Will it be a make or break month for your Premier League club this December?
By Michael Hincks
Last Updated: 30/11/17 8:01pm
December brings with it a feast of football on Sky Sports, but will it be a make or break month for your Premier League club?
With seven rounds of fixtures and 19 games live on Sky Sports Premier League, a crucial period awaits for those battling at both ends of the table.
At the top, Manchester City will look to extend their eight-point lead, while at the bottom, just six points separate 20th-placed Crystal Palace from 12th-placed Newcastle.
The Premier League rarely serves up easy fixtures, and a lot can happen in four weeks of football. Here, Michael Hincks looks at December's gone by and key matches to come as clubs look to build momentum going into 2018.
December can often be the month when eventual Premier League champions stamp their authority on the title race.
Last season's winners Chelsea headed into December 2016 just one point clear of Liverpool and Manchester City, and three above Arsenal.
But the Blues went on to sweep every club aside that month, winning all six matches to end the year six points ahead of Liverpool, nine clear of Arsenal and 10 above both City and Tottenham.
In a matter of weeks, Antonio Conte's side tightened their stranglehold on the league. This time around, it will be all eyes on City, to see if they can do likewise.
Having opened up an eight-point gap over Manchester United, many believe the sky blue ribbon can be wrapped around the trophy already, but Pep Guardiola will no doubt highlight last season's December struggles as a cautionary tale for his players.
For while Chelsea took a maximum 18 points, City claimed just nine, suffering three of their six defeats in one month to leave themselves 10 points behind Chelsea and all-but out of contention.
Manchester City's last title triumph in 2013/14 saw them win six and draw one in December 2013.
On this occasion, a similar slip-up would merely allow the stragglers to catch up, but having lost to Chelsea 12 months ago, and drawn with eventual champions Leicester the year before that, City know too well that this busy period can have a huge say on where the title ends up.
City fans will have pencilled December 10 into their diary ever since Sky Sports announced last month that a bumper Nissan Super Sunday - which also features the Merseryside derby - would conclude with City taking on Manchester United.
With Guardiola's men travelling to Old Trafford, it will serve up their greatest test of the season to date, and could allow for a momentum shift should they fall to a first loss of the season.
Tottenham's defeat to Arsenal two weeks ago is a reminder of how such meetings can have a knock-on effect, and United will be aware that a morale-boosting victory over their city rivals could mean more than just bragging rights in Manchester.
December 10 also sees Liverpool play host to Everton. For contrasting reasons, both clubs will be desperate to put points on the board.
Liverpool are once more in a fight for a Champions League spot, and with three Soccer Saturday pundits believing the Reds will fall short, Jurgen Klopp will target a winning run this December to silence the doubters and strengthen their claim for a top-four finish.
Everton meanwhile will hope a derby-day victory at Anfield can boost their hoped-for revival under Sam Allardyce, who has been tasked with turning around their poor start to the season.
That role also falls to Alan Pardew at West Brom, who happens to begin his tenure at Crystal Palace this Saturday, having been sacked by the Eagles three days before Christmas last year.
Both managers are undoubtedly jumping in at the deep end. The prospect of a busy festive period means they will have to learn the ropes at their new clubs quickly, or face the prospect of slinking further down the table. However, they will not be the only managers under pressure.
'Tis the season for managerial sackings, or so the stats would suggest.
During all Premier League seasons, November has proved to be the most prolific month for managerial causalities - 33 since 1992 - but in the past 10 campaigns, December has seen the most changes, 16 in all.
It's a notoriously twitchy time for chairmen, who cannot bear the thought of being bottom at Christmas, but with five managers departing already, will we see any more leave their post before the year's end?
Paul Clement is facing increased scrutiny at the Swansea City helm. Five points from their last 11 games has left the club 19th in the table, and while leaders City are to come in December, the Swans face a crucial couple of games against Stoke and West Brom - expect to see 'six-pointer' come into use frequently this month.
Swansea's meeting with Stoke also comes with Mark Hughes enduring a torrid time with the Potters. They host Swansea on the back of a four-game winless run, and could be dragged further into trouble if they lose that key contest.
The meeting will be one of many crucial relegation battles this December, and with 21 points on offer, there are plenty of opportunities to bring in the New Year in a much-safer position.
It's set to be a tense - but thrilling - month at both ends of the Premier League table.