The Christmas period is a time of excess. Too much food, too much drink, and, if you ask Premier League managers, too many games.
The jam-packed festive fixture programme sees the games come thick and fast and often plays a major part in the season’s key narratives, at both ends of the table.
West Ham are hitting form at a crucial stage of the season, and a glance at the all-important festive fixture list shows the London club faces a trio of Premier League match-ups that could leave Hammers fans very happy indeed as they toast the New Year.
Here, we take a look at each game and highlight the reasons why West Ham and their fans should approach the Christmas match list with anticipation, not trepidation…
Watford (H), Saturday, December 22
While the Hornets and the Hammers find themselves in a similar spot in the Premier League, the Hammers are on the up, while Watford are trending downwards after a poor run of form.
As a game, it’s eminently winnable and, with West Ham winning three of their last four, scoring 10 goals in the process, the Hornets’ visit on December 22 should be a game Manuel Pellegrini earmarks as a must-win.
It’s a genuine mid-table six-pointer, West Ham are in better condition than Watford and their form is noticeably better. If Lukasz Fabianski and co can keep the Hornets quiet, the signs are good for a solid home win.
Southampton (A), Thursday, December 27
If the Watford game is to be filed under “Winnable” then the December 27 trip to Southampton should certainly join it.
The Saints have won just once this season heading into the festive period and haven’t won a single league game at their St. Mary’s home so far this season. It is their form that has left Southampton mired in the relegation zone and looking to bed in a new manager on the fly after replacing Mark Hughes with Ralph Hasenhuttl earlier this month.
And with the Hammers now in an excellent spell of form heading into Christmas, their visit to the south coast should hold no fears. Indeed, it should be a game where Pellegrini’s men can go out and attack with gusto and pick up three valuable points on the road.
Burnley (A), Sunday, December 30
If Burnley were last season’s surprise package in the Premier League, it’s fair to say that everyone in the division is no longer surprised.
Sean Dyche’s men, who produced a superb, sustained campaign last year that took them all the way to a seventh-place finish, have struggled badly, by comparison, this season and are hovering around that dreaded dotted line that marks the beginning of the Premier League drop zone.
Last season it was the Hammers who were looking nervously over their shoulders, but this year Burnley are right in the thick of it. Sitting just within the relegation places at the time of writing, the Premier League betting markets have the Clarets as the favourites to go down.
The Clarets’ form has seen them slowly dragged into a relegation dogfight, and they will be fighting hard when the Hammers visit on December 30. The question is, after a punishing festive spell of fixtures that see them face Spurs, Arsenal and Everton in quick succession, will the Clarets have enough gas left in the tank when Pellegrini’s side rolls up to Turf Moor?