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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian sport

Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Pau Torres, Ben White and Bily Gilmour.
Pau Torres of Aston Villa, Arsenal’s Ben White and Billy Gilmour of Brighton. Composite: Guardian design

Gunners forget the fuss to get it right with White

The good news just keeps rolling in for Arsenal. They are closing in on agreeing a new deal with Ben White and it is the latest evidence of an efficient approach that avoids the kinds of muddle they have seen in the past when contracts run down. White’s deputy at right-back, Takehiro Tomiyasu, played superbly in the rout of Lens but the Englishman may return to the starting lineup for Wolves’ visit on Saturday. Mikel Arteta and Gary O’Neil, old adversaries in their playing days who have forged a firm mutual admiration as managers, may wish to discuss their respective VAR-related grievances if a spare moment presents itself. Wolves will hope to cause a surprise but Arsenal and White, their recent performances as clean and clinical as the club’s off-pitch dealings, hope for the kind of unfussy victory that has become a richly promising hallmark of late. Nick Ames

  • Arsenal v Wolves, Saturday 3pm (all times GMT)

Luton looking up but must get busy against Bees

Having claimed a first home win of the season in beating Crystal Palace and considering Everton’s plight, Luton’s chances of avoiding relegation have improved. But to enter the Christmas period out of the bottom three, Rob Edwards’ team may need to take points from their next three matches. Considering that Arsenal and Manchester City are the next visitors to Kenilworth Road, a result of some kind at Brentford would be helpful. Perhaps only Thomas Frank’s team match Luton for their energy output, and the GTech Stadium is all but guaranteed to host a full-blooded, physical battle. Brentford have the greater Premier League nous, though Ross Barkley’s ability to take on opponents and spread the play from midfield was crucial in beating Palace. Chiedozie Ogbene’s speed down either flank was Luton’s other main weapon last week. Brentford will offer two such players in Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa to test Luton’s defence. John Brewin

  • Brentford v Luton, Saturday 3pm

Burnley’s Blades date loaded with consequence

Something must give at Turf Moor, for the sake of Vincent Kompany and Paul Heckingbottom. Burnley have not won at home in the Premier League all season, or taken a single point, while Sheffield United have not won away. Collectively, two of the division’s bottom three clubs have won only two of 26 matches this term to underline the growing chasm between the top flight and the Championship. But while Kompany looks safe, even after the sickening defeat by West Ham last week that ensured Burnley equalled Newport County’s unwanted league record of seven successive home losses at the start of a season, criticism of his opposite number is growing among Blades supporters. A first away win may help Heckingbottom’s cause but, for both clubs, this fixture is loaded with consequence. Andy Hunter

  • Burnley v Sheffield United, Saturday 3pm

Vincent Kompany knows this is a huge home game for his Burnley side.
Vincent Kompany knows this is a huge home game for his Burnley side. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA

Cooper’s Forest future in question once again

Steve Cooper’s tenure at Nottingham Forest has been a rollercoaster, with sporadic speculation over his future. Last season, Sean Dyche, out of work after being sacked by Burnley, was touted to make a return to the club where he was an apprentice under Brian Clough. Now, as speculation again begins to circle Cooper, Dyche is at Everton. Dyche’s team’s response to their 10-point penalty in last week’s match with Manchester United managed to be both impressive in the first half and submissive in the second. Forest meanwhile came off worst in a bad-tempered defeat by Brighton after which Cooper’s complaints about refereeing failed to draw a fig leaf over a poor defensive performance. For now, local reports have Cooper retaining the “full support” of Forest’s owner, Evangelos Marinakis, but Dyche’s team dragging his old club down may swiftly alter that situation. JB

  • Nottingham Forest v Everton, Saturday 5.30pm

Ten Hag covets Pope’s consistency in goal

Nick Pope shone in Newcastle’s 1-1 Champions League draw at Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday but that is nothing new. Indeed the goalkeeper is invariably so outstanding there cannot be many better shot-stoppers in Europe. The sole caveat surrounding Pope is his sometimes less-than-stellar footwork; suffice to say he’s no sweeper-keeper. Unlike Jordan Pickford he will never star outfield in five-a-sides. This arguably explains why Gareth Southgate now appears to have dropped him from his England squad. That said, Pope’s rare errors have tended to coincide with Southgate’s visits to St James’ Park. Whatever the reason, many on Tyneside are puzzled about the goalkeeper’s international exile. Publicly at least, Eddie Howe plays a diplomatic straight bat, which raises the question: is he privately studying videos of sweeper-keepers as he plans the next stage of Newcastle’s tactical evolution? For the moment Howe can rest assured he possesses an infinitely more reliable first-choice keeper than his Manchester United counterpart, Erik ten Hag. Louise Taylor

  • Newcastle United v Manchester United, Saturday 8pm

Klopp hopes Kelleher will seize the moment

The quality of Liverpool’s squad should compensate for the loss of a goalkeeper of even Alisson’s calibre against an inconsistent Fulham, and offer sufficient protection for any replacement, but this is a key period in the career of Caoimhin Kelleher nonetheless. The 25-year-old Republic of Ireland international has had to wait for Carabao Cup and Europa League fixtures to showcase his undoubted ability this season but, with Alisson sidelined with a hamstring injury for the next two weeks, now has an extended opportunity to demonstrate why Jürgen Klopp wants him to stay at Anfield, following up Thursday’s clean sheet against Lask. As the Liverpool manager said: “Nobody wanted Ali to get injured but if these things happen then you need the strongest possible option and that’s Caoimh for us. That’s the only positive about it, to be honest, that we can put in Caoimh. Now he gets an opportunity that he deserves and hopefully he can show his full potential.” AH

  • Liverpool v Fulham, Sunday 2pm

Gilmour to get his chance at the Bridge

There was a lot of excitement after Billy Gilmour’s first few Chelsea appearances. He was assured on the ball and caught the eye during a victory over Liverpool in March 2020. Yet a knee injury disrupted his momentum and he fell out of favour under Thomas Tuchel. There was a disappointing season on loan at Norwich and Gilmour decided to move on in the summer of 2022. Brighton came calling and the Scotland midfielder is beginning to find consistency. After struggling for opportunities last season, this campaign has been more productive for Gilmour. A clever passer and a player capable of dictating the tempo of the game, the 22-year-old will be keen to impress when Brighton visit Stamford Bridge. Jacob Steinberg

  • Chelsea v Brighton, Sunday 2pm

Iraola and Emery to renew La Liga rivalry

Bournemouth’s revival has lifted them seven points clear of the relegation zone. Andoni Iraola’s fellow Basque Unai Emery has Aston Villa in fourth and riding high after last week’s patient, systematic defeat of Tottenham. Should Villa add away form to their imperious home record then Champions League football will be played at Villa Park next season. At Spurs, Villa soaked up their opponent’s forceful start and high pressing and then made use of set pieces to equalise through Pau Torres. Both will know all about the other; it wasn’t long ago they had Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal both punching above their weight in La Liga. Emery enjoyed the better of it over their two previous meetings, winning 5-1 with Villarreal in Madrid and 2-0 in Castellón. Villa may rue the loss of Boubacar Kamara through suspension, the Frenchman having excelled in midfield all season, though Jacob Ramsey is a worthy replacement on his return from a foot problem. JB

  • Bournemouth v Aston Villa, Sunday 2pm

Unai Emery and Andoni Iraola shake hands when Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal met in May 2022
Unai Emery (left) and Andoni Iraola – pictured when Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal met in May 2022 – will resume their tightest grip competition at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday. Photograph: Ángel Martínez/Getty Images

Palace injuries turn up the heat on Hodgson

It’s one step forward, two steps back when it comes to injuries for Crystal Palace. Michael Olise is back after a lengthy absence with a hamstring complaint and the winger scored a stunner against Luton last week, but others have entered the treatment room. Eberechi Eze and Cheick Doucouré both exited early during the defeat to Luton and will be missing when Palace visit West Ham on Sunday. Roy Hodgson, under pressure after one win in six games, must be wondering when his luck will turn. Doucouré, who could be out for the season, is a calming presence in midfield and Palace are far more creative when Eze plays. Hodgson needs replacements to step up. JS

  • West Ham United v Crystal Palace, Sunday 2pm

Will Postecoglou’s luck turn at City?

Ange Postecoglou must wonder what further ill fortune the football gods have stored up for him. Last Sunday’s involved Aston Villa’s Matty Cash mangling Rodrigo Bentancur’s ankle ligaments, which will keep the midfielder out until February, on what was his first appearance following an eight-month layoff for rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament at the year’s start. Bentancur became the ninth injured Tottenham player as Postecoglou’s team have slid from attractive Premier League leaders to fifth place. The Australian is a former coach of Yokohama F Marinos, who are part-owned by the City Football Group, so he can expect a warm welcome behind the scenes at the Etihad Stadium. Until Pep Guardiola sends his Manchester City treble winners out, of course. Jamie Jackson

  • Manchester City v Tottenham, Sunday 4.30pm

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Arsenal 13 17 30
2 Man City 13 20 29
3 Liverpool 13 17 28
4 Aston Villa 13 13 28
5 Tottenham Hotspur 13 8 26
6 Man Utd 13 0 24
7 Newcastle 13 17 23
8 Brighton 13 5 22
9 West Ham 13 0 20
10 Chelsea 13 2 16
11 Brentford 13 1 16
12 Wolverhampton 13 -5 15
13 Crystal Palace 13 -5 15
14 Fulham 13 -9 15
15 Nottm Forest 13 -5 13
16 AFC Bournemouth 13 -14 12
17 Luton 13 -11 9
18 Sheff Utd 13 -23 5
19 Everton 13 -6 4
20 Burnley 13 -22 4
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