LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Best games in Europe this Xmas

Where to see top teams in action over the holidays

From Lisbon to Istanbul, Europe's stellar sides will be entertaining the crowds at Xmas

If you’re travelling to Europe for the holidays, you needn’t miss out on live football. There’s plenty of action in Italy, Portugal and Belgium, along with top fixtures in Istanbul, and if you’re hopping up to Scotland, you’re spoiled for choice.

There’s a whole round of French Ligue 1 games on Wednesday, December 20, while Spain’s last La Liga matches of 2023 are spread over December 19-21, Betis hosting high-flying Girona and Alavés at home to Real Madrid. After a random fixture between Atlético Madrid and Sevilla, the calendar starts up again on January 2.

Juventus match day/Peterjon Cresswell

Between Friday, December 22, and Saturday December 30, apart from December 25 itself, Roma, Porto, Anderlecht, Juventus and Bruges are all at home, with the Edinburgh derby providing ample reason to head north on December 27.

And if you’re in Europe and just want to watch Premier League action in the comfort of a local pub, see our guides to the best football bars in Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona, Budapest, London, Paris and Athens.

Happy Christmas from everyone at Libero!

friday, december 22

Estádio do Restelo/Colin Young

The Christmas weekend kicks off with an evening game at Belenenses, which in daytime offers Europe’s most panoramic setting for a football stadium, overlooking the Tagus estuary dramatically spanned by 25 de Abril Bridge. The opposition for this second-tier fixture, Santa Clara from the Azores, are currently top of the Segunda, having gone from August to December unbeaten. It’s an easy hop on a local train from Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon to Belém.

At the same time in Brussels, the city’s second team, RWDM, host Bruges at the Edmond Machtensstadion in Molenbeek. With everyone knocking off for the weekend, Christmas drinks flowing and a Flemish team in town – in fact, the Flemish team in town – the trumpet players backing RWDM from the terraces should be giving it plenty.

saturday, december 23

Estadio Metropolitano/Liam Dawber

The rain in Spain caused the postponement of the Atlético Madrid-Sevilla fixture last September, forcing its rescheduling to this handy pre-Christmas slot. Even if you’re just passing through Madrid, the mid-afternoon timing means you fly into the Spanish capital, hop to the Metropolitano near the airport, and then fly on to your holiday-weekend destination. As for the game, both of these recent European finalists have hit a hiatus of late, the hosts extending the contract of long-term manager Diego Simeone, Sevilla hovering above the relegation zone despite the presence of Croatian veteran returnee Ivan Rakitić.

Both very much in European contention, José Mourinho’s Roma host Italian champions Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico, with a few old faces bound to shine, Romelu Lukaku and Paolo Dybala among them. It’s an evening fixture, so you can spend the day basking in the sunny warmth of Rome before making your way up to the Foro Italico.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 24

Șükrü Saracoğlu Stadium/Jens Raitanen

Tickets might be tricky to source but a Christmas Eve derby between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray will be worth the hassle. The Istanbul clubs finished 1-2 last season and both are on level pegging at the top of the Turkish Süper Lig right now. Crossing the Bosporus to the Asian side is always a memorable groundhop, particularly if the trek is rewarded with a masterclass by Dušan Tadić in what will probably be his last great season. Facing the Serbian midfielder should be Hakim Ziyech, his former teammate in that great Ajax side of 2018-19.

If it’s lunchtime on Christmas Eve, it must be Motherwell, especially if title-chasing Rangers are the opposition at Fir Park. The fan-owned hosts just outside Glasgow always reserve a special welcome for either of the Old Firm, while for visitors, there are far worse groundhops than a train ride to Airbles.

tuesday, december 26

Stadio Luigi Ferraris/Alan Deamer

There’s a whole programme of matches around Belgium on Boxing Day, the pick of which is the visit of revived legends Union Saint-Gilloise to Bruges for a Flanders v Brussels clash. Three-times recent title winners Club have slipped back this season, but they never give up three points easily at the Jan Breydelstadion. Current leaders Union can sense that first league crown since the glory days of the 1930s.

Delving into Italy’s second tier, where recently relegated (and nearly bankrupt) Sampdoria now reside. Worse, they currently sit outside the play-off places, which welcome almost half of Serie B come the end of the regular season. The Genoese legends will need all three points when equally underachieving Bari hit town for an evening fixture at the intimate, historic Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

wednesday, december 27

Constant Vanden Stock Stadium/Rudi Janssen

Few derbies have stood the test of time as much as Edinburgh’s, and recent seasons have seen Hibs and Hearts back at the business end of the Scottish Premiership. Both may even make Europe, as was the case in 2023, and hosts Hibs will take heart from the two quick goals that earned them a 2-2 draw at Tynecastle in October.

Strange to think that once so dominant Anderlecht haven’t won the Belgian title, or any trophy, since 2017 – and that perennially modest Cercle Bruges may even reach Europe for the first time since 2010. The two meet for an evening fixture in the grey surroundings of south-west Brussels.

thursday, december 28

Estádio José Gomes/Peterjon Cresswell

Just beyond the north of Lisbon, a steep, mazy walk from Riboleira at the terminus of the city’s blue metro line, Estrela are a wonderful little community club who play at a stadium befitting their character. The Estádio José Gomes welcomes mid-table mates Arouca for a fairly late-night fixture, when the Café del Negro opposite should be packed to the rafters as Christmas slowly makes way for New Years.

friday, december 29

Stadio Artemio Franchi/Peterjon Cresswell

If you’re spending the holidays in Florence, you should be able to catch this early-evening game at the historic Stadio Artemio Franchi, when Torino provide the opposition for hosts Fiorentina. Neither have set Serie A alight this season, although both could make it to Europe, driven on by three points on what should be a warm evening in Tuscany.

Neck-and-neck with Sporting and Benfica in the race for the Portuguese title, hosts Porto will be looking for a straightforward three points in this northern derby against lowly Chaves. The city itself will be gearing up for New Year celebrations along the Douro, so what better way to kick off your weekend than watching a few goals go in at the Estádio do Dragão?

saturday, december 30

Juventus Stadium/Alan Deamer

Can Juve win the Scudetto, the first since 2020? It looks like a straight race with Inter, although if any manager is going to use every trick in the book to come away with at least a point from Turin, it’s José Mourinho and his tricky Roma team. Currently unbeaten since September, La Vecchia Signora is looking ominously consistent, and watch out for an appearance by England U-21 striker, ex-Chelsea youth player Samuel Illing-Junior.

While not overlooking the Atlantic, Estoril’s Estádio António Coimbra da Mota requires a seaside train ride from Lisbon to reach it, meaning that the mid-afternoon fixture with fellow maritime side Farense should be a day trip that’s as pleasant as it is affordable. You can even hit the city’s famous casino afterwards.