Will Leicester be the first team to beat Liverpool in the Premier League?

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho reacts to the racist incidents plaguing football by saying that the sport needs help, but so does society.

Posted: Dec 25, 2019 10:50 AM
Updated: Dec 25, 2019 10:50 AM

Like eating turkey leftovers, Boxing Day football is a tradition in the UK.

While every other major football league is on holiday, the Premier League offers up a feast of fixtures as part of its busy holiday schedule.

And if you intend to sit in front of your TV and watch as much of the nine games as you can Thursday, the good news is staggered kickoffs -- 12.30 p.m., 3 p.m., 5.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. UK time.

Here are five storylines, starting with the recently crowned club world champions.

Can Leicester stop Liverpool?

It's a battle of the top two in the late kickoff, which usually at this time of the season makes for compulsory viewing. But with Liverpool holding a massive 10-point lead over surprising Leicester -- with a game in hand -- even a loss wouldn't appear to be overly concerning for the high-flying Reds.

Already winning the UEFA Super Cup in August, Liverpool triumphed at the Club World Cup last weekend by overcoming Brazil's Flamengo.

The biggest priority for Liverpool, however, is the Premier League and a first league title since 1990.

Liverpool, remarkably, is on pace to amass 109 points, which would eclipse last season's highly impressive tally of 97.

Mohamed Salah is back in form with four goals in his last three games in the league and Champions League, while another member of the potent front three, Sadio Mane, could be the player of the season.

Another contender is speedy Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, who leads the division with 17 goals.

Leicester -- coached by former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers -- has lost this season to Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, although all those games were on the road.

If Leicester upsets Liverpool, it would be Liverpool's first league loss since January 3 against Manchester City.

Spurs play after alleged racial incident

Spurs host Brighton in the early kickoff in the first game since Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger said he was racially abused at Tottenham's stadium on Sunday.

Tottenham launched an investigation -- it said its findings so far were inconclusive -- and the British government said it's ready to get involved if football authorities fail to eradicate racist behavior at matches.

Alleged incidents have occurred at other stadiums in England as well as elsewhere in Europe.

Tottenham's 2-0 loss stopped the team's momentum under new manager Jose Mourinho -- a win would have sent Spurs inside the top four.

Chelsea outplayed Tottenham even before the straight red card shown to Son Heung-Min in the second half for kicking out at Rudiger.

Son is set to miss three games, depriving Tottenham of arguably its top player this campaign.

Ancelotti's Everton debut

He's won the Champions League as a player and manager and coached the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Chelsea so it was seemingly a coup for Liverpool's more modest city rival, Everton, to sign Carlo Ancelotti on a four-and-a-half year contract.

Days before, he was fired at Napoli.

"I'm really excited," said Ancelotti. "This is a club with a lot of ambition, a great history."

Everton's caretaker manager, Duncan Ferguson, steadied the ship after the departure of Marco Silva, and Ancelotti's first game in charge is against Burnley, a team known for its aerial prowess, effectiveness on set pieces and solid defending.

In the future, Ancelotti hopes to lead 15th-place Everton -- which won its last trophy in 1995 -- to the Champions League.

"The goal is there to reach the Champions League or Europa League," he said. "Winning honors has to be the dream. I am here to try to do this."

Another debut for Arsenal's Arteta

The rebuilding job is still on at Arsenal and now Mikel Arteta takes over from fellow Spaniard Unai Emery.

A former Arsenal midfielder and most recently a key member of Pep Guardiola's coaching staff at Manchester City, Arteta -- unlike Ancelotti -- will be the head coach at a club for the first time.

The 37-year-old rejoins Arsenal at a time when the Gunners sit 11th, nine points outside the Champions League places, and have kept two clean sheets in the league since October.

Winning or challenging for league titles in the last decade, recent seasons have been more about trying to secure a Champions League spot.

Arsenal visits slumping Bournemouth on Thursday before Sunday's London derby against Chelsea at home.

"The ambition of this club is clear -- you have to be in Europe and fight for trophies," Arteta, who joined on a three-and-a-half year deal, said. "The rest is not good enough.

"I want people who deliver energy and passion to the club. Anyone who doesn't buy into this, has a negative effect or whatever, is not good enough for this environment and culture."

Pogba to start for Manchester United?

A World Cup winner with France, Paul Pogba is also a polarizing figure. While some Manchester United supporters want the midfielder to leave, others don't, and he has the clear backing of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Pogba came on in the second half of Sunday's 2-0 loss at last-place Watford after recovering from an ankle injury and illness that kept him out since late September and is thus pushing for a start against Newcastle at Old Trafford.

"Let's see how he reacts, how he feels," said Solskjaer. "He did really well when he came on, a big plus."

United's recent results mirror its topsy-turvy season.

Back-to-back wins over Manchester City and Tottenham in the Premier League were followed by a home draw against Everton and the loss to Watford, when goalkeeper David de Gea erred on the game's opening goal.

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Relegation threatened at the start of the season under former United defender Steve Bruce, three wins in the last four games have pushed Newcastle up to 25 points -- the same as the Red Devils.

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