1) Games that ought to have been held final week
The Premier League mustn’t have postponed final weekend’s fixtures. If individuals are working, it’s improper to confiscate their recreation, and that is earlier than we contemplate followers who’d taken time without work or paid for transportation so as to watch their workforce. Moreover, there are households counting on football-related revenue to pay payments and eat meals who had their proper to earn eliminated with out warning, whereas cricket, rugby union and – amongst others – polo had the self-confidence to proceed. Football is known as the folks’s sport as a result of it was began for the folks by the folks – individuals who sought a little bit of weekend enjoyable to escape the drudgery of normal life and neglect their place within the order of things, simply for a couple of hours. The fits who’ve expropriated it since would do effectively to keep in mind that. Daniel Harris
2) Will Forest bounce again from embarrassment?
Having allowed Bournemouth to come from two objectives behind to beat them, Nottingham Forest face one other fellow newcomer in Fulham as they try to halt a run of three consecutive defeats, the newest of which was greeted by a uncommon however audible sound of booing from the City Ground stands. Despite enjoying with out an out-and-out striker, Forest scored twice within the first half in opposition to Bournemouth however proved totally unable to deal with Gary O’Neil’s half-time swap to a again three, when he changed left-back Jordan Zemura with the extra attack-minded wing-back Ryan Fredericks. Having had an additional week on the coaching floor to put things proper and get a greater concept of what constitutes his finest XI, Steve Cooper will probably be anticipating a response from his workforce in what must be an entertaining sport between two attacking groups. With three of their following 4 video games away from house, current proof suggests a failure to get one will probably be a supply of fear for all involved heading into the worldwide break. Barry Glendenning
3) A doable Villa keeper conundrum
Five years in the past Filip Marschall hadn’t even worn a pair of goalkeeping gloves however, if accidents don’t abate as Steven Gerrard anticipates by the point Southampton go to Villa Park on Friday, then the 19-year-old might begin between the sticks. Marschall joined Villa in 2018 from Cambridge City, for whom he performed as a defender till the age of 13. Emi Martínez missed coaching on Thursday owing to sickness and Robin Olsen due to a knee drawback, whereas Jed Steer is a long-term absentee with an achilles damage. Gerrard hopes Martínez will probably be slot in time. Marschall was a part of Gerrard’s squad on Villa’s pre-season journey to Australia and just lately signed a brand new long-term contract, however the teenager who was on mortgage within the sixth tier with Gateshead Town final season might end the weekend with a Premier League debut to his identify. “He’s ready to be prepared,” Gerrard mentioned. Ben Fisher
4) Costa to be let off Wolves’ leash?
The bar has been set. Wolves introduced the signing of Diego Costa till the tip of the season with an outstanding video of the chiselled striker preserving three snarling wolves, James, Alice and Gray, shackled and now Bruno Lage should ponder whether or not to let the 33-year-old off the leash. That clip has gone viral and Costa will probably be hoping to hit the bottom operating on his return to England, his final look coming for Chelsea within the 2017 FA Cup closing defeat by Arsenal. Costa is working to a tailor-made coaching program and mentioned he wanted “two or three weeks to get in form”, however Lage have to be tempted to throw him in in opposition to Manchester City. “If I had ever doubted my potential, I would not have accepted this problem,” Costa mentioned this week. “I can carry one thing to the desk.” BF
5) The highest of requirements for the town
Picking holes in Manchester City and discovering fault with Pep Guardiola is a silly factor to do, given the previous have received three of the final 4 league titles and the latter is an all-time nice supervisor if he retires tomorrow or by no means claims one other trophy. But the sensation persists that City might and must be even higher than they’re, not simply in protection – a weak level in all Guardiola groups – however in assault. It could be that Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling had to be let go, however the reality stays that with out them, City lacks stability and pace. Of course, they’re sensible at compensating, whether or not via the rhythm of their passing or means to conjure a purpose out of nothing, however any workforce prepared to keep slender and defend with self-discipline and aggression has an opportunity at irritating them – particularly if, like Wolves, in addition they have tempo on the counter. DHa
6) Howe urges Newcastle gamers to goal increased
It took Newcastle till November 30 final 12 months to attain the seven-point mark. After solely six video games they’ve arrived there this season, however have solely received as soon as – in opposition to Nottingham Forest at St James’ Park – and Eddie Howe will not be overjoyed. “I’m not joyful, I would like extra factors,” mentioned Newcastle’s supervisor earlier than giving his squad an apparently stern speak concerning the want to obtain and keep constantly excessive requirements. Despite the possible, injury-enforced, absence of two key artistic gamers in Allan Saint-Maximin and Bruno Guimarães, he will probably be significantly keen to beat Bournemouth at house on Saturday. Admiration for Howe on Tyneside at present is aware of few bounds, however the supervisor is conscious that Newcastle’s Saudi Arabian homeowners have spent greater than £200m on new gamers in lower than a 12 months and can really feel entitled to see that funding translated into wins. Small surprise Howe is doing the whole lot in his energy to guarantee his aspect don’t stumble in opposition to the workforce he led to three promotions in six years, however who’re nonetheless with out a everlasting supervisor. Louise Taylor
7) Bees to take a look at Arsenal sturdiness
Brentford Community Stadium will summon tough recollections for Arsenal, who suffered a chastening defeat there on the opening evening of final season, even when it got here with Covid-related caveats. Mikel Arteta’s aspect are a distinct proposition now, however the Bees really feel extra comfy as a longtime top-flight unit, too, so the margins on Sunday lunchtime are possible to be high-quality. It will probably be a take a look at for Arsenal’s means to bounce again after the marginally harsh 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford a fortnight in the past, which ended their successful begin however didn’t have an effect on their standing as league leaders. Victory this time would guarantee they end this weekend high of the pile and that will be useful given any pretensions at a title bid will probably be examined completely within the subsequent house conferences with Spurs and Liverpool. Arsenal are about to see their sturdiness scrutinized and would really feel effectively set in the event that they go away west London with three factors. Nick Ames
8) Conte wants larger stability from Bissouma
Antonio Conte intends to rotate his personnel for the go to of Leicester – after the mentally and bodily draining Champions League defeat at Sporting on Tuesday – however it doesn’t sound as if he’s prepared to name upon Yves Bissouma. It felt like a coup when Spurs took Bissouma from Brighton for £25m over the summer time; right here was a participant who might add a brand new dimension in midfield, operating with the ball, breaking the traces and creating probabilities. But it’s not easy to play in the course of Conte’s 3-4-3 formation and the decision up to now on Bissouma, to quote the supervisor, is that he’s “struggling a bit with the tactical side. With the ball he is actually good; defensively he has to pay extra consideration.” It goes a good distance to clarify why Bissouma has began solely as soon as and totaled 121 minutes in all competitions. He wants time to adapt. David Hytner
9) Time operating out for Rodgers?
Brendan Rodgers is a superb coach – in the event you’re unsure, simply ask him – however it may be that he is operating out of street at Leicester, who sit backside of the desk with one level from six video games, and journey to unbeaten, third -placed Tottenham this weekend. The malaise will not be all his fault, as his board gave him little scope to reinforce this summer time, citing FFP laws and floor enhancements as the explanation. But it’s onerous not to surprise if the pandemic was additionally influential, diminished journey means diminished duty-free revenue for the King Power group – a line the membership would by no means communicate in public, as a result of who’s going to excuse a parsimonious billionaire throughout a price of dwelling disaster? Rodgers, although, should additionally justify any funds allowed to him, which is to say it is time for him to coax or power tunes out of Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumaré, gamers purchased amid fanfare final summer time however who’ve contributed little since. DHa
10) The significance of Calvert-Lewin
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s standing as Harry Kane’s understudy seemed safe within the England hierarchy 14 months in the past when he changed the captain within the Euro 2020 quarter-final win over Ukraine. He has not performed for the nation since, and this week noticed Brentford’s in-form Ivan Toney named in Gareth Southgate’s squad for England’s closing internationals earlier than the World Cup. Qatar now seems a distant hope for the 25-year-old, who has been restricted to simply 18 appearances for Everton since successful his final cap due to toe, thigh and knee accidents. Frank Lampard has been determined for Calvert-Lewin’s presence all season and, regardless of signing Neal Maupay, claimed the center-forward’s return diminished the necessity to add one other striker within the switch window. Goals stay a significant issue for a workforce with out a Premier League win this season however, having resumed coaching through the enforced break, Calvert-Lewin ought to quickly have the chance to repay his supervisor’s religion and maybe ship a late message to Southgate. Andy Hunter