Boxing Day football: Sam Allardyce's Crystal Palace kick off festive programme

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Allardyce impressed by Palace ambition

Sam Allardyce will take charge of Crystal Palace for the first time on Boxing Day as their Premier League meeting with Watford kicks off a busy day of action in England.

"I hope I can bring some joy, particularly over Christmas and New Year," said the new Palace boss.

That match, the first of eight Premier League fixtures, starts at 12:30 GMT.

There is also a full EFL programme, but there are no top-flight fixtures in Scotland.

Former England manager Allardyce was appointed on 23 December - just one day after Alan Pardew was sacked as boss of the Eagles.

A first taste of Christmas - for some

The Boxing Day matches mark the start of what is traditionally a very intense period of fixtures - and for some in the Premier League, this year is their first taste of the flurry of festive games.

"This is the first experience for me and my family, to work, to play football at this time of year," said Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

"It can be, and I hope it will be, a fantastic experience."

The Italian is still hopeful of enjoying something of a family Christmas, saying: "It's not important where you stay, but it's important to stay together with your family."

With his team six points clear at the top of the Premier League, perhaps Conte can afford to indulge himself a little in the joys of the season.

But this is seemingly not the case for another foreign manager new to the league - one for whom the past few weeks have been far from joyous.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola
No, no, no - we will not be eating turkey on Christmas Day, we will be driving to Hull instead

Manchester City trail Chelsea by seven points, and boss Pep Guardiola has decided Christmas will have to be cast to one side as his team attempt to make up ground on the leaders.

"We're going to train on Saturday and on the 25th, then get a bus in the afternoon," said the Spaniard, whose team visit Hull City on Boxing Day (17:15).

"We're going to prepare like it's not Christmas."

Chelsea host Bournemouth at 15:00 GMT - the first of three fixtures in 10 days for Conte's side.

Liverpool, another title-chasing side, do not play until 27 December - the start of three games in seven days. The situation is even worse for Southampton, who are not in action until 28 December but then have three matches in just six days.

Arsenal are at home to West Brom on Monday, and boss Arsene Wenger is far from pleased with the schedule.

"It's a bit surprising this year because I don't completely understand the organisation of the fixtures," said the Frenchman.

Wenger has not always seen eye to eye with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, but they are in agreement on this.

The Portuguese said: "The busy period is for some clubs, not for everyone. It looks like the fixtures are chosen to give rest for some and to create problems to others."

There will be Premier League matches every day from 26 December to 4 January barring 29 December, when fans will have to make do with Aston Villa v Leeds and Burton at Rotherham in the Championship.

A big day at the bottom in the Championship

There hasn't been much cheer in recent months for Rotherham and Wigan - the bottom two clubs in the Championship - but one of them might have something to celebrate on Boxing Day.

The two teams meet at the New York Stadium - with the Millers desperate for some good news after picking up just 10 points from 22 games so far.

Leaders Newcastle host Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship's late fixture (19:45 GMT), and a win for the Magpies will take them four points clear of second-placed Brighton, who play QPR on Tuesday.

Earlier on Boxing Day, third-placed Reading host Norwich, who have lost seven of their past nine league matches.

Fellow play-off contenders Huddersfield are at home to Nottingham Forest, while Leeds go to Preston.

Slade - great name for a Christmas debut

Slade perform on Top of the Pops
New Coventry boss Slade will be hoping he experiences a Christmas as successful as his musical namesakes enjoyed in 1973

What could be more appropriate than Russell Slade making his debut on Boxing Day? Whether or not it will be a 'Merry Xmas' for the 56-year-old probably depends on how his Coventry side, second bottom of League One, fare at Bristol Rovers.

Scunthorpe, top of the third tier on Christmas Day, are away at fourth-placed Bradford in the pick of Monday's League One fixtures.

Second-placed Sheffield United host bottom club Oldham, while third-placed Bolton are at home to lowly Shrewsbury, who have won their past two league matches.

In League Two, leaders Plymouth Argyle host sixth-placed Wycombe, while their nearest promotion challengers - Carlisle and Doncaster - are at Crewe and Notts County respectively.

Not so busy in Scotland

While the action comes thick and fast in England, it is a different story north of the border.

There were Scottish Premiership fixtures on Friday and Saturday but the Scottish top flight does not resume until Tuesday, when Aberdeen host Hamilton and Kilmarnock travel to Hearts.

Scottish fans desperate for some Boxing Day action can pick from one fixture in each of the Championship, League One and League Two.

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