Four of Europe’s five major soccer leagues are off for the holidays, but given the squeeze COVID-19 has put on the international calendar, those breaks will be shorter than normal with Spain’s La Liga returning next week and Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A resuming play next weekend. France’s Ligue 1 will take the longest vacation, pausing two weeks until Jan. 6.
That leaves the spotlight this weekend on the English Premier League, which will play 20 games between now and the new year, beginning with the traditional Boxing Day slate of matches Saturday.
The most interesting of the six will see Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea (7-3-4), which has lost its last two on the road, travel to Emirates Stadium to face an Arsenal side (4-8-2) that hasn’t won a league game since Nov. 1 (Ch. 4, Universo, 9:30 a.m. PST). For Chelsea, a win could carry it to second in the table. Arsenal has slid to 15th, leaving the Gunners closer to relegation than to the top of the table. With eight losses in 14 games, Arsenal is just two losses shy of matching its second-highest total in the last 14 seasons.
Later Saturday, Manchester City (6-2-5), which has fallen once in all competitions since Sept. 27, plays host to mid-table Newcastle United (5-5-3), which has won just once this month (NBCSN, Universo, noon PST). Despite its hot streak, City — which has conceded just a goal in its last five league games — has spent only a week among the top seven since September.
On Sunday, league-leading Liverpool (9-1-4) and Mohamed Salah, the EPL’s top goal scorer, face relegation-bound West Bromwich (1-9-4) at Anfield (NBCSN, Telemundo, 8:30 a.m. PST).