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Clash of the titans and minding the gap – 5 Premier League talking points

Manchester United v Liverpool – Premier League – Old Trafford
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Manchester United go into the weekend top of the Premier League table – the latest in a season they have been able to say that since they last won the title in 2013.

Here the PA news agency takes a look at the key talking points for the weekend’s action.

All eyes on Anfield

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It is one of the great rivalries in English football, but it is a while since a meeting between Liverpool and Manchester United has meant as much as Sunday’s fixture at Anfield. During a period in which Liverpool have dropped points against West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton, failing to win any of their last three league fixtures, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have won five of their last six league games to go top. They will head to Anfield full of confidence, yet the United boss still said it would be an “upset” if they triumphed. The Red Devils have not won at Anfield since 2016 but if they get a result this weekend, they will underline their credentials as genuine title challengers.

Keep your distance

Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion – Premier League – Etihad Stadium

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City players enjoyed a group celebration on Wednesday night (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

Wherever a goal goes in this weekend, all eyes will be on the celebrations after players failed to heed new guidelines in the midweek fixtures. With several clubs hit by coronavirus outbreaks, players have been told to cut out the hugs – with the continuation of the season itself perhaps at stake. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suggested earlier this week it would be “difficult” for players to ignore their “instinct” after scoring while West Brom’s Sam Allardyce questioned the need if all involved had passed tests to be cleared to play. But whatever the protestations, all managers and captains were to be briefed on Thursday and Friday, and this weekend they must show they have been listening.

Wolves need their bite back

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton – Premier League – Molineux Stadium

Nuno Espirito Santo admitted to concern over Wolves’ form (Tim Keeton/PA)

Home defeat to Everton on Tuesday made it five Premier League games without a win for Wolves as they appear no closer to solving their offensive woes, with the resulting slide dropping them to 14th. They will hope relief comes in the form of West Brom, still winless since Sam Allardyce took the reins before Christmas and now six points adrift of safety. An FA Cup exit at the hands of League One Blackpool last weekend did little to suggest a radical change of fortunes is imminent at the Baggies.

Spurs seek a spark

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Another side now notably out of form are Tottenham, with only one win in their last five games. Late goals have been a huge problem – they have dropped points by conceding in the last five minutes against Newcastle, West Ham, Liverpool and Wolves this season. Saturday will take them to Bramall Lane to face a Sheffield United side who finally ended a six-month wait for a win of any kind by beating Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup last weekend, then followed it up with a league victory over Newcastle. Chris Wilder’s men remain rock bottom, but may have just a little of their swagger back.

Pressure still on Lampard

Chelsea v Morcambe – Emirates FA Cup – Third Round – Stamford Bridge

Frank Lampard has come under pressure as Chelsea slip down the table (John Walton/PA)

Timo Werner ended a goal drought which ran back to early November as he scored in last weekend’s rout of Morecambe, but it will take more than brushing aside League One opposition to ease the pressure on Frank Lampard’s shoulders. Chelsea have won just one of their last six league games, leaving them six points adrift of the Champions League places. So far there has been little suggestion that Lampard’s job is in jeopardy, however quick Roman Abramovich has been to pull the trigger in the past, but anything less than victory over neighbours Fulham this weekend could change that.