“It’s a period where I think only the brave can survive.” – Jose Mourinho.
Christmas time, the time of the year when you get with your family, have a lovely home cooked meal, share some presents and when the Premier League title heats up during England’s cold winter.
Get settled in folks as this Christmas period could be the most telling of all in the race to the title.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City are all within three points of each other, the first time the gap has been this close since the 1998-99 season, Manchester United’s treble winning season.
United ended up winning the League that season by a sole point over Arsenal, while Chelsea were only four points behind the champions in third place.
Don’t expect the same result this time around, with Manchester United, often labelled as the best team during a Christmas period, a whopping eight points behind the league leaders.
This time it is a different story.
Liverpool are on top, a point ahead of Manchester City and Arsenal, with Everton a point behind them and Chelsea one further back.
Although title honours will be claimed in May, this Christmas period could split the contenders from the pretenders. With some clubs playing four games in an eleven day period, there is no Christmas break.
While many pine for a white Christmas, it is not a sight football fanatics want to see. Back in 2010, more than ten games were postponed due to heavy snow. However forecasters are not scheduling much, if any, snow this Christmas.
It all begins this weekend with the highlight the match between Arsenal and Chelsea on Tuesday morning, in which Wenger and Mourinho will be pit against each other for the first time in the League this season after the Blues eliminated the Gunners from the League Cup.
Boxing Day sees another high profile clash as the League’s inform footballer Luis Suarez travels to the Etihad as Manchester City hosts Liverpool.
And just about when you think that’s it, Liverpool travel to Chelsea and Manchester United host Tottenham in another two mouth-watering fixtures.
The one top five team not mentioned in a major fixture is Everton. They face Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke in a seven day period starting boxing day after defeating Swansea 2-1 in their most recent outing. So they, too, have a difficult test ahead.
If in any season the Christmas period was set to have a big say in the title race, this is it.
The EPL Christmas period is a unique situation, something pointed out by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who has managed in Portugal, Italy and Spain, who all have a break after the weekend of fixtures before Christmas and resume in the New Year.
“At Christmas the accumulation of matches is so high. You must do it with a special group with a special mentality, enjoying the situation and forgetting you don’t have a Christmas like the Spanish players, the Italian players, the German players,” Mourinho said.
Strap yourselves in.