Premier League Preview: Leeds United face tricky task against imperious Man City
Leeds United go into this weekend’s clash against Manchester City off the back of two consecutive victories.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men edged out an intriguing Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United last Saturday thanks to an early Jack Harrison strike and an own goal from Phil Jagielka, and now find themselves 11th in the table, level on points with Arsenal in 10th.
Saturday’s early kick-off against Manchester City could prove to be a much trickier task for the Whites, however, for obvious reasons.
Pep Guardiola's men are 14 points clear at the top with four wins out of their last five, and look to be cruising towards a fifth Premier League title.
Leeds have shown once already this season that they are capable of causing City problems though, and October’s 1-1 draw at Elland Road was about as entertaining a match as you could ask for given it was such a low scoring contest.
We’ve taken a look ahead to the clash, and the rest of this weekend’s Premier League action, below...
Fulham vs Wolves: Cottagers can finally tip the scales
Ever since Scott Parker and his Fulham side came steaming out of the debris and smoke of this season’s relegation battle to anoint themselves as the much-fabled “ones who might get out of it”, they have been snapping at the heels of Newcastle United without ever truly looking like overtaking the Magpies.
Their cause has hardly been helped by a run of four defeats in five that has left their heroics looking less like Batman and Robin, and more like Del Boy and Rodney.
Friday night’s clash is a massive opportunity for the Cottagers, however.
If they can get one over an ailing Wolves side, who themselves have won none of their last five, they would finally drag Newcastle into the bottom three, and pile the pressure on the Toon Army.
Manchester City vs Leeds United: Game recognises game
Ever since Marcelo Bielsa arrived in England it has been a well-parroted fact that Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is a disciple of El Loco’s uniquely brilliant footballing brain.
The Spanish behemoth has openly spoken of his admiration for the Leeds manager on numerous occasions, and the last meeting between these two sides – a 1-1 draw back in October – was a testament to the tactical mastery and free-flowing attacking play that have made these two managers such iconic figures.
If we get anything close to that kind of clash again this weekend, what a treat it will be.
Liverpool vs Aston Villa: Will Reds be scarred by Villa hiding?
Retrospectively, there were plenty of early signs that Liverpool’s season might not be as smooth as last term, but none were as glaring or as jaw-dropping as their 7-2 defeat at Villa Park in October.
Here we had one of the most dominant champions in recent memory laid to waste by a team who avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth in 2019/20, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the result sent shockwaves throughout the English game.
Since then, Liverpool have staggered and stumbled through their campaign like a silent movie drunk, and it begs the question, will Jurgen Klopp err on the side of caution to avoid another potential banana skin this weekend?
Crystal Palace vs Chelsea: How will Tuchel respond to Big Sam schooling?
Thomas Tuchel tasted Premier League defeat for the first time as Chelsea manager last weekend, and how fitting that the man to dole out the punishment was esteemed humbler of big guns, Sam Allardyce.
The Blues were taught a harsh lesson by relegation-threatened West Brom at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and they could face an equally thorny task against Crystal Palace this weekend.
The Eagles picked up a valuable point against Everton last time out, and can bloody just about anybody’s nose on their day.
Again, it begs the question, how does Tuchel respond?
Burnley vs Newcastle United: Magpies need to shine
This is a fixture that both sides will have earmarked as winnable at this crucial juncture in the season.
Of the two, however, you would have to say that the Magpies need a victory much more.
Granted, Burnley are just four points ahead of them in the table, but the size and impenetrable density of the grey cloud gathering above St. James’ Park at the moment surely means that Steve Bruce’s side cannot afford to lose this one.
Quite aside from the fact that they could be in the bottom three before a ball is even kicked, Newcastle play West Ham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester City, and Manchester City in their next five matches.
West Ham vs Leicester City: Clash of the top four infiltrators
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is absolutely, utterly incredible that West Ham are currently fourth in the Premier League table with just eight games to go.
By rights, this is a squad that should be languishing in mid-table, but David Moyes deserves unending credit for the work he has done in East London.
You don’t win any prizes for nearly making it into the Champions League though – well you do, because you qualify for the Europa League, but the point stands – and it’s now that the hard work really begins for the Hammers.
A visit from fellow botherers of the accepted order Leicester City will pose a tricky question, but the winner of this one will give their hopes of European football a massive, massive shot in the arm.
Tottenham vs Manchester United: Special One is hanging by a thread
Tottenham’s Jose Mourinho experiment – or Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham experiment, whichever way you prefer to look at it – has not yielded the success that either party will have been hoping for.
Spurs are still without silverware, and Mourinho’s reputation has something of a spent force at the highest level has seen little in the way of recuperation during his time in north London.
As tensions grow we’re being treated to an all-too-familiar blame game from the Special One, and we’re a long way from that early season talk of a title challenge.
How much more time will Mourinho be afforded, and how imperative is it that he beats his old side on Sunday?
Sheffield United vs Arsenal: Pride on the line for blunt Blades
Never say never in the Premier League, but the chances of Sheffield United beating the drop this term are looking slim to minimal at best.
There are mountains to climb, and then there are 15-point gaps to make up in eight games with a squad who have looked subpar all term and an interim boss.
At times there’s a fine line between pessimism and realism, and as things stand it’s not overly defeatist to accept relegation as a looming inevitability.
That doesn’t mean that the Blades can’t go down without a fight, however, and a win against Arsenal would go a little way towards restoring some pride.
West Brom vs Southampton: Baggies need to build on Bridge bonanza
Big Sam just can’t help himself, can he?
Nobody loves a great escape quite as much as the West Brom manager, and last weekend’s 5-2 win over Chelsea proved that his survival hopes haven’t flatlined just yet.
It was a stunning display by Albion, but one that will matter for little if they can’t follow it up with another three points in a much more winnable clash against Southampton.
Beat the Saints, and West Brom could be just five points from safety come the end of the weekend – and then things will get very, very interesting at the bottom…
Brighton vs Everton: Albion can end relegation fears once and for all
Brighton's survival hopes are looking a whole lot rosier than they were this time a month or two ago.
The Seagulls have strung together a number of impressive performances to lift themselves six points clear of the bottom three, and already confidence will have sky-rocketed on the south coast.
Graham Potter’s men aren’t out of the woods just yet, however, and a win against Everton would do wonders for their prospects of securing a spot in the top flight next year.