Ghosts Of Christmas Past – Can Festive Table Predict Final League Standings?

As households across the world prepare to decorate their Christmas tables, tables of another kind will be more resonant for Premier League football clubs.

While X-Factor’s Ben Haenow looks set for Christmas number one, it seems certain that Chelsea will top the Premier League charts on Christmas Day, barring a heavy defeat to Stoke City next Tuesday.

Which means, if recent history is any predictor, that they’ll probably win the league. Eight of the last ten league leaders at Christmas have gone on to lift the title in May – Liverpool being the anomaly last season and in 2008/09.

Furthermore, any time Chelsea have topped the table over the past ten festive seasons they’ve gone on to triumph four-and-a-half months later.

However, if you go further back in Premier League history it does give some comfort to the chasing pack. In the competition’s first twelve seasons, only three Christmas leaders held on to the top spot. The likes of Norwich City, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Leeds United were top of the festive tree during the nineties before blowing their lead come May – on each occasion to Manchester United.

It’s unlikely that United can replicate these historic feats but Louis van Gaal’s record suggests it would be foolhardy to rule it out. During his first season as Bayern Munich boss, his side languished in third place at the Christmas break – which is were United will likely sit – before winning game after game in the New Year to claim the Bundesliga title.

Meanwhile, if the ghosts of Christmas past are anything to go by, Leicester City look doomed. The so-called “Curse of Christmas” means they are over 90% likely to be relegated with only two bottom-of-the-table sides on the 25th December in the Premier League’s 22-year history pulling off a great escape.

Gus Poyet led Sunderland to 14th having propped up the table last Christmas, while West Brom left it to the last day of the season in 2004 to pull off an improbable stay of execution in the top flight. The Baggies remained bottom of the pile going into their last fixture, but a win over Portsmouth, allied to defeats for Norwich City and Southampton saved Bryan Robson’s men from the drop.

Joining Leicester for demotion to the Championship, will more than likely be whoever is languishing in 18th and 19th place when we’re all tucking into our turkey dinners. Of the last 15 sides to be relegated, ten of them teetered in the drop zone as Santa delivered his presents.

If Nigel Pearson’s Foxes do drop to the Championship, it’s likely they’ll be replaced by whoever is top of the second tier this time next week. Most of the teams that have topped the Championship at Christmas have gone on to win the tile, with Bournemouth, Middlesborough, Derby County, Ipswich Town and Brentford all vying for top spot in a tight title race.