Game of the weekend
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could hardly have asked for a better start to life as Manchester United manager. The Norwegian has overseen four wins from four in the Premier League since succeeding Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford, with United now just six points adrift of the top four.
It should be pointed out, however, that the fixture list has been rather kind to Solskjaer up to now, with opponents Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and Newcastle United all occupying a place in the bottom half when they faced the Red Devils. Travelling to Wembley to do battle with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday will be a different proposition altogether.
Mauricio Pochettino is still the favourite to be United’s next permanent manager, but for now he will be fully focused on the task at hand. Spurs have been in excellent form in recent weeks aside from that surprise 3-1 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and an attacking quartet of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli will fancy its chances of disrupting a United backline which remains vulnerable.
All eyes on
Manchester City’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool last Thursday means the latter’s lead at the top now stands at four opponents. Jurgen Klopp’s charges are still in a fantastic position after 21 games, but it will be fascinating to see how they respond after suffering their first Premier League defeat of the campaign, which was quickly followed by a 2-1 loss to Wolves in the FA Cup.
Brighton and Hove Albion can be tricky opponents at the Amex Stadium – they have the seventh best home record in the division this season – so the Reds will need to be sharp if they are to emerge victorious. This match will be a test of their character as much as their quality.
Man in form
Sean Dyche is one of those managers who likes to stick with a settled starting XI whenever possible, so fringe members of Burnley’s squad have to take advantage on the rare occasions they are handed an opportunity from the first whistle. Youngster Dwight McNeil has done exactly that in recent weeks, first scoring in the 2-0 victory over West Ham United and then setting up Chris Wood’s strike in the 2-1 defeat of Huddersfield last time out.
The 19-year-old started his youth career at Manchester United, before moving to Burnley back in 2014. Dyche has been impressed with the maturity he has shown thus far, with McNeil set to start once more when the Clarets lock horns with Fulham on Saturday.
One to watch
Rafael Benitez, it is fair to say, was never the most popular of Chelsea managers; the Spaniard may have taken the club to Europa League glory in 2013, but his prior association with Liverpool meant he was never able to win over large swathes of the Stamford Bridge support.
Maurizio Sarri is the man in the Chelsea hot seat these days, with the Italian coming in for criticism from some home fans following the insipid 0-0 draw with Southampton before FA Cup third round weekend. Benitez excels at setting up his team to be difficult to beat, so do not be surprised if Newcastle succeed in frustrating the Blues this weekend.
Manager under pressure
David Wagner does not appear to be in any imminent danger of losing his job, but he will certainly be desperate to end a run of eight consecutive Premier League defeats for his Huddersfield side. The German has worked miracles at the John Smith’s Stadium and deserves the chance to try and take the Terries back up to the top flight if they do suffer relegation this term – an eventuality which is looking increasingly likely.
Victory over Cardiff on Saturday would keep their slim survival hopes alive, but a ninth loss on the bounce would almost certainly condemn the Yorkshire outfit to the drop.
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