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Man United and Liverpool scrap it out for second and the Premier League talking points

In the other games, Tottenham look to bounce back from their Champions League exit while Man City are away to struggling Stoke.

Man United midfielder Nemanja Matic and Liverpool's top scorer Mohamed Salah.
Man United midfielder Nemanja Matic and Liverpool's top scorer Mohamed Salah.
Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

1. Battle for runners-up spot at Old Trafford

FOR MANY YEARS, it was the Premier League fixture that made even neutral fans sit up and pay attention. But in recent times, Manchester United v Liverpool has been severely lacking in entertainment value.

The last four meetings in all competitions between these old rivals have ended in draws — 0-0, 1-1, 0-0 and 1-1. United boss Jose Mourinho can take a significant amount of blame for sapping the life from one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season, although he pointed the finger at opposite number Jurgen Klopp for playing too negatively after a drab affair at Anfield back in October.

Old Trafford hosts two clubs vying for second place behind champions-elect Manchester City at lunch-time on Saturday, when the league’s joint-top scorer Mohamed Salah will be the player Liverpool once again look to for goals. Contrastingly, Alexis Sanchez has been extremely disappointing since his January move from Arsenal, but this would be the ideal occasion to show United fans what he is capable of.

2. The Bridge hosts London derby

In the Saturday evening kick-off, relegation-threatened Crystal Palace make the short trip across London to Stamford Bridge knowing defeat would be another step towards Championship football.

Both clubs come into the match on the back of losses. Blues boss Antonio Conte was roundly-criticised for his ultra-conservative tactics as Man City overcame them in a one-sided 1-0 win. United had also got the better of Chelsea the previous week and they currently sit outside the top four. With the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona coming up on Wednesday, the Italian coach may opt to put out a weakened team against the Eagles, however.

Crippled by injuries, Roy Hodgson is short on bodies and although they put in a spirited display before Nemanja Matic’s last-gasp strike to claim victory for United on Monday, 18th-place Palace are on a six-game winless streak.

3. Spurs must put Euro ellimination to one side

They may have looked the better team against Juventus over two legs, but that will be little consolation as Tottenham’s bid to reach the latter stages of the Champions League has been ended for another year.

Labelled bottlers in some quarters despite going out to a club that has contested two of the last three finals, manager Mauricio Pochettino and his players will have to pick themselves up after this latest disappointment as it’s back to the bread and butter of the Premier League on Sunday.

Tottenham Hotspur v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. Source: Getty Images

Finishing in the top four and challenging for the FA Cup is the minimum requirement now but, even with that, they may struggle to keep the squad intact this summer when you consider this latest setback and their wage structure.

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Up in 12th, Bournemouth are looking to edge that bit closer to the magic 40 points and Eddie Howe could recall former Spurs favourite Jermain Defoe as the veteran striker has returned from injury.

4. Hornets have had Arsenal’s number of late

There was some respite for Arsene Wenger on Thursday night as he watched his team claim a 2-0 Europa League first leg win over Milan at the San Siro. However, it’s about time they got back to winning ways in the league after going down to Brighton, Man City and Tottenham over the past month.

That said, the Gunners are unlikely to have it easy on Sunday. The Emirates has been a happy hunting ground for Watford in recent times, and the Hornets also sealed a 2-1 victory when the sides met at Vicarage Road back in October — Tom Cleverley scoring the decisive goal in injury-time.

Marco Silva was in charge back then, but he has since departed to be replaced by Spaniard Javi Gracia. The ex-Malaga and Rubin Kazan boss has produced ten points from a possible 15 in the league since arriving in January to take the club up to ninth.

5. The Man City juggernaut rolls on

Situated at opposite ends of the table, Stoke City and runaway leaders Man City contest the Monday night game in the Potteries.

While Pep Guardiola’s star-studded side eased into the quarter-finals of the Champions League despite a 2-1 loss to Basel in midweek, Paul Lambert’s men have had three draws on the bounce and sit two points from safety at present.

16 points separate City and their nearest challenges, Man United, and there is no way they are going to let that slip at this stage. Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho are in line to return from their respective injuries, while French full-back Benjamin Mendy is back training after a six-month lay-off but this game is likely to come too soon for him.

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Ben Blake

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