1. Manchester derby provides pivotal moment for Solskjaer
It’s been another challenging week for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Manchester United were eliminated from the Champions League on Tuesday after falling to a 3-2 defeat away to RB Leipzig in a game they only needed a draw from to progress.
On top of that, agent Mino Raiola stirred the pot in public by telling the Italian press that his client Paul Pogba “is unhappy” and “has to change teams”.
With pressure increasing on Solskjaer and off-field fractures appearing, Saturday’s Manchester derby looks like a pivotal moment in United's 2020/21 campaign.
Defeat to their city rivals would almost certainly increase calls for a change of management, but victory in such a big game could help galvanise the situation and provide a timely reminder that all is far from lost – United are just five points off top with a game in hand over leaders Tottenham, after all.
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Man City will take some beating, though. Pep Guardiola’s side haven’t been at their steamrolling best yet this term, but they’ve lost just once since 27 September, a run of 15 games in all competitions, and eased through their Champions League group by thrashing Marseille 3-0 on Wednesday.
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2. Master v apprentice as Ancelotti looks to spring upset against Lampard
You’ll have to get used to the ‘master versus apprentice’ narrative this Premier League season, with Marcelo Bielsa facing Guardiola and Pep taking on Mikel Arteta during 2020/21.
But Carlo Ancelotti v Frank Lampard has to be one of the more cuddly examples out there.
The current Chelsea boss won the league and cup double under the Italian in 2010 and admitted before their meeting at Stamford Bridge that the fatherly 61-year-old has had an influence on his fledgling management career.
"He's right at the top when I speak about the managers I've worked with - his huge success he has had in his career, working at various clubs and one-to-one I found him a great coach and a great man,” Lampard said. Aw.
3. Newcastle up against it after coronavirus outbreak
Enough of the Magpies squad have since recovered to allow their game against West Brom to go ahead on Saturday, but at the time of writing it remains to be seen who will and won’t be available for Steve Bruce.
Either way, Newcastle are bound to be impacted one way or another by the fact that their training ground was shut all last week, limiting their preparation time for the visit of the Baggies.
It could result in refreshed legs for some of Bruce’s men, but West Brom could well sniff a chance to take advantage of an unusual situation and record what would be just their second win of the season.
4. How will Wolves fare without Jimenez?
It was great to see a smiling Raul Jimenez visit the Wolves training ground this week for the first time since undergoing surgery following a terrifying clash of heads with Arsenal defender David Luiz.
The incident left the Mexican with a fractured skull, but he thankfully appears to be on the road to recovery and even tweeted on Friday that he would “be back soon”.
It remains unclear how long Jimenez will be unavailable for, but Nuno Espirito Santo must now work out how to get the best out of an attack that has scored just 11 league goals this season and is now without the club's top scorer for the last two seasons.
5. Kane and Son march towards league record
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son have given fantasy football managers an easy time this season, becoming two automatic picks for almost everyone playing the game.
The Spurs duo have scored 18 goals between them and set up 11 of those for one another, including as they netted one each in the 2-0 north London derby win over Arsenal last weekend.
Crystal Palace are up next for the dynamic duo, who have fired Jose Mourinho’s side to the top of the Premier League table.
And they are closing in on becoming the most prolific strike partnership in Premier League history, having combined for 31 goals already – just five fewer than current record holders Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.
6. Goal-starved Arsenal close to crisis
Things have been going rather differently for Tottenham’s neighbours Arsenal, who go into Sunday’s home clash with Burnley down in 15th place.
Mikel Arteta simply can’t get his side scoring, as they’ve mustered just 10 strikes in 11 games this season – the same number Son has managed by himself and the worst record outside the relegation zone.
Recently the Gunners have been throwing crosses into the box in search for an answer, with 79 being swung in over the last two games, but that yielded just one goal from back-to-back defeats against Wolves and Spurs.
The usually reliable Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hasn’t scored from open play since the first game of the season and Arteta warned this week that “no one is undroppable”, but finding their way through a well-drilled Clarets defence at the Emirates could prove to be a challenge.
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7. Things getting desperate for the Blades
Sheffield United can thank the dreadful form of the other teams at the bottom of the table for still having a chance of turning around their season.
With one measly point on the board after 11 games, Chris Wilder’s side have had a disastrous start to the campaign and head into Sunday’s trip to Southampton on a six-match losing run.
Despite that, a long-awaited victory could take them to within three points of safety. And with almost a third of the season gone, the Blades need to turn things around sharp before they get cut adrift.
8. Can Brighton turn a performance into points?
Brighton have made a habit this season of turning in impressive displays but failing to get the results they deserve.
According to Sky Sports, the Seagulls have had the better xG in eight of their 11 league games this season but have won just two.
You could call it bad luck or a statistical anomaly, but one thing is for sure – they need to start putting points on the board if they are to avoid being sucked in to a relegation scrap.
With just 10 points on the board so far, Graham Potter’s men are hovering just four points above the drop zone.
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