Another bumper weekend of Premier League Football is ahead and here are somethings to look out for ahead of all the action!
Game of the weekend
Manchester City fans must have feared the worst after watching their team lose 2-1 to Newcastle United on Tuesday night, but Liverpool missed the chance to move seven points clear at the top of the table when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester City 24 hours later. Pep Guardiola’s charges can temporarily close the gap to two points if they beat Arsenal on Sunday, with Liverpool’s trip to West Ham United designated for the Monday night slot.
The Gunners were thrashed 5-1 at Anfield in December and will have to give their injury-hit backline a great deal more protection at the Etihad Stadium, but the counter-attacking speed of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang could cause their opponents problems at the other end of the field. City, incidentally, have kept only one clean sheet in their last seven home games in the Premier League – and that was against a Wolverhampton Wanderers side reduced to 10 men in the first half.
This promises to be an entertaining, high-scoring encounter, but City’s superior quality should ultimately get them over the line.
All eyes on
Peter Crouch is back in the Premier League after sealing a £7m move from Stoke to Burnley on Thursday. This will almost certainly be the 38-year-old striker’s last stint in the top tier, and he will be determined to make the most of it.
Sean Dyche’s side have been in terrific form in recent weeks, winning three games on the bounce before creditable draws with Watford and Manchester United in their last two matches. Crouch is therefore unlikely to come straight into a team which has been performing well, but he could make an appearance off the bench against Southampton – one of his old clubs – on Saturday.
Man in form
When Sergio Aguero gave Manchester City the lead against Newcastle on Tuesday, a heavy thrashing seemed more likely than a home win. Yet Rafael Benitez’s side rallied and turned the game on its head, securing a vital victory which moved them five points above 18th place.
Florian Lejuene was perhaps their standout performer on the night, the Frenchman building on another tremendous display in the 3-0 victory over Cardiff City in his previous outing. It is no coincidence that Newcastle have turned a corner since the centre-back was restored to the side after injury.
One to watch
Danny Ings’ dream move quickly turned into a nightmare. After scoring 11 goals for Burnley in 2014/15, the striker joined Liverpool when his contract expired at the end of the season. It was a fantastic opportunity for a player who had spent time on loan at Dorchester Town just five years previously, but in October – and in his first training session under new manager Jurgen Klopp – Ings injured his anterior cruciate ligament and was initially ruled out for the remainder of the campaign.
The ex-Burnley marksman fought back to make an appearance on the final day of 2015/16, but a few months later he suffered an injury to his other knee and was forced to contemplate nine more months on the sidelines. When he returned, game time proved hard to come by with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah firmly established as Klopp’s first-choice attacking trio.
It was a difficult time for Ings, but he has succeeded in getting his career back on track at Southampton this term. Seven goals in 15 Premier League appearances is a fine record and he will be looking to add to that tally when he returns to Turf Moor to face his former employers this weekend.
Manager under pressure
The tragic disappearance of Emiliano Sala has put football into perspective in the last couple of weeks, with Neil Warnock speaking eloquently on the subject prior to Cardiff City’s clash with Arsenal on Tuesday night.
The 70-year-old veteran has done an excellent job of keeping his team – which, on paper, looks of similar quality to many mid-table Championship outfits – competitive this term, but a man of his experience knows that football management can be a harsh and unforgiving world.
Cardiff have won only one of their last eight league games and are now four points adrift of safety ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash with Bournemouth. A continuation of that run could see Warnock’s job come under threat despite the brilliant work he has done throughout his tenure in south Wales.
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