1) Hornets unlikely to sting weary Reds
With Trent Alexander-Arnold injured, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané nonetheless bodily and emotionally recuperating from Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying playoff in Dakar – full with further time, penalties and laser beams – numerous South People making late returns from distant internationals and the primary leg of a Champions League quarter-final to return on Tuesday, there may hardly be a greater time for a plucky underdog to show up at Anfield. However even permitting for the huge benefits the division’s main golf equipment maintain over the upstarts, Watford’s document at their grounds is abysmal: in all competitions since 1990 the Hornets have performed away at Liverpool, Manchester Metropolis, Chelsea and Manchester United a mixed 38 occasions, equal to at least one full top-flight season (albeit one with a very savage fixture checklist). On this notional season they’ve earned a complete of six factors, with 34 defeats and a single victory, at Anfield underneath Graham Taylor in 1999. SB
2) Will England show raise Maguire?
Harry Maguire made headlines throughout the worldwide break, however not for the superb move that helped to create England’s second purpose in opposition to Ivory Coast or his stable all-round efficiency. Gareth Southgate was unusually strident after that match in calling the Wembley booing of the centre-back a “joke”, and Maguire’s creditable show won’t hurt his confidence. Taking part in for Manchester United appears to be a unique matter, although, and maybe one of many points is that his membership teammates typically lack the standard of motion Ollie Watkins displayed in receiving the aforementioned move for England, earlier than establishing Raheem Sterling to attain on the second try. Maguire could also be joyful to see that his outdated teammate Jamie Vardy shall be lacking as a result of a knee harm: Vardy has the type of tempo that may expose Maguire when turned, however the defender’s type for the nationwide aspect reveals what he’s able to as a part of a well-coached and cohesive staff. LM
3) A much less chaotic Leeds that includes Phillips
After late smash-and-grabs in opposition to Norwich and Wolves within the run-up to the worldwide break, Leeds followers have had two weeks to relax and shall be hoping for a significantly much less disturbing encounter when Southampton go to Elland Street. A mix of Covid, accidents and suspension meant Stuart Dallas and Dan James have been the one two Leeds first-team regulars away on worldwide obligation. That may have given Jesse Marsch welcome time to work with many of the aspect he plans to ship out to face guests who’ve misplaced 4 consecutive matches in all competitions. Coincidentally, Leeds performed Southampton instantly after the October worldwide break and misplaced 1-0 at St Mary’s. Out of the physio room and on the bench in opposition to Wolves, Kalvin Phillips has introduced his intention to signal a contract extension amid curiosity from Manchester United, Liverpool and Aston Villa. The defensive midfielder is prone to make his first look since early December. BG
4) Nørgaard to offer Kanté a lesson?
Lastly Chelsea get an opportunity to look at somebody who’s genuinely distinctive at tackling and intercepting: whereas N’Golo Kanté, their famed interrupter, is ranked a sorry one hundred and tenth on interceptions and a depressing 72nd for tackles this season, Christian Nørgaard has been the league’s handiest midfield enforcer, rating first for tackles, first for profitable tackles, second for profitable urgent actions and second (or fourth, relying whose statistics you’re ) for interceptions. Brentford’s opponents do are inclined to have the ball much more than Chelsea, giving him extra alternatives to exhibit his ball-winning abilities, however nonetheless. The referee Chris Kavanagh takes cost of his seventh Brentford sport, of which they’ve received 29% (these two wins are the final two he has officiated, together with final season’s Championship play-off closing). Chelsea, in the meantime, have received a statistically unlikely 91% of the 11 Blues video games he has overseen. SB
5) Spurs proceed top-four cost
Tottenham picked West Ham aside of their earlier Premier League match, a outcome that conveniently appears to be like to have knocked the Hammers out of top-four competition. Harry Kane pulled the strings that day, type he carried right into a match-winning efficiency for England in opposition to Switzerland, and if the ahead can proceed to dovetail with Son Heung-min as successfully as he has been not too long ago, Champions League qualification is completely achievable for fifth-placed Spurs. Arsenal presently occupy fourth – three factors forward of Antonio Conte’s males with a match in hand – however are confronted with a harder run-in that features journeys to Chelsea, West Ham and Spurs, and a house sport in opposition to Manchester United. A Contefied Tottenham seem to have each likelihood of overhauling their north London rivals. Barring disasters Newcastle already look protected, and maybe Eddie Howe’s greatest headache – apart from these persistent questions on human rights in Saudi Arabia – is easy methods to match Joe Willock, Jonjo Shelvey, Joelinton and Bruno Guimarães into the identical aspect. LM
6) Lengthy to get overdue name in opposition to Metropolis
Turf Moor will host a gathering of groups with their minds on larger events to return. Metropolis host Liverpool subsequent weekend and Atlético Madrid in between whereas Burnley are about to start out the important thing week of their season, that includes video games in opposition to Everton and Norwich. Given these fixtures, and the very fact they’ve misplaced their final 9 matches in opposition to Manchester Metropolis by an combination rating of 32-1, it’s unlikely Sean Dyche will danger any participant’s health for this one. This implies Ben Mee will seemingly miss out and Kevin Lengthy, who has spent 1,710 Premier League minutes on the bench this season and never a single one on the pitch, making his first senior look of any type since final February. Again then, Lengthy signed a brand new contract, began in opposition to Fulham and merrily declared “the supervisor right here likes me”. SB
7) A return to 2 up entrance for Villa?
Aston Villa have been unimpressive in defeat by the hands of Arsenal of their most up-to-date top-flight fixture, a sport through which Danny Ings was dropped to make room for an extra midfielder in Emi Buendía. With the Wolves supervisor, Bruno Lage, favouring a again three, Ings is prone to return to companion Ollie Watkins up entrance, the place the pair shall be tasked with creating areas through which Philippe Coutinho can work his magic. Watkins and John McGinn each scored on worldwide obligation for England and Scotland respectively, whereas Jacob Ramsey received his identify on the scoresheet with a thunderbolt for England Beneath-21s in opposition to Andorra. Regardless of the mugging they have been subjected to in October’s reverse fixture, Villa’s confidence is prone to be excessive going into this West Midlands derby in opposition to a aspect which have had two weeks to place the trauma of their last-gasp defeat by Leeds behind them. BG
8) Will Lampard’s sturdy phrases repay?
Was Everton’s win in opposition to Newcastle the start of a significant restoration or merely a false daybreak? If the 4-0 FA Cup pummelling by Crystal Palace is something to go by, there isn’t any cause to consider the following few weeks are going to be something apart from unbearably tense for Everton’s supporters. Does Frank Lampard possess the managerial chops to maintain them up? Is the squad adequate to keep away from relegation? Did he decisively burn his bridges along with his already struggling gamers with the rant a couple of lack of “bollocks” after the loss to Palace? Defeat at West Ham can be no shame however the journey to Burnley three days later is an absolute must-not-lose. The query of whether or not the gamers are all prepared to tug in the identical path – and able to struggle for Lampard – appears to be like prone to be answered within the coming week. LM
9) Sliding sides collide on the Amex
On paper this might be the worst sport of the season, hosted by a Brighton aspect who’ve misplaced their final six video games, scoring one and conceding 13, however nonetheless aren’t backside of the shape desk. Not when this weekend’s opponents, Norwich, have scored 4 and conceded 17 of their six straight league defeats. So equally matched are these sides that since mid-January their data every quantity to dropping these six league video games, getting dumped out of the FA Cup, claiming a single 1-1 draw and beating Watford. The Canaries’ quickly receding survival hopes relaxation on on the spot enchancment: after Brighton this week and Burnley subsequent, Norwich solely face one different aspect presently within the backside half of the desk, and that’s Newcastle. This season they’ve taken one level so removed from video games in opposition to top-half groups. SB
10) Saka and Zaha health could also be key
5 months is a very long time in soccer. It was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who opened the scoring when Crystal Palace visited north London in October, a match that ended 2-2 after Palace’s fightback and Alexandre Lacazette’s late equaliser. For all his qualities, Aubameyang’s departure to Barcelona has helped Mikel Arteta to breed the sort of togetherness the Gunners displayed when Patrick Vieira was bossing their midfield. Vieira’s Palace have made a behavior of arresting the progress of extra illustrious opponents this season – most not too long ago by holding Manchester Metropolis to a goalless draw at Selhurst Park – and can go into this match with no concern. Arteta is upbeat on the probabilities of Bukayo Saka being match to play after recovering from Covid, whereas Vieira is hoping for excellent news on the hamstring harm that stored Wilfried Zaha out of Ivory Coast’s Wembley assembly with England. These late health exams look prone to have a major influence on Monday’s match – and Arteta would dearly like to have Saka out there. LM