With the Premier League’s winter break now done and dusted, normality returns this weekend as all the division’s sides compete across the same weekend.
Manchester City’s two-year ban from all UEFA competitions dominated the headlines last week, although one man’s pain is another man’s gain, as fifth place in the Premier League could now represent a gateway into next season’s Champions League.
In an unexpected twist that certainly makes the run-in more exciting, the gap between Chelsea in fourth to Burnley in 11th is just seven points, with Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield United, Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton and Arsenal all sandwiched between them.
As we now enter the final third of the season, it’s simply anyone’s guess who will win the race to play in Europe’s top club competition next season.
Game of the Weekend – Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur
Speaking of the race for a Champions League place, two of the contenders meet on Saturday at Stamford Bridge to kick-off the weekend’s action.
Jose Mourinho arrives as Tottenham manager for the first time, with his Spurs side a point and place below the Blues following a run of three successive league wins for the first time this season.
Unfortunately, Son Heung-min, who scored four goals in those three games, is now sidelined for “a number of weeks” after sustaining a broken arm against Aston Villa.
With Son and Harry Kane now injured, it’s left Tottenham without a recognisable striker, which as their midweek defeat to RB Leipzig proved when Dele Alli played as a false nine, it could culminate in a difficult spell for the club.
Hosts Chelsea however are winless in their last four league games (D2 L2) in what’s been the club’s most difficult spell of the season to date.
History is on Chelsea’s side however, having won each of the last two Premier League meetings, while Spurs have won just one of their last 33 away games against Saturday’s opponents (D11 L21).
Rest of the Round
Burnley – who have won three of their last four league games (D1) – welcome Bournemouth to Turf Moor, who themselves have won two of their last three league games (L1).
Newcastle United make the long trip to Selhurst Park – a place they’ve failed to win at in any of their last three visits (D3 L1) – to face Crystal Palace.
Sheffield United – who could find themselves as high as fourth should results go their way – take on Brighton & Hove Albion.
Southampton face Aston Villa as the pair both search for their first league wins since Match Day 24.
Saturday evening boasts another humdinger of a game when Leicester City take on Manchester City.
With the Europa League returning, there’s a larger-than-normal amount of games, one of those games being Manchester United against Watford – the same fixture that began Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as the club’s permanent manager.
Wolverhampton Wanderers host a Norwich City side that are the only team in the division yet to score ten goals or more in away league games this season (6).
Sunday’s later game will also have implications for securing a Champions League place when Arsenal host Everton.
There’s also Premier League action on the Monday when former Everton manager David Moyes takes his West Ham United side to Anfield to take on champions-in-waiting Liverpool.
Premier League Player to Watch: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United – £5.05
It’s fair to say that Bruno Fernandes has settled well at Manchester United following his January move from Sporting CP.
The Portuguese international has added a creative spark that the United midfield has lacked for some time, while he’s already registered his first assist for the club with the corner that Harry Maguire scored from against Chelsea.
Already a certain starter, as well as being their main set-piece taker, the 25-year-old could have a major impact at the weekend against Watford.