Who can resuscitate United & more midweek Premier League talking points

The Red Devils’ match with Newcastle is one of 10 upcoming games taking place.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal walks away from the touchline after the final whistle, during the Emirates FA Cup, third round game against Sheffield United.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal walks away from the touchline after the final whistle, during the Emirates FA Cup, third round game against Sheffield United.

1. Can someone inject life into Man United?

“I’D HAVE MY head in my hands, I’d be depressed, it’d take me two or three days to get over that performance.”

Ex-player and BT Sport pundit, Paul Scholes, didn’t hold back in his scathing assessment of Man United’s dour display against Sheffield United in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Perhaps fortunately though, the players don’t really have ‘two or three days’ to dwell on their latest game, as they take on Newcastle tonight.

There was a conspicuous lack of confidence and ingenuity evident in the home side’s play at the weekend, despite players such as Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial showing glimpses of the type of exuberance and flair, which were once staples of the Old Trafford outfit’s play, in the 2-1 defeat of Swansea last week.

Tonight, they desperately need someone to step up and inspire others, as Louis van Gaal, for all the flak he has received, has no control over individual displays.

2. Déjà vu for Tottenham and Leicester

As if to almost underline the relentlessness and (some would say) grim repetition of the Premier League winter calendar, Tottenham meet Leicester again on Wednesday.

The teams drew 2-2 in the FA Cup third round on Sunday and as well as tomorrow night, play each other in an FA Cup replay on 19 January — that’s three matches against each other in nine days.

Of course, the personnel involved is likely to be drastically different this evening, with both sides fielding weakened teams at the weekend, but the outcome may be no different, with a similarly tight game expected.

Playing at home, and with the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli expected to come back into the starting XI, Tottenham will probably be slight favourites, however high-flying Leicester will still fancy their chances, particularly if star striker Jamie Vardy is deemed fit enough to play.

3. Can Chelsea keep relying on Diego Costa?

Chelsea v Watford - Barclays Premier League - Stamford Bridge Source: Paul Harding

It’s clear that Chelsea regard Diego Costa as their main striker, with alternatives such as Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao peripheral players at best.

And the Spanish international’s form has clearly improved since Guus Hiddink took over from Jose Mourinho as head coach.

Costa has scored four goals in Hiddink’s four matches in charge — under Mourinho this season, he managed four goals in 20 matches.

Yet notwithstanding his remarkable upturn in fortune, there is one problem that remains apparent. Despite scoring in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Scunthorpe, Costa failed to complete the game, and Hiddink has confirmed that he is doubtful for Wednesday’s clash at home to West Brom.

Costa has a long history of niggling injuries, and with reports indicating that the London club are eyeing AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca among other strikers this January, Costa’s first-team place could soon be in doubt if such problems persist.

4. Can Liverpool overcome injury crisis?

Liverpool face a tricky enough test as it is against Premier League leaders Arsenal, without taking into account their mounting injury crisis.

The situation is so desperate that Klopp felt compelled to field a virtual U21 team against Exeter on Friday night, which contained just one recognised first-choice player (Christian Benteke).

One person who is not feeling too much sympathy for the Reds, however, is Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who this week rejected Klopp’s complaints about fixture congestion, telling reporters:

“You get that from everybody who comes to England at the start because you have to adapt to the English style. I was like that and I’m still in favour of a winter break — but without losing the traditions of English football. That is play over Christmas and maybe have a break in January.

“But I believe as well that we go a little bit overboard because today the English clubs are in a financial situation to have a squad of 25 top-level players. It’s not like it was 25 years ago, so we cannot always complain that we play too much because we have players who can rotate, players who want to play.”

And with Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Sturridge and Dejan Lovren out injured, and Jordan Henderson, Jordon Ibe and Mamadou Sakho doubtful, Wenger will likely be confident that the Gunners can secure their first league win at Anfield since 2012.

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5. Will Everton start fulfilling their potential?

It’s no exaggeration to say Everton have one of the best teams in the Premier League on paper.

Roberto Martinez’s side have a solid-looking defence, with two of the league’s best full-backs (Coleman & Baines), a seasoned England international (Jagielka) and one of the best centre-backs to emerge in a long time (Stones). They have reliable holding midfielders (McCarthy, Barry, Cleverley), some exciting attacking players (Barkley, Deulofeu) and a forward who is on his way to becoming world class (Lukaku).

Yet in spite all of these positives, the Toffees are generally underperforming and currently find themselves in 11th position in the Premier League.

Too regularly, Everton have made basic mistakes at the back or lack concentration at vital moments, while they often get rolled over by the big teams.

Man City away on Wednesday is arguably their toughest match of the season, and Martinez’s side at the very least will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the reverse fixture at Goodison Park, where they were outclassed and convincingly beaten 2-0 by Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

Tuesday (all games kick-off at 7.45pm unless indicated otherwise)

Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Bournemouth v West Ham
Newcastle v Man Utd


Chelsea v West Brom
Man City v Everton
Southampton v Watford
Stoke v Norwich
Swansea v Sunderland
Liverpool v Arsenal (8pm)
Spurs v Leicester (8pm)

Originally published at 07.45

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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