Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend


Tottenham and Everton both need a result while Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa may serve up another feast of football

Clockwise from top left; Tottenham manager José Mourinho, West Ham’s Jesse Lingard, Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa, Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace and Leander Dendoncker. Composite: Reuters, Getty, Rex

The  Guardian-Barry Glendenning, Paul Doyle and John Brewin

1) Six months a long time for Mourinho and Spurs

When the dust settles on José Mourinho’s Tottenham tenure – and that could be one day soon – 4 October’s 6-1 win at Manchester United will probably be a high watermark. It happened on a day when the Premier League took on a demented quality. That Sunday also featured Liverpool’s 7-2 loss to Aston Villa. Six months on, Spurs announcing themselves as title contenders feels like a dim, surreal memory. United have since regrouped and victory in north London would further frank their passport into next season’s Champions League. Meanwhile, Spurs continue to scrap on the peripheries of the top four with their manager running his playbook of running battles with his own players. “Same coach, different players,” was his explanation at Newcastle for yet another concession of a late goal, also suggesting his team “create instability to ourselves”. Back in October at Old Trafford, he was “very happy with the squad that I have”. JB

2) Guardiola v Bielsa has potential to be a cracker

Saturday lunchtime kick-offs are maligned for being staid, a trend well and truly bucked by the treat served up by West Brom as they went full Big Samba-boys during their astonishing rout of Chelsea last weekend. The onerous task of following that completely bonkers noon showdown falls to Manchester City and Leeds and if any two teams can emulate that white-knuckle ride it is those managed by Pep Guardiola and the man he cites as his biggest influence, Marcelo Bielsa. The corresponding slugfest between these two sides at Elland Road in October was simply terrific, each finishing with a just goal apiece despite resembling two drunks swinging haymakers at each other in a pub carpark. While defeat for either side would be fairly inconsequential, it has all the ingredients to be another riotously unpredictable classic. BG

  • Manchester City v Leeds (Saturday, 12.30pm)

3) Leicester must demonstrate their staying power

West Ham and Leicester are the glorious gatecrashers keeping richer clubs out of the Champions League places. For the time being. On Sunday one of them may inflict a serious blow on the other’s hopes of staying in the top four. West Ham produced a counterattacking masterclass when they won 3-0 at the King Power in October and since then have added Jesse Lingard, who in just eight appearances for the Hammers has earned a nomination for signing of the season. On the down side, Declan Rice is out and Michail Antonio is a major doubt. Not that West Ham will expect any sympathy from Leicester, who have had to find ways of coping without key players throughout the campaign. And Brendan Rodgers’ side, unusually meek in the defeat by Manchester City last weekend, will be intent on reasserting the qualities that have got them within reach of the Champions League. Last season they faded towards the finish; this season they look stronger and Sunday offers a perfect chance to confirm their progress. PD

  • West Ham v Leicester (Sunday, 2.05pm)

4) Wolves defence offers opportunity for Fulham

Wolves have eight games remaining, five of which are against bottom-six teams. They created plenty in defeat against a West Ham side that took full advantage of the largesse of a defence that Nuno Espiríto Santo had switched from five at the back to four in a decision presumably influenced by the Covid-induced absence of Willy Boly. “I’m angry with myself, angry with the way we deal with those situations,” said Nuno of his side’s helplessness in the face of the three goals West Ham scored on the break. “It’s my responsibility. It’s our mistakes which we will work on. With mistakes, we support the player and give them the solution.” Under the Friday night lights of Craven Cottage, a Fulham side that is becoming increasingly desperate for points can still pose their opponents some serious problems. BG

  • Fulham v Wolves (Friday, 8pm)

5) Liverpool must shake off Madrid malaise

Back to what vaguely resembled their best against an underwhelming Arsenal last weekend, any momentum Liverpool might have been hoping to build came to a halt during their midweek horror show against Real Madrid. Since the turn of the year Jürgen Klopp’s side has bagged just one goal and one Premier League point from seven games at Anfield – a bewildering slump. On Saturday, they entertain an Aston Villa side that walloped them 7-2 at Villa Park in one of this season’s more extraordinary games. Given Liverpool’s midweek performance another upset would be no great surprise. Klopp will undoubtedly have at least one of the eyes behind his new John Lennon spectacles on Real Madrid next week but knows anything less than victory could deal his team’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League a hammer blow. By contrast, victory for Villa would bring them to within two points of their opponents with a game in hand. They harbour notions of their first European foray in 10 years. BG

  • Liverpool v Aston Villa (Saturday, 3pm)

6) Tierney will be missed badly by Arteta

Last week’s heavy defeat by Liverpool revealed just how much Arsenal have come to rely on a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old in Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe. Without them, Arsenal offered next to nothing in attack and instead retreated into a porous shell. There is relief that both returned to training this week. Kieran Tierney’s absence with a knee injury will be more prolonged and has even caused concern in Scotland that he might miss the summer’s Euros. “We don’t have anybody with his qualities within the squad unless we start to move a lot of pieces,” lamented Mikel Arteta. Liverpool was a reminder of the low-quality, ill-fitting options Arteta inherited before he pushed those younger players to the fore. The squad left by Arsène Wenger and rejigged by Unai Emery was unfit for purpose, a good reason why Arteta deserves time to try and regenerate Arsenal as the doubters begin to gather. JB

  • Sheffield United v Arsenal (Sunday, 7pm)

7) Palace players will have contracts in mind

Not quite at the 40-point mark but certainly safe from relegation after winning a late point against Everton, the players of Crystal Palace could be forgiven for putting their feet up and coasting their way to the end of the season. However, with no fewer than 17 senior players out of contract at the end of this season, 10 of whom made the trip to Goodison Park, there is every incentive to impress against Chelsea in a bid to secure the best possible deals for themselves at Selhurst Park or elsewhere. While Wilfried Zaha is not one of those whose contract ends in June, speculation is bound to surround his future, because, well, it invariably does. With transfer funds in short supply around Europe, the winger could certainly do himself no end of good by reminding potential buyers just how gifted he is. With games against three of the top five and six of the top 10 teams to come, Roy Hodgson’s side could yet have a very significant say in the final shake-up of the race for Europe. BG

  • Crystal Palace v Chelsea (Saturday, 5.30pm)

8) Newcastle must seize their moment at Burnley

Most of Newcastle’s remaining matches are against clubs fighting to qualify for the Champions League so, in theory, Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor represents one of the least difficult assignments they have remaining. In October they beat Burnley 3-1 at home thanks to goals by Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson. Saint-Maximin returned from injury last week and caused Tottenham Hotspur lots of problems in a short appearance from the bench, so Steve Bruce will be hoping the Frenchman can start against Burnley’s defenders, who were exposed when Danny Ings ran at them last week. If Wilson is fit enough to feature after being absent for over two months, then Newcastle might just be able to attack their way out of trouble. PD

  • Burnley v Newcastle (Sunday, 12pm)

9) Robinson has earned a chance at West Brom

Callum Robinson works relentlessly and attacks at every opportunity, usually with speed and skill. But apparently managers are not quite convinced he has what it takes to pose a regular threat in the Premier League. Chris Wilder let him leave Bramall Lane for West Brom last summer and invited Ollie Burke to move in the opposite direction, an exchange that few at Sheffield United would now class as shrewd. Not that Robinson has thrived at West Brom: he had been an unused substitute for seven matches in a row until he came off the bench last weekend to help inspire the Baggies to a 5-2 win at Chelsea. No one could criticise his end product in that match, as he scored twice and helped create several other chances. He could not have made a stronger case to Sam Allardyce for starting against Southampton on Monday in another match that West Brom need to win to sustain hopes of springing free from relegation. PD

  • West Brom v Southampton (Monday, 6pm)

10) Ancelotti needs to overturn worrying trends

Everton may be glad of a trip to East Sussex. Their home form threatens to derail a push for European football. Monday’s disappointing draw with Crystal Palace meant they had taken only four points from a possible 18 at home. Equally troubling for Carlo Ancelotti has been his team underperforming against lesser opposition. Since the turn of the year, Everton have lost to Newcastle, Fulham and Burnley, doing Brighton few favours in doing so. West Brom, on the end of Everton’s sole victory in March, might hold some regrets. Should that sequence continue Ancelotti will have presided over a most Everton of seasons, where the promise of challenging the top six is replaced by disappointment and recrimination. Were fans allowed into stadiums, Ancelotti’s expensively assembled collection of players would doubtless be on the end of the infamous Goodison groan that greets the latest disappointment of the faithful. Graham Potter and Brighton have an opportunity to amplify those phantom complaints. JB

  • Brighton v Everton (Monday, 8.15pm)



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