Premier League midweek preview: Things to look out for - (2021)
Game of the week
In the two rounds of fixtures since their 2-1 defeat by Manchester City at the start of the month, league leaders Liverpool have played before the defending champions. This has allowed them to twice open up a seven-point lead at the summit of the standings, only to see Pep Guardiola’s charges cut the gap to four following victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Huddersfield Town.
Things are different this week, with Newcastle United entertaining City 24 hours before Liverpool lock horns with Leicester City. That means the Reds could be just one point ahead of their title rivals at kick-off on Wednesday, and they will have to deal with the pressure that comes with such a situation.
Liverpool were uncharacteristically shaky at the back in their last top-flight encounter, a 4-3 triumph over Crystal Palace, but as long as they pass the mental test they should prove too strong for an inconsistent Leicester side.
All eyes on
Unconvinced by both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, Maurizio Sarri made Gonzalo Higuain his third permanent signing as Chelsea boss last week. The striker thrived under the Italian’s tutelage at Napoli, scoring 36 times in 2015/16 to break the single-season scoring record in Serie A.
Higuain again broke the 30-goal barrier in all competitions for Juventus the following campaign, but he struggled for much of his loan spell at Milan in the first half of 2018/19. The 31-year-old has been one of the best strikers in Italy in the last few years, though, and Sarri will be hoping that the Argentinian gets off the mark in the Premier League when Chelsea host Bournemouth on Tuesday.
Man in form
Ralph Hasenhuttl has enjoyed a fine start to life as Southampton manager, leading the relegation-threatened team to four wins and a draw in their last seven Premier League encounters. Saints are now three points clear of the dreaded dotted line and will fancy their chances of extending that gap when they welcome Crystal Palace to St Mary’s on Wednesday.
Jan Bednarek has arguably been the star of the show in the early weeks of Hasenhuttl’s tenure. Brought in from the cold having started just once under Mark Hughes this term, the Polish defender has been integral to Southampton’s revival, dominating opposition strikers in the air and on the ground.
One to watch
Huddersfield have once again made an innovative managerial appointment following David Wagner’s exit, handing the reins to former Borussia Dortmund reserve team boss Jan Siewert, who becomes the Premier League’s youngest head coach at 36.
No one is expecting the German to keep the Terriers up – they are 10 points adrift of safety after a 10-match winless run – but Siewert will at least be looking to lift the mood at the John Smith’s Stadium when Everton come to town this week.
Manager under pressure
Claude Puel never seems to be further than a couple of bad results away from being under pressure, but there is a sense that a large number of Leicester fans have now lost patience with the Frenchman. That may sound a little harsh given that the Foxes are just two points behind seventh-placed Watford, but the football has been frustrating to watch in recent weeks and there is a feeling that Leicester are treading water.
Defeat at Anfield is unlikely to be fatal for Puel, but an 11th loss of the season would ramp up the pressure further ahead of Sunday’s clash with in-form Manchester United.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.
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