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Premier League: 10 things to watch out for this weekend | Major league


1) Improved Leicester’s face-down champions

Brendan Rodgers Reborn? Five matches in October produced three wins, just one defeat and four matches without a match. Picking off fellow Leeds and then Wolves a resounding 4-0 win took Leicester out of the bottom three, but there is still a lot of work to do. Rodgers’ immediate aim is to qualify for the World Cup by clearing the relegation zone, although the meeting with Manchester City is likely to be a no-brainer. Leicester’s new-found defensive strength has been linked by many to the form of Wata Fays, but the aggressive, disheveled Belgian could be spared the final test against Erling Haaland, given he is a doubt with a foot injury that ruled him out in the second half in Borussia Dortmund.. Leicester have been a troublesome opponent for Pep Guardiola at times. His first visit to King Power in October 2016 ended with a A 4-2 defeat inspired by Jamie Vardy and the moment he was touched to ask, “What is tackle?” John Bruin

2) The case where Emery could be

It was a classic sliding door moment. Unai Emery changed my mind of Villarreal’s swap for Newcastle last November, with Eddie Howe in charge at St James’ Park instead. But what could happen if the Spaniard agreed to the accommodation? Would Newcastle have won the fight against relegation last season? Can they climb that high in the table now? And where would Howe end up? Given Newcastle’s radical improvement last time out, it is widely believed that they were lucky to escape Emery, who has joined the intrigue over how the former Arsenal manager can do at Aston Villa. Work permit issues mean he won’t be in the technical area on Saturday – Emery will officially start at Villa on Tuesday – so with interim manager Aaron Danks on the sidelines, there will be no tactical competition with Howe. Louise Taylor

3) De Zerby tends to break his duck during a visit to Potter

Graham Potter returns to Brighton after seven weeks at Chelsea, during which his former club did not win a single game. After 2-1 win on Tuesday at RB Salzburg, he remains Chelsea’s unbeaten coach. Casemiro equalized with a header for Manchester United last week to deny Potter a first win, but fans of his new club are beginning to appreciate how he has built a reputation by the sea. Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea have often suffered because of their rigidity, while Potter’s flexible tactics have made the team more attractive to watch but difficult to beat. Players like Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and especially Ruben Loftus-Cheek were given their chance to shine. Roberto De Derby’s rating of two points out of a possible 15 is still hopeless and Brighton’s former defensive strength has been lost as the Italian demands to play the ball out from the back at every turn. So far it has been most successful in showing what good work Potter has done. JB

4) March on the border at Enfield

Anfield is no place for a struggling away manager in need of a break. Marcelo Bielsa arrived under pressure at Leeds last season and looked doomed a 6-0 loss. The end was confirmed after another heavy defeat at home to Tottenham three days later. His replacement, Jesse Marsh, faces Liverpool in a similar but perhaps weaker position given that the fans have turned in a way that didn’t happen under the respected Argentine. Two points from the last 24 available also fueled the riots. However, Leeds have fared most strongly against stronger sides this season, particularly against Chelsea and Arsenal, and their manager is in desperate need of a repeat as he looks to win back support and time. This is no small task at a difficult time. Liverpool are unbeaten in 29 Premier League home games. Andy Hunter

Leeds manager Jesse Marsh is under pressure ahead of a tough game at Anfield. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

5) The fury of VAR is convenient for O’Neill and Conte

An unintended byproduct of the VAR system has been its use as a weapon of managerial mismanagement. On Monday, Gary O’Neill held a post-match rail about it being a misrepresentation against his team Bournemouth. “There were 10 major VAR checks and none of them went in our favour,” he said after the West Ham defeat. “It’s getting ridiculous.” On Wednesday, after Harry Kane’s winner against Sporting was scratched, Antonio Conte mounted an even tougher attack. “I don’t see honesty” he said. “I’d like to see when that decision was made with a top-class team in an important game.” It called into question his view of Tottenham’s position. Both managers were up against perceived unfairness, but in both cases, challenging decisions threw a fig leaf at poor results. Bournemouth rarely threatened Lukasz Fabianski’s goal, while Tottenham created a difficult atmosphere against a not particularly tough Sporting defence. Behind the dark hints of conspiracy lie two teams battling for form. JB

Conte says VAR ‘hurts’ game after winning goal disallowed – video

6) Ten Hag needs a true centre-forward

Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo: Will Manchester United’s true No.9 reveal himself? In particular, it may be the feeling of Erik ten Haag. The question of who leads the offense is the main threat to success this season. Rashford is the top scorer with five, but not a ruthless Kane-esque marksman. Martial, a better finisher, is injury-prone (three matches, no 90-minute match). Ronaldo, who turned 38 in the spring, displays an attitude problem that is anathema to the team spirit of Ten Haga, who stands for one. Absent from the list of five summer acquisitions of the Dutchman – Christian Eriksen (playmaker), Casemiro (midfield), Antoni (winger), Tyrell Malasio (defender), Martin Dubrac (goalkeeper) – was a central striker. January is rarely the best time to dip into the market, but Ten Haag may have to task his director of football, John Murt, with trying to find a new striker. The man selected against West Ham can score, but there remains a structural problem for the manager to address. Jamie Jackson

7) Les is aiming for another big shock

A leaner and meaner Nottingham Forest visit the Emirates, buoyed by a clean sheet at Brighton and last week heroic victory over Liverpool. Steve Cooper knew his side needed to get back to basics before rediscovering some of their attacking flair at the start of the season, and they got the balance right during a tumultuous occasion at the City Ground. It will be tougher against an Arsenal side who usually subdue their opponents with quick, intense starts, but Forest may feel a little pressure has been taken off them on Sunday. Any result would be a huge bonus and they will be hoping that with Arsenal not so fresh after a fourth consecutive week of Europa League pressure, their chances of achieving it will go up a notch. Arsenal’s recent second-half performances have been relatively lackluster: if Forest can hold on for 45 minutes, the leaders’ legs could start to get a lot harder. Nick Ames

Ryan Yates (R) and Rema Froyler with
Nottingham Forest’s Ryan Yates (right) and Rema Frohler celebrate at the final whistle after their win over Liverpool. Photo: Ashley Western/Colorsport/Shutterstock

8) Is Calvert-Lewin offering England a reminder?

It is probably too late for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to make a late push for a place in England’s World Cup squad. The striker has missed too much football of late and has been powerless to stop Tammy Abraham and Ivan Toni from moving ahead of him in Gareth Southgate’s plans. However, Calvert-Lewin, who traveled to Euro 2020 as Harry Kane’s deputy, remains vital to Everton. Frank Lampard’s team worked in the final third until Calvert-Lewin was out, but he made a huge difference when he started against Crystal Palace last weekend. His touch to get away from Palace’s Mark Gea and then a crisp strike to put Everton ahead were timely reminders of his class. It was the kind of goal that brought Calvert-Lewin into the England squad and he will be hoping to progress further at Fulham. Jacob Steinberg

9) The Saints of Sunaka face other mysteries

For their first game as the UK Premier’s favorite team, Rishi Sunakam’s favorite Southampton travel to Selhurst unbeaten in three matches and having just held Arsenal last Sunday. Lenko, the fourth central defender, put in a strong shift to eliminate the threat of Gabriel Martinelli as a right-back extraordinaire. If Ralf Hasenhütl sticks with the Brazilian, which may be necessary with Kyle Walker-Peters out for the foreseeable future with a hamstring problem, then he is likely to face Wilfried Zaha. The Palace captain was disappointed in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Everton, as was Patrick Vieira’s entire attacking unit. Zaha’s winner against Wolves last week was his first since August, but he remains his club’s top scorer with five. Zaha, Michael Olise, Jordan Ayew, Odsonne Edouard and Eberechi Eze all share a quality that would probably fit among Hasenhütl’s enigmas. For both teams, volatility is the most obvious quality. JB

10) Where will the Wolves score from?

That’s true, but Wolves need goals if they are to avoid relegation and see Fosun Group’s expensive project collapse. They have managed just five this season and none of them have been scored by a striker. Raul Jimenez will return to England from Friday to continue his recovery from a groin injury, but for now they have to contend with Diego Costa, whose mind seems more willing than his body. There may be some encouragement from Brentford’s recent defending: while Thomas Frank’s side have done well to shut out Chelsea and Brighton in the last fortnight, there have been some worrying collapses at Newcastle and Aston Villa, while Arsenal scored three times in west London last month. Brentford are usually strong at home, but Wolves will be hoping that if they dominate possession and shot count to the point that they still somehow bring a 4-0 loss at Leicester last week, they can crack them on Saturday. ON


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