Arsenal will be hoping to keep their good form in the English Premier League going. The Gunners are currently five points clear at the top of the table and face West Ham at the Emirates in their first match since the World Cup. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: It’s back! After a six-week break to accommodate the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the English Premier League returns with seven Boxing Day fixtures including three feisty London derbies. Will the players be exhausted from their exertions at the global showpiece? Will they be more prone to injuries having not had sufficient enough recovery time? Will there be a significant advantage for those that did not travel to the Middle East at all? Well, we are about to find out.

Many feel that this second half of the season will be the Erling Haaland show and it is easy to see why. The Manchester City striker was not in Qatar because his country, Norway, did not qualify for the World Cup. So, the most potent attacker in the league has been sitting with his feet up, recharging his batteries. This will be a frightful thought for defenders. Just how will they stop the 22-year-old who already has 18 Premier League goals? With him fresh, fit and raring to go again, suffice it to say it will be very hard for them to stop him.

Argentina and French stars rested

It will be surprising to see his strike partner Julian Alvarez in action as he was a key member of Argentina’s winning squad. Also a doubt will be several other Argentinians including Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, Tottenham defender Cristian Romero and Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister. Similarly, French stars Raphael Varane and Hugo Lloris of Manchester United and Tottenham respectively who also played in the final will likely be rested. Chelsea could give more time off to their Moroccan star Hakim Ziyech who was central to their incredible efforts while his Croatian teammate Mateo Kovacic may also sit out.

Arsenal lost their main striker Gabriel Jesus to injury as the Brazilian damaged ligaments in his knee. That will be a big blow for Mikel Arteta whose side top the table with Man City breathing down their neck.

Here is a preview of all seven English Premier League fixtures:

Brentford vs Tottenham

The Bees will be buzzing following the news coach Thomas Frank has signed a contract extension. Brentford are sitting in 10th in the table and have already beaten both Manchester clubs. They have only beaten Tottenham twice in their 18 games against each other and those two wins came all the way back in the 1940s. Spurs will likely be without Lloris and Romero after both played in the World Cup final but coach Antonio Conte will hope striker Harry Kane isn’t suffering any mental anxiety after missing a penalty for England in the quarter-final clash against France.

Tottenham's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against Everton
Tottenham will be counting on Harry Kane to bang in the goals.

Southampton vs Brighton

The Saints are struggling badly this season having lost the most number of league matches so far. They face Brighton who have an impressive away record. In fact just Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle and the two Manchester sides have better records than them. Mac Allister will be a big miss but even still the Seagulls should still have enough to win this South Coast battle.

Leicester vs Newcastle

Newcastle will be seeking revenge for the 4-0 defeat in this fixture last season against the Foxes and with Eddie Howe’s side riding high in third spot, there looks to be only one winner. The Toon Army are hoping to remain in the Champions League spots come the end of the season and will have earmarked three points against Brendan Rodgers’ strugglers.

Crystal Palace vs Fulham

Crystal Palace are unbeaten in their last five games against Fulham and their last clash ended goalless. The Eagles can be very difficult to break down, while Fulham have already been involved in two 0-0 draws this season. Another draw looks to be on the cards unless Wilfred Zaha or Alexander Mitrovic can provide some magic up front.

Everton vs Wolves

It will be a surprise if Goodison Park witnesses a classic Boxing Day clash was with Wolves, now under new management with Julen Lopetegui, the lowest scorers in the Premier League this season with just 8 goals in 15 games. The Toffees aren’t faring much better with just 11 goals and although Wolves beat Everton 2-1 and 1-0 last season it will be a shock if the bottom club gets three points here. A draw appears the most likely result.

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Everton manager Frank Lampard needs a positive result against fellow strugglers Wolves.

Aston Villa vs Liverpool

Martinez will be rested and worryingly his replacement for Villa, Robin Olsen, has conceded 8 goals in his two appearances this season. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, who has enjoyed a break and will be ready to go, will be licking his lips at the prospect of being on the scoresheet. Villa coach Unai Emery will try to make it hard but Jurgen Klopp’s side should secure three vital points as they try to close the gap on the top four.

Arsenal vs West Ham

Arsenal are top of the table and have a five-point lead from second placed Man City and they will feel they can keep their good run going against The Hammers. They are missing Jesus but his likely replacement has a solid record in London derbies. Five of Eddie Nketiah’s 26 goals for the Gunners have come against London clubs.