Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Premier League


Howe may profit from back-three experiment

Eddie Howe turned radical as Newcastle lost their FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester City earlier this month, deploying a back three. For a confirmed four-at-the-back manager, it represented quite a departure but retaining it might just suit Newcastle’s personnel – particularly against West Ham at St James’ Park this Saturday. Given that Sven Botman is sidelined for nine months following ACL surgery – and with hindsight the Dutch defender should have had that operation when he first damaged his knee in September – the best back three would surely be Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schär and Dan Burn flanked by Kieran Trippier, if fit, or Tino Livramento and Lewis Hall. Hall has disappointed following his summer loan from Chelsea but a left wing-back position might finally enable him to demonstrate why many once believed he was an England player in the making. With Schär showing off his ball skills at sweeper, 3-5-2 might yet propel Newcastle into Europa League combat next season. Louise Taylor

Newcastle players in training this week. Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty


Everton’s desperate need for firepower

After a run of 11 winless games in the league, things are looking bleak for Everton, especially with the threat of another potential points deduction. The good news is that they have already handsomely beaten Bournemouth 3-0 this season in what was their first home victory after four straight losses. It was a result Sean Dyche needed and helped spark a run of seven wins in 10 matches. What the manager would do for something similar this time around. The players know they can better their opponents, but their main problem is a lack of goal threat. They have scored just seven times in their past 11 matches and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not beaten a goalkeeper since late October, while his competition for the lone striker role, Beto, has two goals all season in the league. If they are to get back to winning ways, they will need one of their strikers to find form soon. Otherwise it could be a grim final two months in the Premier League. Will Unwin


Mudryk providing more cutting edge for Chelsea

Mykhailo Mudryk has had a big week. The winger must be buzzing after scoring the goal that sent Ukraine to Euro 2024. It was a huge moment for Mudryk, who is showing flashes of the talent that convinced Chelsea to sign him last year. He remains raw and inconsistent but his goal in Chelsea’s recent 3-2 win over Newcastle was also special. Newcastle’s defence was cut open by Mudryk, who is improving under Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentinian will hope that the youngster can maintain his good form when Burnley visit Stamford Bridge. Jacob Steinberg


Forest must find their resistance … and quick

It may have come to your attention that Nottingham Forest have been docked four points by the Premier League for breaching profit and sustainability rules, which they are appealing against. In the meantime they lie 18th, badly need a win and could use the perceived injustice to kickstart their run-in. Nuno Espírito Santo has led his side to one win in their past nine league matches but within the club they think he has done well, even though results have gone against them. Of the seven league defeats suffered since the Portuguese took over in late December, six have been by a single goal, indicating the fine margins involved. Matters are further exacerbated by the fact they are without their main scoring threat, Taiwo Awoniyi, who faces weeks on the sidelines. Forest need to control what they can on the pitch; their next three home matches are against Crystal Palace, then Fulham and Wolves, which gives them a good chance to secure maximum points while backed by a riotous City Ground. WU

Nottingham Forest’s Ryan Yates shows his disappointment after defeat by Liverpool. His side have won only one league game in 2024. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images


Blades’ desperate bid to escape deep end

Fulham are planning to open a rooftop swimming pool reserved for VIP match-goers as the jewel in the crown of their new Riverside Stand at Craven Cottage, but Sheffield United seem near certain to plunge into rather less hospitable Championship waters. Chris Wilder’s side entertain Marco Silva’s west Londoners at a moment when they sit bottom of the Premier League, eight points adrift of fourth-bottom Luton, albeit with a game in hand. Wilder says he “still believes” the Blades can survive but accepts that the players “have to show desire”. Somewhat damningly, United’s manager added: “If we continue the way we’ve been the last four or five home games we have no chance. We have to tighten up and that is something the staff have addressed.” Wilder also admitted that Bramall Lane regulars have been “let down” and need to be given “something to shout about”. It is safe to assume he was not talking about a shiny pool. LT


Dragusin needs to step up for Spurs

There was little to remember fondly about Tottenham’s last game, a 3-0 defeat at Fulham. They were utterly inept and outplayed. One issue was the absence of Micky van de Ven, sidelined with a hamstring injury. The Dutch centre-back was ruled out for two months earlier in the season with a similar problem but Ange Postecoglou insists the matter is less serious this time, although there will be a need for caution. If Van de Ven fails to recover in time it could well mean a second start for their January signing Radu Dragusin, who found out about Premier League life at Craven Cottage on his full debut. The Romanian centre-back is only 22 and has plenty of time to improve, but will be looking to show why Spurs invested around £27m in him. Luton’s physical forward line could make it another problematic 90 minutes for the new boy; it will be up to him to prove his worth. WU

Radu Dragusin endured a difficult time against Fulham in mid-March. Photograph: Kieran McManus/Tottenham Hotspur FC/Shutterstock


Crunch time for Zaniolo’s Villa ambitions

Nicolò Zaniolo rescued Villa on their most recent outing at West Ham but whether he can do the same for his Premier League career in the next two months is up for debate. The Italian has struggled to make a notable impression since joining on loan from Galatasaray and, even though Villa have an option to make the move permanent, that is looking unlikely. The forward last started a Premier League game on 3 December and was substituted at half-time on that occasion against Bournemouth. He clearly has not earned Unai Emery’s complete trust, but the equaliser at West Ham and two more international appearances for Italy might provide him with some momentum. Even if he does not merit a start on Saturday, he has shown he can make a difference off the bench. If he wants to find a good move in the summer, he needs to prove the doubters wrong. WU


Ten Hag tries to avoid another sting in the tail

Erik ten Hag might still be suffering nightmares about last season’s 4-0 defeat at Brentford. It was an indication of how much work was required to make his Manchester United side competitive again. They were outclassed and outfought by the Bees, who made impressively light work of an expensively assembled team that had a new manager to impress. Nineteen months on and little has changed at United; there is still plenty of room for improvement and, if anything, they have gone backwards this season with a top-four finish looking a very difficult prospect with 10 games to go. What Ten Hag can do, however, is show that this is no longer the weak side that were taught a lesson by Thomas Frank’s team. Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool have all won at Brentford this season and, if United want to be in that category once more, they need a win to demonstrate progress is being made. WU

Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United are nine points behind fourth place with 10 games remaining, but with a game in hand over Aston Villa. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images


An Anfield audition for De Zerbi?

Whisper it, but Jürgen Klopp is leaving Liverpool at the end of the season and they need someone to replace him. One of the names linked to the Anfield hot seat is Roberto De Zerbi, who brings his lively brand of football to Merseyside on Sunday. The Italian has solid credentials, but the question is whether he can step up to a club vying for silverware. The new Liverpool sporting director Richard Hughes once recommended De Zerbi to take over at former club Bournemouth, indicating his views. It might help that Hughes is an Italian speaker and very knowledgeable about European football. One thing that could help De Zerbi is the fact that he has Adam Lallana on his coaching staff, even though the midfielder is still playing, not to mention James Milner in his ranks. Sunday will, to some degree, be an audition for De Zerbi, and were he to end up at Anfield on a permanent basis fitting Milner and Lallana into the boot room might help the transition. WU


A heavyweight and potentially decisive showdown

In this three-way title wrestle, the blockbuster bouts keep coming, so expect riveting entertainment as Arsenal hope to down Manchester City and open a four-point gap over the champions with only 27 left to fight for. Pep Guardiola will, surely, have used choice Catalan to curse an international break that returned his linchpins Kyle Walker and John Stones as injury concerns. And there is also the issue of his treble-victors and three-peat champions having yet to be consistently brilliant this season. Will they finally click against Arsenal or, by the final whistle, will Mikel Arteta have plotted a landmark victory that may – still only may – signal a power shift from east Manchester to north London? Jamie Jackson

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