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Klopp and Guardiola face off, Monk mistake and other Premier League talking points

Plus, can Zlatan end the season as the league’s top marksman?

Updated 19:30

1. Can Liverpool cement their place as Chelsea’s main title rivals?

2016 ENDS WITH a mouth-watering meeting between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield, as both sides aim to keep in touch with runaway leaders Chelsea.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp has only beaten Pep Guardiola once before in the league during the pair’s spells in charge of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively, and that victory arrived with the Bavarians already crowned champions.

But Liverpool’s fluid attack coupled with a leaky City defence could spell trouble for Guardiola.

Klopp has described the match as “like a final”, and although no trophies will be handed out at the final whistle, the loser will feel they face an uphill task to have their name on the Premier League trophy come the end of the season.

Germany Soccer Cup Final Source: AP/Press Association Images

2. Would Swansea City be in this mess if they didn’t sack Garry Monk?

It’s just over a year since Swansea parted company with Garry Monk as the Welsh side sat in 15th place in the Premier League after a run of just one win in 11 Premier League matches.

But in his only full season with the club, Monk guided the Swans to eight place in the league – their highest-ever top-flight finish, and could well steer Leeds to the Premier League for the first time since they were relegated in 2004.

The appointments of Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley have failed to work for Swansea, and perhaps the board may realise in January that some of the players need changing just as much as the manager. The squad can start to make amends when Bournemouth visit this weekend.

Garry Monk file photo Source: Richard Sellers

3. Can Zlatan Ibrahimovic finish the season as the league’s top scorer?

The Swedish striker has firmly silenced any doubters who believed that he couldn’t make an impact in the Premier League at the age of 35.

The forward has shown that he doesn’t lack the motivation to thrive in the English top flight, and has so far proved to be an inspired signing by Jose Mourinho.

With nine goals in his last eight matches in all competitions and 12 goals so far in the Premier League, the former PSG man will no doubt have one eye on the golden boot as United fight for a return to the Champions League, with Chelsea striker Diego Costa currently leading the way on 13 goals.

A couple more strikes against struggling Middlesbrough will only enhance his chances.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic File Photo Source: Martin Rickett

4. Does Sean Dyche get enough credit for the job he has done at Burnley?

Many pundits expected the newly-promoted side to struggle this season, but the Clarets could conceivably end the year in the top half of the table.

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Key to their return to the top flight has been their impressive home record, with 19 of their 20 points coming at Turf Moor. Another three points on Saturday against Sunderland will edge Burnley to the magical 40-point mark.

Manager Sean Dyche has guided the Lancashire-based side to two promotions from the Championship, and if the 45-year-old manages to maintain Burnley’s Premier League status, he must be in the reckoning for Manager of the Season.

In a week when Swansea sacked Bob Bradley, perhaps the way you look and sound can hinder your career opportunities.

Burnley v Middlesbrough - Premier League - Turf Moor Source: Tim Goode

5. Can Randolph help the Hammers heap more misery on the champions?

Not many expected the Foxes to be in contention to retain their title, but their slide down the table is a cause of concern for manager Claudio Ranieri.

Although, West Ham failed to match the heights of Leicester, the Hammers still managed a hugely successful season last term, which ended in Europa League qualification.

But like Ranieri’s side, West Ham have endured a rather mixed first half to the season, however kind fixtures that included home wins against Burnley and Hull, plus an away victory at Swansea, have helped Slaven Bilic’s men move away from danger.

Apart from an error in the 2-2 draw against Liverpool, Randolph has adjusted well to life as West Ham’s first-choice goalkeeper, and was outstanding last weekend at Swansea as the club continued their upward trajectory.

If the Ireland goalkeeper can maintain his fine form, he may scupper the club’s plans to bring in a more high-profile name with Joe Hart and Asmir Begovic linked with a move to the London Stadium.

Another defeat at the King Power Stadium for the home side though, will leave Leicester fans hoping they don’t swap the Champions League for the Championship in 2017.

Swansea City v West Ham United - Premier League - Liberty Stadium Source: Simon Galloway

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