Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Sam Allardyce takes on Pep Guardiola, Spurs seek an end to first-half misery and Steve Cooper senses a chance for Forest

1) Xhaka demands desire from Arsenal

After putting six goals past Tottenham at St James’ Park last month, what do Newcastle have in store for Arsenal? How might Eddie Howe’s Champions League-chasing team affect Mikel Arteta’s title challenge? Granit Xhaka is braced for a tough afternoon. The Swiss midfielder remembers not only the ill-tempered 0-0 draw Newcastle secured at the Emirates in January but the 2-0 defeat inflicted on his team on Tyneside last May. “We don’t forget the game we had up there last season when, and I have to be honest, Newcastle destroyed us,” said Xhaka. “They were much better and wanted it much more. This time we have to show we are ready for them and deserve to be where we are. But it will be a tough game; Newcastle are doing a very good job.” Louise Taylor

  • Newcastle v Arsenal, Sunday 4.30pm (all times BST)

2) Damage limitation for Allardyce?

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Sam Allardyce is the Leeds manager now, and his first game in charge comes at the Etihad. Allardyce may well believe that if his surname were Allardici, he would be in the Manchester City dugout instead, but fate is yet to intervene on that front. Instead the former one-game England manager has only four matches to save Leeds from dropping into the Championship. Usually, you would like to set the bar in the opening match after riling up your new charges. Against Manchester City, however, Allardyce faces a tough decision: whether to set a style for the remainder of the season or desperately hope to earn a surprising point against the champions by sticking 11 men behind the ball. After two years away from management, Allardyce will be eager to pit his wits against Pep Guardiola but he may need to accept damage limitation to build on for the final push. Will Unwin

  • Manchester City v Leeds, Saturday 3pm

3) Wolves fans will want money’s worth

Wolves’s annihilation at Brighton last Sunday, a week on from Tottenham’s bludgeoning at Newcastle, raised the question: what exactly is the threshold for reimbursing supporters’ tickets? Julen Lopetegui held his hands up for Wolves’ performance at the Amex Stadium – his team trailed 6-0 inside 66 minutes – but there is an argument to say that profuse apologies should probably suffice. Tottenham’s players acknowledged their poor showing at St James’ Park by refunding more than 3,000 fans the cost of their tickets, about £80,000 in total. Supporters are not held to ransom – well, they are in many ways – but it is the fans’ choice to follow their team up and down the country. Either way, Wolves are unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt if they put in another abject display at home to Aston Villa this weekend. Ben Fisher

  • Wolves v Aston Villa, Saturday 3pm

4) Spurs must end first-half horror shows

“How shit must you be, it’s only 2-0,” sang the travelling Tottenham support at Anfield last Sunday. Perhaps Liverpool were slighted because they quickly made it 3-0 in the 15th minute, seemingly ending the contest. Spurs fought back, equalising in stoppage time before throwing it away at the end, but their dreadful start confirmed the re-emergence of a theme of their season. Previously, they had trailed 2-0 and 5-0 at half-time to Manchester United and Newcastle United respectively and, although they salvaged a point against the former, they have regularly played with fire by running on autopilot in the first half of matches, sometimes crashing. In their last 33 games in all competitions, Spurs have scored 12 first-half goals, which have been good for an interval lead on five occasions. Thirteen times during the sequence, they have been behind at the break. David Hytner

  • Tottenham v Crystal Palace, Saturday 3pm

5) Dyche needs to use bench options

Sean Dyche is not a man for dynamic substitutions. At Burnley, his changes were generally pretty choreographed – the two strikers would be changed between 60 and 70 minutes and a fresh winger would be sent on before the final whistle. At Everton the idea is to keep the starting XI on the pitch for the full match if they are not losing. In the draw against Leicester the only change came before half-time because of an injury to Séamus Coleman. At Crystal Palace, Mason Holgate’s red card in the 81st minute forced Dyche’s hand, before Neal Maupay was brought on in injury time. Amadou Onana and Demarai Gray were unused at the King Power Stadium, where a win would have taken Everton out of the relegation zone. Dyche has a decent squad at his disposal and needs to rethink how he uses it to get them out of trouble. WU

  • Brighton v Everton, Monday 5.30pm

Everton’s Demarai Gray in action against Crystal Palace
Everton’s Demarai Gray (left) will be hoping for some game time against the Seagulls. Photograph: Simon Dael/Shutterstock

6) Cornet deserves bigger West Ham role

West Ham’s failure to strengthen on the left flank is baffling. It was clear they needed an alternative to Aaron Cresswell at left-back last summer. David Moyes went for Emerson Palmieri, but the former Chelsea defender has not shown that he can play in a back four. Emerson was given a chasing by Crystal Palace last week and looks more comfortable as a wing-back. Yet West Ham lack attacking impetus when they switch to a back three. Moyes has a lot of attackers capable of playing on the left wing, but few have produced this season. Pablo Fornals has struggled, while four of Saïd Benrahma’s five goals have been penalties. It is not enough given that the Algerian has started 20 games, but Moyes has not managed to replace him. A lot of money was wasted on Nikola Vlasic – the Croat is now on loan at Torino – and Maxwel Cornet has barely featured since recovering from a long-term injury. Cornet came on in the 89th minute at Palace and was an unused substitute against Manchester City on Wednesday. He surely deserves more minutes against Manchester United. Jacob Steinberg

  • West Ham v Manchester United, Sunday 7pm

7) Salah on the spot to bounce back

With no margin for error in their belated pursuit of Champions League qualification, it is imperative Liverpool hold their nerve over the final four games. Jürgen Klopp and Mohamed Salah have already shown the way. The pair sat down to discuss penalty-taking duties after Salah had missed his second in succession during the 2-2 draw with Arsenal on 9 April, the last time Liverpool failed to win a game. Cool heads prevailed and Salah has converted two penalties in the past week, helping Liverpool establish their best winning streak of the campaign and moving to 29 goals for the season in all competitions. One more will take him to the 30-goal mark for the fourth time in seven seasons at Anfield. “We had a conversation and he wanted to stay the penalty-taker,” Klopp revealed. “I said: ‘OK, you are.’ He didn’t feel great in that moment because the pressure increases with the penalties you miss. He could have given the ball to Fab or Trent, but he smashed them and turned it around. He enjoys these situations.” Andy Hunter

  • Liverpool v Brentford, Saturday 5.30pm

Mohamed Salah smashes in a penalty against Fulham at Anfield
Mohamed Salah smashes in a penalty against Fulham at Anfield. Photograph: Jon Super/AP

8) Yates could step in with Danilo out

It does not get much bigger than this for Nottingham Forest. With the calamity around them in the battle for survival, a single victory could be enough to save them. The roof was lifted off the City Ground by beating Brighton in their most recent home game and, considering their sole away victory came at Southampton, Steve Cooper will be targeting another three points. Like most weeks, Forest have an injury to contend with: Danilo will miss the next two matches after suffering a muscle problem at Brentford. The 22-year-old has been one of the more promising acquisitions from a chaotic January and was starting to settle in midfield. Ryan Yates looks to be the likely candidate rather than Cheikhou Kouyaté, Remo Freuler or the unpopular Jonjo Shelvey. The homegrown midfielder’s return to the starting lineup would provide a boost to the Forest faithful for a crucial 90 minutes. WU

  • Nottingham Forest v Southampton, Monday 8pm

9) Lampard to give youth a chance?

The main thing to look out for is whether Chelsea lose again. Frank Lampard’s record at Chelsea reads: six matches, six defeats. Within those fixtures, they have looked like relegation candidates with their lack of desire, inability to create chances and dreadful defending. What can poor old Frank do to change things? Resigning would be the most sensible idea, but he is no quitter. His brief success during a first Chelsea managerial spell was down to bringing through young players because of a transfer embargo and, after watching six pitiful losses this time, he may as well do likewise. Noni Madueke was one bright spot at Arsenal in his first start under Lampard. Carney Chukwuemeka, Lewis Hall and Omari Hutchinson have all shown promise this season but cannot make a match-day squad, leaving it up to the tried and tested players to fail. There is nothing to lose for Lampard now – he may as well help his replacement out. WU

  • Bournemouth v Chelsea, Saturday 3pm

10) Time for the Foxes to bare teeth

It is not Dean Smith’s fault that Jonny Evans has been injured for much of the season and Wesley Fofana was so determined to join Chelsea last summer. Still, Smith has no time for excuses as he battles to keep Leicester up. The main focus for the manager must be on getting more from the centre-backs at his disposal. Clean sheets are precious in a relegation battle and the worry for Smith is that Leicester remain too open. They have shipped seven goals in his first four games and were lucky to concede only twice in Monday’s draw with Everton. Daniel Iversen had to make too many saves and it must have worried Smith to see his defence struggle to deal with Everton’s physical approach. Admittedly they will face a different test at Fulham, who cannot be as direct without the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic leading the line, but Leicester have to be harder to beat, starting in central defence. JS

  • Fulham v Leicester, Monday 3pm

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Man City 33 57 79
2 Arsenal 34 42 78
3 Newcastle 33 34 65
4 Man Utd 33 9 63
5 Liverpool 34 24 59
6 Brighton 32 22 55
7 Tottenham Hotspur 34 6 54
8 Aston Villa 34 4 54
9 Brentford 34 8 50
10 Fulham 34 -1 45
11 Crystal Palace 34 -10 40
12 Chelsea 33 -7 39
13 AFC Bournemouth 34 -28 39
14 Wolverhampton 34 -21 37
15 West Ham 34 -13 34
16 Leicester 34 -13 30
17 Leeds 34 -24 30
18 Nottm Forest 34 -32 30
19 Everton 34 -25 29
20 Southampton 34 -32 24


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