LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur face a daunting trip to Manchester City this weekend, desperate to arrest a losing streak that threatens to derail their season as Manchester United brace themselves for a hostile reception at Leeds.
Newcastle can pull further clear of relegation trouble and dent West Ham’s top-four ambitions as they seek their fourth straight league win while Norwich, Watford and Burnley are all in desperate need of points.
AFP Sport takes a look at some of the talking points ahead of the weekend action.
Misfiring Spurs face ultimate test
Antonio Conte has made no secret of his dissatisfaction over Tottenham’s dealings in the transfer market in January, saying his team has been “weakened”.
The former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss started his reign in north London brightly, going unbeaten in the Premier League from November until January, but three straight league defeats have set alarm bells ringing.
Spurs sent Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Bryan Gil and Jack Clarke out on loan last month, while Dele Alli signed for Everton on a permanent deal.
They brought in Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski from Juventus but Conte was underwhelmed by the club’s business, telling Sky Sport Italia he needed more experienced players to push for the top four.
Tottenham are not yet out of contention for a place in next season’s Champions League — they are seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with three games in hand — but they face an uphill task.
Spurs will seek to draw confidence from their home victory against Pep Guardiola’s men in August, when Nuno Espirito Santo was still at the helm, but few would tip them to interrupt City’s march towards a fourth title in five years.
Man Utd brace for Leeds test
Manchester United huffed and puffed in midweek before finding a way to beat 10-man Brighton but they face a daunting test of their character at Elland Road on Sunday.
United and Leeds are at the centre of one of the fiercest rivalries in English football, which has endured in intensity despite Leeds’ long absence from the top-flight between 2004 and 2020.
In-form goalkeeper David de Gea, who has never faced Leeds in an away match in his decade at United, is well aware of the depth of feeling between the two sets of fans.
United moved back into the top four after their 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Tuesday, shedding their unwanted habit of conceding in the second half, with De Gea stressing that they needed to be consistent for 90 minutes.
“We should be fighting for better things than we are doing at the moment,” the Spain international told the PA news agency.
“But it’s realistic that we are fighting for the top four. This is the objective. Finishing in the top four is very important for us.”
Is time up for Burnley?
Sean Dyche is the Premier League’s longest-serving manager and has been widely praised for keeping Burnley in the English top-flight on a limited budget.
But their sixth straight season in the top division could be their last for now unless something changes dramatically.
The northwest club, who travel to Brighton on Saturday, are rooted at the bottom of the table, a daunting seven points from safety after Newcastle’s run of good results.
If Burnley win their games in hand they would be right back in the mix but a solitary league victory all season shows the scale of their task.
An American-backed takeover just over a year ago has so far failed to give Dyche a more competitive budget to work with.
And despite recent encouraging performances against Manchester United and Liverpool, Burnley, who lost striker Chris Wood in the transfer window, look likely to go down.
Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated)
West Ham v Newcastle (1230), Arsenal v Brentford, Aston Villa v Watford, Brighton v Burnley, Crystal Palace v Chelsea, Liverpool v Norwich, Southampton v Everton, Manchester City v Tottenham (1730)
Leeds v Man Utd (1400), Wolves v Leicester (1630)