By Ray Hamill
It’s time to call in sick, take a long lunch break, or find find some other creative way to get out of work for a couple of hours, because this week features a rare mid-week round of action from the English Premier League.
It is, in fact, the beginning of a busy and crucial period in the EPL, with nine rounds of games between now and New Year’s Day.
And that will go a long way toward deciding may of the key battles.
While other leagues in Europe take it easy around the holidays, some even shutting down for several weeks, the EPL has always taken the opposite approach, and much to the dismay of many a manager, each team faces a brutally busy schedule every December.
That’s a part of the tradition in the EPL, and whether the managers like it or not, it’s also the period where titles are won and lost, where all-important points can be gained in the race for the coveted Champions League spots, and where teams can climb clear of the relegation zone, or, just as frequently, fall right back down there again.
None of the big six play each other this week, although Manchester United face a tricky trip on Tuesday to an in-form Watford side that has posted impressive back-to-back wins to move into the top eight.
Tottenham, which has won just one of its past five domestic games, also faces a tough trip to Leicester City on Tuesday, while Liverpool will travel to Stoke City on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, leaders Manchester City will look to remain unbeaten for the campaign when the Sky Blues host Southampton, while Arsenal and Chelsea host Huddersfield and Swansea, respectively.
Get ready EPL fans, it’s going to be a whirlwind of a ride the next few weeks.