Solskjaer’s sights set on top spot – 5 Premier League talking points

PA

Another midweek round of Premier League matches could see Liverpool lose their place at the top of the table.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the issues.

Turf Moor test for United

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes looks pensive
Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes looks pensive

Manchester United are the Premier League’s form team and have a chance to overtake Liverpool at the top with just a point against Burnley. Playmaker Bruno Fernandes, who has been the main reason behind their resurgence, had a well-earned rest for the FA Cup at the weekend, having started 20 of the last 22 fixtures, but is set to get his first experience of Turf Moor. He will discover a much-improved Burnley side which since early November have lost only to Manchester City and Leeds, keeping five clean sheets in 10 matches as manger Sean Dyche has re-instilled their defensive resilience. However, the incentive for United to be able to go to Anfield on Sunday as the new Premier League leaders is a big one for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players.

Will cup win sharpen up Blades?

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder will hope a first win in 23 matches – albeit against League One side Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup – can be the catalyst for a Premier League revival. The top-flight’s bottom side have accumulated just two points so far but come up against a Newcastle team on something of a downward spiral themselves. Five defeats and no victories in their last seven in all competitions, scoring just four goals, presents the newly-boosted Blades with a great chance to end their woeful league run.

Calvert-Lewin needs a kick-start

Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin stands with his hands on his head
Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin stands with his hands on his head

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti will hope giving Dominic Calvert the weekend off will reinvigorate his striker and help him return to goal-scoring ways. The England international scored in eight of his first 11 Premier League matches, rattling up 11 goals, but has now gone six games without a goal in all competitions. He has been starved of service recently, with Everton often having fewer shots on target than their opponents, but the return to fitness of playmaker James Rodriguez should help in that respect. After an underwhelming extra-time FA Cup win over Championship strugglers Rotherham without him, manager Carlo Ancelotti will want to avoid a repeat display against Wolves.

Problems piling up for Villa

Last week’s Covid-19 outbreak at Aston Villa put an end to the club’s FA Cup run before it had even begun as they were forced to field a side of youth-team debutants against Premier League champions Liverpool on Friday. Barring some remarkable change in circumstances a postponement of Wednesday’s visit of Tottenham looks inevitable. That would cause further problems for head coach Dean Smith as his side are already two matches behind the majority of their top-flight rivals.

No way back for Ozil now

Let's talk about the past, present and future. I will start answering your #AskMesut questions tomorrow evening 📲🙏🏼 #M1Ö

— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) January 10, 2021

Arsenal’s upturn in form looks to have killed off any chance Mesut Ozil may have harboured of sweeping in and being the side’s saviour. Just before Christmas, when the Gunners slipped to 15th in the table, just four points off the bottom three following defeat at Everton, the clamour for the prodigal son to be re-registered for the second half of the Premier League season was at its highest. However, three league wins on the spin plus an extra-time FA Cup victory over Newcastle later and the former Germany international is apparently now happy to consider leaving. “Edu (the technical director) and the club are having some conversations about the near future and the long-term future,” said manager Mikel Arteta ahead of Thursday’s game against Crystal Palace.

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