Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend | Premier League

1) Will Rashford expose City’s high defensive line?

Manchester United’s resurgence since being defeated 6-3 by Manchester City in October’s reverse fixture helps to set up the 189th derby as the most fascinating in recent years. Pep Guardiola’s champions have dropped four points from the last 12 while Erik ten Hag’s ever-improving side have claimed 27 from the last 30 available. Guardiola has recent form for questionable calls: he didn’t start Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne in the Carabao Cup defeat at Southampton on Wednesday and left it until too late to make changes when drawing with Everton lasat month. In Marcus Rashford – 15 goals in all competitions – United have the type of pacy forward that can expose City’s high line but City have a fine record of responding to mid-campaign dips. In true sat-on-the-fence fashion, the view here is that this local joust is incredibly difficult to call. Jamie Jackson

2) Son needs to reassert his big-game credentials

All eyes will be on Harry Kane. He scores a couple of goals against Arsenal on Sunday and he would become Tottenham’s all-time record scorer, moving clear of Jimmy Greaves. He would most likely finish on the winning team, too. Yet the derby is set up equally well for his strike partner, Son Heung-min, albeit for different reasons. It has been a frustrating period for the South Korean, who shared the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season but has only four goals in the competition this time out. At the World Cup, during which he wore a mask to protect the eye-socket he fractured against Marseille on 1 November, there was the sense among some of his teammates that he was not fully fit; he was unable to challenge for aerial balls, which meant they needed to make changes to how they played. Son has continued to wear the mask for Spurs and play strangely on the fringes. What a time it would be for him to hire center stage. David Hytner

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    3) Coutinho hastens towards Villa exit

    Handed his first start under Unai Emery against Stevenage last weekend, Philippe Coutinho played badly, got hooked after 66 minutes and was forced to look on from the bench as Aston Villa they were embarrassed by their visitors from League Two. While he is unlikely to start against Leeds this weekend, just over a year after his arrival, his future at Villa seems uncertain at best. In late December, the Brazilian took to social media to rage against what he described as “lies” suggesting he was unhappy at Villa and had asked to leave in January. Given how little he has delivered for the club in the past 12 months, despite a stunning debut against Manchester United, it is difficult to imagine too many fans mourning him and he is fast running out of chances to impress. If he really does want to stay at Villa Park, now it would be a good time to prove it with on-field actions rather than Instagram tantrums. BG file

    4) Win or bust for Lampard

    The importance of this fixture for both Everton and Southampton cannot be overstated. Everton manager Frank Lampard received a pretty tame vote of confidence from Farhad Moshiri on Wednesday following a run of nine defeats in 12 games that, earlier in the erratic owner’s tenure, would have prompted a P45. A visit from a bottom-of-the-table team and a manager without a Premier League point to his name appeared an ideal opportunity for recovery, but that was before Southampton clicked under Nathan Jones and impressively beat Manchester City in the Carabao Cup quarter-final. Southampton’s incisiveness on the counter-attack could, if repeated, prey on what is likely to be an anxious Goodison Park. Everton fans plan to resume greeting the team coach en masse before kick off, a feature of last season’s escape from relegation, but also stage a sit-in protest against a board that Moshiri thinks is operating just fine. Lampard, caught in the middle, really needs a win. Andy Hunter

    Pep Guardiola: Manchester City ‘not even close’ to good enough against Southampton – video

    5) Matured Mitrovic back on Tyneside

    Something will have to give at St James’ Park. Will it be the best defensive record in the Premier League? After all, Eddie Howe’s Newcastle have conceded only 11 times in the League this season. Or might it be Nick Pope’s extraordinary run of clean sheets? Howe’s England goalkeeper has not conceded a single goal in his last seven club appearances. Aleksandar Mitrovic, recovered from a foot injury and fresh from missing Fulham’s win over Chelsea through suspension, had three years on Tyneside but ultimately left for Fulham after proving too ill disciplined for Rafael Benítez. Despite this week’s suspension, Mitrovic is much more disciplined – and quite a bit leaner – these days. His 11 goals in 15 League appearances for Fulham this season demonstrate that he has also matured into an extremely dangerous Premier League striker. His likely duel with Newcastle’s star centre-half Sven Botman promises to prove a compelling sub-plot. Louise Taylor

    6) Brighton to stern test for ailing Liverpool

    Roberto De Zerbi’s first match in charge of Brighton was a hugely-entertaining contest with Liverpool and the Italian now welcomes Jürgen Klopp and his team to the Amex Stadium. The corresponding fixture ended in a 3-3 draw and such has been Brighton’s progress under their Italian manager it would come as no great shock if they were to go one better. Brighton go into the game on the back of impressive demolition jobs over Middlesbrough and Everton, while Liverpool have failed to win their past two games. An error-strewn first-half performance cost them all three points at Brentford and Klopp will be eager to avoid a repeat performance – it was his team’s sluggishness out of the traps that allowed Brighton to race into a two-goal lead at Anfield. In what promises to be a stern test of both team’s mid-season mettle, victory for the Seagulls would take them to within a point of their visitors and cast further doubt over Liverpool’s top-four credentials. BG file

    7) Palace seek spark to deepen Chelsea’s woes

    Will a third straight London derby at Selhurst Park in the top flight be lucky for Crystal Palace? They conceded seven without reply against Fulham and Spurs over the holiday period and alarm bells will be sounding even more loudly if Chelsea, beset with their own problems, find goals similarly easy to come by. To make matters worse, Southampton left south London with an FA Cup win last weekend, noises of discontent becoming audible. Palace could do with strengthening at both ends, as Patrick Vieira knows well, but perspective is important too. They are 12th and unlikely to get pulled into any kind of relegation scrap. Last season they finished 14th so perhaps this is progress. But there is a difference; Palace made their home a fortress last season, losing only four times, and were full of life in front of their matchgoing fans when the big occasions came around. Whether or not they deepen Chelsea’s problems, Vieira must see some spark and energy injected quickly if the cloud is to lift. Nick Ames

    Wilfried Zaha reacts to a heavy defeat to Spurs.
    Wilfried Zaha reacts to a heavy defeat to Spurs. Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA

    8) Potential touchline fireworks at Molineux

    Only in the job a few wet weekends and Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui is already developing a reputation as a serial thrower of touchline tizzies and post-match moaning. In David Moyes he will come up against one of the best in the business when it comes to railing against perceived or genuine injustices. With both sides in the relegation scrap, any contentious decisions made by officialdom either at Molineux or from behind the squinting windows of the Stockley Park VAR bunker will be pounced upon with righteous fury. While Lopetegui only recently got his feet under the table at Wolves, his West Ham counterpart could soon be clearing the contents of his desk. Patience among West Ham fans is wearing thin and after one league point from the past 18 available, defeat against relegation rivals at Molineux could mark the end of the Moyes era. BG file

    9) Leicester may lack cutting edge to fell Forest

    Separated by just 30 miles of M1 motorway on the map and goal difference in the league table, Nottingham Forest take on Leicester at the City Ground with more at stake than bragging rights. While neither side is in the relegation zone, their Premier League safety is far from assured but it is Forest on an upward trajectory. Leicester have lost their past three league games, a slump that has coincided with the absence of James Maddison. The standout player among a group of key individuals who are currently clogging up the physio room, Maddison is almost certain to miss this game and with Patson Daka and Jamie Vardy both out of form, it’s difficult to see where any Leicester goals will come from. Against Gillingham last weekend, Kelechi Iheanacho added another one to his impressive FA Cup CV to double his tally for an underwhelming season. Whether or not he can step up against stiffer opposition than the Football League’s worst side remains to be seen but Brendan Rodgers desperately needs somebody to start firing with frequency in Maddison’s ongoing absence. BG file

    10) Brentford can climb yet higher

    Could Brentford make a run for Europe? Thomas Frank was keen to play that idea down after their last league game, the 3-1 humbling of Liverpool, but the ninth-placed Bees are in excellent form. Victory at home against Bournemouth would be their fourth win in five and their unbeaten streak already stands at six; they have lost only four times, fewer than anybody outside the Champions League spots, and look wonderfully comfortable in their own skins. Opportunity knocks. The visit of Gary O’Neil’s side is the first of five inviting home assignments between now and mid-March, Fulham the only top-half opponents among them. This is a fine chance to assert their credentials. Brentford are, as Frank pointed out, only ever a few key injuries away from problems but look tightly-drilled as anyone in the league. Their manager is doing a remarkable job in avoiding any semblance of second-season syndrome and the best may be yet to come.

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