The Premier League is about to go on its festive bender, with a boatload of games on the day after Christmas — Boxing Day, so to speak — and then a bevy of matches the following Sunday and New Year’s Day.
Before that, though, there’s the tiny matter of two perennial powers dueling on Sunday, right after one of the more angst-filled derbies in England.
It’s Liverpool/Arsenal and Newcastle/Sunderland. Set your alarms and get your breakfast ready.
Newcastle United vs. Sunderland – Live on NBCSN and Live Extra, 8:30 a.m ET
The ferocity of this match cannot be played down, so much so that both NUFC boss Alan Pardew and Sunderland leader Gus Poyet issued their biannual “calm down, guys” prematch messages to the fans.
Pardew should be most concerned, despite Newcastle’s fairly-rich vein of form. Not only is the English manager down to his third- and fourth-string goalkeepers for the derby, but his club has been, well, clubbed by Arsenal and Tottenham in the last week. Derby day brings out vitriol, so any good faith Pardew is bringing with him to St. James Park could disappear if he keeps up his miserable ways against the Black Cats. Tune in.
Liverpool vs. Arsenal – Live on NBCSN and Live Extra, 11 a.m ET
If there’s a bright side to Liverpool’s struggles, it’s that a big win can heap momentum on the moribund side. Although home field advantage against Arsenal is far from a sure thing. In fact, it’s the opposite; Arsenal’s record at Anfield in the past 7 Premier League match-ups is 1-3-3. The good news is that win came last season.
Meanwhile, the Gunners are trying to find consistency on the road, with a W-L-W-L-W-L record in their last six away from the Emirates Stadium. Their good news could be the impending P in the pattern, but we’ll find out on Sunday at 11.