Weekend preview: Things to look out for - (2021)
Game of the weekend
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was relegated with Cardiff in 2013/14, few expected his next Premier League job to be with Manchester United. The Norwegian is indeed the man occupying the hot seat at Old Trafford until the end of the season, following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho on Tuesday. The Red Devils are 11 points adrift of the top four, a gap they are unlikely to close, so Solskjaer's remit will be to restore some sort of feel-good factor to a beleaguered club.
Like United, Cardiff were also beaten in their most recent fixture, but there were some positives to take from their battling display in a 3-2 defeat by Watford. That reverse means the Bluebirds still have the joint-worst away record in the division having taken just one point from a possible 24 on the road thus far, but they are a different prospect at home: Cardiff have won four and drawn one of their nine encounters in front of their own fans, which is a superior record to seven top-flight sides.
It will be interesting to see what sort of reception Solskjaer gets on his return to south Wales, which will not necessarily be a successful trip for United if they prove unable to deal with Cardiff's direct approach.
All eyes on
First impressions are vital in every walk of life, and Ralph Hasenhuttl could hardly have done a better job of endearing himself to the St Marys faithful last weekend. Not only did the Austrian boss treat Southampton fans to free drinks before their meeting with Arsenal, but he also delivered the club’s first victory since September 1 with a 3-2 success against Unai Emery’s men.
In David Wagner, Hasenhuttl will be locking horns with another highly-rated German-speaking coach this weekend. Huddersfield Town have lost four on the bounce but each defeat has been by a narrow margin, so this could be a tight, cagey game at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Man in form
Manuel Pellegrini was heavy favourite to be the first Premier League manager to be sacked when West Ham United lost four games in a row at the start of the campaign. The experienced Chilean was able to ride out the storm, however, leading the Hammers to a crucial 3-1 win at Everton before further positive performances against Manchester United, Chelsea and Burnley.
West Ham began December four places but only three points above the bottom three; a return of four victories from four so far this month has seen them climb up to ninth, just two points behind Manchester United in sixth.
Felipe Anderson has been key to the Londoners’ recent improvement, scoring in wins against Newcastle United and Crystal Palace before providing an assist in last weekend’s 2-0 triumph over Fulham. The tricky Brazilian is one to watch when West Ham host Watford on Saturday.
One to watch
Mauricio Pochettino has never been shy to blood youngsters, with Oliver Skipp the latest Tottenham Hotspur academy product to be handed a first Premier League start last Saturday. The 18-year-old midfielder impressed in the 1-0 victory over Burnley, playing with a maturity and assuredness which belied his tender years.
With Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele all on the treatment table, Skipp could be handed another chance to shine when Spurs do battle with Everton on Sunday.
Manager under pressure
Leicester City are in danger of stagnating, and Claude Puel will come under increasing pressure if his side are unable to turn around a run of form which has seen them win just one of their last six Premier League outings.
The Foxes were insipid in a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace last weekend, and although they are not expected to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, they must at least deliver an improved performance.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.
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