David Moyes returns to Manchester United as Sunderland plot a shock

The ESPN FC crew discuss whether Chelsea will miss the suspended Diego Costa on Boxing Day.
The ESPN FC crew discuss whether Chelsea will miss the suspended Diego Costa on Boxing Day.

Merry Christmas! Boxing Day and the festive fixture schedule can help shape a team’s season and there’s plenty of action to get excited about.

Top billing is David Moyes’ return to Manchester United for the first time since his disastrous short spell as manager in 2013-14. Moyes will be looking to haunt his old club with Sunderland, who need points in their bid for Premier League survival.

Elsewhere, leaders Chelsea put their 11-match winning streak on the line at home to Bournemouth. Predict the outcome of all the results in our match polls. 

MAN UNITED: The return of Moyes should be a happy one for the supporters at Old Trafford. Moyes was a disaster at United during his ill-fated spell in charge and is now at struggling Sunderland, so this should be a home win. The results for Jose Mourinho’s men have started to match the performances and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba clicking, you would expect them to dominate here.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland Scott Patterson

SUNDERLAND: Despite four wins in seven for Moyes’ improving Sunderland, logic suggests a United victory. Moyes had left his post at Old Trafford by the time Gus Poyet’s side claimed a famous victory there in Sunderland’s 2014 great escape. The Scot must inspire the same spirit on Boxing Day. 
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Sunderland Colin Randall

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool have a generally good home record against Stoke and haven’t lost against anyone at Anfield for 11 months. The return to a fortress feeling has been very welcome and it’s hard to see how Stoke can breach it this time either.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Stoke — Steven Kelly

STOKE: Joe Allen will be hoping to continue his rich vein of form in front of goal when Stoke take on the side who deemed him surplus to requirements in the summer. Mark Hughes will need him — and perhaps a Christmas miracle — if he is to achieve his first Premier League win at Anfield as a manager.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Stoke James Whittaker

CHELSEA: Chelsea will face Bournemouth without outstanding midfield talent N’Golo Kante and goal machine Diego Costa. Despite the suspended duo being unavailable, manager Antonio Conte will be confident likely replacements Cesc Fabregas and Michy Batshuayi will be up to the task of helping the Blues maintain their impressive run of form with a 12th straight victory.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth Phil Lythell

BOURNEMOUTH: Bournemouth have had success against some of the Premier League’s stronger sides this season, like Liverpool and Tottenham, but leaders Chelsea are likely to be too much. Artur Boruc is going to have a busy afternoon in goal for the Cherries.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth Will Kent

HULL CITY: Manchester City have been vulnerable against the Premier League’s best sides but they ought to have too much for Hull City. Nevertheless, expect a relatively close contest. Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all had to work for their wins at the KCOM Stadium back in the autumn and it’s three unbeaten on home soil for the division’s bottom club.
Prediction: Hull 1-3 Manchester City Phil Buckingham

MAN CITY: Without a win since Nov. 6 and newly landed at the foot of the Premier League table, Hull have not chosen a good moment to face a City side beginning to wake from their slumber. A game pitting two sides going in opposite directions should see Pep Guardiola’s men make it three consecutive wins. 
Prediction: Hull City 1-3 Manchester City Simon Curtis

ARSENAL: There is only one acceptable response to two successive defeats and that is a victory at home to West Brom. Arsenal should be sufficiently energised to stop the rot and get their flagging title campaign back on track against a limited Baggies side.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 West Brom Tom Adams

WEST BROM: West Brom’s recent run of tough fixtures continues with a daunting trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal. For Tony Pulis’ side to get any festive cheer from the game, they will need to stop Arsenal’s midfield from functioning effectively, which means Claudio Yacob and Darren Fletcher will have big roles to play.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 West Brom  Matthew Evans

SOUTHAMPTON: Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is sure of a hostile welcome on his return to St Mary’s. Southampton were not in good form before their confidence-boosting south coast derby win at Bournemouth, but Spurs will be a step up in quality.
Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Tottenham Alex Crook

TOTTENHAM: St Mary’s has been a happy hunting ground for Spurs in recent years and Pochettino will once again be looking to do his former club no favours. Yet despite 33 points from their opening 17 games, Spurs have looked anything but assured for much of the season. A draw looks to be the most likely result.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Tottenham John Crace

LEICESTER: Leicester should be well-equipped to claim maximum points at home to an indifferent Everton side who don’t travel especially well. It’s a chance for Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and maybe even someone like Leonardo Ulloa, who scored against Stoke, to step up and there’s no reason at home why the Foxes won’t find the firepower to claim three points.
Prediction: Leicester 3-2 Everton Ben Jacobs

EVERTON: There may not be a better time to play Leicester, who will be without suspended trio Jamie Vardy, Christian Fuchs and Robert Huth. But it could also be the right time to play Everton. A fifth successive away defeat beckons if the visitors cannot improve on a poor Merseyside derby performance and result.
Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Everton Luke O’Farrell

WATFORD: Crystal Palace are something of a bogey side for the Hornets, who are reeling from the news that midfield playmaker Roberto Pereyra could miss the rest of the season through injury. Supporters will be hoping that striker Isaac Success is fit enough to start the game with Watford’s woes in front of goal continuing. This is a game that both sides will be desperate to win, making a cagey encounter likely. 
Prediction: Watford 1-0 Crystal Palace — Mike Parkin

CRYSTAL PALACE: Crystal Palace must start to pick up wins if they are to show they’re aware of the threat of a relegation battle. A win at Watford would be a start and with the added goal threat of Loic Remy returning to the side, that’s what they’ll get.
Prediction: Watford 1-2 Crystal Palace  Rob Sutherland

BURNLEY: Middlesbrough have a decent record against the Clarets and Sean Dyche’s side need to maintain their strong home form as they are still struggling on the road. Burnley can edge this one and collect a sixth win at Turf Moor this season, but it is likely to be a very tight and nervy affair.
Prediction: Burnley 1-0 Middlesbrough  Jamie Smith

MIDDLESBROUGH: The old enemies from last season’s epic promotion campaign meet at last in the Premier League. Burnley will be buoyed by the return of Joey Barton but Boro are in good spirits after last week’s 3-0 home win against Swansea. Expect plenty of drama and for sparks to fly at Turf Moor.
Prediction: Burnley 1-2 Middlesbrough Catherine Wilson

SWANSEA: Cancelling Swansea’s Christmas party could be the latest minor gaffe from Bob Bradley to cost his team dear. His side are short of confidence and could use a festive reminder about the value of togetherness before Boxing Day brings West Ham to town. Swansea’s schedule gets tougher in January, and their chances for “easier” points are running out.
Prediction: Swansea 1-1 West Ham Max Hicks

WEST HAM: West Ham have been awful in their past two games but managed to win them both. The growing confidence — if not form — should produce another three points against Swansea. Football can be cruel so expect Andre Ayew to break his scoring duck against his old club.
Prediction: Swansea 0-1 West Ham  Peter Thorne

Merry Christmas to one and all. Will your side bring you some festive cheer? Have your say on your side’s Boxing Day clash by voting in our match polls and in the comments section below. 

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