Everything you need to know about this weekend’s Premier League action, all in one place.
The weekend’s biggest questions
Does Rashford’s injury scupper any chance of Manchester United beating Liverpool?
It’s still slightly odd to think that Manchester United remain the only team to take points off Liverpool in their last 30 games. With that knowledge, Liverpool could approach this weekend’s match between the two at Anfield in one of two ways: with trepidation, thinking that United are somehow their kryptonite, or with a raging sense that vengeance must be theirs. It is, on balance, more likely to be the latter.
Particularly if United are without Marcus Rashford. Any criticism of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for bringing Rashford on in their FA Cup replay against Wolves, only for him to suffer a back injury, feels misguided: United were going for a victory in the only tournament they are likely to win this season, so it makes perfect sense to be aggressive. But without him, United look duller, less potent, and when you’re playing Liverpool at Anfield, you need all the potency you can get.
How will Jose Mourinho approach the game against Watford?
There has been spirited debate over the last week over Jose Mourinho’s tactics against Liverpool. Much of the criticism was not necessarily just about how he asked Tottenham to approach that individual game, more that it was a sign of how things were going to be at Spurs, that Mourinho hadn’t changed at all and we could expect some grim old encounters where there had previously been excitement.
Clearly, Spurs will not be as defensive against Watford as they were in the first half against Liverpool, but it will nonetheless be fascinating to see how they approach a game against Nigel Pearson’s men who, Liverpool and Manchester City aside, are the form team in the Premier League.
It’s a bigger game for Spurs than you might think, because if they lose this one after the plan didn’t work last weekend, Mourinho’s authority could become be shaky in the Spurs squad, and any plans he has will be compromised.
Will Leicester bounce back from defeat last weekend?
In some respects Leicester’s defeat to Southampton last weekend was inevitable: karma almost demanded that the Saints were due some revenge, and on a more practical and rational level, this is just what usually happens to a team whose success essentially relied on everything going right. Just enough holes have opened in Leicester’s team to make their last couple of games a struggle, whether that’s the injury to Wilfred Ndidi, or the patchy form of Youri Tielemans and Ben Chilwell.
But Leicester are still in a remarkable position, third in the table with an 11-point gap to fifth place. Qualifying for the Champions League looks like a modest achievement compared to what they did a few years ago, but it would be pretty extraordinary if they did make it. They do still need to get winning again though, and if they can beat a struggling Burnley side this weekend, they will be right back on course.
Man to watch
The bigger blow from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s red card against Crystal Palace last weekend was not that Arsenal had to survive 25 minutes with 10 men, but more that the burgeoning attacking quartet that has shown signs of great promise in their recent games will not have a further chance to work together.
But more specifically for one of that quartet is that the goal-scoring burden is now passed from Aubameyang to Lacazette, which might not fill Arsenal fans with confidence given the Frenchman hasn’t scored a league goal in a month. Lacazette would have needed a goal this weekend anyway for his own purposes, but now his team need him to score as well.
The game you’re not planning to watch, but should
Norwich vs. Bournemouth
One of those games which you should give a swerve if what you’re after is top-class, confident football, but a fixture to fixate on if frantic, nervous energy is your thing. Between them Norwich and Bournemouth, the bottom two teams in the Premier League, have collected three points from the last available 30, and you would struggle to argue either of them have been unlucky in that run. It’s obviously a big game for both teams, but more so Norwich: they’re already eight points adrift of safety and if they don’t get something from this one then their situation, if it isn’t already, will look unsalvageable.
The team that needs some luck
Or, perhaps not Sheffield United, but specifically David McGoldrick. Has there ever been a Premier League forward who so indisputably commands his place in the first team, despite not scoring any goals? The hunt goes on for McGoldrick, and while Chris Wilder said recently that he would still be in the team even if he doesn’t score this season, a goal would be wonderful, if only for McGoldrick’s sense of confidence.
And particularly against Arsenal, a side rediscovering itself after the turgid tenure of Unai Emery. As the old cliche says, he just needs one to go in off his rear end …
One thing that will definitely happen
The David Moyes derby will be weird
The early, tentative signs are that Everton and West Ham’s respective recent managerial appointments are working out for them, but it will still be strange when the two managers stride out to those dugouts at the London Stadium on Saturday.
Because who would have thought, at the start of the season — in October, even, when these two last met — that Carlo Ancelotti would be managing Everton and David Moyes would be in charge at West Ham? A multi-Champions League winner at a club that hasn’t won a trophy in 25 years, and a man who had been dropped 18 months earlier because the Hammers thought they could do better, do sexier. Yes, for sure, this game is going to be pretty weird.
Stats of the weekend
Provided by ESPN Stats & Information
– After breaking the Premier League hat trick record last Sunday, Sergio Aguero is on the brink of another milestone — he is one goal shy of 250 career goals with Manchester City.
– Chelsea seek consecutive away Premier League wins against Newcastle for the first time since winning both in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
– Tottenham have been held scoreless in last two Premier League matches. They have not gone three league matches without a goal since November 2013.
– Arsenal have not lost back-to-back matches against Sheffield United since 1964 and haven’t lost at home to Sheffield since 1971.
Watford 2-1 Tottenham
West Ham 2-2 Everton
Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United
Brighton 2-0 Aston Villa
Manchester City 4-1 Crystal Palace
Norwich 1-0 Bournemouth
Southampton 2-1 Wolves
Newcastle 0-2 Chelsea
Burnley 1-2 Leicester City
Liverpool 3-0 Manchester United