Premier League: 10 talking points this weekend from Liverpool to Man City, Arsenal to Leicester

Miguel Delaney, Mark Critchley, Vithushan Ehantharajah, Kishan Vaghela, Lawrence Ostlere
AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

1) Emphasis on City to cut through Liverpool

Around Anfield, they’re already talking of how Sunday’s match with Manchester City will “make the Champions League quarter-final look like a testimonial”. Much of that is already energised by what should have been fairly routine Premier League fixtures last week. They were instead sensational epic games, that could yet be decisive in the title race, and this match. There’s certainly edge, a pregnant sense of trepidation. Consider that remarkable 10-minute spell. At 4.44pm, City had just completed a comeback against Southampton, and looked set to to cut the gap to three points. They would have arrived at Anfield on a wave, knowing a win would put them back top. Instead, by 4.54pm, the gap was back to six and so much momentum was back with Liverpool. It was one of those moments that the club’s seasoned title-winners - and indeed many at Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United - used to speak about the league feeling fated. They are now again bolstered by immense belief, knowing a win will make it nine points. City thereby know they have to attack, and win, but that they have a lot to lose. Which puts the onus on Klopp. He has been more conservative against City in the league since that Champions League clash. Will he smell blood? Will he go for it? It’s all gloriously set up. MD

2) United must carry their momentum into Brighton test

Sometimes you turn so many corners that you end up back where you started. First it was the win over Chelsea, then the win over Leicester, then the draw with Liverpool and three away victories on the spin, but Manchester United's comfortable 3-0 against Partizan Belgrade on Thursday night felt significant. Their passing was crisp, their movement caused problems and whereas goals have been hard to come by, all three members of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's front-line scored. Nobody's getting carried away. Partizan are hardly pulling up trees in the Serbian Super Liga. But this was finally a good United performance that looked repeatable. Another of a similar quality for Brighton's visit on Sunday would do a lot to lift spirits around Old Trafford.​ MC

3) Battle at the bottom

There has been plenty of talk about the meeting between the top two this weekend, but the showdown between the bottom two on Friday night will be just as significant for Norwich and Watford. The Hornets are showing shoots of recovery under Quique Sanchez Flores, but they desperately need a first win of the season and there will few better opportunities than this one against a seriously struggling Norwich. With potential relegation rivals like Aston Villa, Newcastle and Burnley all going along nicely, now is not the time to get cut adrift. LO

4) Palace can upset Chelsea's rhythm

Two teams who have both quietly impressed so far this season meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime. Chelsea are in fine form in the league and will arrive buoyed by that bizarre comeback against Ajax in midweek, while Palace have slumped a little in an admittedly tricky run of fixtures since their flying start to the campaign. What could be crucial is the midfield battle – Chelsea are set to be without the injured Mason Mount while Jorginho is suspended, and N'Golo Kante is available again but a little rusty. If Palace can disrupt Chelsea's midfield rhythms they will go a long way to keeping Tammy Abraham and the in-form Christian Pulisic quiet. LO

5) Mousset and Lundstram inspiring Baldes' purple patch

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United face Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur, and it is the former’s success that is as intriguing as the latter’s struggles lately. The Blades sit in sixth - one point behind Arsenal – and should Wilder’s side avoid defeat in London for the third time already this season after their draws at Watford and Chelsea, they could well jump above Unai Emery’s men. John Lundstram and Lys Mousset have been in inspiring form in recent weeks and Tottenham’s defensive issues could see Pochettino’s men exposed to the efficiency of United’s dynamic duo. They may be unbeaten in four, but Wilder’s men may not have a better chance to send shockwaves throughout the league. Wilder stated last weekend that he is not looking at the Premier League table, but should his side secure victory in North London, there will few who won’t be. KV

6) Everton’s blues on the south coast

Last weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham may have ever so slightly eased the pressure on Marco Silva after they had come into the game having suffered six defeats in their last 10 Premier League. But having lost each of their last four away Premier League games, Silva’s men have a less than favourable return on their visits to Southampton. Everton have lost five of their last six away league games at Southampton, with their only win a 3-0 victory in August 2015. Southampton have also won 11 top-flight home games against Everton at the Dell at St Mary’s. Having given City a rough ride on Saturday, irrespective of their 9-0 drubbing by Leicester in their last home outing, the Saints will have their tail up against a confidence-ridden Everton outfit. KV

The pressure remains on Silva (AFP/Getty Images)
The pressure remains on Silva (AFP/Getty Images)

7) Can West Ham smother Burnley's attack?

Two teams in claret and blue, side-by-side in the Premier League's bottom half, come together at Turf Moor looking to rejuvenate their campaign. Both Burnley and West Ham have gone off the boil in recent weeks and a victory here would feel like a major scalp for either side. There is plenty to admire in West Ham's approach when it works, but perhaps the big question here is whether they can do the dogged defending that is required at times to keep the duel battering ram of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. LO

8) Bournemouth’s time to evolve is now

It was Josh King’s strike that sealed victory for Bournemouth against Manchester United, but the defensive display from Nathan Ake and Steve Cook displayed first-hand to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer what his side had lacked in that game. That result made it three consecutive Premier League clean sheets for Eddie Howe’s side, but the Cherries must be careful not to get sucked into a false sense of security with their defence. Newcastle scored three goals for the first time this season at West Ham in their 3-2 win, a heartening performance brought about goals not from their strikers, but from Ciaran Clark, Federico Fernandez and Jonjo Shelvey. Bournemouth nullified Manchester United’s front three brilliantly last weekend, and with Newcastle’s attack unlikely to need such close attention, Eddie Howe must place the importance on a ruthless attacking display. For too long have the Cherries started the season well before the eventual fading away. Commanding performances going forward could signal a turn in the tide, and it must start on Saturday. KV

Bournemouth must evolve (Getty)
Bournemouth must evolve (Getty)

9) Will Grealish or Traore decide the West Midlands derby?

Neither side has tasted victory for at least two Premier League games, yet this derby is set up to showcase the very best talent in the West Midlands. The League Cup meeting last month between the two sides went the way of the Villans, and should they beat them at Molineux it will be the first time since the 2003/04 season that they have defeated them twice in the same season. Jack Grealish will undoubtedly be the main man if Villa are to re-create history, particularly if he takes his latest England rejection in his stride after missing out on Gareth Southgate's latest squad. But he may have to share the limelight on this occasion with former teammate and current Wolves winger Adama Traore, who has already startled the likes of Manchester City with his pace and finishing this season and will now look to inflict damage on his former club. Whoever wins that individual battle could decide the game in favour of their side. KV

10) Leicester and Arsenal ready for watershed moments

You often hear about managers who have "X" many games to save their job. But we have not really heard that about Unai Emery. There have been no whispers that Saturday could be his last if Leicester City come out on top, though that doesn't mean it won't happen. From a personal point of view, getting Arsenal in and out of the King Power Stadium unscathed could open up a huge opportunity for the Spaniard. The next two fixtures are at home to Southampton and away to Norwich City - both in the bottom three - before hosting Brighton. There is an opportunity to at least preserve his position as manager for a long enough time that he can address this slump. The flip side of this is that those in power may see that favourable run and realise they are bankers and, thus, wasted on a coach they're pretty close to binning off anyway. Either way, this 5:30pm fixture feels like a watershed moment, for Leicester's credentials as a top-four side and Emery's future. VE