Rejoice soccer fans: Premier League’s “Festive Season” is upon us

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Boxing Day marks the start of a packed EPL schedule

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Just when we thought we could sleep in after the exhilarating World Cup, along comes the annual Premier League Boxing Day matches to keep us on our toes. Five of the top eight teams will play on Dec.26, beginning with Tottenham vs. Brentford at 7:30 a.m. EST. As many will recall back when the NHL still sent players to the Winter Olympics, the EPL club rosters will look a little off as players recover from national team duties. Here’s a preview of what to expect from the current top five of the table.   

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Arsenal F.C. (+250 to win Premier League*)

Oddsmakers aren’t convinced Arsenal can maintain its torrid pre-WC pace which saw the Gunners take 37 of a possible 42 points to start the campaign. Gabriel Jesus’ knee injury in Qatar required surgery and has the 5-goal, 6-assist striker sidelined for at least ten weeks of rehab. Emile Smith Rowe, beset with a groin injury, is also unlikely to see time. After five weeks of rest, star defender Oleksandr Zinchenko is expected back in the starting eleven.  

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Manchester City (-228)

Manchester City sent an impressive 16 players to Qatar but arguably their biggest asset, Norway’s Erling Haaland, remains very well-rested prior to a warm-up camp in Abu Dhabi last week. The Premier League Golden Boot frontrunner (23 goals in 18 matches) must be chomping at the bit to play a meaningful game again. Just who he steps on the pitch with this Wednesday against Leeds United is TBD. Early WC exits by Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan bode well for City, while World Cup champion Julian Alvarez is out.

Newcastle United (+3400)

Nobody expected Newcastle to gather 30 points so soon, even with an infusion of cash from the Saudi Arabian ownership. Unlike Man City, the five Newcastle players who travelled to the World Cup saw limited time. Goalkeeper Nick Pope should be eager to show why he deserved a start in Qatar. The Magpies face a tough remaining schedule and their Leicester City match on Boxing Day will offer quick insights into whether they’ve maintained their winning form.

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Tottenham Hotspur F.C. (+6900)

The Spurs sent eleven players to Qatar and their script read like a Shakespearean play. The cast may look a little depleted this Monday. Argentinian national Christian Romero returns a conquering hero, having cleared the back lines beautifully in the final. He’ll need some time to recuperate. French keeper Hugo Lloris was last seen sprawled out after failing to stop any Argentine penalties, and will also need some time, as will Croat Ivan Perisic. This leaves Harry Kane, who has likely gathered himself together after his woeful late penalty attempt to play with still more resolve against Brentford on Boxing Day.  

Manchester United F.C. (+6900)

Like Tottenham, oddsmakers see Liverpool (+3400) with a greater chance to hoist the Premier League Trophy than the resurgent fifth-place Red Devils. Manager Erik ten Hag will eagerly await the return of France’s Raphaël Varane at center back and Argentine Lisandro Martinez, who was sat for the World Cup final but is likely still awash in celebratory champagne. World Cup participants Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, and Fred may not have made it to the final, but they’ll have extra motivation on Tuesday against Nottingham Forest, having all recently signed one-year extensions with their club. Diogo Dalot also signed a new contract but was injured in Qatar.

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*All odds from Bet99 Sportsbook at time of writing & are subject to change.

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