Liverpool will end 2020 three points clear at the top of the Premier League but were left frustrated after a goalless draw with Newcastle United on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp's side monopolised possession and carved out the best opportunities at St James' Park, but against a spirited Newcastle side a winner eluded them.

Liverpool's front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all had chances, only to find Karl Darlow in inspired form in the Newcastle goal.

It was the first 0-0 between the sides since 1974 and left Liverpool three points ahead of second-placed Manchester United having played a game more.

Thiago Alcantara returned to Liverpool's squad for Wednesday's Premier League clash with Newcastle United following more than two months out.

The 29-year-old sustained a knee injury in the champions' 2-2 draw with Everton on October 17 and has not featured since.

He set a Premier League record on his debut in September when completing 75 passes in the 2-0 win over Chelsea - the most by a player to have played a maximum of 45 minutes since Opta started collecting full passing data at the start of 2003-04.

Thiago's average of 98 passes completed per 90 minutes in the Premier League this term is easily the most of any Liverpool player, with skipper Jordan Henderson (86.8) next on the list.

Despite Jurgen Klopp playing down talk of Thiago returning to action at St James' Park on the eve of the game, the midfielder was included as part of the Reds' 20-man squad.

Thiago, who has made just two appearances in all competitions since joining from Bayern Munich for £25million, was among Liverpool's substitutes.

Klopp made two changes from the 1-1 draw with West Brom on Sunday - Nat Phillips replacing the injured Joel Matip and James Milner coming in for the benched Georginio Wijnaldum.

Liverpool are unbeaten in seven Premier League games against Newcastle, winning each of the last five in a row - never have they won six on the spin in this top-flight fixture.

However, Newcastle are unbeaten in their past four home league meetings against reigning champions, winning two and drawing two.

The hosts showed just one alteration as Callum Wilson returned to the side in place of Miguel Almiron.

 

Lionel Messi's future has been the subject of much speculation but a reunion with Pep Guardiola is still very much in Manchester City's plans.

Messi has been disgruntled with his situation at Barcelona since the end of last season, despite head coach Ronald Koeman's insistence that his superstar captain is happy.

Four-time Champions League winner Messi unsuccessfully tried to force an exit in August, however there will be no legal clauses to stop him when his contract expires in June 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTED ON FIVE-YEAR DEAL

The City Football Group (CFG) is eyeing a 2021 swoop that will see Lionel Messi split time between their Premier League powerhouse Manchester City and MLS franchise New York City, according to the Telegraph.

A five-year contract could be offered to superstar Barcelona captain Messi, which includes three years in England, taking the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the age of 37, followed by an additional two more in the United States.

In an interview with Spanish TV channel La Sexta, Messi admitted his desire to one day play in the United States, a hint that City's proposal may be on his mind.

Thiago Alcantara is unlikely to travel to St James' Park for Liverpool's Premier League clash against Newcastle United as his recovery from a knee injury must not be rushed.

Thiago has made just two Premier League appearances this season, suffering his setback in a 2-2 draw with Everton on October 17, but he returned to first-team training last week.

Jurgen Klopp is not willing to take any risks, however, as Liverpool aim to return to winning ways at Newcastle following a disappointing 1-1 draw with struggling West Brom on Sunday.

"I like watching all my players play," Klopp told reporters.

"With Thiago, he had a few minutes until he got injured, so of course we are looking forward to that but it's not really likely he'll travel."

Liverpool's first game of 2021 sees them take on Southampton at St Mary's on January 4 before visiting Aston Villa in the FA Cup four days later.

Klopp said the severity of Thiago's injury, sustained in a challenge with Richarlison, has enforced a cautious approach to his return to action.

"He needs a few sessions," the manager explained. "He was out a long time after a really harsh challenge.

"There was a proper impact, nothing ruptured, nothing broken, but that still took time. We will not rush it, so I don't know [when he will be back]."

Jurgen Klopp will not let the frustrating draw with West Brom distort his impression of the Liverpool team he still regards as "a top group".

The champions have not had it all their own way this season, but they are top of the Premier League again as others scrabble to stay in touch.

After dominating the first half at Anfield against West Brom on Sunday, Liverpool's levels dipped and they had to settle for a 1-1 draw with their lowly visitors.

Klopp's side have not lost in the English top flight since the freakish 7-2 loss to Aston Villa on October 4, however, and they head to Newcastle United on Wednesday looking to end the year on a high note.

In their game prior to the West Brom clash, Liverpool had torched Crystal Palace 7-0 at Selhurst Park.

"I want to win more than anything else," Klopp said. "But I had to learn so early in life it doesn't happen all the time. That's completely fine.

"I like winning football games, especially when you deserve to win. To deserve to win [against West Brom] I thought we should have done more things. We ran a lot, we fought a lot, that's all okay but to do more of the right stuff. That's what I told the boys already, I'm not angry with them, that can happen.

"The boys are a top group. They were a top group after winning 7-0, they're a top group after drawing with West Brom, so that doesn't change.

"Maybe the perspective from outside changed, I can imagine that's immediately like this. I'm not a young manager anymore; I can judge these things in the right way.

"We're not happy about [the West Brom outcome], it's the opposite, but now it's over we cannot change that anymore, we can just make sure in the exact situation the same doesn't happen again."

Klopp spoke admiringly of Newcastle striker Callum Wilson and said Steve Bruce's side "have a couple of really good players", predicting a "tough challenge" on Tyneside.

Should Liverpool stumble again, the likes of Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City and Tottenham will take heart, but the Reds have a strong recent record against Wednesday's opponents, having won their last five Premier League battles.

Liverpool have never won six consecutive games against Newcastle in the top flight, and they may note the Magpies have developed a habit of raising their level for home games against reigning champions.

Newcastle have taken eight points (W2 D2) from their last four home games against teams in possession of the Premier League trophy, last losing at St James' Park to such a team when they went down 2-0 to Manchester City in August 2014.

Conversely, Liverpool can point to having won their final league game in each of the last six calendar years.

Klopp was waiting to see whether Thiago Alcantara might be pushing to return to the matchday squad for the trip to Tyneside, having been absent since suffering a knee injury in the 2-2 draw against Everton in mid-October.

"On Friday he trained the full session, but the session was a reduced session," Klopp said of the former Bayern Munich midfielder. "He has to be part of team training.

"It's not about doing one day of training with the team and then you can play Premier League football again. So it looks quite promising at the moment but I can't say more."

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Sergio Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, while Georginio Wijnaldum is set to decide his future.

Ramos, 34, is coming out of contract at Madrid at the end of the season.

With the defender yet to re-sign, he has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM KEEPING AN EYE ON RAMOS

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, according to the Evening Standard.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho worked with Ramos at Madrid between 2010 and 2013.

Ramos has been at the Spanish giants since 2005, winning five LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies among numerous other honours.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract at season's end, Wijnaldum is set to make a decision on his Liverpool future. Sky Sports reports the midfielder will decide this week whether to sign a new deal with the Premier League champions amid links to Barcelona.

- Diego Costa is set to leave Atletico Madrid, who are eyeing a replacement. Marca reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is best placed to replace Costa.

- Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha is again linked with a move. The Sun reports Serie A leaders AC Milan are chasing Zaha in January.

- Arsenal look set to be busy in January. The Sun reports the Premier League club want Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan in a £32million (€35.3m) move. Meanwhile, The Athletic says Arsenal are unlikely to rekindle their interest in Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar.

- Could Marcos Alonso be returning to Spain? The Independent reports Atletico Madrid are in talks to sign full-back Alonso on loan from Chelsea in January. Alonso has played just three Premier League games for Chelsea this season.

Liverpool and Tottenham each conceded late equalisers in 1-1 Premier League draws on Sunday.

Sam Allardyce, the last visiting manager to win a top-flight game at Anfield, frustrated the champions as West Brom claimed a point, before Wolves followed suit and pegged back Spurs.

West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion had also earlier drawn, with Leeds United the only winners on the day.

We reflect on the action using Opta data.
 

Leeds United 1-0 Burnley: Bamford makes it back-to-back wins

Patrick Bamford's 10th goal of the season gave Leeds their second straight home Premier League win as Burnley were beaten 1-0 at Elland Road.

It marked the first time since April 2004 - a month before their relegation - Leeds have won consecutive top-flight matches at home.

Bamford's goal - from the penalty spot - secured a first home win to nil in the Premier League since a year prior to that in April 2003.

Bamford reached double figures in his 15th Premier League game for Leeds, needing more only than Mark Viduka (nine matches) and Tony Yeboah (14) to reach that tally.

The controversial spot-kick award was the seventh against Burnley in 2020, behind only Tottenham (eight), while they have now won just one of their past seven Premier League matches against promoted sides (D3 L3).
 

West Ham 2-2 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls held again

Brighton are yet to lose to West Ham in the Premier League but could only take a point against the Hammers in a fourth meeting running.

After three straight wins in their first three clashes in the competition, Brighton have been held in each subsequent match, most recently in Sunday's 2-2 stalemate.

The Seagulls twice led as Neal Maupay ended his 649-minute drought with the opener before Lewis Dunk restored that advantage with his seventh top-flight goal - all of which have come from set-pieces.

But between those two efforts Ben Johnson became the youngest player to score in the Premier League for a David Moyes team since Adnan Januzaj in April 2014 and then Tomas Soucek nodded in the vital second equaliser, his fourth headed goal since his debut - tied with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Harry Kane for the most.
 

Liverpool 1-1 West Brom: Big Sam silences Anfield once more

Allardyce is still waiting for his first win in charge of West Brom but maintained his impressive Anfield run in the 1-1 draw at Liverpool.

The former England manager's past four visits to the home of the Reds have come with different sides (Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton and now West Brom) and he has not lost any of them (W1 D3).

The Baggies have similarly enjoyed themselves at Anfield of late, their three-match unbeaten run (W1 D2) the longest running stretch without defeat away to Liverpool.

It meant Liverpool, despite only dropping points twice in 34 home league matches, have already failed to win as many games in 15 top-flight games this season (six) as they did in the entirety of their title-winning 2019-20 campaign.

Sadio Mane's 69th Premier League goal for Liverpool - the joint-fifth most, alongside Luis Suarez - looked to have set the champions on their way to victory.

But Jurgen Klopp's men should have been aware of the threat of Semi Ajayi, who scored his eighth league header since the start of the 2018-19 season - trailing only Virgil van Dijk and Aaron Pierre (both nine) in this regard in England's top four tiers.
 

Wolves 1-1 Tottenham: Late pain again for men from the Lane

Tottenham dropped points to a late goal once again in the 1-1 draw with Wolves.

Leading after 57 seconds through Tanguy Ndombele - Spurs' 11th first-minute Premier League goal, one behind Chelsea's record - Jose Mourinho's side saw their winless run extended to four matches due to Romain Saiss' 86th-minute header.

Tottenham have now dropped nine points to goals in the final 10 minutes of matches this season, the most in the Premier League.

This increasingly familiar theme perhaps should have been anticipated as only Liverpool (45) and Manchester United (44) have earned more points from losing positions in the competition than Wolves (40) in the past three seasons.

Spurs paid for failing to build on their lead, attempting just one second-half shot; they have had 22 after half-time in their past seven matches, having mustered 18 in the final 45 minutes of the prior game against West Brom alone.

Pedro Neto supplied the corner from which Saiss scored and he was among seven Portuguese stars in the Wolves XI, a joint-record for the most non-English players from the same country in a Premier League line-up. Fulham and Newcastle United have each named teams including a septet of Frenchmen.

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

Andy Robertson complained "slack" Liverpool did not deserve more than a point from their Premier League stalemate with West Brom.

Liverpool went ahead in the first half on Sunday through Sadio Mane but were unable to secure the points with a second goal before Semi Ajayi equalised for the Baggies eight minutes from time, earning a 1-1 draw.

Jurgen Klopp's side had controlled the opening 45 minutes at Anfield with 81.8 per cent of the possession and 10 shots to West Brom's one, although only Mane's strike troubled the target.

The Reds failed to turn their dominance into goals after the break and were increasingly vulnerable on the counter-attack, as the visitors had a further four efforts, of which three hit the target - including Ajayi's header.

It was the first time Liverpool had dropped points from a winning position in a Premier League home game against a side in the bottom three since December 2016, and Robertson bemoaned an error-strewn display.

"When you go slack, you get what you deserve," Robertson told Sky Sports.

"We created a lot of chances in the first half and then in the second half it was as if we didn't want to do it again. We went slack. 

"Every one of us made a mistake in the second half which can't happen. Credit to West Brom for the way they played the second half.

"We should be experienced enough to see it out and build on the 1-0. We should have been 2-0, 3-0, maybe 4-0 up at half-time.

"We were dominating and it was up to us to take the chances, but we also should be professional enough to win 1-0 if we have to. We will take the point and move on. We can't dwell on it but it's a huge disappointment."

The result gave new West Brom head coach Sam Allardyce a first point and continued his impressive recent record at Anfield.

His past four visits to the home of the Reds have come with different sides (Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton and now West Brom), but he has not lost any of them (W1 D3).

Indeed, Allardyce was in charge of Palace when Liverpool last lost at home in the Premier League - 2-1 in April 2017.

Robertson felt Liverpool needed to show greater professionalism against the pragmatic approach of an Allardyce side.

"When you come up against a Sam Allardyce team, you know they will stay in it and take the one chance they get," explained the Scotland defender.

"You know they will look to frustrate you and play the game down and hit you on the counter-attack. We didn't let them do that in the first half, but then they grow with confidence the longer it goes 1-0. 

"I've been in a Championship team that has come up and you want to frustrate the big teams and get that one chance you can get and that's exactly what happened. 

"Credit to them. They were great in the second half but we need to be so much more professional. We didn't do that enough and that is frustrating."

Sam Allardyce put West Brom's hard-fought draw at Liverpool down to "grit, determination, organisation and team spirit" after he continued his fine run at Anfield. 

In his second game in charge of the struggling Baggies, Allardyce masterminded a 1-1 draw at the home of the reigning Premier League champions on Sunday. 

Allardyce is now unbeaten in each of his previous four Premier League games at Anfield, managing a win and three draws. Each trip came while in charge at a different club – Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton and West Brom. 

The result moved his current employers onto eight points, still five from safety, while Liverpool are now just three points clear of the chasing pack, led by their Merseyside rivals in Everton, one of Allardyce's former teams. 

West Brom made 213 passes in total, in comparison to Liverpool's tally of 772. Indeed, in the first half, Reds captain Jordan Henderson completed 85 passes, almost twice as many as West Brom (46) managed. 

However, despite having just 21.9 per cent possession, West Brom took their chance when it came – Semi Ajayi heading in from Matheus Pereira's corner in the 82nd minute.

Karlan Grant had earlier squandered a big opportunity for the visitors midway through the second half, though West Brom needed Sam Johnstone to pull off a spectacular save to deny Roberto Firmino late on. The away side had three shots on target, one more than Liverpool, who had a total of 17 attempts. 

Explaining the display to Sky Sports, Allardyce said: "Really good organisation, a team trying their very best to nullify the best team in this league at their own patch, and what a fantastic job they did. 

"It's all about staying in the game when you come here, not allowing too much. 

"The resilience of the side allowed us to get up the pitch more in the second half, to pass the ball better in the second half which ultimately resulted in one fantastic chance for Grant, who unfortunately didn't quite take it, but Semi came up and fired in a fantastic header which gave us a point today. 

"We're not the most constructive in terms of the amount of goals we score, that's obvious to see, so goals are precious to us.  

"The lads have showed a lot of grit, determination, organisation and team spirit at a difficult place. I've seen the players telling me that they really want to stay in this division."

Until his appointment in December, Allardyce had not managed since leaving Everton in 2018.  

Allardyce's second league match in charge of the Toffees was also at Anfield – Wayne Rooney netting a 77th-minute penalty to secure a draw for the visitors. 

West Brom actually managed more possession than Allardyce's Everton side did (20.61 per cent) on that occasion back in December 2017, plus also had two more attempts on goal. 

Having made a vital save to secure a point, West Brom goalkeeper Johnstone now wants West Brom – who face Leeds United next – to build on this result, as well as a recent draw away to Manchester City. 

"It's different, it's good," Johnstone said of Allardyce's tenure so far. "Everyone knows what the manager is like, he's come in and things have changed very quickly. 

"The lads are reacting to it, hopefully it's progress and we keep building and getting results. We need to turn the draws into wins."

Jurgen Klopp felt West Brom deserved the 1-1 draw they claimed at Anfield on Sunday to check Liverpool's title defence.

The Reds looked set to go five points clear at the summit thanks to Sadio Mane's sublime 12th-minute strike.

Liverpool were dominant before the interval but gradually let their control of the contest slip, appearing less secure when Joel Matip limped off to add to Klopp's injury problems at centre-back.

Alisson saved from Karlan Grant but the hosts did not heed that warning as Semi Ajayi headed home via the post eight minutes from time.

"It was our own fault. I don't think anyone can expect that a team plays like West Brom in the first half, like a 6-4 [formation] or whatever it was," Klopp told Sky Sports when reflecting upon Albion's ultra-defensive approach before the break.

"I thought we did okay. We scored the goal and didn’t give anything away, especially no set pieces.

"Second half we didn't do the same again. Already in the first five minutes of the second half they had like three counter attacks. We gave them easy, simple corners.

"It was the only thing that they wanted to have and we gave it away. That's why it's our fault and that's why it is only one point instead of three."

While acknowledging the mental challenges of playing against a team comfortable within their defensive shell, Klopp did not think his players stuck to their task in the manner Sam Allardyce's side managed to – West Brom's boss has now gone unbeaten in his last four Premier League matches at Anfield, doing so with four different teams.

"It is an incredible challenge to stay active and lively when you constantly face 10 men," said Klopp, whose team dropped points from a winning position at Anfield against a side starting the day in the relegation zone for the first time since December 2016.

"To be fair, West Brom did their job exactly for 90 minutes. West Brom deserved the point because we didn't finish the game, we didn’t have enough clear-cut chances

"It is difficult to create. It's a busy period, all that stuff, it's all an explanation. In the end, everyone knows and feels we should have and could have done better.

"In the second half we played around, crossed the ball and instead of moving we didn't switch. It is not a game we will talk about in 20 years but it is a game we had to play and we didn't play as we could."

Liverpool are next in action at Newcastle United on Wednesday and might have to do without a specialist fit senior centre-back after Klopp confirmed an adductor problem for Matip

"He felt his adductor and we don't know more," said the manager, who is without long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

Semi Ajayi claimed another valuable point for West Brom in their survival fight as his 82nd-minute header snatched a 1-1 draw against Liverpool. 

The centre-back's deflected shot - later credited as a Ruben Dias own goal - helped Albion to earn a share of the spoils at Manchester City earlier this month and his looping effort came off the post before spinning beyond a helpless Alisson at Anfield on Sunday. 

Liverpool were dominant during the first half and should have had more than Sadio Mane's sublime finish to show for their efforts. 

However, nerves set in and, after Joel Matip added to Jurgen Klopp's injury headache at centre-back, an increasingly emboldened West Brom drew level. 

Sam Johnstone saved magnificently to keep out a Roberto Firimino header as Liverpool had to settle for extending their lead at the summit over Everton to three points.

Playing at Anfield gives Premier League leaders Liverpool "power", according to Japanese forward Takumi Minamino. 

The champions have gone 66 top-flight games without defeat at home – a club record – and have triumphed in all seven of their games at Anfield during the 2020-21 season. 

The Reds' last loss at home in the Premier League came in April 2017 when Crystal Palace claimed a 2-1 victory courtesy of a brace from former player Christian Benteke. 

It was a Palace side managed by Sam Allardyce, who brings West Brom to Merseyside on Sunday.

Minamino, who joined the champions from Salzburg in January, is at a loss to explain why they are so dominant on home turf, but claims there is something special about playing at Anfield.

"When we play at Anfield, I don't know the reason, but we always feel that we can win. I don't know why," he told the club's official website.

"The stadium always gives us power. It is very sad that we can't have [more] fans in the stadium. I hope they can come back to see our play as soon as possible."

Minamino has struggled for playing time in the Premier League this season, starting just two games and coming off the substitutes' bench on six occasions. 

He has scored just one goal in those appearances – opening the scoring in a 7-0 win over Palace last weekend – and has failed to create any chances for his team-mates.

Liverpool face West Brom on Sunday before taking on Newcastle United on Wednesday and Minamino is expecting boss Jurgen Klopp to give him an opportunity to impress. 

"I am looking forward to it very much," he added. "Because there are two games in a week, I will have more chances to play games and I am happy about it. 

"We suffer a lot of injuries now, so a player like me needs to work harder for the team. I would like to prepare myself well and achieve a result if I am given a chance."

Christmas Day is a chance to ungracefully stuff our faces with turkey and all the trimmings, but top-flight footballers in England have to show some restraint. 

That is because Boxing Day football is a festive tradition, one where supporters can watch games with tighter-than-normal belt buckles. 

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic means it will be a little different this year, as the majority of supporters will be viewing the action while at home. 

However, one of the historically more exciting dates on the calendar is sure to entertain still. So, ahead of the 2020 games, take look at some of the best Boxing Day Opta facts from previous years.


NO FOWL PLAY FROM ROBBIE

Fowl – whether turkey, duck, pheasant or possibly even partridge – is a fixture for most dinner tables up and down the United Kingdom on Christmas Day, so perhaps it's rather apt that Robbie Fowl-er (we couldn't resist...) has the best record in terms of Premier League goals on December 26. 

The Liverpool legend has netted nine times on Boxing Day, one more than Newcastle United great Alan Shearer, ex-Tottenham striker Robbie Keane and current Spurs star Harry Kane – who is the highest scorer among active Premier League players on this day. 

Thierry Henry (seven) and Jermain Defoe (six) have also produced plenty of festive cheers in the past.


PUT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS HAT…TRICKS

Some players just love producing crackers at Christmas. 

The aforementioned Fowler is among those to have scored a hat-trick on Boxing Day, doing so for Leeds United against Bolton Wanderers back in 2001. 

Henry (2000 for Arsenal), Kevin Phillips (2000 for Sunderland), Dimitar Berbatov (2011 for Manchester United), Gareth Bale (2012 for Spurs) and Harry Kane (2017 for Spurs) have also taken home belated presents in the form of a match ball.


A DEVIL ON TOP OF THE TREE?!

It is custom to place an angel, or perhaps a star, on the Christmas tree. However, in terms of the Premier League Boxing Day table, there is a team of devils - Red Devils no less – in Manchester United (yes, a tenuous joke, but by this stage is there any point in apologising?) who sit firmly on top. 

When looking at teams to have played at least 10 Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League, United have the highest win rate, a rather impressive 81 per cent (66 points). 

Liverpool (63 per cent), Arsenal (59 per cent), Tottenham (58 per cent), Manchester City (53 per cent) and Chelsea (46 per cent) all unsurprisingly feature highly.  

West Brom, at eight per cent, have won just once in 12 Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League, while Leicester City (14 per cent) and Fulham (15 per cent) have also struggled on the date.


BARRY A FESTIVE FIXTURE

For almost two full decades, Gareth Barry just loved getting his 'clause' into a festive fixture (clause, not claws... get it?) 

The former Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Brom midfielder has played on Boxing Day in the Premier League on a whopping 18 occasions. 

Chelsea boss and Blues legend Frank Lampard is not far behind on 17, with Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Aaron Hughes, Sol Campbell, Michael Carrick and James Milner all on 14 - the latter of course still going strong with champions Liverpool.


FIVE GOAL-D RINGS

The pun to headline this section is punishment enough, so we'll spare you a gag straight out of a Christmas cracker this time around. 

There have been seven occasions when a team has won by five goals on Boxing Day, which is the biggest margin of victory on the date. 

Liverpool have done so twice (5-0 versus West Brom in 2004, then again when facing Swansea City in 2017), while Everton, West Ham, Manchester United and Spurs have also triumphed by the same scoreline. 

In 2000, Arsenal actually went one better than scoring five, though they also conceded during a 6-1 rout of Leicester.


NOT THE CARDS YOU WANT TO RECEIVE…

Sending Christmas cards, complete with the sort of witty wisecracks we have provided throughout this Christmas treat, is a long-running staple of the festive period. 

But receiving a card on Boxing Day is not always what you want for your team right? 

Aston Villa, Chelsea, Newcastle United, Stoke City and Wimbledon have all had three players dismissed in games staged on December 26.

Jurgen Klopp revealed he had spoken to Mohamed Salah about his disappointment over missing out on the Liverpool captaincy earlier this month.

In an interview with Diario AS, Salah said he was "very disappointed" not to be made captain against Midtjylland in the Champions League, while the star forward also refused to rule out a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was made skipper for the encounter in Denmark, but Klopp revealed he had made a mistake.

The Liverpool manager said he had discussed his decision with Salah, who has scored 16 goals in 21 games this season.

"I was captain for a long time in my career and I always thought 'what a job this is' because there are not a lot of benefits and there is a lot of work," Klopp said.

"I didn't feel, or do not feel, the importance of being captain. Before the game I did not realise how important that can be for players and I didn't realise how big a story it was for Trent.

"The rule here is we have a players' committee. The committee is Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Virgil van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum. These are pretty much the four captains. If they all cannot play, usually it is the guy who is longest in the club. And that, how I saw it, was Trent. I don't mean youth career, but in his professional career. Then somebody told me that on that basis it should have been Divock Origi. So it was my fault.

"Afterwards I spoke to Mo about it. Then I realised it did not work out that well so I clarified it. Obviously he gave the interview. That is not a problem for me. Obviously he was disappointed. I did not do it on purpose, and if I made a mistake then it was not making Divock Origi captain that day."

Salah's interview has led to greater speculation over the Egypt international's future, although the forward is contracted at Anfield until 2023.

But Klopp cannot see why the 28-year-old would want to leave Liverpool, who host West Brom in the Premier League on Sunday.

"I don't know, we all want it and we can look for something else if you want but the only reason to leave Liverpool right now is really the weather," he said.

"What other reason could be there? This is one of the biggest clubs in the world.

"We pay good money, maybe not the most in the world, but we pay good, and we have a sensational stadium, outstanding supporters with a fanbase all over the world. Our colours are red, which is the nicest colour anyway, so what is the reason? But you cannot force people to stay but that is it.

"We never did by the way, it is all about timing in the right moments, stuff like this. We have made changes to bring players in and if someone wants to leave we cannot hold them back."

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