Five things: Premier League weekend preview

Liverpool will seek to maintain its eight-point lead over Leicester City, which is hot on its tail. Manchester City travels to Arsenal in the Premier League.

Liverpool ensured Champions League qualification during midweek after beating Salzburg 2-0.   -  AP

Liverpool will seek to sign off its pre-Christmas Premier League duties in style against their whipping boys Watford this weekend while Leicester City attempts to stay in touch before a summit meeting later this month.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are eight points clear of their nearest pursuers as they prepare to jet out to Qatar for the Club World Cup.

Watford, with new manager Nigel Pearson at the helm, will not be relishing the trip to Anfield, where it has lost 6-1, 5-0 and 5-0 on its past three visits.

Klopp has rotated his squad in a busy December with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Adam Lallana have come in and ensured the results haven't been affected.

 

After playing full-strength team in the 2-0 win away to RB Salzburg in the crucial Champions League tie to ensure qualification into the knockouts, Klopp may be inclined to rest Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino against a struggling Watford.

Pearson, who led Leicester back into the Premier League in 2014, could provide a helping hand by leading the Hornets to a surprise result at Anfield.

Vardy magic

Jamie Vardy, who turns 33 next month, is out on his own at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts, with 16 goals in 16 games.

Those goals have helped Leicester win a club-record eight consecutive top-flight matches by an aggregate score of 25-3. The former England man has struck in all of those victories.

In an ordinary season, Brendan Rodgers’ side might be top of the league but it is doggedly pursuing a Liverpool team, which has won 15 of its 16 games.

 

If Vardy nets against Norwich and Manchester City in Leicester’s next two games, he would give himself the chance to equal his own Premier League record of goals in 11 straight games against Liverpool on December 26.

Vardy says he is more concerned about results for the team than finding the back of the net.

“I’m obviously over the moon,” said the forward, referring to his goalscoring record this season. “But first and foremost, the points are for Leicester.”

Chelsea kids under pressure

Frank Lampard is desperate not to squander the good work he has done with his young side in the early months of the season but is weighing up where he can strengthen now he is able to sign players in January.

The club’s FIFA-imposed transfer ban following violations in the recruitment of minors, was reduced on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week.

Lampard hinted this week that he was looking at boosting his options in forward areas, highlighting the loss of the prolific Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.

Reports suggest he has been given a budget of 150 milllion pound to spend and the club has been linked with Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha among other players.

Until Chelsea’s recent blip, his team, spearheaded by the impressive Tammy Abraham, had won six Premier League games in succession.

Chelsea hosts plummeting Bournemouth on Saturday and Lampard knows he must get the balance right to strengthen Chelsea’s hopes of securing a Champions League berth next season.

City’s centre-back crisis

Pep Guardiola is scrambling for defensive solutions after a fourth Premier League defeat of the season, against Manchester United, last week -- the same number of losses Manchester City suffered in the whole of the last campaign.

The defending champion, which is 14 points adrift of Liverpool, had 23 shots against United but looked alarmingly open whenever the visitor charged forward.

 

Third-placed City has conceded 19 goals in the top-flight, just four fewer than it did in the entire 2018/19 season.

Midfielder Fernandinho has filled in at central defence after an injury to Aymeric Laporte and the Brazilian has said he is happy to help out where needed.

But it is a double-edged problem for Guardiola, who is playing one of his best players out of position and losing the 34-year-old’s steel in midfield, with Rodri still finding his feet in the Premier League.

Ole's men seek consistency

United will hope to capitalise on its recent resurgence of beating Tottenham Hotspur and champion Manchester City in back-to-back matches in the Premier League when managerless Everton visits Old Trafford on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer's men have had success against the 'top six' teams so far this campaign but has struggled against bottom half sides.

 

Under caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson, Everton seemed reinvigorated against Chelsea at home in the 3-1 win on Saturday with Dominc Calvert-Lewin firing twice.

Fixtures

Saturday

Liverpool v Watford, Burnley v Newcastle, Chelsea v Bournemouth, Leicester v Norwich, Sheffield United v Aston Villa, Southampton v West Ham

Sunday

Manchester United v Everton, Wolves v Tottenham, Arsenal v Manchester City

Monday

Crystal Palace v Brighton

  Dugout videos