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A festive first for Rafa!

Rafael van der Vaart admits he will be experiencing something of a culture shock this Christmas!

Rafael van der Vaart admits he will be experiencing something of a culture shock this Christmas!

The Dutch international is used to spending the festive period at home having previously plied his trade in the German and Spanish leagues, as well as in his homeland, before his arrival in North London.

This year there will be little time for getting in the yuletide spirit with games coming thick and fast against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, followed by Newcastle two days later, Fulham on New Year’s Day and Everton on January 5.

But Rafa is relishing the period, saying: “It’s a first for me so I’m really excited.

“It’s a little bit strange to be playing at Christmas but I’m looking forward to it and my whole family is coming to London.

“Normally I’ve always had two weeks off. It would be a holiday for me back in Holland to celebrate Christmas but now it’s totally different.

“We have to play three or four times in 10 days so it will be a hard time but also great, and I’m looking forward to it.”

First up, it’s a trip to Villa and happy memories for Rafa against a team he put two goals past as we came from behind to beat Gerard Houllier’s men in the reverse fixture at the Lane in October.

The 27-year-old knows how important it is to keep our unbeaten run going, currently sitting fifth in the Premier League table, four points behind fourth placed Chelsea.

He added: “I played at Villa Park once with the national team against England. It’s a nice stadium and they’re a great team.

“When we played them at home it was a difficult game, even though we won, so I am expecting the same again but confident we will win.

“We have to win our games and then I have a lot of confidence that we will be in the top four. It’s going to be hard work as there are a lot of good teams.”