Premier League weekend preview: Five talking points

Frank Lampard's Chelsea will take on Jose Mourinho's Tottenham while Leicester and Manchester City will seek to close the gap on leader Liverpool.

Arsenal's new head coach Mikel Arteta will not take charge for the match against Everton.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Frank Lampard will lock horns with former boss Jose Mourinho in a Premier League London derby this weekend as second-placed Leicester City seeks to take advantage of Liverpool's absence at Manchester City.

Elsewhere, out-of-form Arsenal travels to Everton and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes his Manchester United side to bottom club Watford.

League leader Liverpool, which has a 10-point lead at the top of the table, is away at the Club World Cup in Qatar.

We pick out some of the key talking points ahead of the weekend's Premier League fixtures.

Master vs apprentice

When Jose Mourinho took over as Tottenham boss last month, his side was 12 points behind Frank Lampard's Chelsea and looked out of the running for the top four.

But Spurs will leapfrog its London rival into fourth place in the Premier League if it comes out on top on Sunday in a match pitting the grizzled Portuguese veteran against one of his key players during their time together at Stamford Bridge.

It is not the first time the pair have locked horns from opposing dugouts. Lampard came out on top last season when he took his Derby side to play Manchester United at Old Trafford in the League Cup, but both have since moved on to new clubs.

Chelsea has stumbled in recent weeks, losing four of its past five Premier League matches, with the boss hinting at striking reinforcements in the January transfer window.

The mood is different at Spurs. Former player Ledley King said confidence was back and the top four was a realistic goal.

“(Mourinho) is a winner,” he told Sky Sports. “He's won everything. From my experience if someone like that comes into your club you listen, you take everything on board and you try to soak up as much as you can.”

Leicester's tough task

Leicester must realistically beat Manchester City and Liverpool in its next two matches to stand any chance of winning a second Premier League title in five seasons.

A win for Brendan Rodgers' high-flying team on Saturday would close the gap to Liverpool to seven points ahead of their summit meeting with the Premier League leader on December 26.

Defending champion City, on the other hand, can move to within one point of Leicester if it ends the Foxes' nine-match unbeaten league run.

Rodgers urged his side to keep its progress in perspective after its run of eight straight wins was ended by Norwich last week.

“We are a team that's been developing over this last nine, 10 months from a mid-table position and now people are talking about challenging for titles,” he said. “For us our feet are very firmly on the ground and the players have been absolutely amazing.”

Solskjaer's United conundrum

How will Ole Gunnar Solskjaer approach Sunday's match away at lowly Watford?

United has notched up some memorable results against the top clubs this season, beating Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City and drawing against Liverpool.

But it has slipped up against the weaker sides, but totalled just one point from the four matches against Southampton, West Ham, Newcastle and Bournemouth.

United is unbeaten in its past six Premier League games but stumbled to a draw against Everton last week, losing some of its recent momentum.

Solskjaer's team has been at its best this season when conceding possession and using the searing pace of Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and the others on the break.

United enjoyed just 28 percent possession during its recent 2-1 win against Manchester City but when it is expected to dominate it struggles to unlock defences, as happened against Everton.

Solskjaer must find a way to inject more creativity into his midfield if he is to continue his drive towards the top four.

Arteta, Ancelotti to meet in the stands?

After a long draw out discussion, Arsenal finally managed to get the signature of Mikel Arteta to become its new manager -- 21 days after the club sacked Unai Emery.

But he will not take charge in Arsenal's trip to his former club Everton and will watch on from the stands. It will be a tough task for the Gunners against a rejuvenated Everton side, which has claimed four points in matches against Chelsea and Manchester United under caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson.

Reports of reputed manager Carlo Ancelotti's arrival at the club is certain to further lift the mood at Goodison Park ahead of this fixture.

Arsenal has mounting defensive worries to contend with as Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac and Dani Ceballos missing in action. Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Rob Holding are being assessed before a final call on their selection while Granit Xhaka is available after being cleared of concussion.

Blades' bid for top six push

Ranked seventh on the table, Sheffield United could prolong its unbeaten away run -- eight matches -- in the league as it travels to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday. A win could take it, currently on 25 points, further close to Chelsea and Spurs, one or both of whom could drop points over the weekend during their game.

Fixtures (All times in GMT)

Saturday: Everton vs Arsenal (1230), Bournemouth vs Burnley (1500), Aston Villa vs Southampton (1500), Brighton vs Sheffield United (1500), Newcastle vs Crystal Palace (1500), Norwich vs Wolves (1500), Manchester City vs Leicester (1730)

Sunday: Watford vs Manchester United (1400), Tottenham vs Chelsea (1630)

 

With inputs from AFP.

  Dugout videos