Premier League: Five things to look out for this gameweek

All eyes will be on Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium this weekend as the battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League heats up.

Chelsea FC

Chelsea is just one point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham and a victory for Jose Mourinho’s men would take them above his former club.   -  AFP

All eyes will be on Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League this weekend as the battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League heats up, while runaway leader Liverpool can take another step towards the title.

With the league’s first winter break done and dusted, it is full steam ahead for the clubs fighting to secure the lucrative Champions League berths behind champions-elect Liverpool.

Any London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham is a feisty occasion, but there is an extra spice to the rivals’ latest meeting as they are in direct competition for a European place.

Chelsea, Spurs in top four crunch

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There is respect between Mourinho and Lampard from their successful time together at Chelsea, but sympathy will be in short supply this weekend given what is at stake for both men.   -  Twitter/ Chelsea

 

Fourth-placed Chelsea is just one point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham and a victory for Jose Mourinho’s men would take them above his former club.

Chelsea is reeling from a lacklustre 2-0 home defeat against Manchester United, but injury-hit Tottenham was beaten 1-0 by Leipzig in the Champions League last 16 first leg.

Hampered by its continued failure to turn possession in tangible rewards, Chelsea has won one of its last six league games, and none of its last four, leading to reports Blues boss Frank Lampard might find his position under scrutiny if Chelsea does not qualify for the Champions League.

Read | Sterling hails 'fantastic club' Real Madrid amid speculation over Man City future

Lampard’s decision to drop Kepa Arrizabalaga for the last three games is said to have frustrated the Chelsea hierarchy, who have made the Spaniard the world’s most expensive goalkeeper less than two years ago.

It is the kind of delicate and potentially damaging issue Mourinho had plenty of experience negotiating during his two spells as Chelsea manager.

Tottenham has won its last three league games to close the gap on Chelsea, but injuries to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have left Mourinho without a senior striker.

There is respect between Mourinho and Lampard from their successful time together at Chelsea, but sympathy will be in short supply this weekend given what is at stake for both men.

Everton faces Arsenal test

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Carlo Ancelotti has masterminded Everton’s revival since taking over from the sacked Marco Silva, but he has yet to secure a statement win over one of the league’s bigger clubs.   -  Getty Images

 

Arsenal and Everton, who meet in north London, are further behind in the race, but the possibility of Manchester City losing its appeal against a two-year Champions League ban means a fifth place finish could be enough to reach Europe’s elite club competition.

Everton sits four points behind Tottenham after a five-game unbeaten run featuring successive wins over Watford and Crystal Palace.

Carlo Ancelotti has masterminded Everton’s revival since taking over from the sacked Marco Silva, but he has yet to secure a statement win over one of the league’s bigger clubs.

Also read | Lucas Moura: Tottenham cannot cry after losing Kane, Son

Beating Arsenal on its own turf would qualify as a significant moment for Ancelotti’s side, especially as the Gunners looked in good form in their 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle last weekend.

Arsenal is unbeaten in its last six league games and lies two points adrift of Everton, with Manchester United, Sheffield United and Wolves also in the mix.

Liverpool looks to bounce back from Atletico defeat

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Liverpool lost 0-1 in the Champions League last 16 first leg match at Atletico Madrid.   -  Getty Images

 

Liverpool’s staggering 22-point lead over City has turned the title race into a procession and Monday’s visit from struggling West Ham offers an ideal chance to bounce back from a 1-0 Champions League last 16 first leg defeat at Atletico Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp’s team has dropped just two points all season and is on a run of 17 consecutive league wins.

Liverpool needs just five more wins from its remaining 12 games to take the title for the first time since 1990.

City looks to preserve four-point lead on Foxes

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Man City eased to a 2-0 win over West Ham in Wednesday's rearranged Premier League fixture.   -  Getty Images

 

Manchester City plays its second game since the shock European ban when it travels to third-placed Leicester, a game that will play second fiddle to next week’s Champions League tie against Real Madrid for Pep Guardiola’s side.

Putting its off-field issues to one side by easing to a 2-0 win over West Ham in Wednesday's rearranged Premier League fixture, City will be looking to preserve its four-point lead on Leicester when it heads to the King Power Stadium.

Related | Wilfred Ndidi to miss Leicester City clash with Manchester City

Leicester will miss the services of Wilfred Ndidi due to a knee problem as boss Brendan Rodgers does not want to risk any setbacks in his recovery.

"Wilf won't be available for the weekend," Rodgers said on Thursday. "He's still in a process to try and get fit, so we'll see how he is next week. I'm not sure.

"We just want to make sure he's right because he's such an important player for us. It's about the long term, too. There's no timeline on it. We'll see how he progresses," he said.

McTominay return on the cards for United

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Scott McTominay has not played since suffering knee ligament damage against Newcastle United on Boxing Day.   -  Getty Images

 

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay could make his first appearance of the year in Saturday's game against Watford, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said.

The 23-year-old Scotland international has not played since suffering knee ligament damage against Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

“I think he might be in the squad,” Solskjaer said. “Scott had a rest day today, so let's see how he is tomorrow.”

“He's a physical specimen, a leader. He never shirks a tackle and he brings everyone with him,” the Norwegian added.

“He can sit with Nemanja Matic or Fred or he can be one of the runners in midfield. We were talking about that, we don't have enough runners past the striker. He used to be a striker before, Scott, so he is used to being in the box.”

Manchester United is seventh, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and two adrift of Spurs at fifth.

The Red Devils will return to Old Trafford after a 1-1 draw with Club Brugge in the Europa League.

 

(With inputs from PTI, Reuters)

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