London derby highlights Boxing Day

The biggest sporting day of the holiday schedule will see seven big matches with ramifications up and down the Barclays Premier League table. Boxing Day kicks off Monday on FOX Soccer and FOX Soccer Plus with both Manchester giants in action alongside Liverpool and Newcastle, with a late game in Stoke.

Only Tottenham and Arsenal are idled on the big day, with the Gunners choosing to delay their afternoon fixture against Wolves because of a London transit strike that will affect the day after Christmas.

The Underground, London’s subway web, will see lines suspended and major delays across remaining tracks. Chelsea, which host rivals Fulham, have chosen to go ahead with their match but are advising the public to arrive early.

There is no single blockbuster match, but there’s still plenty of drama around individual games. The day kicks off with the aforementioned Blues hosting Fulham in a game that’s near must win for both teams.

Chelsea has been hit hard by the racism scandal surrounding captain John Terry and will be without Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel for the match (both hamstring). While Terry was man of the match Thursday against Tottenham, saving a point with a goal-line clearance, it is clear that Chelsea is feeling the heat. They remain aa points off the pace and are desperate for reinforcements. Bolton’s Gary Cahill is expected to join the club in a week’s time after personal terms were agreed with the Trotters, but the Blues will be shorthanded in the back as Alex remains banished from the squad after asking for his January exit.

Fulham have issues of their own. They were terrible against an admittedly magisterial Manchester United on Wednesday, but it is clear that the locker room is in uproar over their manager’s handling of the club. Martin Jol has fallen out with star Bobby Zamora and insiders tell FOX that the Dutch gaffer is unwilling to accept responsibility for his mistakes. This is a toxic situation that could boil over if another five goals pass by them, as happened midweek.

Both Manchester clubs need wins to maintain their pace, and both are expected to get them. United host a Wigan side that battled well against Liverpool but seems to lack the shape and thrust to really handle the big boys. City face a tricky West Bromwich side on the road, but will get a boost from the fact that Roy Hodgson’s men aren’t that good this season at the Hawthorns, having lost five games. Only Bolton and Blackburn have worse home marks.

Liverpool need to rebound from their scoreless draw at Wigan with a convincing performance over troubled Blackburn. There are several stories here, beginning with the Luis Suarez imbroglio, which the club has badly bungled. Suarez was banned for eight games after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra but is eligible for this game.

In the aftermath, Liverpool took the field midweek wearing shirts with his name and likeness on it, a display that most found unsavory. In addition, Evra has received a torrent of racist abuse on social media following the decision against Suarez, and the situation has become a major issue for the American-owned club. So far, owner John Henry – usually a game user of social media himself — has been silent on the matter. It’s an open question as to how long he can remain so.

It’s just as bad in Lancashire. Blackburn’s fans unleashed a torrent of invective at their manager Steve Kean after an awful loss to Bolton midweek and have been staging what they call “desperate” protests against the club’s owners, Venky’s of India. The club’s board voted to sack Kean Wednesday but controlling owner Anuradha Desai has vetoed the move, apparently because Venky’s is strapped for cash. The club reportedly sounded out at least three managerial replacements, not one of whom was willing to step into this mess.

Owen Coyle got a slight reprieve at Bolton after Wanderers beat Blackburn, but if he is to really gain room, his side must take down a sliding Newcastle. The Toon haven’t taken a win in their last six games — ironically, coinciding with owner Mike Ashley’s decision to sell the naming rights to fabled St. James Park — but face a Bolton team that have only won a single home game this year, worst in the league.

Stoke host Aston Villa in the late game, a mid-table matchup that will boast more physicality than skill.

Tuesday, Robin van Persie will continue his quest to equal or break Alan Shearer’s single-year goal-scoring record as Arsenal host lowly Wolves. Van Persie sits on 34 — tied with Gunners great Thierry Henry — and needs just three more to set a new mark. Wolves are terrible, having conceded 32 goals so far this season, and are the worst road team in the league. Arsenal, however, is hit by injuries with defender Kieran Gibbs the latest long-term absentee, meaning they must again field a back four with no recognized wingbacks.

Swansea face Queens Park Rangers in a bottom of the table tussle while the surprising Norwich Canaries host Tottenham Hotspur in the day’s other fixtures.