Arsenal will travel to Fulham in the latest test of the Gunners’ Premier League title credentials this weekend as Manchester City aim to ramp up the pressure on Mikel Arteta’s men by winning at Crystal Palace.
Liverpool are the in-form side in the race for a top-four finish ahead of their trip to Bournemouth after a historic 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United last weekend.
At the bottom of the table, nine clubs are separated by just six points. Leicester and West Ham are among them and home games this weekend may be must-wins for Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes to keep hold of their jobs.
AFP Sport looks at some of the key talking points ahead of the weekend’s action in the English top flight.
Euro effect on title race –
Dramatic late fightbacks against Bournemouth and Aston Villa in recent weeks have kept Arsenal five points clear of City in the title fight.
But the Gunners have the extra complication of their trip to Craven Cottage on Sunday being sandwiched between two Europa League last 16 ties against Sporting Lisbon.
Arteta was able to heavily rotate his side during the group stages, but named a strong starting line-up for a 2-2 first leg draw in the Portuguese capital on Thursday.
City have enjoyed a rare midweek off, but Pep Guardiola’s team selection could also be impacted by Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, second leg against RB Leipzig with the tie finely balanced at 1-1.
– Momentum with Liverpool –
Liverpool’s humiliation of Manchester United hauled Jurgen Klopp’s men back into the running for a top-four finish.
The Reds can move into the Champions League places for a few hours at least should they continue their upturn in form away at Bournemouth in Saturday’s early kick-off.
But their last meeting with the Cherries serves as a warning that one spectacular performance does not necessarily turn a season around.
Bournemouth were annihilated 9-0 at Anfield in August, but Liverpool went on to win just one of their next four league games.
However, after a season of frustration, Liverpool do appear to be getting their act together in time to secure Champions League football for a seventh consecutive season.
Five consecutive clean sheets have been the bedrock of a run of 13 points from a possible 15 in the Premier League.
A new-look front three of Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah then stole the show in spectacular fashion as all three scored twice against United.
“We saw what a positive result can do to the boys,” said Klopp.
“Now we have five days or so of time to prepare for Bournemouth…We have to make sure we are ready for that fight.”
Tottenham remain in fourth for now but have failed to score in their past three games to crash out of the Champions League and FA Cup either side of a 1-0 defeat at Wolves.
Spurs need a reaction when they host Nottingham Forest, while Newcastle will hope to end a five-game winless run in the Premier League when Wolves visit St. James’ Park.
– Rodgers and Moyes in the firing line –
In recent seasons, Rodgers and Moyes have been nominated for manager of the year accolades after leading Leicester and West Ham into Europe.
Their credit in the bank has kept them in charge until now as all four clubs below the Foxes and Hammers in the table have already sacked their managers at least once this season.
Leicester appeared to have turned the corner with four-goal wins over Villa and Tottenham last month, but four straight defeats, including a FA Cup exit to second-tier Blackburn, has put Rodgers back in the firing line.
His side face a rejuvenated Chelsea on Saturday fresh from sealing a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Moyes has reportedly already saved his job twice by securing home wins against Everton and Nottingham Forest, but a 4-0 thrashing by Brighton has put the former Manchester United boss on the brink once more.
Anything other than three points at the London Stadium against Villa could finally see the axe fall.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Bournemouth v Liverpool (1230), Everton v Brentford, Leeds v Brighton, Leicester v Chelsea, Tottenham v Nottingham Forest (all 1500), Crystal Palace v Manchester City (1730)