Each week we preview the Premier League’s weekend action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.
Manchester City and Manchester United go head-to-head in the Manchester derby this weekend, whilst there’s another crucial clash at the top end of the division as Liverpool take on West Ham at Anfield.
Elsewhere Norwich meet Brentford in a relegation six-pointer, whilst Leeds’ new era post-Marcelo Bielsa will begin as Jesse Marsch takes charge of the struggling side for the first time.
Ahead of the weekend’s football, we look at eight Premier League talking points.
What will Jesse Marsch bring to Leeds?
Leeds will begin a new era this weekend as Jesse Marsch takes charge of the side for the first time, the American arriving at a club mourning the departure of Marcelo Bielsa despite their recent struggle for results.
There will be a sense of intrigue surrounding the 48-year-old, who won two domestic doubles with Red Bull Salzburg before a short and less successful spell at sister-club RB Leipzig.
Marsch will inherit a side attuned to hard-running and that will aid the high-intensity pressing football he will look to implement, but Leeds are in free-fall at present and his ability to tighten up the Premier League’s worst defence – a criticism previously levelled at Marsch – will be key to securing survival this season.
💬 𝗝𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗟𝗲𝗶𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿: "Fearlessness is what we've talked about, so we better be in this moment." pic.twitter.com/VaFLVmsfUt
— Leeds United (@LUFC) March 3, 2022
Leeds face none of the top seven in their first six fixtures of the new regime and have crucial clashes with Norwich and Watford looming, the new coach in need of a strong start as the club look to move away from the relegation places.
Leeds travel to face a Leicester side boosted by Jamie Vardy’s return this weekend, a clash between two teams who have conceded the joint-most goals from set-pieces in the Premier League this season (13 – also Crystal Palace).
Ward-Prowse showing value to Villa
Southampton turned down a £25m bid from Aston Villa for James Ward-Prowse last summer, as the latter looked to invest some of the funds from Jack Grealish’s sale on the Saints’ captain.
Having already secured the signing of Danny Ings from Southampton, Villa had been keen to raid the Saints for a second time as the club sought to add creativity to their midfield options.
Southampton’s stance – and subsequent securing of Ward-Prowse down to a new long-term deal – has proven a wise move with the 27-year-old enjoying an excellent season for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
📊 James Ward-Prowse makes his 350th appearance for @SouthamptonFC in all competitions
His 12 PL goals from direct free-kicks is now joint 2nd, behind David Beckham (18). He also has 20 PL assists from set-pieces, only 3 players have more since his PL debut in 2012 pic.twitter.com/41Ko7NFKsi
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 25, 2022
Ward-Prowse ranks fifth in the Premier League for key passes this season, whilst his numbers for goals and assists are higher than each of Villa’s midfield options, in addition to his chances created, forward passes and interceptions per 90 minutes.
The failure to sign Ward-Prowse has perhaps aided the breakthrough of Jacob Ramsey this season, but there is little doubt the midfielder would have been an outstanding addition to Villa’s ranks.
Burn has proven ideal fit for Newcastle
Having chased a host of centre-backs across Europe last month, the arrival of Dan Burn was viewed as an underwhelming addition to Newcastle’s new regime.
The 29-year-old has wasted little time in becoming a favourite at St James’ Park, however, impressing during the Magpies’ climb away from the Premier League’s relegation places.
Newcastle have taken seven points and kept two clean sheets from the three fixtures Burn has featured in, the towering defender having helped tighten a defence that had struggled across the opening months of the season.
Newcastle United's record in the Premier League without Dan Burn:
▪️ 22 games
▪️ 2 clean sheets
Newcastle United's record in the Premier League with Dan Burn:
▪️ 3 games
▪️ 2 clean sheets
Howay the Big Lad. 💪 pic.twitter.com/OdJWfB10v3
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) February 26, 2022
Burn will face off against former side Brighton this weekend, with the Seagulls having conceded 10 goals in just five games – winning once – since the departure of the The Blyth-born centre-back to his boyhood side.
Burn’s impressive start has contributed to a seven-game unbeaten run for Newcastle and the defender has been an astute signing for Eddie Howe and his recruitment team.
Norwich and Brentford genuine six-pointer
The Premier League’s form table makes grim reading for Brentford, who have taken just one point from their past eight league fixtures as they have slid down the division.
Thomas Frank’s side are now just three points above the relegation places and with each of the five sides below them possessing at least one game in hand, the Bees find themselves firmly in the relegation dogfight.
Brentford travel to face the Premier League’s bottom side in Norwich this weekend, a clash between two teams promoted together last season and scrapping for survival.
The Canaries have lost their last three after a mini-revival under Dean Smith and time is running out to escape from the bottom three. A win this weekend, however, would close the gap in a congested mix at the bottom and further raise the pressure on their beaten opponents.
Chelsea need forwards to find form
Chelsea were beaten on penalties in the Carabao Cup final last weekend, as Liverpool emerged as winners on penalties following an entertaining goalless draw at Wembley.
Thomas Tuchel’s side had a number of clear chances to win the game in normal time with Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic missing good opportunities.
Chelsea’s defence remains among the division’s best with just eight goals conceded from open-play in the Premier League this season, though the Blues need more from their forwards across the remainder of the season.
Romelu Lukaku impressed off the bench at Wembley and scored in midweek against Luton, whilst Timo Werner scored one and provided two assists to turnaround the game for Chelsea in a performance that will increase his confidence.
Timo Werner came through with a goal and two assists 🥶 pic.twitter.com/xbTJT35cnQ
— GOAL (@goal) March 2, 2022
Werner had struggled during the opening exchanges of the clash with the Championship side, but Tuchel will hope he can take his match-winning performance into this weekend’s clash with Burnley.
Liverpool look to increase pressure on leaders
Liverpool are unbeaten in more than two months in all competitions and will face West Ham this weekend on a run of six consecutive league wins.
That form has clawed back the gap in the Premier League title race and the Reds can move within three points of Manchester City with three points at Anfield on Saturday evening.
Liverpool compared to other teams to play 3+ Premier League games in February:
◉ Most goals scored (12)
◉ Most wins (4)
◉= Most clean sheets (3)
◉ Fewest goals conceded (1)
A 100% record. 💪 pic.twitter.com/yiKM4blE2K
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 3, 2022
Jurgen Klopp made ten changes to his side as Liverpool beat Norwich in the FA Cup in midweek, handing a number of key players a rest ahead of a difficult task against the Hammers.
West Ham won the reverse fixture at the London Stadium and are unbeaten in four, with the powerful midfield duo of Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice set to be crucial in gaining a foothold on Merseyside.
Jarrod Bowen – who has been linked with Liverpool – will also be crucial as the Hammers look to keep alive their top four hopes with a positive result.
Manchester United out to extend Etihad record
Mancunian rivalries resume this weekend as City host United at the Etihad, each side in need of points to keep their season’s aspirations alive.
City have enjoyed the greater success across the past decade after emerging as England’s dominant force, winning three of the past four Premier League titles as the club escape from the shadow of their cross-town rivals.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 2, 2022
However, Pep Guardiola’s side have endured an indifferent record against the Red Devils when it comes to clashes at the Etihad, having won just one of the seven derby fixtures between the sides at their home stadium since 2014.
United have won on each of their past three trips to the Etihad in all competitions and a fourth in a row would provide a huge blow to their rival’s title hopes.
The Red Devils will however have to rediscover a clinical edge in front of goal, while they have only kept three clean sheets in their last 10 outings.
Everton look to end away day woes at stuttering Spurs
Last season Everton ranked fourth in the Premier League’s away table, having picked up 11 wins from their 19 games on the road.
This season the Toffees are struggling and in particular in away fixtures, with Everton having taken just a single point from their last eight Premier League fixtures away from Goodison Park.
Frank Lampard’s early reign has already combined encouraging home showings with woeful performances in away fixtures and the new boss will need to buck that trend as the Toffees take on Tottenham on Monday night.
Spurs continued their incredible unpredictability with a 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup this week, an exit to lower league opponents ending the club’s last remaining chance of silverware this season.
Having thrashed Leeds in the Premier League in their previous game, it continued a chaotic period for Antonio Conte who will be left wondering – and worrying – which version of his side will show up against Everton.