1. Can Lampard beat Mourinho for a third time in the Premier League?
Apprentice 2-0 Master. That was the scoreline last season, as Frank Lampard got the better of Jose Mourinho at both the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and at Stamford Bridge. The Chelsea boss will be looking for a third Premier League victory over his former manager when the London rivals renew hostilities on Sunday.
Both teams head into this game in fine form. Chelsea have won their last three games in the league and are unbeaten in seven, while Spurs have taken 16 points from the last 18 available. Last weekend’s 2-0 triumph over Manchester City means Mourinho’s side go into the weekend on top of the table.
Harry Kane was the star of the show against City, registering his ninth assist of the season and causing Pep Guardiola’s defenders problems all afternoon. Lampard will task N’Golo Kante with shackling the England international when he drops deep, but Chelsea will also have to be wary of Son Heung-min’s darts in behind.
The Blues have looked much more solid in recent weeks and have now kept three clean sheets in their last four top-flight outings. The attack has started to gel too, and Kai Havertz looks set to feature after missing the victory over Newcastle last time out. Chelsea will climb above Tottenham with a win at Stamford Bridge, with Lampard out to beat his old boss once again.
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2. Liverpool target back-to-back clean sheets for first time this season
Defensive crisis? What defensive crisis? With three members of their first-choice back four missing against Leicester, some Liverpool fans feared the worst last weekend. In fact, Jurgen Klopp’s side coped admirably with the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold, delivering their best performance of the season to win 3-0.
Liverpool might not be top of the Premier League right now, but their display against Leicester served as a reminder that they’re still the team to beat. Mohamed Salah was also missing, yet the Reds could easily have scored more than the three they managed against Brendan Rodgers’ high-flying Foxes.
Last Sunday’s shut-out was only the second Liverpool have managed so far this term. June was the last time they registered back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League, and that will be the target when the champions face Brighton on Saturday. Only three teams have conceded more goals than Liverpool so far, and Klopp will be keen to see his side tighten up as soon as possible.
3. Manchester City look to revitalise attack against Burnley
Much has been made of Manchester City’s defensive vulnerabilities in the last 12 months, but right now their principal problem lies at the other end of the field.
Last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Tottenham may have been the first Premier League game in which City have failed to score in this season, but a return of 10 goals in eight matches is extremely paltry by their standards. Steve Bruce’s Newcastle have made the net bulge as often as Pep Guardiola’s free-flowing attacking unit thus far.
The return of Sergio Aguero will no doubt help, but City’s biggest problem has been creating chances rather than converting them. According to Understat, Guardiola’s side have a cumulative xG of just 12.41 this term, a tally bettered by Aston Villa and West Ham among others. That shows that City have not been creating enough high-quality chances.
Guardiola appears to be prioritising controlled possession, perhaps in a bid to protect his team’s backline. However, that approach has led to a stultified attack that Burnley will hope to contain on Saturday.
4. Basement battle at The Hawthorns between two winless teams
Burnley’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace last time out means West Brom and Sheffield United are now the only two teams in the division yet to record a win this season. The pair go head-to-head at The Hawthorns on Saturday knowing that defeat would leave either rooted to the foot of the table.
Chris Wilder’s side were the Premier League’s surprise package last term, but things have not gone to plan so far in 2020/21. United have found the net just four times and look much more leaky at the back than they were during their impressive exploits last season.
West Brom have also struggled for goals, with half of their total of six coming in a single half against Chelsea. The evidence suggests this is unlikely to be a high-scoring encounter.
5. Arteta faces creativity questions ahead of Wolves clash
Mikel Arteta will have been pleased with the battling qualities his players showed against Leeds last weekend. Reduced to 10 men following Nicolas Pepe’s red card early in the second half, Arsenal were resolute in keeping their opponents at bay and picking up a hard-earned point.
More worrying was their display in the opening 45 minutes. Leeds created several noteworthy chances before the break, while Arsenal offered very little at the other end. Arteta’s side have notched just nine goals in their nine games so far, with only Burnley, Sheffield United and West Brom possessing inferior scoring records.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was deployed up front at Elland Road but was again ineffectual. Willian has looked bright in patches but has not yet found consistency, while Alexandre Lacazette is out of form. Arteta needs to find a way to get his team creating more opportunities.
6. Manchester United must start building positive momentum
It has often been a case of one step forward, two steps back for Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The 2020/21 campaign is still young yet there have already been some notable highs and lows for United, who beat PSG away from home and lost 6-1 to Tottenham within the space of two October weeks.
United have won their last two games in the Premier League, beating Everton 3-1 before the international break and triumphing 1-0 over West Brom last time out. Making it nine points from the last nine won’t be easy against an upwardly-mobile Southampton side, but Solskjaer’s men must become more consistent if they’re to finish in the top four.
Southampton will be awkward opponents, and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s high-energy, heavy-pressing style may well overwhelm this weekend’s visitors to St Mary’s. If it does, it will be yet another step back for Solskjaer and United.
7. Everton and Leeds could serve up teatime treat
If you’re looking for entertainment, Everton and Leeds’ games are usually a good place to start. The Toffees have scored 19 goals and conceded 16 so far this season, while Leeds have put the ball in the net 14 times and picked it out of their own on 17 occasions. Their meeting at Goodison Park on Saturday could be a real teatime treat.
Carlo Ancelotti switched to a three-man backline for Everton’s 3-2 win at Fulham last weekend, with Alex Iwobi deployed at right wing-back. He might be tempted to retain that formation here to ensure his side have plenty of bodies at the back to guard against Leeds’ frequent forays forward.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are without a win in their last three and were beaten 4-1 by Crystal Palace in their last away game. It isn’t in Bielsa’s nature to play for anything other than a win, but Leeds fans might settle for a point on Merseyside.
8. Scoreless stalemate at Selhurst Park?
Crystal Palace and Newcastle are among the more shot-shy teams in the Premier League. The Magpies rank 20th for attempts per game with eight, while Palace are only slightly higher in 17th with 9.1.
Roy Hodgson will again have to make do without talisman Wilfried Zaha for the visit of the Magpies. Palace looked toothless against Burnley on Monday night, and Ebere Eze will be relied upon for invention and guile in Zaha’s absence.
Newcastle’s passive approach has frustrated their fans more than their opponents this season, and the absent supporters will want to see more intent from their team on Friday evening. This, however, is unlikely to be a classic.
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