreamland midway through this meeting at White Hart Lane, having established a 3-0 lead over the reigning champions thanks to goals from Dean Richards, Christian Ziege and Les Ferdinand.
The draw for the group stage of the 16th edition of the European Championship took place in Bucharest on Saturday, as the 20 already-qualified countries learned their fate. There are still four spots to be determined at next March’s play-offs, but we now know who the vast majority of sides will be playing in the first round of next summer’s pan-European competition.
In the end, it was all over rather quickly. Following a day of rumours suggesting that his position was under threat, Mauricio Pochettino parted ways with Tottenham late on Tuesday night. Just eleven hours later the club had confirmed that Jose Mourinho would be the man replacing the Argentinian at the helm.
Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City (September 2000)
In terms of determining the destination of the Premier League title, it can now be said that Liverpool vs Manchester City is the biggest game in English football. It was not always thus, however, but the two teams still played out an entertaining encounter in 2000 despite neither being anywhere near that season’s championship tussle.
Even in the immediate aftermath of Arsenal’s Europa League final defeat by Chelsea in May, this season felt decisive for Unai Emery. The Spaniard may be under contract at the Emirates Stadium until the summer of 2021, but a break clause inserted in his deal gives the club the right to pull the trigger at the end of the current campaign. Having failed to either win Europe’s junior tournament or finish in the top four of the Premier League last term, it is absolutely pivotal that Emery does one of the two this time around.
David Neres (Ajax)
Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong have departed the Amsterdam Arena for pastures new, but Ajax have otherwise kept the bulk of last season’s squad intact. A repeat of their 2018/19 achievements – a domestic double and a run to the semi-finals of the Champions League – is highly unlikely, but Erik ten Hag will fancy his side’s chances of progressing from an open group containing Chelsea, Valencia and Lille.
It is still early days but after four games of the Premier League season, Leicester City are the side who look best equipped to challenge the big six. Brendan Rodgers’ charges are third in the standings heading into this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, with two wins (against Sheffield United and Bournemouth) and two draws (against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea) representing a solid start to the new campaign.