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Premier League: Who has the toughest Christmas schedule?

With three Premier League games played in a week over the Christmas period, it can be a pivotal time of the season for many clubs.

Leicester and Watford are proving to be just two of the surprise packages in the Premier League this season and as Chelsea and Manchester United continue to under-perform, it's been an unpredictable first half of the season.

With the games coming thick and fast over the next few weeks, who has the trickiest Christmas? We've taken the average current league position of each team's three opponents to work it all out…


December 26, Crystal Palace (h): 6th

December 28, Arsenal (a): 2nd

January 2, Leicester (a): 1st

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Average opponent position: 3

According to our averages, Bournemouth have the toughest Christmas schedule. However, Eddie Howe's side can take confidence from the fact they have won their last three games, following up victories over Chelsea and Manchester United with a 2-1 win at West Brom. Away trips to Arsenal and Leicester will surely prove tough tests, particularly with striker Josh King likely to be joining Callum Wilson in the physio room with a hamstring injury.

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Sky Bet's Christmas specials

Find out what odds Sky Bet give each Premier League side of winning all three games here.


Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink waves to supporters
Image: Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink takes charge of his first game on Boxing Day

December 26, Watford (h): 7th

December 28, Man Utd (a): 5th

January 3, Crystal Palace (a): 6th

Average opponent position: 6

Guus Hiddink will take charge of Chelsea for the first time since 2009 when they face Watford at home on Boxing Day. The Dutchman's first priority will be to get fans back onside after the Jose Mourinho fallout was more than evident in Chelsea's 3-1 win against Sunderland on Saturday. Supporters will want maximum points from the next three matches to start climbing away from the relegation zone.  

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December 26, Chelsea (a): 15th

December 28, Tottenham (h): 4th

January 2, Man City (h): 3rd

Average opponent position: 7.3

Watford have the third-toughest Christmas schedule in the Premier League as they face two teams in the top four and defending champions Chelsea. But the Hornets have won their last four matches and the partnership between Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney has continued to impress.

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December 26, West Brom (h): 13th

December 28, Crystal Palace (a): 6th

January 2, Man Utd (a): 5th

Average opponent position: 8

Swansea look set to enter the Christmas period without a manager, meaning Alan Curtis will likely remain in charge for a third match in a row. His aim will be to get Swansea, who have not won since October, back up the table. But the Swans face a tough run of fixtures including trips to Crystal Palace and Manchester United.


Georginio Wijnaldum of Newcastle United celebrates as he scores their second goal during the Premier League win over Liverpool
Image: Georginio Wijnaldum and Newcastle face trips to West Brom and Arsenal

December 26, Everton (h): 10th

December 28, West Brom (a): 13th

January 2, Arsenal (a): 2nd

Average opponent position: 8.3

Newcastle were unable to make it three wins in a row as they were held to a 1-1 draw with bottom-placed Aston Villa last Saturday. Steve McClaren's team are just two points off the relegation zone as it stands and face a couple of away trips over Christmas after hosting Everton on Boxing Day.


Koeman says Southampton are in a difficult situation
Image: Ronald Koeman will want to see an improvement from his team over Christmas

December 26, Arsenal (h): 2nd

December 28, West Ham (a): 8th

January 2, Norwich (a): 16th

Average opponent position: 8.7

Manager Ronald Koeman was far from happy with his side's display against Tottenham as they were beaten 2-0 at St Mary's. However, Saints have the opportunity to return to winning ways against Arsenal on Boxing Day before trips to West Ham and Norwich. A successful run of form could see them climb back into European contention.

Leicester City

Jamie Vardy breaks the Premier League record by scoring in 11 successive games - to put Leicester 1-0 up against Manchester United
Image: Jamie Vardy will be key to Leicester's Christmas campaign

December 26, Liverpool (a): 9th

December 29, Man City (h): 3rd

January 2, Bournemouth (h): 14th

Average opponent position: 8.7

Leicester are flying at the moment as they sit top of Premier League, but will the run last? Their fine form will be put to the test on the road at Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, followed by home ties against Manchester City and Bournemouth. Liverpool are winless in their last four matches so a response will be expected from Klopp. The Foxes then take on two possession-oriented sides in Man City and Bournemouth so they may look to keep their explosive counter-attacking approach going.

Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini
Image: Manuel Pellegrini will be preparing his side for games against surprise packages Leicester and Watford

December 26, Sunderland (h): 19th

December 29, Leicester (a): 1st

January 2, Watford (a): 7th

Average opponent position: 9

City face two of the league's biggest surprise packages in their next three fixtures as they travel to leaders Leicester and then go to Watford, who are just one point off the Champions League places. They will be hoping to bounce back from their defeat to Arsenal with a home win over struggling Sunderland on Boxing Day.


Philippe Coutinho
Image: Philippe Coutinho and Liverpool must travel to Sunderland and West Ham

December 26, Leicester (h): 1st

December 30, Sunderland (a): 19th

January 2, West Ham (a): 8th

Average opponent position: 9.3

Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool's 3-0 loss to Watford as "the most disappointing moment of my Liverpool life". He will be looking for a response against league leaders Leicester, struggling Sunderland and West Ham, who are making a bid for Europe. Liverpool have not won in their last four matches, and Klopp will want to ensure the "revolution" gets back on track quickly.

Stoke City

Stoke playmaker Bojan Krkic has been linked with a move away from the Potteries
Image: Stoke playmaker Bojan Krkic will aim to inspire his side at Man Utd on Boxing Day

December 26, Man Utd (h): 5th

December 28, Everton (a): 10th

January 2, West Brom (a): 13th

Average opponent position: 9.3

A home tie against Manchester United followed by Everton and West Brom on the road makes for a tricky group of fixtures. Mark Hughes' team has dazzled going forward in some games, particularly in their 2-0 win against Manchester City on December 5, but have not won in their last two matches. Stoke will want to kick off their Christmas campaign by piling more misery on Louis Van Gaal at the Britannia Stadium.


Sunderland defenders John O'Shea and Younes Kaboul
Image: Sunderland will be looking to climb away from the relegation zone over Christmas

December 26, Man City (a): 3rd

December 30, Liverpool (h): 9th

January 2, Aston Villa (h): 20th

Average opponent position: 10.7

It's been a mixed campaign for Sam Allardyce since he took charge of Sunderland in late October and a trip to Aston Villa on January 2 looks key after clashes with Manchester City and Liverpool. Avoiding relegation is clearly the target for Sunderland this season, and Allardyce will want a response from his side after three losses on the spin.

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December 26, Newcastle (a): 17th

December 28, Stoke (h): 11th

January 3, Tottenham (h): 4th

Average opponent position: 10.7

Everton have not won since November 21 and have dropped down to 10th place. Newcastle followed by Stoke and Tottenham makes up a combination of teams with different aspirations for the season. But with Everton currently six points off the last Champions League spot, at least two wins may change the complexion of the race to fourth.


LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22:  Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his teams third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between To
Image: Harry Kane and Tottenham travel to Watford and Everton

December 26, Norwich (h): 16th

December 28, Watford (a): 7th

January 3, Everton (a): 10th

Average opponent position: 11

Tottenham currently sit in fourth place but Manchester United and Crystal Palace are breathing down their necks with just goal difference separating the three clubs. Spurs' second game of the Christmas period is against Watford, who are just one point behind. It will make for interesting viewing to see if Tottenham's young side can thrive under the pressure.


Alexander Tettey and Martin Olsson of Norwich City celebrate their team's 2-1 win at Manchester United
Image: Norwich City will aim to build on their win over Manchester United

December 26, Tottenham (a): 4th

December 28, Aston Villa (h): 20th

January 2, Southampton (h): 12th

Average opponent position: 12

Norwich's disappointing last few weeks took a positive turn after a shock 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend. Aston Villa will be one game in particular that Alex Neil will want to get a result from but the United win may give them an appetite for another surprise result at White Hart Lane on Boxing Day.

West Ham

SUNDERLAND,UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 3:  Winston Reid of West Ham United  during the Barclays Premier League
Image: Winston Reid and West Ham United face Aston Villa, Southampton and Liverpool

December 26, Aston Villa (a): 20th

December 28, Southampton (h): 12th

January 2, Liverpool (h): 9th

Average opponent position: 13.7

West Ham have drawn their last four matches, but manager Slaven Bilic will be pleased to see some key players returning from injuries. Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll look set to make comebacks while Enner Valencia is expected to see more game time after an ankle injury. An away trip to Aston Villa could be a good opportunity for West Ham to start their Christmas schedule on the right foot.


Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match against Sunderland
Image: Olivier Giroud will be hoping to fire Arsenal to a successful Christmas campaign

December 26, Southampton (a): 12th

December 28, Bournemouth (h): 14th

January 2, Newcastle (h): 17th

Average opponent position: 14.3

Arsene Wenger will be pleased to see his Christmas schedule consists of three teams in the bottom half of the table, and with just one away game against a Southampton side who have not won since November 7. Bournemouth and Newcastle have both experienced an upturn in form recently but Arsenal underlined their title credentials with a win over Manchester City on Monday Night Football.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa players leave the pitch after the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Aston Villa at Goodison Park
Image: Aston Villa are ten points away from safety

December 26, West Ham (h): 8th

December 28, Norwich (a): 16th

January 2, Sunderland (a): 19th

Average opponent position: 14.3

Aston Villa's Premier League status is becoming increasingly under threat as they are 10 points away from safety. West Ham at home is a game Villa will be desperate to win, but trips to Norwich and Sunderland could also be key for Remi Garde's side.

Manchester United

Louis van Gaal
Image: Louis van Gaal faces tough games at Stoke and home to Chelsea

December 26, Stoke (a): 11th

December 28, Chelsea (h): 15th

January 2, Swansea (h): 18th

Average opponent position: 14.7

Van Gaal is under immense pressure after his side's home loss against Norwich extended Manchester United's winless streak to six games in all competitions. United's first chance to put the record right is away at Stoke, who have only beaten United once in Premier League history. Neither Chelsea nor Swansea were expected to be in their current league positions at the start of the season, and United will look to profit on their struggles as Van Gaal looks to ease the evident tension surrounding his position.

West Brom

Tony Pulis, Liverpool v West Brom, Premier League
Image: West Brom will be at Swansea on Boxing Day

December 26, Swansea (a): 18th

December 28, Newcastle (h): 17th

January 2, Stoke (h): 11th

Average opponent position: 15.3

West Brom have shown their competitive nature yet again this season under head coach Tony Pulis and will want to pick up points against two teams currently in a battle to avoid relegation. The Baggies are five points off Swansea in 18th place, and could distance themselves from the bottom three with a positive run of results over Christmas.

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Will West Brom and Palace reap the rewards from their runs? Add their players to your side here.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace celebrate
Image: Crystal Palace have enjoyed a successful first half to the season

December 26, Bournemouth (a): 14th

December 28, Swansea (h): 18th

January 3, Chelsea (h): 15th

Average opponent position: 15.7

Crystal Palace have been surprising critics again this season, sitting in sixth place with just goal difference separating them from fourth spot.  According to our averages, Palace have technically the most favourable run of matches since they are not facing a team any higher than 14th in the league.  

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