Premier League preview: What will and won't happen this weekend
Chelsea vs Leicester (Saturday 3pm)
The big talking point: Alvaro Morata’s form. The Spaniard suffered a dreadful night at the Emirates in the league this month and wasn’t much better against Arsenal in this week’s League Cup semi-final against the same opposition. The goals have to start going in.
What will happen: Jamie Vardy is still out, sidelined until next week at least, so Islam Slimani should start again at the top of Leicester’s formation. Look for Claude Puel to shift Riyad Mahrez around, too, perhaps to allow a more defensive player to face Marcos Alonso on the Leicester right.
What won’t happen: No debut for Ross Barkley, who is ready to return to training but who hasn’t played since last May. While there's an outside chance of seeing him from the substitutes' bench, fitness should prevent him from starting for a few weeks yet.
Crystal Palace vs Burnley (Saturday, 3pm)
The big talking point: Palace’s form. The loss to Arsenal remains Roy Hodgson’s only defeat since losing to Tottenham at the beginning of November (12 Premier League games). It hasn’t been the most stylish revival, but it’s certainly been real enough.
What will happen: By the time this game kicks off, Burnley will have been without a win for a month and a day. Since beating Stoke on 12 December, Sean Dyche’s players have lost two, drawn three, and also exited the FA Cup. They remain a long way from a crisis, but losing here would see their early season form dissipate further - and Dyche will have to arrest that decline without Ben Mee or James Tarkowski, although new loan signing Georges-Kevin Nkoudou should be included.
What won’t happen: A whole raft of Palace players won’t feature. Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon are likely out for the season, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andros Townsend, Mamadou Sakho and Jeffrey Schlupp are all sidelined, too.
Huddersfield vs West Ham (Saturday, 3pm)
The big talking point: Forwards. Or at least West Ham’s intention to listen to offers for their forwards. Javier Hernandez is reportedly for sale, Diafra Sakho looks to be heading for Selhurst Park, while Andy Carroll’s future is also uncertain.
What will happen: Alex Pritchard (£11m from Norwich) should be signed in time to play some part for Huddersfield. An interesting player, Pritchard was long expected to make the breakthrough at Tottenham - particularly given Mauricio Pochettino’s commitment to academy products. It didn’t happen, but he’s rebuilt his reputation in the Championship and that transfer fee really isn’t as silly as it sounds. Tricky and skillful, with a low centre of gravity, Pritchard should prove fun to watch.
What won’t happen: David Moyes is contending with an ever-lengthening injury list meaning we won't see Marko Arnautovic, Aaron Cresswell or Michail Antonio.
Newcastle vs Swansea (Saturday, 3pm)
The big talking point: In the wider sense, it's Amanda Staveley's pending takeover at St James' Park, which seems to be moving at a glacial pace. The more pressing concern is relegation, though. Swansea desperately need a result of any sort, but Newcastle remain just two points above 18th-placed Stoke. Nervy.
What will happen: Swansea should show further signs of improvement. The win over Watford was an excellent result and, although they ultimately lost to Tottenham at home, they exhibited signs of life which they hadn’t shown for months. It’s still a game which Newcastle should win, but it’s not quite the banker it would have been a month ago.
What won’t happen: Carlos Carvalhal won’t be able to construct a familiar looking midfield for the away side. Renato Sanches is the latest to limp into the treatment room, while Ki Sung-yueng continues to be unavailable.
Watford vs Southampton (Saturday, 3pm)
The big talking point: The traditional Watford slump: one win in seven for Marco Silva, whose side are threatening to prove their strong start a false dawn.
What will happen: Recriminations. Not that Mauricio Pellegrino is in any better shape. He’s actually by far the more vulnerable of the two managers and Southampton could well be in the relegation places by 5pm on Saturday.
What won’t happen: Southampton are not an expressive team under Pellegrino - he got the job off the back of the fine defensive reputation he built for himself at Alaves - so don’t expect anything too ambitious here. Watford are a fearful side at the moment, chastened by recent experiences, so the smart move for the visitors would be to shut the door and hope the hosts cough up a mistake.