Eight talking points for the Premier League weekend

Pace-setter Liverpool possibly faces its tough test yet in the form of a visit from its former boss Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City.

Brendan Rodgers was sacked by Liverpool in 2015 after a poor start to the league campaign.   -  AP

Liverpool's perfect start to the Premier League season is under threat from an in-form Leicester led by a manager with a point to prove at Anfield in Brendan Rodgers.

The European champion has a five-point lead at the top of the table over Manchester City, but Leicester is the closest challenger to the top two as it aims to break the glass ceiling of the top six.

The Foxes' chances have been aided by the early-season struggles of Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

All four have winnable fixtures to get back on track this weekend, but Spurs is most in need of a lift after a 7-2 Champions League mauling by Bayern Munich in midweek.

Rodgers returns to Liverpool at helm of high-flying Leicester

Brendan Rodgers returns to Anfield for the first time since he was sacked by the Reds in 2015. The Northern Irishman has since rebuilt his reputation, winning seven trophies in two-and-a-half seasons at Celtic before making the move back to the Premier League with the Foxes in February.

Since Rodgers replaced Claude Puel, Leicester has the third-best record in the league behind relentless Liverpool and defending champion City.

A 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle last weekend saw Rodgers's men open up a two-point lead on the chasing pack in third and they have shown their ability to test the traditional top six with a 1-1 draw at Chelsea and 2-1 victory over Tottenham already this season.

However, Rodgers knows ending Liverpool's unbeaten run at home in the Premier League since April 2017 is a much tougher challenge.

Seventh hell for Spurs

Tottenham's second-half capitulation to German giants Bayern on Tuesday has raised questions over whether Mauricio Pochettino can turn the tide in his sixth season in charge after a dramatic dip in form over the past eight months.

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Can Mauricio Pochettino turn the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur after a hammering from Bayern Munich?   -  Getty Images

Spurs has now won just three of it opening 10 games to the season and has lost 13 of its past 28 matches stretching back to February.

Pochettino called for unity after Tottenham's worst-ever home defeat in Europe, but to get the fans back onside it needs a quick response against a Brighton side that has not won since the opening day of the season.

Not so United

Despite its stuttering start, Tottenham is still two points better off than Manchester United in the race for a top-four finish, with the Red Devils off to their worst league start for 30 years.

A trip to Newcastle ought to bring some relief for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Magpies are in turmoil on and off the field. St James's Park has seen swathes of empty seats for the first time in years as supporters protest against Mike Ashley's ownership of the club, while manager Steve Bruce accused his players of “a complete surrender” in losing four second-half goals to Leicester last weekend.

However, even against such demoralised opponents, there are no longer any guarantees for Manchester United on the road. Solskjaer's men have not won away from home in 10 games stretching back to March.

Battle of the promoted teams

Aston Villa will tavel to Carrow Road on Saturday to take on Norwich in what could be an early relegation six-pointer between the promoted sides which sit 17th and 18th on the points table. However, their places in the table are not a reflection of their performances this season.

Norwich has had impressive performances against the big clubs, albeit losing to both Chelsea and Liverpool, while shocking champion Manchester City at Carrow Road. However, it has struggled against the teams outside the top six, with losses to West Ham, Burnley and Crystal Palace.

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Norwich City will look up to Teemu Pukki in the match against Aston Villa.   -  Getty Images

The Villans' points this season came from a win against Everton and draws with West Ham and Burnley. They play Norwich and Brighton before games against City and Liverpool. These games therefore, are very important to Villa too.

The stakes being high for both teams, we can expect a competitive affair on Saturday.

Wilson threat looms over Gunners

Bournemouth's Callum Wilson is aiming to score for a fifth straight game when his team travels to take on Arsenal. He will fancy his chances, too, with his goalscoring record of three goals from four matches against the Gunners.

Arsenal's defence is yet to keep a clean sheet in the league since the opening day win at Newcastle and has conceded nine goals in its last five matches.

Manager Unai Emery will be keen to introduce new signing Kierran Tierney in the league after his return from injury. The left-back has impressed in the cup competitions with his crossing abilities and registered his first assist in a 4-0 win on Thursday against Standard Liege in the Europa League.

De Bruyne-less City takes on Wolves

Wolves has registered three wins on the bounce in all competitions, including a first win in the league last weekend against bottom club Watford. Buoyed by the win over Besiktas in the Europa League, Nuno Espirito Santo's men face a daunting trip at the home of the champion, Manchester City.

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Kevin De Bruyne picked up a groin injury in Manchester City's win over Everton, sidelining him from action.   -  Getty Images

The injury to midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, who has nine assists this term, will be a concern for City, which will want to pounce on any slip up from Liverpool over the weekend.

For Wolves forward Diogo Jota will miss the contest after he picked up an ankle injury against Besiktas.

Injury concerns for Saints

Full-back Cedric Soares and and winger Moussa Djenepo will not be available for manager Ralph Hasenhuttl for the home match against Frank Lampard's Chelsea.

Djenepo's absence will be felt since he has scored three of the side's seven goals in the league this season.

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Ralph Hasenhuttl will look for a turnaround when Southampton hosts Chelsea, having lost its last two Premier League fixtures back to back.   -  Getty Images

Lampard's youngsters are flying high in the league with Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount leading the charge. Chelsea has history on its side with nine wins coming at St. Mary's Stadium from 12 matches.

Silva under the pump

Everton is coming on the back of a three successive defeats in the league and a first win since September 1 will not be a easy task with a tough away assignment at Burnley.

Marcos Silva received a boost on the fitness front with Andre Gomes and Theo Walcott returning from injury earlier this week.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday: Brighton vs Tottenham Hotspur (1130), Burnley vs Everton, Liverpool vs Leicester, Norwich vs Aston Villa, Watford vs Sheffield United (all 1400), West Ham vs Crystal Palace (1630)

Sunday: Southampton vs Chelsea, Arsenal vs Bournemouth, Man City vs Wolves (all 1300), Newcastle vs Man Utd (1530)

 

 

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