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Who will come out on top, Mourinho or Guardiola? 8 things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend

Guardiola Mourinho
(Image credit: PA)

1. Who ends up on top?

This is a good place to start, before getting onto the nuts and bolts of the individual games. Even though international breaks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – particularly during a global pandemic – they do at least end with renewed excitement at the return of domestic football.

The hype is justified this time. After eight rounds of Premier League action, there are just three points separating the top six teams. And when we say the top six, we don’t mean the so-called ‘Big Six’. 

It’s been refreshing and often thrilling to see Southampton and Aston Villa barge into European contention ahead of more wealthy rivals, not to mention Leicester raising hopes of a repeat of the 2015/16 miracle by racing to the top of the table. 

It’ll be fascinating to see what the configuration at the top looks like by the end of the weekend – and if the chasing pack can make up some ground.

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2. Pep and Jose duel once again

What used to be a wonderfully competitive and fiery managerial rivalry has gone a bit soft of late, but the sight of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho performing tactical duels on the touchline remains an occasion to savour.

This time round the ball is in Jose’s court. His Spurs side are flying in second place, having won their last three on the bounce and gone seven games without defeat.

Manchester City, meanwhile, are on a five-match unbeaten run but have won just twice in that time and travel to London down in 10th place, albeit with a game in hand over every team above them bar Villa.

Guardiola’s side have struggled to find the net this season, failing to score more than once in their any of their last five matches.

But they will hope that Ferran Torres’ hat-trick for Spain against Germany and Pep’s contract extension will be the boosts they need to return from the international break in style.

Pep Guardiola

(Image credit: PA)

3. Can Arsenal score a goal?

You don’t need a professional analyst to see where Arsenal’s major issue lies: they don’t score enough goals.

The Gunners have found the net just nine times in eight matches, with star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang striking just twice so far.

Only the bottom four and Wolves have a worse record in front of goal, but a trip to Leeds could be just what they need to find a spark again.

Marcelo Bielsa, the mentor of Mikel Arteta’s mentor Guardiola, has provided plenty of entertainment in his debut Premier League campaign, but there’s no escaping the fact that they have the joint-worst defence in the division along with West Brom, having shipped 17 goals.

They do admittedly make up for that at the other end of the pitch, where only the top seven clubs have scored more than their 14 league goals, but Arteta will surely see this as an opportunity to bring his attack back to life.

READ THIS Leeds must improve their defence to prosper in the Premier League

4. Leicester and Liverpool battle for top spot

Leicester fans won’t have particularly fond memories of trips to Anfield. The last time the Foxes won a Premier League game there was more than 20 years ago, in May 2000.

Their record overall hasn’t been great since then, either, with just three wins coming in later years, and Leicester go into this weekend’s clash on a six-match winless run that includes six defeats, the latest being a 4-0 walloping at the King Power on Boxing Day last year.

But this is no ordinary Leicester side and they make the trip to Merseyside as league leaders, aiming to consolidate their place at the summit of the standings.

Leicester are on a six-game winning run, while Liverpool have had an international break to forget.

The Reds lost Joe Gomez to a serious knee injury to deepen their defensive crisis, while Jordan Henderson also suffered a knock and Mohamed Salah tested positive for Covid-19.

Leicester City v Wolves live stream

(Image credit: PA)

5. Time for Everton to end slump

Everton were the darlings of the Premier League neutral in the early weeks of the season, as James Rodriguez and Dominic Calvert-Lewin fired the Toffees to the top of the table.

But the wind went out of their sails suddenly and spectacularly before the international break, as Carlo Ancelotti’s side fell to three consecutive defeats.

The Italian boss will hope that his players return from the break revitalised, as they now have a key run of games that could set them back on course; after their trip to struggling Fulham on Sunday, Everton face Leeds and Burnley.

6. United look to avoid unwanted record

Manchester United's home record is shocking this season. In their four Premier League matches at Old Trafford so far, the Red Devils have picked up a solitary point against Chelsea, and lost to Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal.

That form has increased pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who goes into Saturday’s clash with West Brom with his side in 14th place.

If they fail to beat the Baggies, it will be the first time United haven’t won any of their opening five home league games of a season since 1972/73, and mark their longest winless home run since March 1978.

Bruno Fernandes

(Image credit: PA Images)

7. Villa on the march

Few saw this coming in their pre-season predictions, but Villa have become one of the teams to watch in the Premier League this season.

Dean Smith’s side have already thumped Liverpool 7-2 and Arsenal 3-0, and went into the international break three points off top and with a game in hand.

The visit of Brighton on Saturday promises to provide great entertainment, as their meeting last season produced more shots than any other Premier League match with 44.

If the Villains come out on top here, you wouldn’t bet against them being in the title mix come Christmas – their next fixtures are against West Ham, Newcastle, Wolves, Burnley and West Brom.  

8. The wait goes on

With Christmas decorations going up and the nights drawing in, it’s about time that the trio of clubs in the relegation zone notched their first victory of the season.

West Brom improved last time out in a narrow defeat to Spurs and they will hope to be the latest team to take advantage of United’s terrible home record when they travel to Old Trafford on Saturday, but Slaven Bilic’s side have failed to score in four of their last five games

Burnley have picked up jus two draws so far and are the lowest scoring side in the division with three goals – just one from open play. The visit of Crystal Palace to Turf Moor is exactly the kind of fixture they need to take three points from if they are to stay up.

At the bottom of the pile are Sheffield United, who are just the fifth team in Premier League history to muster just one point from their first eight matches. 

But ahead of the visit of West Ham on Sunday, the Blades can at least be buoyed by the fact that two of the four teams who had an equally disastrous start managed to avoid the drop.

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