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Pep eyes first silverware at Man City and the Premier League/Carabao Cup final talking points

Elsewhere, Liverpool are well-rested after their Marbella trip, Mousa Dembele is showing his class and West Brom badly need a win.

Wenger and Pep.
Wenger and Pep.
Image: Martin Rickett

1. Moyes aiming to break Anfield duck

LIVERPOOL’S 5-0 DEMOLITION of Porto has all but assured them a place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in nine years.

With no FA Cup fixture last weekend, Jurgen Klopp brought his squad to Marbella for a warm weather training camp after the win instead of flying back to freezing temperatures on Merseyside.

So they should be well-rested and adequately prepared for the visit of West Ham on Saturday. The Reds remain unbeaten at Anfield all season in the league and they are also the Premier League’s in-form team right now.

But David Moyes, an old foe of the Kop, will relish trying to get one over the club he classed as his main rivals for several years — although the Hammers boss has never won a competitive game at Liverpool’s home ground.

West Ham kept a first clean sheet in nine attempts during their most recent outing, a 2-0 home win against Watford that left them 12th in the table.

2. Baggies in battle at the bottom

If West Brom are to have any chance of dragging themselves off the foot of the table and out of the relegation zone, these are the type of games they really need to be picking up three points in. The Baggies, rock bottom and and seven points from safety, host the club hovering dangerously close to the drop zone — 17th-placed Huddersfield.

Like Klopp, Alan Pardew brought the team to Spain last week in the hope of improving team spirit. Sadly, it manage increase negative coverage of the club as four players were forced to apologise after allegedly robbing a taxi in Barcelona and driving it to the nearest McDonald’s drive-thru.

One of those involved, Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans, has been reinstated as captain after he was fined £500,00 along with Gareth Barry, Boaz Myhill and Jake Livermore.

It’s coming up to three months since Pardew took the job, but West Brom have only produced one league victory in all that time. The Terriers, meanwhile, ended a winless run of eight matches be claiming a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth prior to their 2-0 FA Cup loss at the hands of Manchester United.

3. Dembele at last fulfilling his true potential

Tottenham have drawn their last two matches 2-2, but there were very different feelings after the final whistles went.

Everything that is good about this Spurs team was on show as they came back from two goals down in the first leg of their Champions League knockout stage tie away to Juventus. Away to League One outfit Rochdale days later, however, Mauricio Pochettino’s men conceded in injury time, meaning the sides will have to meet again in a replay.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League - Wembley Stadium Mousa Dembele: A class act. Source: John Walton

The Argentine coach has a full squad to choose from for Sunday’s short trip across London to Selhurst Park, and the in-form Mousa Dembele is likely to start. He has always possessed talent in abundance, but at 30, the Belgian has looked a world class midfielder at times this season.

“I have told you — and some people use my word to describe him — he is a genius of football,” Pochettino told those present at his press conference today. “He is this type of player I put next to Ronaldinho, [Diego] Maradona, [Jay-Jay] Okocha – players that I was lucky to play with. For me, he is one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”

High praise indeed.

4. Mourinho’s Chelsea reunion

It is a genuine ‘Super Sunday’ of fixtures this weekend as Palace v Spurs is followed up by Chelsea’s visit to Old Trafford and, later, the Carabao Cup final.

With the alleged Paul Pogba fall-out, many of his star names under-performing and a drab 0-0 against Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday, Jose Mouriho has been coming under considerable fire of late. The first leg draw in Spain will ultimately matter little if United get the job done, but the growing uncertainty about their record signing, Romelu Lukaku’s inability to score in the big games, and how to get the best out of Alexis Sanchez are all concerns.

The Portuguese coach’s former club are in town and this promises to be a feisty affair, given his recent spat with Antonio Conte and the fact that just one point separates them in the table. Back in November, Alvaro Morata scored the only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge and while the onus will be on United to take the game to their opponents at home, you wouldn’t bet on it considering the negative brand of football on show in recent times.

5. Is Guardiola’s trophy haul about to begin

For all the praise their attacking ultra-attacking football has received this season, Manchester City have yet to win a trophy under Pep Guardiola. They would need a major capitulation to throw away the Premier League title at this stage, but talk of a quadruple is out the window after Paul Cook’s Wigan got the better of them in the FA Cup just days ago.

The League Cup (or Carabao Cup) is the least glamorous of major honours on offer, but, just as Chelsea did under Mourinho in 2005, City can use it as a catalyst for further success.

Arsenal stand in their way at Wembley on Sunday afternoon and, incredibly, Arsene Wenger will also be vying to win the competition for the very first time in his 22 years in English football. Under the Frenchman, the Gunners have been beaten in the final twice, by Chelsea (2007) and Birmingham City (2011).

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Ben Blake

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