Conte, Guardiola brace for Boxing Day baptisms

Afp, London

26 December, 2016 12:00 AM printer

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte and his Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola are among the Premier League managers who will sample England’s Boxing Day football extravaganza for the first time on Monday.


While the rest of the population gorges on Christmas turkey dinners and knocks back festive drinks, 16 teams will be gearing up for matches as part of a custom that stretches back over 150 years.


With Chelsea six points clear at the summit and chasing a 12th consecutive win, which would set a new club record, Conte is approaching the visit of Bournemouth with a spring in his step.


“This is the first experience for me and my family, to work, to play football (at this time of year),” said the Italian.


Guardiola, too, is full of festive cheer following his side’s 2-1 comeback win over Arsenal last weekend, which left City seven points below Chelsea in third place.


While the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach appreciates the novelty of Christmas football, he is preparing for his side’s match at bottom club Hull City by pretending it is a regular fixture.


Arsenal slipped to fourth, nine points off the pace, after their loss at the Etihad Stadium, which followed hot on the heels of a 2-1 defeat at Everton.


Arsene Wenger’s side welcome West Bromwich Albion to the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day and centre-back Gabriel says his side cannot afford to be distracted by seasonal excitement.


Jose Mourinho has long been an avowed admirer of England’s Boxing Day traditions and with his Manchester United team chasing a fourth straight win, he is relishing the prospect of Sunderland’s visit.


“I love it!” Mourinho told MUTV. “I know that the family miss something from us, but the family loves us.”


Sunderland manager David Moyes will return to Old Trafford for the first time since he was sacked by United in April 2014.


Champions Leicester City will hope to give their supporters some Christmas cheer when they host Everton in a repeat of the fixture that preceded last season’s title coronation.


Top of the table last Christmas, Claudio Ranieri’s men are three points above the relegation zone after winning just one of their last eight games.


Two points back in 17th place, Palace begin life under new manager Sam Allardyce — appointed as the successor to Alan Pardew on Friday — with a trip to Watford.


Liverpool, second, host Stoke City on Tuesday, with fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur visiting Southampton the following day.

 


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