Christmas spirit takes a backseat to sporting rivalry

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

World's best: After matching Lionel Messi's five Ballon D'or wins, Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to get one over on his Argentine rival this weekend.
World's best: After matching Lionel Messi's five Ballon D'or wins, Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to get one over on his Argentine rival this weekend.

Related tags Sky sports La liga Football

Despite fixtures falling during the season of goodwill, rivalries resume uninhibited this weekend.

Real Madrid v Barcelona - La Liga football – 23 December - Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Mix (11:30am ​ 12noon kick-off)

Arguably the most glamourous league tie in world football, Real Madrid host their Catalan rivals in their final league fixture of 2017. The latest instalment of the El Clasico soap-opera will be played out against a more lively backdrop than usual given the announcement that Cristiano Ronaldo is to receive the 2017 Balon D’or - to equal Lionel Messi’s other worldly five titles - and the political tensions between Catalonia and Spain’s central government in Madrid this year.

The drama doesn’t stop at the white touchline, however. Real Madrid have faltered this season, allowing 11 points and two teams – Valencia and Athletico Madrid – to come between themselves and table-topping Barcelona by La Liga’s half way stage. Zinedine Zidane’s defending champions find themselves in the unfamiliar position of having ground to make up. Los Blancos have come out on top in three of the last five El Clasico fixtures in all competitions, however, with Ronaldo and co struggling in front of goal – Tottenham-flop-turned-Barcelona-mainstay Paulinho has netted more than the Portuguese this season – you’d back Barca to tighten their grip on the title before the New Year.

Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors - Rugby Union – 23 December - Sky Sports Action (5pm – 5:10pm kick-off)

Another heated rivalry to mark the season of goodwill. The sporting rivalry between Scotland’s east and west coasts has been in full swing over the festive period, with Hearts ending Celtic’s 69-game unbeaten run in the capital last weekend. Edinburgh come into this weekend’s fixture in the table-topping Warriors’ wake with forward Stuart McInally telling BBC Scotland his side are desperate to “knock Glasgow off their perch”.

Glasgow have played 10, won 10 so far this season, and will travel to Murrayfield looking to end the year unbeaten under coach Dave Rennie. By contrast, Edinburgh have won six of their 10 Pro14 fixtures this season.

Burnley v Tottenham – Premier League football – 23 December – BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 4KUD (5pm – 5:30pm kick-off)

Given how both sides finished last season, the gulf between Burnley and Tottenham this time around should be far wider than the single point that currently separates them. You could in theory fit three quarters of the entire population of Burnley into Tottenham’s new 61,000 seater stadium, yet the unlikely contenders for European football next season lead their ambitious London rivals by a single point going into this weekend’s fixtures.

Sean Dyche has surely distinguished himself as a very early contender for the Premier League’s Manager of the Season – a huge compliment to the self-proclaimed “proudest man in proudsville” given the form of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. While his side are seldom scorers – the sixth placed side have scored as regularly as 17th​ placed Newcastle this season – they boast as mean a defence as both Manchester sides having conceded only 12 goals so far this season.

Spurs come into this weekend’s game off the back of a humbling defeat to table-topping Manchester City while Burnley faltered in a goalless draw with Brighton last time out.

World Championship Darts – 23 December - Sky Sports Darts (1pm), Sky Sports Main Event (2.30pm), Sky Sports Darts (7pm)

Darts from the Alexandra Palace have quietly become as solid a seasonal tradition as falling asleep in front of the Queen’s speech, naff cracker jokes and Die Hard. Marking their quarter century this year, the drama has flown thick and fast already this year. While Michael van Gerwen has underlined his title credentials in a blistering start and Phil Taylor has made a winning start to his final professional outing to the oche, ten top seeds have been sent packing in six days of competition so far – including former champions James Wade and Adrian Lewis. 

Check out The Morning Advertiser​'s short guide on making the most of the World Darts Championship here​.

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