EPL: Chelsea, United battle to catch City

Pep Guardiola's unbeaten City is smashing records with impunity and is already five points clear of Jose Mourinho's United after nine wins in 10 games.

The last time both teams met at Stamford Bridge in the league, Chelsea romped to a 4-0 win against a hapless Manchester United.   -  Getty Images

 

Chelsea and Manchester United go head to head this weekend in a match neither club dares to lose as Manchester City entertains Arsenal eyeing a chance to stretch its lead at the top of the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's unbeaten City is smashing records with impunity and is already five points clear of Jose Mourinho's United after nine wins in 10 games.

Elsewhere, Tottenham will look to build on its impressive 3-1 win against European champion Real Madrid in midweek and Liverpool will attempt to stay on the coattails of the Premier League pacesetter at West Ham.

Here are five things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend:

Can Chelsea rediscover its hunger?

Chelsea turned last season's Premier League race into a procession but it's been a different story this time around, with three defeats already -- it only lost five matches in the whole of last season.

Photo feature: 5 memorable Chelsea vs Man United encounters

Manager Antonio Conte criticised his side after it crashed 3-0 in Rome this week, saying it "lacked everything", though it is still likely to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages.

Chelsea is already nine points behind leader Manchester City and defeat against United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday would leave it with an impossible-looking task.

"We must find the hunger we showed all of last season, and sometimes this season," said Conte. "But this season has been up and down. We need to find consistency."

Will Mourinho attack Chelsea?

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho was lambasted for his cautious tactics in a 0-0 bore draw at Anfield last month, with critics saying he had missed a trick by failing to test Liverpool's suspect defence.

'Mourinho's record speaks for itself'

Since then it has laboured to a couple of wins against Benfica in the Champions League and beaten Spurs 1-0 on home turf in the Premier League, as well as losing to Huddersfield.

Ex-Chelsea boss Mourinho, who held a finger to his lips and told the doubters to calm down after his side beat Spurs last weekend, is unlikely to be persuaded to depart from his pragmatic game plan against Chelsea even though Conte's men are coming into the match on the back of a poor defensive display against Roma.

How far can Aguero go?

Sergio Aguero, who this week became Manchester City's all-time record goalscorer with 178 strikes, would be the stand-out star at many Premier League clubs.

But it is a measure of the attacking riches at Guardiola's disposal that he has to share star billing with a host of other quicksilver forwards.

Aguero is some way down the goalscoring charts, at 12th on the Premier League list, well behind Alan Shearer at the top on 260 goals.

But it is his strike rate that catches the eye. The Argentine, who arrived at City from Atletico Madrid in 2011, averages 0.69 goals per match, well ahead of Shearer (0.59) and just ahead of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (0.68).

"What he has achieved has made him a legend. He's gone down in history, so I would tell him to enjoy," said Guardiola, whose side face Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday.

Can Everton stop the rot?

Managerless Everton, which hosts Watford at home on Sunday, is in freefall and must find a way to arrest its slide.

The Merseyside club, which boasts a proud record of being ever-present in the English top-flight since 1954, finds itself in the relegation zone with only two Premier League wins.

Caretaker boss David Unsworth, in charge since Ronald Koeman was sacked, has pleaded for the new manager to be given time to turn things around.

"Whoever gets the honour of being Everton boss, including me, needs time with this set of players," he said.

Can Burnley gatecrash the party?

The Premier League has a familiar look after 10 matches with the "Big Six" in the top six spots. But lurking just outside that gilded group are Burnley, level with Liverpool on 16 points.

The club's away form has caught the eye, including an opening day victory against Chelsea and an impressive draw against Tottenham at Wembley.

Sean Dyche, who takes his team to Southampton on Saturday, is refusing to get carried away.

"We are earning respect, a side that feels like it can do what the Premier League needs, but there's still work to be done," he said. "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. We've made a good start but there's a long race to go."

Fixtures (kick-offs 1500 GMT unless stated):

Saturday: Huddersfield v West Brom, Newcastle v Bournemouth, Southampton v Burnley, Stoke v Leicester (1230), Swansea v Brighton, West Ham v Liverpool (1730)

Sunday: Chelsea v Man Utd (1630), Manchester City v Arsenal (1415), Tottenham v Crystal Palace (1200), Everton v Watford (1630)

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