Klopp banking on Chelsea to slow City charge as Napoli tie looms

Elsewhere, all eyes will again be on the next instalment in the Old Trafford soap opera, with stuttering Manchester United hosting bottom club Fulham.

Jurgen Klopp's Chelsea were unbeaten in their first 12 Premier League games, determinedly hanging on to the coattails of Manchester City and Liverpool.   -  Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp will be desperately hoping Chelsea can slow down Manchester City’s title charge this weekend as he balances his Premier League ambitions with a Champions League decider against Napoli.

Unbeaten Liverpool is clinging on in the title race — scoring deep into added time against Everton last week and recovering from a goal down to beat Burnley on Wednesday to move just two points behind City.

Elsewhere, all eyes will again be on the next instalment in the Old Trafford soap opera, with stuttering Manchester United hosting bottom club Fulham.

Tottenham — yet to register a single draw in the Premier League this season — is away to Leicester. Arsenal plays lowly Huddersfield.

Here are some of the main talking points ahead of the weekend fixtures in the Premier League.

— Chelsea seeks to arrest slide —

Chelsea was unbeaten in its first 12 Premier League games, determinedly hanging on to the coattails of Manchester City and Liverpool. But if it loses to Pep Guardiola’s league leader at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, it will be looking at a yawning gap of 13 points — and it would be its third defeat in four league games.

Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso has urged his teammates to forget about the gap, which already looks ominously big.

“If we lose we are going to be 13 points from the top and that’s a lot of points, but we have to think, prepare for the game well and not pay attention to the table at the moment,” he said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to come back.”

— Does Mourinho know his best team? —

Jose Mourinho is desperately casting around for solutions to the malaise at Old Trafford — but is all the chopping and changing hindering, rather than helping?

Manchester United has made a total of 46 changes to its starting XI in the Premier League so far this season, including seven changes on Wednesday against Arsenal — more than any other team in the competition.

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand is concerned over the tinkering.

“Something needs to be done,” Ferdinand said in his role as a pundit for BT Sport. “The common thing that we’ve seen with this team under Mourinho is changes every week — changes, changes, changes.

“That doesn’t bode well for me in terms of the players and for the team because you need to form relationships within a team and you can’t do that when there’s chopping and changing, week in and week out.”

— Will Klopp ring changes again? —

Jurgen Klopp made seven changes for his side’s midweek match against Burnley — starting without any of the front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the first time since September 2017.

Despite a scare at Turf Moor, Liverpool won 3-1, taking its tally to 39 points after 15 matches — more than any other Anfield side in history.

On Tuesday, it faces Napoli at Anfield with the prospect of crashing out of the Champions League group stage just over six months after reaching the final — but first it must negotiate a trip to high-flying Bournemouth.

— Arsenal: a team of two halves —

For a side that is unbeaten in 20 matches, Arsenal has the curious record of not once leading at half-time in a Premier League game this season.

Wednesday was no different, as Manchester United pegged it back to reach half-time at 1-1.

But Arsenal has scored more second-half goals than any other team — 25 — and four points in its past two games against Spurs and United suggest Unai Emery is adding steel to a side that had flatlined under Arsene Wenger.

 

Fixtures

Saturday: Bournemouth vs Liverpool, Arsenal vs Huddersfield, Burnley vs Brighton, Cardiff vs Southampton, Manchester United vs Fulham, West Ham vs Crystal Palace, Chelsea vs Manchester City, Leicester vs Tottenham

Sunday: Newcastle vs Wolves

Monday: Everton vs Watford