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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019

Man United meet Liverpool and more Premier League talking points

Meanwhile, can bottom of the table Aston Villa pull off a shock against Leicester?

Liverpool's Alberto Moreno (left) challenges Manchester United's Anthony Martial during the last meeting between the sides.
Liverpool's Alberto Moreno (left) challenges Manchester United's Anthony Martial during the last meeting between the sides.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated at 08.30

1. Can Herrera provide United with spark?

WAYNE ROONEY GRABBED most of the positive headlines as Man United drew 3-3 with Newcastle during the week.

The England striker undoubtedly warranted the acclaim, as he scored two goals and laid on the assist for another.

However, another player who looked sharp and didn’t receive as much praise as Rooney was Ander Herrera.

Despite intermittently impressing since joining the club from Athletic Bilbao in 2014, the 26-year-old Spanish footballer hasn’t always been a regular under Louis van Gaal.

Yet Herrera caused Newcastle plenty of problems with his intelligent passing and clever movement, before being replaced by Juan Mata for the final 15 minutes.

That said, Rooney also impressed in the 10 position once the alterations were made, scoring a fantastic late goal in the process, so Van Gaal certainly isn’t short of options in that regard as they travel to face Liverpool.

2. Chelsea need more from Pedro

With Chelsea famously snatching Pedro from the grasp of Man United towards the end of the summer transfer window, plenty was expected of the man who was playing for Barcelona in the Champions League final just last May.

And particularly given that other La Liga castoffs such as Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have become big Premier League stars, the Londoners would have had high hopes for the Spanish international.

But despite scoring on his debut against West Brom, Pedro has by and large been a disappointment since moving to the Stamford Bridge outfit, managing just two goals in 17 Premier League games in total.

In their most recent match, the 2-2 draw with West Brom, the 28-year-old was taken off at half-time after another indifferent display.

And with Kenedy impressing after coming on against the Baggies, the €26.6million signing needs to up his game. Otherwise, he is in danger of joining the likes of Fernando Torres, Shaun-Wright Phillips and Andriy Shevchenko on the club’s list of past big-money flops.

3. Other Spurs players must take pressure off Alli and Kane

Britain Soccer Premier League Harry Kane has scored 11 league goals this season. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Only three Tottenham players have scored five goals or more this season — a poor enough return compared with rivals such as Arsenal, who have five and Man City, who have six.

Of the three players in question, Harry Kane has scored 14, Erik Lamela has eight and Dele Alli has five, with the important caveat that five of Lamela’s goals have been scored in the Europa League.

Aside from those three, no other Tottenham players have scored more than two league goals this season.

Spurs therefore surely cannot keep depending on Kane and Alli to always lead the way — others need to step up such as Nacer Chali, who scored 11 goals last season but has managed just one so far this time around, or Christian Eriksen, who has scored twice this season compared with 10 times last season.

Despite having the best defence in the league (statistically at least), Spurs are currently clinging on to fourth place, with Wednesday’s match with Leicester highlighting their attacking problems.

Nevertheless, beleaguered Sunderland could be the perfect opposition for some of Tottenham’s more goal-shy attackers to make an impact in Saturday’s early kick-off.

4. Big test for Arsenal

The archetypal ‘tough place to go,’ the cliché about Stoke has often rung true this season, with high-profile teams such as Man United, Man City and Chelsea all leaving the Britannia Stadium empty handed.

Mark Hughes’ side meet league leaders Arsenal on Sunday, and certain people have been tipping the Gunners to soon experience their customary drop in form now that pressure on Arsene Wenger’s men is starting to intensify.

The Gunners’ confidence will not be helped by their poor record in this fixture in recent times — they have just won just one of their last five league games away to the Potters.

One man who could help them avoid a slip-up, however, is Alexis Sanchez. That Arsenal have still performed reasonably well with arguably their best player out injured is a testament to the strength in depth of Arsene Wenger’s team, and the Chilean could return this weekend to make the Gunners even more formidable.

5. Will improving Villa shock Leicester?

Saturday’s evening kick-off should be an intriguing affair, with bottom of the table Aston Villa facing second place Leicester.

Both sides will go into the game with a degree of confidence owing to positive midweek results — Leicester secured an impressive 1-0 win over top-four rivals Tottenham, while Villa earned just their second league victory of the season at home to Crystal Palace.

Leicester will be odds-on favourites though, with the Foxes already having secured 43 points — two more than they managed in the whole of last season.

Claudio Ranieri’s side also have a better away record than any other team in the Premier League, and so will expect that trend to continue this weekend.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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