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Can Shane Long hurt Man United and more Premier League talking points

Meanwhile, Leicester, Arsenal and Man City all face difficult games.

Shane Long has scored 10 goals in all competitions this season.
Shane Long has scored 10 goals in all competitions this season.
Image: Martin Rickett

1. Can Shane Long hurt Man United?

NEW SIGNING CHARLIE Austin is in line to make his Southampton debut against Man United, but Shane Long has warned the incoming striker that the main attacking role is “mine to lose”.

Long, who turns 29 today, has 10 goals in all competitions this season and will fancy his chances of adding to that tally at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The Tipperary native is certainly not daunted by the big occasion — he has three goals in two games against Man City and Arsenal during the campaign, and of course, scored Ireland’s famous winner against world champions Germany back in October.

Moreover, with Man United likely to push up at home, there will likely be scope for Long and Sadio Mane to exploit the space in behind and hit the Red Devils on the counter-attack.

2. Will Wes Hoolahan retain his place in the Norwich side?

It will be interesting to see whether Ireland international Wes Hoolahan retains his place in the Norwich side for Saturday’s game with Liverpool at Carrow Road.

The club have just signed Steven Naismith for €10 million, and so the Dubliner’s first-team spot could be under threat following the arrival of the Scottish international, who likes to play in a similar position to Hoolahan.

That said, Hoolahan and Norwich have often tended to perform well against the bigger sides this season, taking points off Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal at various points.

Whoever plays, Norwich will be desperate to earn a win against Jurgen Klopp’s side, as Alex Neil’s men are currently just two points above the drop zone.

3. Can Costa and Hazard inspire Chelsea?

Britain Soccer Premier League Source: AP/Press Association Images

Guus Hiddink’s start to life at Chelsea has not been without its problems, and the Blues still sit just four points above the relegation zone.

However, the veteran Dutch coach has been boosted with some good news ahead of his side’s trip to face league leaders Arsenal.

Star striker Diego Costa is expected to be fit despite picking up a knock in last week’s draw with Everton, while Eden Hazard is in line to play for the first time since 3 January, after recovering from a groin injury.

Arsenal have also been handed a boost, however, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil passed fit ahead of Sunday’s big game.

4. Another big test for Leicester

Despite numerous critics doubting their top-four credentials for months now, Leicester continue to suggest they are the real deal, while only a marginally inferior goal difference separates Arsenal and themselves at the top of the table.

However, there have been signs that they could be on the verge of slipping up lately.

As well as being dumped out of the FA Cup by Tottenham during the week, the Foxes have won just one of their last five Premier League matches, with previously free-scoring duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez not scoring in any of the games in question.

It won’t be easy for the likes of Vardy and Mahrez on Saturday either, as they come up against a Stoke side that has earned five clean sheets from their last eight away league matches.

5. Will City end West Ham’s fantastic home run?

Man City remain serious title contenders as they sit just one point off leaders Arsenal, yet West Ham away is the type of tough challenge they need to be overcoming to keep their title bid intact.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side have been poor on their travels this term — their recent victory over Watford ended a run of six Premier League away games without a win.

West Ham, by contrast, are unbeaten in the last eight matches at home.

In order to continue this excellent run, though, the Hammers will need to find a way of stopping Sergio Aguero, who has four goals and two assists in seven previous matches against the London club.

Premier League matches this weekend (all games 3pm kick-off unless stated otherwise)

Gavin Cooney
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Saturday

Norwich v Liverpool (12.45)

Crystal Palace v Tottenham

Leicester v Stoke

Man United v Southampton

Sunderland v Bournemouth

Watford v Newcastle

West Brom v Aston Villa

West Ham v Man City (17.30)

Sunday

Everton v Swansea (13.30)

Arsenal v Chelsea (16.00)

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