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Boxing Day: Top Premier League storylines — Can Leicester keep going?

Jamie Vardy, Leicester City FC

Jamie Vardy, Leicester City FC

Laurence Griffiths

Boxing Day is upon us, which means nine straight hours of Premier League action upon which to feast your eyes on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Of course, first you’ll have to wrestle the remote away from some non-soccer-loving family member who’s staying at your house through the weekend. Then begins your annual chance to make them the latest soccer convert.

Might we suggest the following storylines on which to sell them…

The gauntlet begins — can Leicester keep it up?

Leicester City’s next four league games line up as such: Liverpool away, home for Manchester City, home for Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur away. Not exactly a cakewalk stretch of the season, is it? If the Foxes can navigate the above period with nine — or dare we say, 10 — points, then they’re legitimate title contenders. If not, it could be the beginning of the unraveling, at which point they’ll do extremely well to hold onto a place in the top-four. That said, Claudio Ranieri’s side has won seven of its last eight league games, and has lost just once in the league all season. Leicester City Football Club: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Under new management, the Chelsea turn-around begins now

As soon as Jose Mourinho was gone, you could see his former Chelsea players putting in the kind of effort that helped the Blues win the PL title last season. That was under Steve Holland, first-team assistant coach. On Saturday, Guus Hiddink takes charge for a second stint as the club’s interim manager. Chelsea currently sit 11 points behind Tottenham for a top-four place. With 63 points still to play for, who’s willing to say they’ve got no chance at rescuing the season with an inspired run-in? Anybody? Anybody? Yeah, me neither.

[ MORE: Three things to look forward to on Boxing Day ]

Is LvG coaching for his job this weekend?

We’ll go out on a limb here and say that Louis van Gaal has had better weeks during his managerial career. First there was the loss to Norwich City, at home, followed by erroneous reports that he’d been fired by Manchester United, and then the now-infamous press conference on Friday when he walked out on the media after taking issue with their line of questioning. A loss to Stoke City on Saturday would, perhaps, seal his fate and see him join Mourinho, who might just be the man to replace him, in the unemployment line. Winless in four (two draws), the Red Devils currently sit fifth in the league table.

Back in the top-four, can Tottenham stay there this time?

Before Tottenham beat Southampton last weekend, the north London side had spent 475 consecutive days outside the PL’s top four places. Now, they’re back, and look to have more staying power than ever before. The spine is as solid as it’s ever been, there’s quality up and down the wings, and Harry Kane has proved he’s much more than a one-season wonder. Without a single “traditional” power club on their schedule for nearly two months (eight games), this is the key period of Spurs’ season, which will either culminate in their place in the UEFA Champions League, or be the period they look back on in May and say, “If only we hadn’t lost or drawn this game, or that game, or this game.”

[ MORE: Klopp says lack of winter break hurts England ]

Sunderland at home the perfect remedy for up-and-down Man City

Man City haven’t won back-to-back league games since the middle of October. For a side with title ambitions a title mandate, that’s not going to get the job done. The Blues next two games: Sunderland at home, Leicester away. They currently sit six points back of the Foxes, and four back of Arsenal, who by this time next week could very well be top of the league. Sunderland and Leicester are ideal opponents from a “let’s just get back on track” and “let’s really hurt someone very near to us in the table” perspective.

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