Premier League is BACK: Eight days after World Cup final and 43 days after last game, the real competition returns

    PREMIER LEAGUE football is back after a six-week hiatus – and the fixtures will be coming thick and fast over the course of the next week.

    The English top flight – like its counterparts around the globe – paused in mid-November to allow the first-ever winter World Cup to take place.

    Arsenal return to action on Boxing Day five points clear at the top of the Premier League Christmas Tree

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    Arsenal return to action on Boxing Day five points clear at the top of the Premier League Christmas TreeCredit: AFP
    High-flying Newcastle will bid to maintain their push for Champions League football against Leicester

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    High-flying Newcastle will bid to maintain their push for Champions League football against LeicesterCredit: REX
    Manchester United hope to close the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Tottenham on the 27th

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    Manchester United hope to close the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Tottenham on the 27thCredit: GETTY

    Prem action resumes action with a Boxing Day bonanza.

    And there is plenty at stake for teams at both ends of the table.

    League leaders Arsenal will welcome West Ham to the Emirates and will look to maintain their five-point advantage over defending champions Manchester City.

    City could find themselves EIGHT points behind the Gunners by the time they play Leeds at Elland Road on Wednesday evening.

    The race for Champions League football will also take centre stage on Boxing Day, with Tottenham, Newcastle, Liverpool and Chelsea – third, fourth, sixth and eighth-placed – all in action.

    The quartet will face Brentford, Leicester City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth respectively.

    Fifth-placed Manchester United will bid to narrow the gap between themselves and Spurs with a win over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.

    Forest are currently 18th in the league with 13 points to their name after 15 matches but they are by no means cast adrift.

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    A defeat to United, however, and a victory for Everton over Wolves could quickly end the festive cheer at the City Ground.

    The Toffees’ clash with Wolves is one of the standout Boxing Day fixtures in the battle to beat the drop.

    In fact, it’s somewhat of a good-old fashioned relegation six-pointer.

    Frank Lampard’s troops are currently a solitary point above the drop zone with 14 points.

    Wolves, meanwhile, are rock bottom of the table with a mere ten points to their name.

    Wolves and Everton will take part in a Boxing Day six-pointer

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    Wolves and Everton will take part in a Boxing Day six-pointerCredit: PA

    Defeat to Everton could prove to be a huge psychological blow to the Black County club.

    Even more so if fellow strugglers Southampton get a result.

    The Saints are two points ahead of Wolves and could breathe new life into their survival hopes with a win over Brighton.

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    It’s fitting there is so much on riding the first Prem fixtures following its first-ever World Cup-enforced hiatus.

    And if history is anything to go by, there’ll no doubt be plenty of pantomime thrills and spills for footy fans up and down the country to enjoy and lament.

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