I hope everybody had a tremendous Boxing Day across the nation, world, and universe. I am just going to assume that whatever lifeforms exist on Jupiter use the same holidays as us Earthlings. Let me have my extraterrestrial ignorance. Anyhow, my Boxing Day was spectacular. Seeing Manchester United self destruct to start it and have Arsenal do the same to end it was all a Liverpool fan, win over the league leaders notwithstanding, could ask for. The Arsenal game may have put a smile on my face, but it just placed a cat turd topping on an already shitty sundae of picks for me yesterday. Aberdeen had to struggle for a draw in Scotland and Gent were dominated in Belgium. But I am hoping for a better day today. I won't have the full Premier League roster at my disposal this morning, but I'll still have three leagues to work with, including a new entry to the fray. So let's make our way to Scotland again, where some Bhoys are looking to take advantage of a lost opportunity from one of yesterday's selections.
Celtic FC vs Heart of Midlothian FC (9:00 AM ET/Fox Soccer Plus)
With Aberdeen's missteps yesterday against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, my beloved Celtic FC have a chance today to build back their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership. Their opponent is the always troubling Heart of Midlothian. Like Sporting Lisbon to Porto and Benfica in Portugal, Hearts were the third wheel in the title parade caravan of Rangers and Celtic for years. They placed third more than any other team in the Scottish Premier League era and is the only team to disrupt the Glasgow hierarchy in 2005-06 when they placed second behind Celtic. They are third again this year, but are ten points off the top right now level on games with Celtic but with two in hand on Aberdeen. With the Scottish schedule getting dicey over the next month and a half, now is the best time for Hearts to gain ground. Their hopes of victory are heightened by the fact that Celtic's main two attacking options, Kris Commons and Leigh Griffiths, will be unavailable for today's contest. Even with that being said, Nadir Ciftci has been a more than capable replacement and Stuart Armstrong, who was out for the Motherwell loss, will be back for the Hoops. They will have to beat the Keeper of the Season thus far in the Premiership though in Neil Alexander. The former Rangers netminder has kept a SPFL-best 7 clean sheets, even though as a former Rangers man I am obligated to show this hilarious own goal during their demotion to the third tier. It is going to be a tough game for both sides today, but I have to go with Celtic to get the full three points with probably a really ugly goal in wretched conditions.
PREDICTION: Celtic 1 Hearts 0
TURKISH SUPER LIG
Besiktas JK vs Torku Konyaspor (12:00 PM ET)
Our first foray into Turkey takes us to its largest city, Istanbul, for Besiktas versus Konyaspor. Turkey has had teams succeed in European competitions before, most notably Galatasaray the 20 time champions of Turkey, but it is still a league that I am very unfamiliar with. Little did I know beforehand last year that former nemesis Demba Ba was on Besiktas as they eliminated Liverpool from the Europa League. Ba has moved on, but now the Black Eagles have another international caliber striker in their midst with Mario Gomez. The Fiorentina loanee is second in the Super Lig in scoring. Besiktas lead the league at the moment and look to widen the gap between them and Fenerbahce with a home win today against Konyaspor. Now if I know very little about the league leaders, I know absolutely nothing about the seventh placed team. I had to do the old "Wikipedia consultation" and the only thing recognizable I could find was that former Barcelona and Arsenal man Alexander Hleb had played for them. From what little game video I could find, they don't seem to be too interested in attacking football. They are strictly a counter attack team, and they don't even do that too well. Their journeyman goalkeeper Kaya Tarakcı has been their main reason for not being closer to the relegation zone. Tarakcı will get plenty of action today from Turkey's most potent offense and he'll hold his own. His offense will not give him nearly the needed support for the visitors to nick a point though.
PREDICTION: Besiktas 2 Konyaspor 1
BELGIAN JUPILER LEAGUE
RSC Anderlecht vs KVC Westerlo (12:00 PM ET)
We'll end this day sadly with another game that you are going to need a foreign stream to see. But you'll have plenty of choices because when Anderlecht plays, all the European countries pick the game up. The most decorated team in Belgium's history is a UEFA Champions League regular and producers of some of the finest talents across the European football landscape at the moment. Anderlecht is well known for giving the youngest of debuts to their starlets. Celestine Babayaro was just 16 years and 87 days when Anderlecht gave him his first UCL start in 1994-95. They also boast the third youngest UCL participant ever in Youri Tielemans, who took his bow in October 2013. In more recent times they have been the starting point for Premier League superstars Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, who both got their starts with the club at 16. Today they take on bottom of the table KVC Westerlo, whose history, and present, is less than stellar. They've gone through three managers this calendar year and have let in a Jupiler League-high 41 goals. I don't expect anything less from today's game. If you are able to get a stream of decent quality (I'd try for the German or Spanish feed), keep your eyes peeled for not only Tielemans in midfield, but Dennis Praet up front. He's been linked to several Premier League clubs Arsenal and Aston Villa.
PREDICTION: Anderlecht 3 Westerlo 1
With the holiday season sending league schedules into a tailspin, there will be plenty of games across Europe all week. Unless you work from home, or not at all, cracking open a morning beer before your commute is probably going to be frowned upon. So get it all out of your system today with these three games, watch your fantasy American football dreams go down in flames (OK, I'm projecting here) and make the end of 2015 the best you can as we flip the calendar page one last time into a brand new 365 (nope, 366) days. Have at it!