Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

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Left to right: Liverpool’s Naby Keïta, Sébastien Haller of West Ham and Everton’s Alex Iwobi. Composite: Getty Images/Jim Powell

Alex Iwobi could return to haunt Arsenal, the Sam Allardyce era begins at West Brom and Sergio Agüero is back

 The Guardian- Simon Burnton, Barry Glendenning and Michael Butler

 

1) Some changes in personnel from Klopp?

Jürgen Klopp loves a Saturday lunchtime kick-off away from home after his team has played on the previous Wednesday night, and the lucky Liverpool manager has another one to look forward to at Selhurst Park. Despite his grumbles about the dire need for extra substitutes to help ease player fatigue in this compacted season, Klopp didn’t use any of the three available to him against Tottenham, a lack of touchline activity BT Sport reporter Des Kelly might be minded to inquire about if he’s feeling brave. With eight of the team that started against Tottenham having played the full 90 minutes against Fulham, Klopp may freshen things up a little before a festive schedule in which his team is slated to play four matches in 13 days, including the FA Cup tie against Aston Villa. Midfielders Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both fit again and may well feature against Palace. BG

  • Crystal Palace v Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm GMT

 

2) Agüero’s return can get City firing again

Having made a 14-minute cameo against West Brom in midweek Sergio Agüero could return to Manchester City’s starting eleven as they seek to end a run of two successive draws. Agüero has scored in each of his last three appearances against Southampton and in four of the last five – the Saints’ 1-0 win in this fixture in July came while the Argentinian was out with a knee injury. This is the first time in a little over six years that Southampton will go into a fixture against Manchester City above their opponents in the table. In November 2014, they hosted a battle between second and third, but a 3-0 away win saw City vault above the Saints and into second place, where they stayed for the remainder of the campaign; Southampton lost their next three league games and finished seventh. SB

  • Southampton v Manchester City, Saturday 3pm

3) In-form Iwobi returning to haunt Arsenal?

Everton v Arsenal, or the Kevin Campbell derby, as absolutely nobody calls it. Of course, Arsenal’s trip to Goodison Park is also a dose of nostalgia for manager Mikel Arteta, while former Gunner Alex Iwobi is starting to regain the form which caused Everton to spend around £30m on the Nigerian international. In a slightly deeper role, Iwobi has added work rate and tactical understanding to complement his attacking flair under Carlo Ancelotti, who was full of praise for the Arsenal academy graduate after Everton’s 2-0 win at Leicester. “It’s Iwobi’s best moment since I arrived. He is showing confidence, is really good in one-on-one situations and is working hard.” All qualities which Arsenal could do with for Saturday’s match. MB

  • Everton v Arsenal, Saturday 5.30pm

4) Newcastle’s Bruce faces ‘can’t win’ game

A penny for the thoughts of Steve Bruce after he saw his Newcastle side get dismantled by Leeds. Saturday night’s home game against Fulham certainly isn’t “must win” for the Newcastle boss, but he goes into it knowing it’s definitely “can’t win” from a personal point of view. Such is the contempt in which he is held on Tyneside, Bruce knows he will be criticised whatever the outcome. Even victory would likely be greeted with shoulder shrugs accompanied by grumbles that it was “only Fulham”. Newcastle’s every good result appears to be attributed to blind luck, and every bad one blamed specifically on his shortcomings. You could be forgiven for wondering what, if any, kind of job satisfaction the Newcastle manager enjoys. Fans remain infuriated to the point of apoplexy by his conservative approach, but he might consider releasing the handbrake, if preventing a spike in his already sky-high levels of unpopularity didn’t depend entirely on simply avoiding defeat. BG

  • Newcastle v Fulham, Saturday 8pm

 

5) Another chance for Sánchez at Brighton

Brighton have conceded 21 goals this season; outside the bottom three, only Leeds have conceded more. That is despite the Seagulls allowing their opponents only 112 shots, fewer than every team but Manchester City. Of every five shots taken against them, one will go in. Mat Ryan’s apparent inability to stop shots resulted in his being dropped for the midweek trip to Fulham, and Graham Potter has said Robert Sánchez will stay in goal for this game. “There’s a bit about Rob’s quality that we believe in a lot and sometimes you have to give them the opportunity to show what they’ve got,” Potter says. “I thought he brought his quality to the [Fulham] game, he made important saves and he has huge potential. He has all the attributes to be a top goalkeeper.” Sánchez is unlikely to be hugely tested by a Sheffield United side whose start to the season is now officially the worst in English top-flight history, even if nine of their last 12 games have been lost by just one goal. SB

  • Brighton v Sheffield United, Sunday 12pm

6) Ndidi’s welcome return to Leicester midfield

Both Tottenham and Leicester go into their meeting on Sunday on the back of defeats to Merseyside clubs, with both in need of at least a point to keep spirits up for the festive period. Having been forced to play Wilfried Ndidi in a makeshift defence against Everton, Brendan Rodgers will welcome back Jonny Evans from suspension, while the expected return of Timothy Castagne after nearly two months out will further bolster their defence. Making his second start after an eight-week absence through injury, Ndidi was one of few Leicester players to impress against Everton and his return to his rightful place in midfield could prove crucial as Rodgers plots to nullify Tottenham’s potentially lethal attacks on the break. BG

  • Tottenham v Leicester, Sunday 2.15pm

 

7) Sturdier defences at Elland Road 90 years on?

It is more than nine years since these great rivals last met, and this game will be played on the 90th anniversary of Leeds’ most emphatic victory in the fixture. Manchester United lost 5-0 at Elland Road in 1930 and gave, according to the Guardian, “the poorest exhibition of football seen at Leeds for a long time”, in which “they were fortunate to lose by no more than five goals” – the Yorkshire Post said that “on the chances and the run of play this score might well have been doubled”. Manchester United went into that match at the foot of the table, having already conceded four goals on four occasions, five goals twice, six goals twice and seven in a ludicrous home defeat to Newcastle. They ended the season with a goal difference of -62 and were relegated in last place. Leeds went down with them. SB

  • Manchester United v Leeds, Sunday 4.30pm

 

8) West Brom’s board will be blamed if Baggies go down

Football isn’t fair, just ask José. And while there is general uproar at West Brom’s sacking of Slaven Bilic after automatic promotion last season and the Baggies’ spirited draw away at Manchester City on Tuesday, the simple fact is that seven points from 13 games is relegation form and a change of manager is the easiest, cheapest way to bring overhaul to a club. The football might not be pretty, but Sam Allardyce has never been relegated and has twice before been appointed to clubs in 19th place – Blackburn in 2008 and Sunderland in 2015 – and survived on both occasions. If West Brom do go down, the board will be to blame – they sacked two managers (Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew) in 2017-18 and finished bottom. They have been warned. MB

  • West Brom v Aston Villa, Sunday 7.15pm

 

9) Bank on a late penalty leveller at Turf Moor

It may reassure Wolves, whose last two matches have featured decisive stoppage-time goals, to know that Burnley are yet to score in the final 15 minutes of either half in any game this season, and the Clarets’ two goals at Turf Moor so far have come in the third and eighth minutes. On the other hand, both games between these sides last season featured stoppage-time penalty equalisers, with Chris Wood’s 96th-minute spot-kick at Turf Moor Burnley’s only shot on target in that match. “The team was always in control but sometimes justice in the game doesn’t exist,” complained Nuno Espírito Santo. Perhaps karma was at work: at Molineux back in August 2019, Raul Jiménez’s 97th-minute penalty was Wolves’ second shot on target. SB

  • Burnley v Wolves, Monday 5.30pm

10) Has Haller earned his place for Hammers?

It’s been a funny start to life at West Ham for Sébastien Haller. Much like his performance (and wonder goal) against Crystal Palace, the £45m signing has ranged from complete obscurity to centre of attention. Seven goals in 15 appearances this season isn’t bad, though, and his bicycle kick on Wednesday oozed class. It was reminiscent of another big, France-born striker, Oliver Giroud, who has also flickered between the sublime and the ordinary during his career. Haller has a long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same bracket as his opponent on Monday night, but will be hoping for a start at Chelsea even if Michail Antonio returns from injury. MB

  • Chelsea v West Ham, Monday 8pm

 

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