All you need to know about this weekend’s Premier League action, all in one place.
THE WEEKEND’S BIG QUESTIONS
Is United’s best hope to keep the score down against Liverpool??
Manchester United’s prospects for their game against Liverpool on Sunday weren’t looking good even before it became clear that David De Gea and Paul Pogba would not be available. Their squad is thin enough as is without arguably their two best players being out too, so the 75,000 United fans due to show up at Old Trafford will be taking a deep breath before comprehending what is about to unfold.
A Liverpool victory would equal the Premier League record for consecutive wins with 18, which will be enough of a kick in the ribs for United fans already, but a big Liverpool victory would be even worse. United might be able to draw some solace in the fact that Jurgen Klopp’s side have had some close calls of late, so their luck might run out soon, but at the moment it looks like the best they can hope for will be some respectability in the scoreline.
Will Tottenham be better off without Lloris?
On the face of it, losing your World Cup-winning captain for the remainder of 2019 could be filed under “bad news.” But Hugo Lloris was becoming an even bigger problem at a club that are stuffed full of problems at the moment. No longer the super-reliable keeper of times past, you only have to look at the error a millisecond before his horrific elbow injury as proof that the Frenchman is on the way to being a liability, if he isn’t one already.
Paulo Gazzaniga will presumably start against Watford, even if they have re-signed Michel Vorm to provide some extra cover. Will he be any worse than Lloris? Will he actually be better, ultimately? At a club where stability has turned into torpor, a forced change might turn out to be a positive.
Could Crystal Palace trip Manchester City up?
We have conclusive proof that Manchester City are fallible this season. The fear before the campaign was that they would once again make the Premier League uncompetitive, and that Liverpool would do well to cling onto their coattails again. After early defeats to Norwich and Wolves, we know that is not the case, so they could really have done with a nice easy game to take out their frustrations, as they did against Watford following that Norwich loss.
Unfortunately for them, they must travel to Crystal Palace, who under Roy Hodgson are in the middle of a slightly implausible run of form that sees them in sixth place, having won 12 of their last 22 games going back to February. It’s got “potential tripwire” written all over it, so it will be fascinating to see how City deal with a very tricky trip to South London.
Must-have player: Sergio Aguero, Tier 1 forward
Aguero is tied for the league lead in goals with eight, is the league leader in shots with 30, and Manchester City are the biggest favorites of the weekend, at Crystal Palace.
Worth considering: Jorginho, Tier 3 midfielder
Jorginho is ninth in the league in passes completed, and should rack up a ton of them against Newcastle, who have the lowest possession percentage in the league (32.8) — plus he’s on penalties for Chelsea.
Avoid at all costs: Marcus Rashford, Tier 1 forward
Rashford hasn’t scored in his past five games including the Europa League, and didn’t take a single shot in Manchester United’s 1-0 loss at Newcastle prior to the international break, despite playing the full 90 minutes.
STATS OF THE WEEKEND
Information provided by ESPN Stats & Information Group
– Liverpool’s 17-game winning streak in the Premier League is the second longest in English top-flight history, behind only Man City’s 18 game run in 2017. The 17 straight wins equals Inter Milan for the 3rd longest winning streak all-time in any of Europe’s Top 5 leagues; only Manchester City (18) and Bayern Munich (19) have had longer winning streaks
– Premier League joint-top scorer Sergio Aguero (eight goals) has never scored in six Premier League appearances at Selhurst Park, only at Anfield (seven) has Aguero had more scoreless away matches at a stadium.
MAN TO WATCH
Jurgen Klopp. The last time Liverpool visited Old Trafford with a lead at the top of the Premier League was not so long ago. They were three points clear going into the weekend of this fixture in February last season, but produced a supine performance against a United side whose results were just on the brink of a nosedive, following the initial boost of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s opening few weeks. But in that game Liverpool’s only shot on target came in the 33rd minute, and Klopp spent most of the game stalking around his technical area in frustration.
Their passivity that day was infuriating: this time, surely, Klopp will ensure they go for the jugular straight away. Brace yourself for a quick start from Liverpool and that lethal front three.
THE GAME YOU’RE NOT PLANNING TO WATCH — BUT SHOULD
Aston Villa at Brighton. Before the last round of games, these were two teams in a bit of a rut, both winless in their previous four. But they both got eye-catching victories, Brighton making short work of the beleaguered Tottenham thanks to the extremely sharp-looking Aaron Connolly, and Villa handing out a 5-1 shellacking to Norwich. The hope in both camps will be that those wins will inspire something more tangible, that they will be inspired to go on a longer run of success and climb the table, so it will be interesting to see for whom those wins are a catalyst, rather than a false dawn.
ONE THING THAT WILL DEFINITELY HAPPEN
While that victory over Manchester United will have filled Geordie hearts with joy, the chances are it was a temporary boost for a Newcastle team that still have all the problems they did a fortnight ago. Their defence remains shaky, which is bad news considering their opponents on Saturday.
Only the top two have scored more goals than Chelsea this season, and in Tammy Abraham they have a striker who has excelled in making shaky defences suffer. This isn’t a back-handed way of suggesting Abraham is a flat-track bully — it’s too early for that — merely that he has been ruthless so far this term. Expect a couple to come against Steve Bruce’s side.
THE TEAMS THAT NEED A BIT OF LUCK
Luck is everything in sports. Get acquainted with ESPN’s Luck Index as we pick out the team most desperate for good fortune amid a difficult run. Here are the big takeaways from the 2019 edition as explained by Gab Marcotti.
Everton. A few weeks ago, Marco Silva was looking good. A wobbly spell last season had been transformed into something approaching a coherent style of play, and hard-fought wins over Watford and Wolves hinted at better times ahead. How quickly things have changed: Silva’s side have now lost their last four in the league, and the most troubling thing is only one of them (to Manchester City) has been excusable. They need to get better, obviously, but if you can’t be good, be lucky — a pinch of fortune might be the thing to get them back on track.
Everton 1-2 West Ham
Leicester 2-0 Burnley
Tottenham 1-0 Watford
Wolves 2-2 Southampton
Aston Villa 3-2 Brighton
Bournemouth 3-1 Norwich City
Chelsea 4-1 Newcastle United
Crystal Palace 2-2 Manchester City
Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool