Kieran Davies looks ahead to a weekend of pressure, wariness and constant storms.
A lot of people accuse Tottenham, despite the talent in their squad, to be very Kane-centric. Without their talisman, they seem to be a very different proposition. There is no doubting when their best eleven players are available, they are enough to give anyone a game. News that their prolific striker will be out for a few months, will really test the depth of their squad. I feel Pochettino is hard done by, he is the figure point for anger from the fans for not spending money in the transfer windows. The reality, as was the case with Arsenal, there probably isn’t any money to spend due to the investment in their new stadium. Well they now have the chance to either prove the haters wrong or to show that currently their squad is not ready to be challenging for the title. Away against a Fulham team this weekend, who couldn’t win a raffle if they were the only ones buying tickets, surely they should have enough about them to comfortably collect three points in this London derby.
Between now and the end of the season, the media will look to associate any Liverpool fixture to some histrionics in them losing a title. This weekend is a nice lazy fixture for these journalists to churn out their work with Crystal Palace travelling to Anfield. Famously, they held Liverpool to a 4-4 draw in a game they were coasting in, but this is a different team and a different fixture. Klopp’s side should make easy work of this Palace team who really struggle to create much let alone finish these openings. This said, they did manage to upset the apple cart away to Manchester City over the Christmas period, showing that on their day, they can cause problems for anyone. Liverpool will need to be wary of this. Such is the force of the German’s team going forward, the question will be whether Palace can weather the constant storm of Liverpool’s attacking play. With City playing Huddersfield this weekend, Klopp knows that they must put pressure on City by securing all three points for his side a day earlier.
Pep will be wary of an under-performing Huddersfield team, but the reality of the situation is, City have the capability to put this fixture to bed in the first twenty minutes. The Spaniard is one for managing a game well and on the road, you tend to see more workmanlike performances from his teams. Ensuring that they take all three points will be the main aim, irrelevant to how they do it. Manchester United gained an important victory against Tottenham last time out and look to continue with their 100% record under their new manager. With Brighton at Old Trafford today, they have the chance to put some pressure on Chelsea for the coveted fourth place. In reality, Tottenham had enough chances in the second half alone to win three or four games, but you are unlikely to do that when you hit all your shots straight at the keeper. Chris Hughton’s team have always struggled with their form away from home in the Premier League, but this is not a game they would have pinpointed as winnable, so should be able to go and play their game with no fear.
Rafa Benitez probably hates transfer windows since being Newcastle manager. Aside from investment, they need points. Strangely, St James’ Park has not been good hunting ground for them this season. With Cardiff City the visitors today, this really isn’t a game they can afford to lose. They have already been sucked into the bottom three, the longer you stay there, the harder it is to get out of it. Cardiff haven’t exactly been ‘free-scoring’ on their travels, even if they can win this one by the odd goal, it would be a massive step towards ensuring their Premier League status for next season. Southampton seem to have hit a streak of form under their new manager, a victory at home against Everton, may be enough to move further away from the relegation spots. Sean Dyche has turned around Burnley’s form of late but faces a stern test as they travel to high-flying Watford. Despite managing to claw their way out of the relegation places, should they taste defeat today, it will really allow the other teams to close the gap to them.
Despite having some of the poorest form in the league currently, Bournemouth still find themselves quite a way off having to worry about fighting for relegation. How long it will stay this way unless they can change their form, will remain to be seen. In-form West ham are the visitors today, Howe may be without striker Wilson, he needs to find goals somewhere else if this is the case. For all their good form, Pellegrini’s team are still capable of ‘off days’ more than most and this is a game Eddie Howe must fancy winning. It wasn’t so long ago that a Chelsea versus Arsenal fixture would define the way the Premier League title went. This time, Arsenal need victory to stay in the two team’s new challenge, fourth place in the league. With Sarri’s team six points clear, you cannot really see Arsenal closing the gap if they are defeated here today.
Wolves and Leicester get the ball rolling this weekend with the early kick off. Despite both teams having inconsistent form, they find themselves in the top half of the table. When they are on their game, Wolves are a joy to watch. Leicester still know how to win Premier League games but tend to look better when they have a fit Jamie Vardy up front. They will be looking for a win today to end a poor run of form which has seen them lose their last three games. Despite the transfer window having been open for 19 days, it is safe to say we have seen little action so far. While the window disappoints, an afternoon of Premier League football never seems to and long may it continue.