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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 19 April, 2019

Can improving Spurs get one over on Mourinho and the Premier League talking points

We discuss the weekend’s biggest games in the English top flight.

Will Manchester United’s impressive defence finally collapse and allow Jamie Vardy set a new record?

Jamie Vardy file photo Leicester City's Jamie Vardy. Source: Nick Potts

LOUIS VAN GAAL probably still has nightmares about Jamie Vardy. Last September, he was the chief architect as Leicester put five past a hapless United. The Dutchman sat aghast in the away dug-out, scarcely believing how badly his side had crumbled, having been 3-1 up after an hour.

Vardy has added motivation for Saturday’s evening fixture. Just one more goal will give him a new Premier League record of having scored in 11 successive games – beating the previous number tallied by United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Leicester City v Manchester United - King Power Stadium Louis van Gaal after seeing Leicester score their fifth goal last September. Source: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

But, ever since their thumping defeat to Arsenal at the start of October, United’s defence has been outstanding. Given their problems in attack, it’s had to be.

It’s hard to argue with having shipped two goals from their last nine fixtures and with Chris Smalling a revelation at the heart of the rearguard, it’s proving immensely difficult to break through against them. Watford managed a goal last weekend though it came from the penalty spot.

What’s not to be forgotten is that this game is a top-of-the-table clash. And if United, for all the criticisms and condemnations handed down by many critics and supporters alike, that would be a huge motivation as they enter what appears a relatively painless period of domestic fixtures.

- Eoin O’Callaghan  

Will Manuel Pellegrini crack following latest Pep Guardiola rumours?

There’s been talk of Guardiola moving to Manchester City for a while but everything seemed to be ramped up a notch on Friday when the Spaniard pulled out of his regular pre-game press conference at Bayern Munich.

Some reports say it’s a done deal while others say the ex-Barcelona coach hasn’t made up his mind on what he wants to do next.

Still, it all meant that Manuel Pellegrini was faced with questions about his future when he appeared in front of the press.

“It’s a rumour we’ve had the last two-and-a-half seasons. I don’t have a problem with it”, he said.

But, for all his composure and refusal to show any sign of irritation, it’s bound to annoy and frustrate. In two seasons, he’s won a Premier League title and finished as runners-up.

In Europe, he’s made more progress than anyone who came before him. He’s recently signed a contract extension. And still he’s in the unenviable situation of discussing speculation linking another manager with his job.

Still, there was the thumping 4-1 defeat to Liverpool last weekend and the mid-week defeat to Juventus too. Another stumble against Southampton on Saturday would only stir the pot even more.

- Eoin O’Callaghan 

3. Can improving Spurs get one over on Mourinho?

Britain Soccer Premier League Mourinho and Pochettino. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Having only arrived back into London in the early hours of Friday morning, Tottenham preparations going into Sunday’s meeting with Chelsea have not been ideal.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men came away from Azerbaijan with a 1-0 win over Qarabag to ensure their place in the Europa League knockout stages.

The Argentine boss played a strong side on Thursday night but will feel his players are more than capable of getting a result against the Blues after last season’s 5-3 victory at White Hart Lane.

Jose Mourinho isn’t having any suggestions that the extra two days’ rest could be an advantage for his team, however.

So we played Sunday ahead of the second leg of the Champions League, the biggest competition in the world,” Mourinho said. “So if that wasn’t a problem for Chelsea, why is it a problem now for Tottenham?

“That Champions League semi-final was at the end of the season when legs are a bit heavier than in November. It wasn’t a problem for us. It’s not a problem for them.”

4.  Will Arsenal get back on track after Baggies disappointment?

Arsene Wenger described last weekend’s 2-1 loss at The Hawthorns as a “nightmare” as Arsenal lost ground at the top of the Premier League table.

Scoring three unanswered goals against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League on Tuesday will have been pleasing for the Frenchman, but the Gunners are back on the road for Sunday’s meeting with Norwich at Carrow Road.

The Canaries, hovering just about the relegation zone, have not been enjoying the best of times lately — Alex Neill’s side claimed just one win (1-0 against Swansea) in their last eight.

Neill, the youngest manager in England’s top flight at just 33-year-old, is a big admirer of his opposite number’s achievements in the game and his style of play.

“I would like to think I could manage at 66,” he said this week. “It is a long time, I might not be alive, never mind managing,” he said.

“It is not even the longevity that I admire. It’s the way his teams play. The way they play is fantastic to watch as a football fan. You want to see teams be expressive and expansive and open the game up to entertain. I don’t think there is any better than Arsenal.”

5. Will Klopp have to delve into the January sales for a striker?

Soccer - FA Cup - Sixth Round - Replay - Blackburn Rovers v Liverpool - Ewood Park Injury-prone: Daniel Sturridge. Source: Lynne Cameron

Daniel Sturridge can’t catch a break at the moment and the number of injuries he has clocked up already this season must be worrying for Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The English striker was due to make his comeback in the Europa League on Thursday night before it was revealed that he had picked up a foot problem.

Klopp insisted it wasn’t a serious injury and called for patience but he is surely wondering if he will ever be able to rely on Sturridge as his first choice striker.

While the interchangeable Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana worked a treat against Chelsea and Manchester City, Christian Benteke came back in for the victory over Bordeaux and scored a delightful goal.

It will be interesting to see who starts on Sunday and whether the German plans to bring in a striker of his own when the window reopens in January.

Coutinho to strike again and the other Premier League bets to consider this weekend

Van Gaal likens ‘nasty’ Vardy to Bergkamp, says possible interest is ‘none of your business’

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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