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Dublin: 10°C Monday 19 April 2021

Mourinho reacquainted with the Tinkerman and the Premier League talking points

Manchester City are without key players, Remi Garde faces his former employers and Van Gaal is under some pressure.

Mourinho and Ranieri haven't always seen eye-to-eye.
Mourinho and Ranieri haven't always seen eye-to-eye.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. Key men missing for City

THEY MAY HAVE topped their Champions League group in midweek to ease into the knockout stages, but domestically at least, Manchester City need to bounce back from last week’s 2-0 loss at the hands of Stoke City.

The Potters’ exciting front line took full advantage of captain Vincent Kompany’s absence by targeting the pace of Argentine duo Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi.

Manuel Pellegrini must still plan without Kompany and first choice striker Sergio Aguero, both injured, but in managerless Swansea they face a side low on confidence having picked up just one point from their last five league matches.

After Garry Monk’s departure this week, Alan Curtis will take charge on a caretaker basis as they look for a permanent replacement.

2. Van Gaal’s decisions questioned

While Manchester United fans have been critical of Louis van Gaal’s slow build-up play and boring style of football this season, they put up with it as long as the results were going their way.

There’s no arguing that Tuesday’s Champions League meeting away to Wolfsburg was an entertaining 90 minutes of football, but the visitors were unable to pick up the win they needed and crashed out of the competition after going down 3-2 in Germany.

Worryingly, United ended the game with an inexperienced trio — Uruguayan Guillermo Varela, 18-year-old Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and forgotten man Nick Powell — on the pitch despite the huge outlay of funds spent on players over the past two years.

Van Gaal is sure to come under more scrutiny in Saturday’s evening kick-off when they travel to Dean Court to take on a Bournemouth team at the wrong end of the table but buoyed by last weekend’s victory over Chelsea.

3. Garde faces former club

Remi Garde comes up against the club he called home for three years during the 1990s when Aston Villa entertain Arsenal on Sunday afternoon.

The Frenchman is without a win since coming in to rescue the club from relegation at the start of November and they are currently six points adrift of 19th-placed Sunderland at the foot of the table.

He is unlikely to enjoy a positive reunion with his former gaffer Arsene Wenger as the Gunners are fresh from ensuring their place in the Champions League last 16 — although the Londoners are without Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin.

Villa, meanwhile, could welcome Jack Grealish back to the starting line-up after his recent spell with the U21s for disciplinary reasons.

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4. Reds brought back down to earth

Britain Soccer Premier League Will Klopp drop Benteke for Sunday's game? Source: Scott Heppell

The renewed sense of optimism around Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival was reeled in somewhat last weekend when they suffered an unexpected 2-0 defeat to Newcastle.

His decision to start Christian Benteke didn’t pay off as the Belgian looked isolated while Roberto Firmino was also substituted just after the hour mark after a disappointing performance.

A 0-0 draw away to Sion assured the Reds of top spot in their Europa League group and, importantly, the game saw Philippe Coutinho return from injury while 21-year-old Australian full-back Brad Smith did well.

Sunday’s opponents West Brom held Spurs and West Ham to 1-1 draws in their past two outings and the Baggies have conceded fewer goals than any other Premier League club away from home (5) this season.

5. Two old enemies lock horns

Many will have predicted that Chelsea and Leicester City would be in reverse positions at the start of the season.

As it stands, the Foxes are the league leaders while the reigning champions sit 17 points back in 14th going into Monday night’s game.

The Blues are safely through to the last-16 of Europe’s elite club competition and Jose Mourinho has said this week that fourth place in the league is now the “dream”.

At the King Power Stadium, Mourinho faces the man he replaced during his first spell at Chelsea and recently-named Manager of the Month — Claudio Ranieri.

A 3-0 demolition of Swansea coupled with Man City’s defeat saw them return to top spot and they are unbeaten in the league since September.

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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