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5 big talking points ahead of the Premier League’s midweek fixtures

Miguel Almiron Newcastle

The relegation battle takes centre stage in the first part of a full midweek programme in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Sorry Huddersfield are the only bottom three team in action, but the four sides immediately above the drop zone will all be looking to secure vital points and climb the table...

Can managerless Leicester stop the rot?

Claude Puel

Claude Puel was sacked by Leicester after a poor run of form (John Walton/PA)

Leicester are eight points above the relegation zone, but six defeats in their last seven games – including an FA Cup exit at the hands of League Two Newport County – signalled the end for manager Claude Puel, who was sacked on Sunday.

Coaches Mike Stowell and Adam Sadler have been placed in temporary charge and could hardly have asked for better opponents than Brighton, who have won just twice away from home in the Premier League this season. The question is which Leicester side will turn up – the one that beat Chelsea and Manchester City in consecutive games in December, or the version that lost at Newport and was honked 4-1 by Crystal Palace on Saturday?

Can Cardiff get back on track?

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Back-to-back wins over Bournemouth and Southampton had Cardiff heading in the right direction, but hopes of a third successive top-flight victory for the first time since 1961 disappeared with a 5-1 thumping by Watford on Friday.

That left the Bluebirds just a point above the relegation zone, and manager Neil Warnock in no doubt that his players will need to produce a response against Everton. “We have to bounce back again now,” Warnock said. “We’ve had it for the last two years. We keep getting knockbacks and people writing us off.”

Is Everton manager Marco Silva’s position under threat?

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There are worrying similarities between Everton’s form and that of Leicester. The Toffees have lost five of their last six games in all competitions, and their record in the Premier League looks even worse – nine defeats and only three victories in their last 14 Premier League matches since the start of December.

That means Everton are just a point better off than the Foxes, and were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Millwall, but Silva insists that Tuesday’s game against Cardiff is not a must-win for his side ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby.

“We must show we can change the last results and it's a good opportunity for us,” he said. “That doesn't mean it will be an easy match. If it’s a must-win or not let’s see during the match.”

Can Huddersfield avoid equalling an unwanted record?

Billy Davies was Derby manager when they picked up the lowest points total in Premier League history

Billy Davies was Derby manager when they picked up the lowest points total in Premier League history (Jane Mingay/PA)

Saturday’s defeat at Newcastle left Huddersfield stuck on 11 points, the record low for a Premier League season set by Derby in 2008. Jan Siewert’s side have 11 games left to at least avoid joining the Rams in the record books, but have lost 13 of their last 14 Premier League games since beating Tuesday’s opponents Wolves at Molineux in November.

Speaking after the game at St James’ Park, Siewert said: “You know, we haven’t won since November and although my face doesn’t show it today because I am disappointed with the result, I am still positive. If you had been in our dressing room after the game, we still want to fight for everything which is possible.”

Will Miguel Almiron build on his promising start at Newcastle?

Miguel Almiron

Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron (left) is challenged by Huddersfield Town’s Tommy Smith resulting in a red card during the Premier League match at St James’ Park, Newcastle (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Almiron received a standing ovation after being substituted towards the end of his first start for the Magpies in Saturday’s win over Huddersfield, whose task was made all the more difficult by the loss of skipper Tommy Smith to a 20th-minute red card for a poor challenge on the Paraguay international.

However, Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez was quick to temper expectations of the 25-year-old as the season progresses.

“Everything we've seen is what we were expecting from him,” Benitez said. “Obviously the defenders from the other teams will know him a little bit better now and it will be more difficult for him. Now he has to learn in the Premier League to understand what the physicality of the game means here, but I think he has the right mentality.”

THEN READ... 10 teams that nearly won everything... but ended up with nothing

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