Even before the ticker tape settles onto the pitch at Lusail Stadium after an unforgettable World Cup final, the focus returns to the Football League.
For the first time since its inception, the Premier League had to take a backseat in November and December.
The 2022 World Cup threw a spanner in the works across Europe. But as soon as the action wraps up in Qatar, attention turns back to the Football League.
The first of these to restart after the tournament is the Premier League.
And even this is not the first football that will be played by clubs from the English championship. Nine clubs – including Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United – will play Carabao Cup fourth round matches between December 20 and 22.
So as you prepare to watch the Premier League again, let’s Athletic will walk you through all the details.
When is the Premier League back?
The first round of Premier League fixtures following the World Cup kicks off on Boxing Day (Monday, December 26).
It comes just eight days after the World Cup final, a game guaranteed to generate some interest in the Premier League.
In the first leg at the back, Tottenham make the short trip across London to Brentford for a 12.30pm (GMT) kick-off before four 3pm kick-offs and two later fixtures.
Here’s how the Premier League first round match looks like:
Monday, December 26
12.30pm – Brentford v Tottenham
15:00 – Crystal Palace v Fulham
3pm – Everton v Wolves
15:00 – Leicester v Newcastle
15:00 – Southampton v Brighton
5.30pm — Aston Villa v Liverpool
20:00 – Arsenal v West Ham
Tuesday, December 27
17:30 – Chelsea v Bournemouth
20:00 – Manchester United v Nottingham Forest
Wednesday, December 28
20:00 – Leeds v Manchester City
Have changes been made to the holiday schedule?
Yes, a round of widgets were removed.
With the World Cup in the middle of the season, the Premier League made the sensible decision to relax the festive period slightly.
There will usually be a Boxing Day round of games, a New Year’s round and a round somewhere in between.
Not so this year. The circle in between, usually on December 28, has been removed.
This was originally done to prevent player burnout, but there are still three rounds of matches between December 26th and January 5th.
So, this is great news for fans hoping to get their festive Premier League fix. Not so much for the players.
Below is the schedule for the second and third rounds of the holiday games.
Friday, December 30
19:45 – West Ham v Brentford
20:00 – Liverpool v Leicester
Saturday, December 31
12:30pm — Wolves v Manchester United
15:00 – Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
15:00 – Fulham v Southampton
15:00 – Manchester City vs Everton
3pm — Newcastle United v Leeds
17:30 – Brighton v Arsenal
Sunday, January 1
14:00 – Tottenham v Aston Villa
4.30pm — Nottingham Forest v Chelsea
Monday, January 2
17:30 – Brentford v Liverpool
Tuesday, January 3
19:45 – Arsenal v Newcastle
19:45 – Everton v Brighton
19:45 – Leicester v Fulham
20:00 – Manchester United v Bournemouth
Wednesday, January 4
7:30 p.m. — Southampton v Nottingham Forest
19:45 – Leeds v West Ham
20:00 – Aston Villa v Wolves
20:00 – Crystal Palace vs Tottenham
Thursday, January 5
20:00 – Chelsea vs Manchester City
Will the World Cup players get a break?
Burnout has been one of the key words in football over the last few seasons.
Perhaps it has never been more relevant than it will be during this period. Dozens of players will have to shift their focus, almost immediately, from a busy World Cup campaign to the Premier League.
That shouldn’t be much of a problem for those who were eliminated during the group stage in Qatar. But there will be pressure on the knocked-out players to be fit and ready to play again upon their return.
Each club has made its own decision regarding the distribution of its players. Between a week and 10 days seems to be the general rest period offered by clubs.
Jurgen Klopp has revealed he will give his players a week off after returning from Qatar.
Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, has made his Manchester United players fully aware of what he expects. He told MUTV: “We’ve had a plan, we’ve prepared the players with what the plan is, so there can be no confusion about what the program is.
“We are making the players aware of the fact that once you are out of the World Cup you have to go back to the club and the league immediately resumes.”
Pep Guardiola has made it clear he is happy to rest his players whenever possible. But Manchester City’s players who reached the latter stages – of which there were relatively few – will not have the same luxury due to the proximity of the Premier League’s return.
West Ham’s World Cup representatives have been given 10 days off, which looks like the longest break ever. That could leave them without Lucas Paquette, Declan Rice and Nayef Agerd for Boxing Day.
The players who reached the semi-finals are unlikely to feature on Boxing Day. Players for Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco were required by their nations over the weekend of 17 and 18 December.
Even the losing semi-finalists had to stay in Qatar for the third-place playoff, which was played the day before the final.
There is just over a week left for them to return home, rest, train, prove their fitness and play.
Emiliano Martínez, Cristian Romero, Alexis McAllister, Julián Alvarez and Lisandro Martínez will certainly want to celebrate their triumph on their arrival in Argentina, so don’t expect to see them in Premier League action any time soon.
Which Premier League players featured in the final World Cup weekend?
The four nations that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup included players from the Premier League.
Croatia managed to beat Morocco in the play-off for third place before Lionel Messi broke his World Cup duck in a thrilling World Cup final against France.
That means five players will return to the Premier League with winners’ medals, while another five will return despondent after agonizing defeat at the final hurdle.
Here are the footballers from the English top division who were in the squads of Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco.
- Emiliano Martinez – Aston Villa
- Christian Romero – Tottenham
- Lisandro Martinez – Manchester United
- Alexis McAllister – Brighton
- Julian Alvarez – Manchester City
Is there a Premier League winter break this season?
A winter break has been introduced in the Premier League over the last few seasons. However, there was no room to fit a winter break into this season’s schedule.
There will still be several weekends that teams can target to rest their star performers. The first of these comes for most top-flight clubs on the weekend of January 7 and 8, when they are in FA Cup third-round action.
However, there are five fixtures in the Premier League – including Manchester City against Chelsea – which will perhaps leave several managers having to field full squads.
The fourth-round ties will be played on the weekend of January 28 and 29, the first weekend of last season’s winter break, another fixture where coaches may opt to rest key players.
Where were we before the break?
It felt like months ago we were enjoying the Premier League and continental football. But by the time Boxing Day rolls around, it will have been just six weeks since we broke for the World Cup.
Where is your country in #PL table? 👀 pic.twitter.com/UGWtwS88Un
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 13, 2022
Arsenal have done most of the racing in the first few months and have managed to create a five-point gap over Manchester City at the top of the table.
Newcastle’s brilliant start to the campaign has left them squarely in the hunt for a long-awaited return to Europe, while Liverpool and Chelsea have been disappointing by their standards.
On their return to the top division, Fulham impressed with Bournemouth, also outside the relegation zone.
Nottingham Forest haven’t been this good since they got promoted. Although they are only a point of safety.
Southampton and Wolves have already hit the panic button. Both sides have appointed new managers in the hope they can move out of the relegation zone after the World Cup.
Everton and West Ham are in desperate need of improvement after their return to action as they sit a point above the bottom three.
Meanwhile, there are no surprises in the battles for the individual awards.
Erling Haaland (18 goals) has created a six-goal lead over Harry Kane (12 goals) in the race for the Golden Boot, while team-mate Kevin De Bruyne is alone – with nine assists – for the Playmaker of the Season award.
Oh yeah, and Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United.
(Top photo: Lawrence Griffiths/Getty Images)