We are into the final few days of the winter break in the Premier League, and while there are just six top-flight encounters this weekend, there is much to look forward to.
But there is plenty of interesting stories elsewhere as we pick eight things to look out for across the Premier League this weekend.
Chelsea and Manchester United were involved in a fiery 2-2 clash last term in the top flight
Another battle of Stamford Bridge
Much has changed since Chelsea last hosted Manchester United in a Premier League game. Most notably the two managers in the dugout in the form of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replacing Jose Mourinho and Frank Lampard coming in for Maurizio Sarri.
But few will forget the last top-flight encounter in west London when Ross Barkley’s last-minute equaliser led to a member of Chelsea’s coaching staff provoking Mourinho into a rage off the bench and a touchline ruckus followed.
Of course, Mourinho had history with the Blues and it is unlikely the relatively mild mannered Solskjaer is going to be picking a fight with his Blues counterparts this time around.
He will be more interested in picking up three points, something United haven’t done at Stamford Bridge since 2012 despite their near miss last term. For Chelsea, three points will be vital to maintain their top-four push and open up a nine-point gap over their rivals in the battle to secure a Champions League place.
A member of Chelsea’s coaching staff goaded Jose Mourinho after a late Blues equaliser
Mourinho reacted furiously to being provoked, sparking a touchline ruckus at the Bridge
Season at a glance
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
Ighalo’s big chance
United’s push for the top four has stuttered since September and it has not been aided by the injury to leading marksman Marcus Rashford.
So will it be Odion Ighalo to the rescue? The on-loan striker from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua is back in the Premier League for the first time since his low key exit from Watford in 2017.
The Nigerian isn’t just around for the money – he’s already taken a pay cut just to be at United. As a lifeline long fan he will be desperate to make his mark for the Red Devils but which version will they get?
Will it be the striker who terrorised defences with 14 goals from his first 19 top-flight starts with Watford in 2015? Or will it be the forward who then only scored twice in his following 36 games. Solskjaer will soon find out…
Odion Ighalo could play in his first Premier League match for three years for United
Contact lenses for Klopp
Jurgen Klopp will have fond memories of his last trip to Carrow Road – even if he won’t be able to quite visualise them.
Liverpool’s visit to Norwich City in 2016 saw the Reds respond to a last-minute equaliser from Sebastien Bassong by going straight up the other end and snatching a winner through Adam Lallana in a thrilling 5-4 encounter.
Emotions understandably ran wild following Lallana’s goal on the touchline and the pile up of players along with Klopp resulted in the Liverpool boss having his glasses broken accidentally by Christian Benteke.
The Reds are expected to win a little more comfortably at the Premier League’s bottom side this time around but, just in case, don’t be surprised to see Klopp play it a little more cautiously on the touchline with a pair of contact lenses.
Jurgen Klopp’s glasses were broken as Liverpool edged Norwich 5-4 at Carrow Road in 2016
Arteta hoping to prove more than a point
It sounds like Gunners fans have ‘got their Arsenal back’ under Mikel Arteta. All the talk surrounds an unbeaten run that has seen them avoid defeat in 2020 across seven matches.
Party like it’s 2004, right? Not quite. The problem is the large majority of those matches have been draws and Arteta has still only won a single league match.
He is only the second ever Gunners boss to record just one league win from his first seven games in charge following Steve Burtenshaw in 1986.
As a result, the Gunners are toiling in mid-table and are 10 points off a top-four spot. Newcastle have a very weak record against Arsenal, who despite having improved performances under the Spaniard, can ill afford to keep dropping points. The Toon make ideal opponents to turn those draws into wins.
Despite an unbeaten 2020, Mikel Arteta is chasing just his second league win as Arsenal boss
Tottenham proving top-four credentials
Spurs have been a rabble pretty much since the start of the season when they had to rely on two late goals to beat Aston Villa.
Since then the Champions League finalists have slipped as low as 14th, sacked Mauricio Pochettino and brought in Mourinho to save their season.
The north London side have slightly improved but have constantly been playing catch-up in the race for the top four.
A lack of consistency means they have failed to win more than two games in a row but opportunity knocks at struggling Villa to secure victory in three straight league games for the first time in a year. Mourinho is also be looking for just his second win at Villa Park in seven attempts.
Tottenham are looking to repeat their opening day win over Aston Villa as they seek three straight wins for the first time in the Premier League for a year
Villa trying to end Spurs hoodoo
Hovering just one point above the relegation zone, Villa need points desperately to ease the pressure in the battle to beat the drop.
Unfortunately for them, they will have unwanted visitors this weekend when Tottenham arrive at Villa Park.
Villa have not beaten Spurs at home since January 2008. To put that into perspective, the north London side have even won a trophy in the time that has since passed.
Home or away Spurs have dominated this fixture in the last decade, winning 10 of their last 11 meetings. But have the White Hart Lane outfit ever looked as weak during that period? Dean Smith’s side have an excellent chance of ending the Spurs hoodoo and, more importantly, boosting their survival hopes at the same time.
Villa are without a home win over Spurs since a 2-1 triumph on New Year’s Day in 2008
A Jamie Vardy goal
Because we are well overdue one. It wasn’t that long ago England were thinking of dialling V for Vardy in hope he would end his international retirement and plug the gap left by Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford’s injuries.
You couldn’t blame Gareth Southgate for considering it either at the turn of the year, with the striker having found a Premier League net 17 times in his previous 16 games.
But since Kane was injured on New’s Years Day Vardy hasn’t scored. The run is now at five matches in the top flight (seven in all competitions) and it is his worst for three years.
Opportunity knocks at Wolves though, with the West Midlands derby having produced a seven-goal thriller in the last two top-flight Molineux meetings, 16 years apart, even if Wolves won them both 4-3.
Jamie Vardy has not scored in his last five Premier League matches for Leicester City
Home comforts for Saints
Ralph Hasenhuttl has done an excellent job in turning around Southampton’s fortunes since their 9-0 dismantling on home soil by Leicester earlier in the season.
Back then it looked like the Austrian was on the brink of being axed from the struggling Saints but since then he has rallied his side to become outside contenders for a Europa League spot.
But one thing Hasenhuttl hasn’t been able to alter is the Saints’ very poor record at home. They have just 11 points at St Mary’s this term, which is their worst in the history of the Premier League following 12 home games.
Burnley are not the ideal opponents either to try and improve on their home form, having failed to beat them in their last six attempts. The Clarets are chasing a league double over Southampton for the first time since the 1946-47 campaign.
Burnley will be looking for a league double over Southampton who have struggled at home