Leicester City face a genuine test of their title credentials over the festival period as Claudio Ranieri's side look to maintain their narrow advantage at the Premier League summit. Five of the last six teams to be top at Christmas have gone on to claim the championship and the Foxes can maintain their lead going into the New Year if they overcome Liverpool and Manchester City in back-to-back games.
City are third, six points adrift of Leicester, but games against relegation-threatened Sunderland and then at the King Power Stadium on 29 December could see them restore parity before the season reaches the mid-way point. Second-placed Arsenal round off the Boxing Day fixtures with a trip to Southampton before hosting south coast side Bournemouth, where a win could see them go temporarily top.
"The confidence is very high," Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said, according to Sky Sports. "Confidence is built up very slowly and goes very quickly, so let's take care of our next performance. We have been top of the league [at this stage] in previous years and I think football is pragmatic. Nobody can predict what can happen in the next 17 games for example and you just want to go with the same attitude and spirit. The only thing I can say is 2015, if you look back and try to analyse it, we have been consistent.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has been given assurances over his position at Old Trafford after six games without a win, but his role could once again come under the microscope should his side slip up against Stoke City in the first of the top flight's festive fixtures. United then host Guus Hiddink's Chelsea on 28 December in a pivotal game at both ends of the table.
Hiddink lost just one of his 22 matches in charge of Chelsea during his first spell at the club and begins his second coming against Watford, who are the league's in-form side having won their last four games in a row, before the trip to Manchester. The Hornets also face London opposition in their second game in the form of Tottenham Hotspur, who must also navigate Norwich City to remain in the Champions League berths.
At the bottom, Aston Villa have two chances to resuscitate their survival hopes with matches against West Ham United at Villa Park before a visit to Norwich. After a trip to the Etihad Stadium, Sam Allardyce's Sunderland host Liverpool on 30 December in the final Premier League fixture of 2015. Managerless Swansea City host West Bromwich Albion before facing Crystal Palace.
Elsewhere, Romelu Lukaku continues his pursuit of Jamie Vardy's goalscoring record against Newcastle United and Stoke as Everton look to cement a top-half place. The Belgium international has scored in each of his last seven league games and needs to net in his next four to equal Vardy's feat of registering in 11 straight Premier League matches.
Premier League festive fixtures (3pm kick-off unless otherwise stated):
26 December: 12.45pm: Stoke City vs Manchester United, Aston Villa vs West Ham United, AFC Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace, Chelsea vs Watford, Liverpool vs Leicester City, Manchester City vs Sunderland, Swansea City vs West Bromwich Albion, 5.30pm: Tottenham Hotspur vs Norwich City, 5.30pm: Newcastle United vs Everton, 7.45pm: Southampton vs Arsenal
28 December: Crystal Palace vs Swansea City, Everton vs Stoke City, Norwich City vs Aston Villa, Watford vs Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion vs Newcastle United, 5.30pm: Arsenal vs AFC Bournemouth, 5.30pm: Manchester United vs Chelsea, 5.30pm: West Ham United vs Southampton
29 December: 7.45pm: Leicester City vs Manchester City
30 December: 7.45pm: Sunderland vs Liverpool