Premier League weekend: Eight talking points | OneFootball

Premier League weekend: Eight talking points | OneFootball

Icon: The Football Faithful

The Football Faithful

·1 March 2024

Premier League weekend: Eight talking points

Article image:Premier League weekend: Eight talking points

Premier League weekend: Eight talking points ahead of the weekend action, featuring the Manchester Derby, Spurs’ flying full-backs and Liverpool’s cursed record at Nottingham Forest.

Can Brentford continue West London dominance?

Brentford take on Chelsea in a west London derby this weekend, a fixture the Bees have had the upper hand in since returning to the Premier League. In the last four meetings between the capital neighbours, Brentford are unbeaten, including a league double over Chelsea without conceding a goal last season.

Thomas Frank’s side needs another derby performance this weekend after Everton’s reduced sanction pushed the Bees closer to the drop zone. Ivan Toney’s return has helped, with four goals in seven appearances, form which has pushed the forward in contention for an England place, in what looks like a competitive centre-forward race to make the plane for Euro 2024.

OneFootball Videos

Chelsea have been named among the clubs prepared to break the bank for the 27-year-old in the summer and will get the chance to watch Toney up close at the Gtech Community Stadium. The club’s recruitment team will see first-hand whether the in-form forward can be the solution to their number nine issues.

Everton not out of the woods

Everton were handed a massive boost to their survival hopes after their points deduction was reduced on appeal, gaining an additional four points to climb above Brentford and Nottingham Forest.

The Toffees now sit five points clear of the drop zone, but with the risk of further punishment for a second Profit and Sustainability charge, know results are required. Sean Dyche’s side host West Ham in the Premier League this weekend, looking to turn recent draws into a win.

Everton are without a win in nine Premier League games, and six in all competitions, and have drawn five of their last six league games.

Only twice before have Everton started a new year without a win in seven league games.

Can Fulham enter the Conference League race?

A competitive race for Europe is emerging in the Premier League with the table tight outside the qualification places. While the top six have created a buffer from the rest, it appears an open race for seventh place and what should be a Europa Conference League berth.

Brighton currently hold that position, ahead of a trip to face Fulham this weekend. The latter sit 12th, though a win this weekend would move them within four points of the Seagulls. Just four points currently separate Brighton from Chelsea in 11th, with Wolves, West Ham and Newcastle all in the mix for a place in Europe.

Fulham, who are unbeaten in seven games against Brighton and last featured in Europe in 2011/12, will be hoping to close the gap to that group.

Wolves look light in Hwang absence

Wolves have reeled off an impressive run of results to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals and climb into the Premier League’s top eight. Gary O’Neil’s overachievers have emerged as unlikely challengers for Europe of late, having claimed impressive away wins at Brentford, Chelsea and Tottenham in their last eight games.

Counter-attacking football has been crucial to the game plan, though the likely absence of Matheus Cunha and Hwang Hee-chan – who have combined for 19 Premier League goals – limits options at Newcastle this weekend. Wolves are without a recognised centre-forward, while the mobility and movement of that duo has worked brilliantly alongside Pedro Neto.

Wolves allowed Saša Kalajdžić and Fabio Silva to leave on loan in January, exits which have left O’Neil short of firepower. Though neither fit into the philosophy seen so far this season, a Plan B option would have been welcome this weekend.

Will Liverpool end their City Ground curse?

Liverpool are riding a wave of optimism at the moment after celebrating Carabao Cup success and the emergence of several academy graduates. ‘Klopp’s Kids’ have dominated the headlines of late, though the German might need to call on experience at Nottingham Forest this weekend.

Liverpool travel to the City Ground looking to maintain their title challenge, though must end a dismal record in this fixture. The Reds have failed to win on their last 13 league visits to Nottingham Forest, with their last victory at the venue coming in 1984.

Granted, Forest have spent much of the past two decades outside of the top division, but it’s a sequence the Merseysiders will be keen to end. Last season’s clash saw Forest win 1-0, as Taiwo Awoniyi settled the clash with his former side.

Returning full-backs will boost Spurs

Spurs suffered a setback in their bid for a top-four finish last time out, losing at home to Wolves. Ange Postecoglou’s team endured an off-day in north London and will be keen to right those wrongs after an extended break.

Postecoglou’s options are set to be boosted by the return of Pedro Porro and Destiny Udogie to the side. That duo have been integral to the adventurous style of football under the Australian, emerging as one of the most effective wing-back pairings in Europe.

Porro is the club’s leading assist provider in the Premier League (7), while Udogie has two goals and three assists. Crucially, each are key to regaining the ball with Porro leading the way among his Tottenham teammates for tackles (67) and ball recoveries (131) and Udogie the club’s leader for interceptions (28). Their influence at both ends has been a big miss and is a welcome return as Crystal Palace arrive at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend.

Is Ollie Watkins a Player of the Season contender?

Aston Villa remain on course to upset the elite and secure Champions League qualification and no player has been more central to that run than Ollie Watkins.

The 28-year-old has been transformed since Unai Emery’s arrival as manager, evolving into arguably the most rounded centre-forward in the league. Watkins has 14 league goals and a joint-league-leading 10 assists, with no player in the Premier League having been directly involved in more goals.

His movement, muscular presence, and selflessness have fired Villa’s top-four charge and there’s an argument that no player has been as consistent from the first game until now. From the start of the season, his longest sequence without a Premier League goal or assist is two games, an irreplaceable influence on this Villa side.

Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah might have outscored Watkins, but both Manchester City and Liverpool have proven capable of coping without their talismen. Could Villa do the same? Unlikely. Should Villa break the glass ceiling and reach the promised land of Europe’s elite, Watkins should be in the conversation for individual accolades.

Manchester City’s ‘Big Six’ record

The Manchester Derby is the headline fixture of the Premier League weekend as City and United go head-to-head at the Etihad. The former warmed up for the clash with a big win at Luton that saw Erling Haaland on the scoresheet five times and will be in a confident mood against Erik ten Hag’s unconvincing outfit.

However, City have a poor record against ‘Big Six’ opponents in the Premier League this season. Pep Guardiola’s team have won just one of their six fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United, drawing four and losing once.

That win came in the reverse Manchester Derby at Old Trafford as the Citizens swept to a comfortable 3-0 win, with Haaland twice on target. City have also won five of the last six derbies and with Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne in fine form in midweek, the odds look against the visitors leaving the Etihad with a result.

Subscribe to our social channels:

View publisher imprint