Manchester City host Tottenham and Liverpool travel to Leicester in the headline Premier League games this weekend.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some talking points ahead of the latest round of fixtures.
Old rivals clash
Tottenham were starting to look like serious title challengers when they beat Manchester City 2-0 in November but the fortunes of both clubs have turned dramatically in the opposite directions since. While City have not lost again, and head into Saturday’s reverse fixture looking to extend their record-breaking 15-game winning run, Spurs are drifting. Jose Mourinho’s men have slipped to eighth with a three-game losing sequence only broken by last week’s victory over struggling West Brom. Their 5-4 defeat to Everton in the FA Cup in midweek was another blow to confidence. Mourinho needs to revive the spirit of the Special One to get the better of old rival Pep Guardiola this time.
Liverpool face testing trip
Liverpool’s hopes of defending their title were all-but ended by last week’s damaging loss to City. The champions have endured a wretched spell with just two wins in their last nine league outings and the 4-1 thrashing by City was a hefty blow, both psychologically and in terms of the points it left them trailing by. The Reds look tired and jaded and in such circumstances a trip to third-placed Leicester, in the dreaded 12.30pm Saturday slot, would hardly be top of their wishlist. After dropping so many points to bottom-half teams, Liverpool need to start performing against better-placed sides to repair some damage – or else their top-four place could be in jeopardy.
West Brom defence
After thrashing Southampton 9-0 recently, Manchester United may fancy their chances of further boosting their goal difference as they come up against the leaky defence of West Brom. The relegation-threatened Baggies brought in Sam Allardyce in the hope of tightening up and clawing their way out of the drop zone, but they have continued to ship goals at an alarming rate. They have conceded 28 in Allardyce’s 10 league matches in charge and have won just once in that period. United could be licking their lips.
Southampton and Wolves meet again
That 9-0 loss for Southampton was one of four defeats in succession for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side before they edged out Wolves in the FA Cup on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if that win gives Saints an injection of confidence as they prepare to face Wolves again this weekend, this time at home. Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo was also far from complimentary about his team after the cup defeat and will be demanding a response to prevent their poor form continuing any further. These factors could add spice to a mid-table encounter.
There will be some in the game – particularly in the officiating departments – hoping for nothing more than a weekend free of refereeing controversy. It has been a tough few weeks for the men in the middle, and their video assistant colleagues, with some particularly contentious decisions and incidents which have exposed shortcomings in the laws. Referee Mike Dean has even received death threats, so fierce has the heat become. A cooling off would certainly be welcomed.