Belfast Telegraph

What are the biggest sporting events this festive period?

Christmas 2014 sees the usual packed schedule of sports to feast on, either side of the turkey dinner. With the Football Premier League throwing up plenty of surprises and the Rugby and Cricket World Cups around the corner, the festive season could be a telling time for players and teams alike - not to mention exciting viewing for all sports fans.

 

Football

As well as the final group stage matches in the Champions League, December also sees some great match-ups in the English Premier League. Liverpool have a couple of classic fixtures at home to Arsenal and away to Manchester United. Top four wannabes, Southampton will have their mettle tested, facing Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal over the festive period. At the other end of the country, Newcastle will hope to maintain their remarkable surge in form, despite challenging ties against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Cricket

During December, England's one day side are in Sri Lanka, with plenty of time to pick up the winning habit in no fewer than seven ODIs against the hosts. This series represents vital preparation for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which begins in February. Effectively, both teams' World Cup campaigns start here, and a precious series win will boost confidence for the ultimate challenge ahead. There may not be a lot of experience in this one day England side, but with some dangerous young players, they’ll be hoping to defy the odds. Enjoy online betting at William Hill, Ireland's top betting site.

Horse racing

The horse racing calendar is always crammed over Christmas, and Boxing Day sees no fewer than 12 race meets across the UK and Ireland. The undoubted highlight is the King George VI Chase at Kempton's William Hill Winter Festival. This prestigious three mile race over the jumps has been staged since 1937 and previous winners include Desert Orchid and Kauto Star. The festive racing calendar starts on 5-6 December at Sandown Park with their Christmas Festival. On Saturday 27th December, runners and riders will line up for the 58th Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, with a top prize of £100,000.

Rugby

In the period between the Autumn Internationals and the Six Nations, there’s no letup on the Rugby calendar. Attention turns back to domestic tussles and the European Cup pool stages, which will see 30 matches during December alone. With two wins from two, the unbeaten aides of Harlequins and Leinster meet twice in Pool 2, as do the undefeated Munster and Toulouse in Pool 4. Something has to give.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Always a big night on the sporting calendar, this year’s glamorous retrospective takes place in Glasgow on Sunday 14th December. Hosts Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan will review a year that included the World Cup, the Commonwealth Games and the Winter Olympics. Among the shortlist of 10 for one of the biggest gongs in sport are Lewis Hamilton, Gareth Bale and Skeleton racer, Lizzy Yarnold. The public vote for their winner, who will be crowned on the night. Enjoy sports betting at William Hill, Ireland's top betting site.

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