Jose Mourinho’s quest to stall Liverpool’s seemingly unstoppable march towards the Premier League title is the highlight of this weekend’s top-flight games.
While the top of the table seems sewn up, the relegation battle is anything but, with a number of clubs casting increasingly anxious glances over their shoulders as others show signs of stirring.
Here the PA news agency picks out five key factors for consideration ahead of some of Saturday’s and Sunday’s games.
Ole and out?
After just two wins in six and smarting from a dismal Carabao Cup defeat to their near neighbours, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future at Manchester United seems to be hanging by a thread. Anything other than victory over struggling Norwich at Old Trafford would surely curtail the reign of the popular Norwegian, and leave United facing up to another managerial failure. Conversely, an emphatic win is likely to buy Solskjaer at least a little more time.
Mourinho faces striking conundrum
With his Tottenham honeymoon well and truly over, Mourinho must work out how to stop Liverpool without his talismanic striker Harry Kane. The likely employment of Son Heung-min in Kane’s number nine role would negate his threat out wide and leave Mourinho with another conundrum. These are testing times for Spurs, with optimism over Mourinho’s arrival quickly dwindling after two league games without a win and a poor FA Cup draw at Middlesbrough.
Howe must pull Bournemouth out of the mire
Eddie Howe is rightly hailed for the way in which he hauled Bournemouth from the brink of bankruptcy and turned them into a top-flight force. But he is now facing one of the most challenging periods of his career as the Cherries head into their game with Watford on Saturday having slipped into the relegation zone on the back of four games without a win. It is the first in a crucial run of fixtures which could determine Howe’s – and Bournemouth’s – immediate future.
Bruce feeling the heat over flop Joelinton
Newcastle’s gradual slide back towards the relegation dogfight has been encapsulated in the dismal form of £40million striker Joelinton. The Brazilian turned in an abject performance in Saturday’s FA Cup draw at Rochdale, and after three straight league defeats, patience is hardly running high on Tyneside. He is likely to be handed another chance on Saturday at Wolves, but it could be one of his last as Steve Bruce scours the market for a possible replacement.
Arteta ready to learn from the old guard
Eras collide at Selhurst Park on Saturday where Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta faces Crystal Palace counterpart Roy Hodgson, who is 35 years his senior. Arteta has made a mightily impressive start at the Emirates Stadium, not least in how he turned an abject first-half performance into a Monday night FA Cup win over Leeds. Victory at Palace would serve as another significant stride in the right direction for a club still seeking to recapture the consistency of the Arsene Wenger era.