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Eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

Eight talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend, as Spurs return to the scene of last season’s horror show, and Rodri pleads for a rest.

Spurs look to exorcise ghosts of St James’ suffering

Tottenham look to continue their chase for Champions League football at Newcastle this weekend, with the north Londoners arriving at the scene of embarrassment last April. Just over a year ago, Spurs were thrashed 6-1 at St James’ Park during the tenure of caretaker boss Cristian Stellini.

Spurs found themselves 5-0 down inside 21 minutes on an astonishing afternoon in the North East, with only Watford (18 mins against Manchester City in 2019) having trailed 5-0 earlier in a Premier League match.

This is a new side who have impressed under Ange Postecoglou this season, retaking the initiative in the race for the top four after beating Nottingham Forest last weekend. A win at Newcastle, who have the best home record outside the Premier League’s top five this season, would send a statement and banish the demons of last season’s humiliation.

Mbeumo return boosts Brentford ahead of crucial run

Brentford are far from safe in their battle to beat the drop, with a nine-game winless run having left the Bees hovering above the bottom three. Improved performances in successive draws with Manchester United, Brighton and Aston Villa have increased optimism, however, as has the return of Bryan Mbeumo.

The Cameroonian began the season brilliantly in the absence of Ivan Toney and scored seven goals in 15 league appearances before an ankle injury halted him in December. He has returned in recent weeks and marked his first start with a goal against Villa last weekend, with his return to form and fitness and big boost ahead of a crucial period.

Thomas Frank’s team take on relegation rivals Sheffield United (H), Luton (A) and Everton (A) in successive weeks. A full complement in the forward line could be the difference.

Time for Rodri to rest?

Manchester City’s reliance on Rodri is well known. The Spaniard has not lost a club game since February 5th 2023, a run of 66 games in all competitions to be precise. City, meanwhile, have lost five times since that loss to Spurs, though the midfielder has not been present for any of them.

It will have raised alarm bells then when Rodri this week claimed he was feeling fatigued.

โ€œI do need a rest,โ€ said Rodri, whose 3,498 minutes for City are behind only Phil Foden (3,560) this season.

โ€œLetโ€™s see how we speak, how we live the situation. Sometimes it is what it is. I need to adjust. It [rest] is something we are planning, yeah.โ€

With a crunch clash against Real Madrid looming next Wednesday, this weekend looks an ideal time to rest the midfield metronome. Luton are the visitors to the Etihad, with only Sheffield United having won fewer away points this season. While there’s no margin for error in the title race, this appears the ideal time to hand City’s key man a much-needed breather.

Nuno will hope to exploit old side’s soft centre

Wolves’ winless run has seen their hopes of European football stumble, with last weekend’s loss to West Ham leaving Gary O’Neil’s team in the bottom half.

Clean sheets have been a rarity for Wolves, recording just four in their 32 league games this season, and Nottingham Forest will take encouragement from that record ahead of the Midlands match-up between the teams at the City Ground. Nuno Espirito Santo will be aiming to mastermind a win over his old team with Forest outside the bottom three on goal difference after their PSR sanctions.

Forest have only failed to score in two of their last 15 league games despite a struggle for consistent results. Chris Wood will be looked to in the final third with the 32-year-old having scored 12 goals this season. Only once before (14 goals in 2019/20 for Burnley) has he netted more in a Premier League campaign.

Bournemouth seek shock double over open Manchester United

Life is like a box of Chocolate watching Manchester United you never know what you are gonna get.

Erik ten Hag’s team continue to be utterly unpredictable and, for the neutrals at least, entirely entertaining. The openness of the Red Devils has led to some chaotic and compelling clashes this season, with recent showdowns with Chelsea and Liverpool having been engrossing viewing.

Their supporters continue to be put through the wringer emotionally, while opponents enter each game knowing chances are sure to arrive. Bournemouth will be aiming to make history this weekend with a first-ever league double over Manchester United, following a stunning 3-0 win at Old Trafford in December. The Cherries have won each of their last three home games but continue to be frustratingly slow starters, netting just one goal in the first half in their last nine games.

How will Reds respond to Atalanta embarrassment?

Liverpool’s hopes of reaching a European final in Jurgen Klopp’s final season are hanging by a thread after the Reds were stunned 3-0 at home to Atalanta this week. The Europa League favourites before Thursday’s tie, it will now take a monumental turnaround in Bergamo to keep alive their hopes of continental silverware.

There is no time to dwell on that disappointment, however, with Liverpool engrossed in a tense title race with Arsenal and Manchester City. Dropped points at Manchester United last weekend saw Liverpool lose their lead, as Arsenal moved to the summit on goal difference.

Liverpool have now won just two of their last five games in all competitions and victories over Brighton and Sheffield United showed vulnerabilities. Are the Reds running out of steam? Or was their Atalanta embarrassment a rare, if sore, blip? Klopp will demand a huge response from one of the worst performances of his entire reign when Crystal Palace visit Anfield this weekend.

Villa’s double-chance at Champions League football

Aston Villa fans would not have dreamt of being in this position before a ball was kicked this season. As we reach the run-in, Unai Emery’s team are right in the mix for the top four and have the advantage over Lille (2-1) in their bid to reach a European semi-final.

Villa face league leaders Arsenal this weekend looking to maintain their bid for a place in the Champions League. It’s been over four decades since The Villans last qualified for Europe’s top competition, though Emery’s side appear to have a fine double chance this season.

Level on points with fourth-placed Spurs, having played a game more, Villa will be aware that the north Londoners are facing a tough run-in. Ange Postecoglou’s team travel to Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime and face clashes with Arsenal (H), Chelsea (A) and Liverpool (A) in their following three.

Villa will be keen to capitalise on any slip-ups, though consolation could be found in Europe. England is currently level with Germany in the coefficient race to earn an additional Champions League place, and Villa currently boast an 11-point advantage over Manchester United, who sit sixth. Progress deep into the Europa Conference League, or winning it, could be just as crucial as their league form.

Which clubs could claim the extra Champions League places?

Will Everton get another post-sanctions bounce?

Everton’s response to their 10-point sanctions in November could hardly have been better. Four wins on the spin, without conceding a goal, wiped out the deficit (later reduced to six points on appeal) within a month.

The sanctions for breaching the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability rules appeared to galvanise the Blues, with 44% of their league wins this season coming in the immediate aftermath of the ruling. The Toffees, however, embarked on a 13-game winless run following that bounce, form which dragged Sean Dyche’s side back towards the relegation places.

Last weekend’s win over Burnley snapped the streak, but second sanctions were announced this week. A further two points have been docked from the Merseysiders leaving them just two points above the drop zone. Ahead of Monday’s trip to Chelsea, Dyche will be hoping his team can find another post-sanctions bounce.

Read –ย Ivan Toney: Which clubs could sign the Brentford striker?

See more –ย Europa League quarter-finals: Four players who impressed

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