- The Premier League returns to action after the hectic international break.
- We review the main talking points as the League returns to action.
The international break is over and ahead lies blockbuster action from the European leagues.
We review the main talking points as the Premier League returns to action.
Manchester City under pressure to win
This Saturday, Manchester City and Liverpool will renew their rivalry in a crucial match that neither team can afford to lose. The teams, who have been perennial title rivals in previous years, have distinct goals as the season enters its final stretch, but both need victories to stay in touch with the teams above.
Erling Haaland’s fitness is in question as City enters what is a must-win matchup eight points behind leaders Arsenal. The Norwegian was ‘touch and go’ to play at the Etihad after withdrawing from international duty this week due to a groin problem.
While all is going on, Liverpool’s record has been inconsistent. After crushing Manchester United 7-0, they lost to a struggling Bournemouth team. As Jurgen Klopp’s team has been so unpredictable this year, they will need a performance this weekend that is more in line with the former.
The Reds are still in the race but need wins to reduce the gap as they are currently seven points outside of the Champions League spots with two games remaining against Spurs. This weekend, Liverpool will play City, followed by trips to Chelsea and a match against Arsenal at home over the next eight vital days.
Gabriel Jesus is back
Arsenal has undoubtedly benefited from Jesus’ return. Before the international break, an impressive victory over Crystal Palace increased Arsenal’s lead at the top to eight points, setting up what appears to be a crucial stretch in the title battle.
In the early Saturday game between Manchester City and Liverpool, Arsenal will be watching intently before the Gunners host Leeds at the Emirates. Arsenal appears to be gaining momentum, and the club’s title ambitions have been strengthened by Gabriel Jesus’s return. The international break will have given the Brazilian more time to catch up after he was a late substitution in the club’s final two games before the break.
McTominay proves to be an option
With four goals in two games, Scott McTominay did more than enough during the international break to catch Erik ten Hag’s attention and make Scotland’s Euro 2024 qualification campaign a success.
The season has been difficult for the 26-year-old, who has made only one Premier League appearance since October as Casemiro has taken over as the starting centre-midfielder. Yet with Casemiro out with suspension and a spot open in the Manchester United lineup, his game-winning performances for Scotland came at the perfect time.
Before a pivotal match in the Champions League race, McTominay will be hoping he has done enough to secure a start at Newcastle this weekend. With a victory at St. James’ Park on Sunday, Newcastle can pass United; on the other hand, Newcastle’s loss would widen the gap and give the pack of opponents pursuing them more confidence.
Will Aston Villa keep up?
For Aston Villa, who had amassed ten points from four games to inspire hopes of an improbable run for Europe, the international break arrived at possibly the worst possible time.
Unai Emery’s club, which will play Chelsea this weekend with the two teams only separated by goal difference, has had a strong start. Villa would move into the top half with a victory, and Emery’s team is just four points out of the top six with a shot at the Europa League.
Ollie Watkins will look to build on a recent streak that has seen him score six goals in his past eight league games. Ollie Watkins’ excellent form made it unfortunate for him to miss out on the England squad this month.
Under the Spanish coach, Villa has scored in each of their 16 competitive games, and they’ll be confident going up against a Chelsea team that twice lost leads to draw with Everton last time around.
Only six of Graham Potter’s team’s thirteen league games have been victories at Stamford Bridge, giving away an unconvincing home record this year. Two clubs that are adjusting to new management are poised for an intriguing battle.