FourFourTwo's Premier League preview: What will and won't happen this weekend
Manchester United vs Bournemouth
- The Cherries have won the fewest points in the Premier League in 2017 (2), while also conceding 20 goals; seven more than any other team in this period.
The big talking point: "Zlatanism". The Swede deserves to be celebrated for what he continues to achieve, but his many signature moments this season have helped to disguise Manchester United's narrow spread of goals. Nobody else in Jose Mourinho's squad has reached double figures or is even close to threatening that mark (Juan Mata has six). Bournemouth are one of the division's most porous sides, so this is a game in which those supporting acts should be expected to shoulder some weight.
What will happen: A landmark. United's next win will be their 600th in the Premier League and, against an opponent who can't stop conceding and a goalkeeper (Artur Boruc) who has never kept a clean sheet against them (for either Bournemouth, Southampton or Celtic), they should be the first club to reach that waypoint.
What won't happen: Luke Shaw won't play... and in not doing so, a growing controversy will burn even brighter. Shaw is a good player and was signed to be United's feature left-back for a decade, but Mourinho needs enemies and is typically only interested in the here and now.
Leicester vs Hull
- Craig Shakespeare could become only the second Leicester City manager to win their first two Premier League games in charge of the club, after Claudio Ranieri.
The big talking point: Who are Leicester now? Monday night was an evening of deep catharsis. However, there's a difference between playing Liverpool live in prime time and entertaining an increasingly obdurate Hull in a relegation battle on a Saturday afternoon. So will this be a week of anomalous defiance or a true reflection of what Leicester intend to be from here on in?
What will happen: Clichés. If Leicester win, Craig Shakespeare will be asked whether he would like his interim job on a full-time basis (again). He'll respond with a series of non-committing platitudes ("just winning games", "focusing on performance") before, sheepishly, admitting (again) that – yes – that would be quite nice. Never change, post-match interviews.
What won't happen: A Hull comeback. Despite their struggles, Leicester are the only team in the league who possess a 100% record from winning positions. Six times they've taken the lead, six times they've held on for all three points. Marco Silva needs that first goal.
Stoke vs Middlesbrough
- Middlesbrough are the lowest scorers in the Premier League this season (19), with no side failing to score in as many games (12 games - level with Hull City).
The big talking point: Middlesbrough are not a top-half team, so this fixture doesn't give Mark Hughes the chance to immediately strike back against what happened at White Hart Lane. Nevertheless, he needs a win. The growing suspicion is that Stoke have now levelled out under their anti-Pulis, but a victory over one of the better defensive sides in the country would put that discussion on hold. Interestingly, however, Middlesbrough's record Premier League away win actually came against Hughes's Blackburn side in 2004: 0-4, obviously.
What will happen: A home win. Despite the grumbling, Stoke are currently on their longest unbeaten run (seven) at the Bet365 (née Britannia) Stadium since their 17-game streak in 2012. Boro don't really do goals, chances or attacking ambition, so the chances of that comig to an end this weekend are remote
What won't happen: Visiting ambition. Just 24% of Middlesbrough's passes have occurred in the attacking third this season, fewer than any other side in the division. Success for Aitor Karanka will be defined by whether he keeps the club safe from relegation and, no, aesthetics shouldn't really matter. Nevertheless, watching Boro is an assualt on the senses and the pockets of discontent on Teesside aren't as irrational as they might seem.