Football Forensic: Previewing the top 5 matches to watch on Boxing Day

Jamie Vardy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Troy Deeney

GiveMeSport has partnered with FotMob to launch a brand new feature. Each week, we’ll be bringing you statistical previews of the top five matches taking place across Europe over the coming weekend.

Merry Christmas, everyone! The festivities are well and truly underway, and while many of Europe’s top leagues have shut up shop for their winter break, it’s business as usual for clubs in England, Scotland, and Turkey this weekend.

Just because the quantity of fixtures has been reduced, it doesn’t make the quality of them any less impressive, and there are some Boxing Day Christmas crackers taking place.

To help preview each match, we’ve enlisted the help of our favourite live score app, FotMob. They’ve provided the stats and we’ve provided the words, so let’s dive in.

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Leicester City vs Manchester United

Leicester City vs Manchester United preview

Competition: Premier League
Kick Off Time: 12:30pm GMT

Saturday kicks off with a huge clash in England’s top flight as second in the table host third. Leicester come into this one off the back of a very impressive victory against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. The Foxes took the lead through a Jamie Vardy penalty, Leicester’s ninth of the season — the most in the league — en route to a 2-0 win.

Manchester United are also in sterling form, and must be full of confidence following their emphatic 6-2 victory over Leeds United. Midfielder Scott McTominay scored the fastest brace in Premier League history that day and generally had a huge influence on proceedings, earning a man of the match rating of 9.2/10.

The head-to-head record favours the Red Devils in this one, with United having got the better of Leicester in the clubs’ last four encounters. However, the Foxes do boast a superior defensive record, conceding an average of 1.2 goals per match in comparison to United’s 1.6.

If United are to crack Leicester’s stubborn backline, it’s highly likely that Bruno Fernandes will play a key role in it. The Portugal international has contributed nine goals and five assists already this campaign, and Wilfred Ndidi will have a big job on his hands when trying to keep United’s creative hub quiet.

Rangers vs Hibernian

Rangers vs Hibernian preview

Competition: Scottish Premiership
Kick Off Time: 12:30pm GMT

Could we finally be about to see the end of Celtic’s dominant reign in Scotland? Rangers have come out the blocks flying this season, storming into a huge lead at the top of the Premiership, and now sit 16 points ahead of their bitter rivals at the top of the table.

Steven Gerrard’s side have been magnificent, winning 16 and drawing two of their 18 league matches so far this season. They also boast a colossal goal difference of 45, and topped their Europa League group over Portuguese giants Benfica. A huge part of their success has been down to the sensational form of James Tavernier; from right-back, the defender has clocked up an astounding 17 goals in all competitions so far.

Hibs have reasons to be confident, though. For starters, they’re undefeated in their last eight matches, winning six, and are responsible for one of Rangers’ only two draws this season. Indeed, Hibs currently sit in fourth, one point off Celtic in second, and will be hoping that Edinburgh gets the better of Glasgow this Saturday.

It’s clear the home side are the favourites here. Rangers’ 44 big chances created this season is almost double the amount of Hibernian’s (24), and that’s duly been converted into goals — 2.8 per match compared to Hibs’ 1.6. FotMob users have overwhelmingly predicted a Rangers victory, too, with 76 per cent opting for a Gers win.

Trabzonspor vs Galatasaray

Rangers vs Hibernian preview

Competition: Süper Lig
Kick Off Time: 4:00pm GMT

Last season was the first time in nine years that the Süper Lig wasn’t won by one of Galatasaray, Beşiktaş or Fenerbahçe. The championship may have stayed in İstanbul — with İstanbul Başakşehir claiming their maiden title — but it was a sign that things may be changing.

23-time champions Galatasaray are currently level on points with league leaders Alanyaspor and sit in second, while Trabzonspor trail them in eighth, six points off the pace. Trabzonspor got the better of Saturday’s opponents when the sides met in July, winning 3-1 away from home, and will look to Stoke City loanee and their joint top scorer Benik Afobe to provide the knock-out blow come Boxing Day.

Galatasaray suffered a shock defeat to Fatih Karagümrük earlier in December, but are generally in good form, winning the other four of their most recent five fixtures. Algeria international and former West Ham player Sofiane Feghouli is his side’s main danger man, with three assists in 11 matches and an average match rating of 7.17/10 this season.

With Trabzonspor playing at home and being undefeated in their last seven league matches, we’re expecting this to be a close encounter, and so too are FotMob users: Galatasaray just shade the predictions, with 35 per cent of fans going for an away win.

Arsenal vs Chelsea

Arsenal vs Chelsea preview

Competition: Premier League
Kick Off Time: 5:30pm GMT

The big Boxing Day derby comes from London in the form of Arsenal hosting Chelsea. It’s fair to say the Gunners are in freefall at the moment, having lost five of their last seven Premier League matches and come into this one off the back of being knocked out of the League Cup on Tuesday night 4-1 at the hands of Manchester City.

Boss Mikel Arteta is in big trouble. His side have one scored more than once in a league match three times this season, and with goals flying in at the other end of the pitch, there are growing concerns that Arsenal may actually get pulled into a relegation dogfight.

In the Blue corner, Chelsea bounced back from consecutive defeats to comfortably see off West Ham 3-0 last Monday. Tammy Abraham netted a brace that night, providing Frank Lampard with the enviable headache of who to start down the middle out of Abraham and Olivier Giroud this Saturday.

Chelsea are big favourites to bring Christmas joy back to West London here. They better Arsenal in almost every statistical metric, and will be looking to break their way back into the top four by way of three points.

Watford vs Norwich City

Watford vs Norwich City preview

Competition: Championship
Kick Off Time: 7:45pm GMT

In news that will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, Watford changed managers again last week. Having decided head coach Vladimir Ivic was no longer the flavour of the month, the Hornets have got a new man in the dugout by the name of Xisco Munoz.

Xisco, a former Valencia, Levante and Real Betis winger, will take charge of his first match on Boxing Day as Watford square off against the Championship’s pace setters, Norwich City. The Canaries are flying, and come into this one off the back of five league wins on the bounce.

Emi Buendía was lauded for his performances in the Premier League last season, but if there was one criticism of the attacking midfielder, it was his lack of goals. He’s since put that right, scoring three in Norwich’s last four games, and earnt an 8.9/10 man of the match rating in their most recent 2-0 victory over Cardiff.

Watford have been a bit up and down, but remain in the playoff positions in fifth. Both them and Norwich have been awarded the most penalties of any side in the league this season — six for Norwich, five for Watford — so don’t be surprised if the referee points to the Vicarage Road spot under the lights on Saturday night.

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