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Solskjaer’s sights set on top spot – 5 Premier League talking points

Manchester United v Manchester City – Carabao Cup – Semi Final – Old Trafford
(Image credit: Peter Powell)

Another midweek round of Premier League matches could see Liverpool lose their place at the top of the table.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the issues.

Turf Moor test for United

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes looks pensive

Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes gets his first look at Turf Moor this week (Peter Powell/PA)

Manchester United are the Premier League’s form team and have a chance to overtake Liverpool at the top with just a point against Burnley. Playmaker Bruno Fernandes, who has been the main reason behind their resurgence, had a well-earned rest for the FA Cup at the weekend, having started 20 of the last 22 fixtures, but is set to get his first experience of Turf Moor. He will discover a much-improved Burnley side which since early November have lost only to Manchester City and Leeds, keeping five clean sheets in 10 matches as manger Sean Dyche has re-instilled their defensive resilience. However, the incentive for United to be able to go to Anfield on Sunday as the new Premier League leaders is a big one for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players.

Will cup win sharpen up Blades?

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder will hope a first win in 23 matches – albeit against League One side Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup – can be the catalyst for a Premier League revival. The top-flight’s bottom side have accumulated just two points so far but come up against a Newcastle team on something of a downward spiral themselves. Five defeats and no victories in their last seven in all competitions, scoring just four goals, presents the newly-boosted Blades with a great chance to end their woeful league run.

Calvert-Lewin missing for Everton

Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin stands with his hands on his head

Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is out injured (George Wood/PA)

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has to find a way to get more goals into his side in the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been sidelined for the trip to Wolves by a hamstring problem. The England international has scored 11 Premier League goals but having gone six games without a goal in all competitions there was a greater emphasis on others chipping in. Everton’s next-highest league scorer is James Rodriguez, recently returned from a five-match injury absence, with just three. Cenk Tosun scored one and had another disallowed in the unimpressive FA Cup win over Championship strugglers Rotherham but that was his first in Everton colours since November 2019 and he is not considered a long-term option. Richarlison would be the preferred replacement, if he passes a fitness test, but he only has as many league goals (two) as next highest scorers centre-backs Michael Keane and Yerry Mina.

Problems piling up for Villa

Last week’s Covid-19 outbreak at Aston Villa put an end to the club’s FA Cup run before it had even begun as they were forced to field a side of youth-team debutants against Premier League champions Liverpool on Friday. And now Wednesday’s visit of Tottenham has been postponed, with Spurs taking on Fulham instead. Villa are not due to return to action until Sunday lunchtime against Everton, creating a fixture congestion headache for head coach Dean Smith, with his side already two matches behind the majority of their top-flight rivals.

No way back for Ozil now

Arsenal’s upturn in form looks to have killed off any chance Mesut Ozil may have harboured of sweeping in and being the side’s saviour. Just before Christmas, when the Gunners slipped to 15th in the table, just four points off the bottom three following defeat at Everton, the clamour for the prodigal son to be re-registered for the second half of the Premier League season was at its highest. However, three league wins on the spin plus an extra-time FA Cup victory over Newcastle later and the former Germany international is apparently now happy to consider leaving. “Edu (the technical director) and the club are having some conversations about the near future and the long-term future,” said manager Mikel Arteta ahead of Thursday’s game against Crystal Palace.