The Premier League returns at the weekend after a set of exciting third-round FA Cup fixtures.
Matchweek 19 of the Premier League produced 25 goals, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur registering wins. Newcastle United held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium, while Brentford stunned Liverpool in west London.
With games set to come thick and fast during the gruelling second half of the season, here are 10 things to look forward to in the Premier League matchweek 20.
#The last chance saloon for Frank Lampard?
There couldn’t have been a better opportunity than the home game against Southampton for Everton to bounce back to winning ways. A run of four defeats in the last five league games, coupled with elimination from the FA Cup at the hands of Man United last weekend, has left Frank Lampard on the verge of a sacking.
Despite the club hierarchy’s apparent reluctance to sack him, Lampard is surely on borrowed time. A third-round loss in the FA Cup was never going to do any harm to Lampard’s position but a defeat against basement club Southampton at Goodison Park should certainly hasten the end of his reign in Merseyside inside just a year.
#Can Man United claim the derby bragging rights?
Manchester United have only lost once in the Premier League since their 6-3 drubbing at the hands of cross-town rivals Manchester City away in early October, a run that perhaps many wouldn’t have predicted after that fixture.
Erik ten Hag is overseeing a quiet transformation at Old Trafford, to the extent that Man United sit in the Champions League spots in the Premier League and have advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
After facing embarrassment in what was his first derby as the United boss, revenge will be on Ten Hag’s agenda. But does his team have enough to stop the rampaging Man City, who have Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez, who is recently back after lifting the World Cup with Argentina?
#Kaoru Mitoma giving Brighton extra attacking dimension
Kaoru Mitoma was one of the architects in Brighton’s eye-catching 4-1 win over Everton at Goodison Park last weekend.
For the bystanders, it was one of Mitoma’s finest outings in Brighton colours in his short tenure at the south coast as he menaced Frank Lampard’s side at will, both from his wide left zone and through more central areas.
The Japanese, after a fine World Cup in Qatar, terrorised Everton with his blend of pace, trickery, dribbling and athleticism. He is giving a different flavour to Roberto de Zerbi’s Seagulls, who are now eighth in the table. Liverpool should beware!
#Eyes on Matheus Cunha
New Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui had his first taste of the West Midlands derby as his side held on to a point in the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. Nonetheless, Lopetegui and Wolves miss out on the chance to climb out of the relegation zone.
Lopetegui could hand new signing Matheus Cunha his full Premier League debut against West Ham at home after he came off the bench at Villa. Cunha gave a fine account of himself during his substitute appearance in the controversial 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup third round, offering energy, strength, pace and creativity to Lopetegui’s side.
Against a West Ham side lacking confidence and leaking goals, Lopetegui may be tempted to hand Cunha a go from the start.
#Can Liverpool cope with Brighton’s press and athleticism?
After Liverpool’s chastening 3-1 defeat to Brentford at the G-tech Community Stadium last week, Jurgen Klopp admitted “Brentford stretched rules at set pieces.”
Many felt that Liverpool turned a corner with four successive Premier League wins but Brentford brought them crashing down to earth. Injuries and lack of form have hampered their season but it is also worth noting that the players are suffering a crisis of confidence.
The Reds should be better prepared when they make the trip to the south coast to face Brighton. The Seagulls have been playing very well under Roberto de Zerbi, pressing the opposition like a pack of wolves, winning the ball and quickly hitting the opposition hard in transition. They are in a ruthless goalscoring form of late—25 goals in the last nine games across all formats—showing that Liverpool couldn’t have asked for a worse time to face De Zerbi’s side.
#Can Erling Haaland enjoy another derby-day delight?
Erling Haaland’s appetite for scoring goals has set him apart from other strikers in the Premier League this season, with the Manchester City star topping the charts with 21 goals in 16 league appearances.
As strange as it may sound, Haaland was largely subdued in Man City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea last week. It took all of 20 minutes for him to get his first touch against a depleted Chelsea side. Up next for City is the derby at Old Trafford, a fixture the Norwegian will have fond memories of having scored a hat-trick in the 6-3 win at the Etihad Stadium in October.
Despite an anonymous performance at Chelsea, one would believe that Haaland will need no invitation to deliver the goods against Man United and enjoy another derby-day delight in City colours.
#Can Tottenham stop the Arsenal juggernaut?
Tottenham will host bitter rivals Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in a much-awaited North London derby at the weekend. From Spurs’ perspective, it isn’t the best time to face Arsenal—a team sitting five points clear at the Premier League summit having lost just one of their 17 games so far.
Yes, the Gunners were held to a 0-0 draw by Newcastle United last time out but the manner in which they are playing at the moment and sweeping teams away since the resumption of the Premier League without Gabriel Jesus should ring alarm bells for Antonio Conte’s side.
Spurs’ 4-0 win at Crystal Palace last week should have done a world of good for their spirits and morale, and despite Mikel Arteta’s team oozing with belief and confidence, they will be in a buoyant mood to stop their juggernaut.
#Fabio Vieira ready to make an impact
After the 3-0 win over Oxford United in the FA Cup third round on Monday night, Mikel Arteta said that Bukayo Saka “is fine” after an injury scare ahead of the north London derby.
Saka limped off 15 minutes from Arsenal’s win at Oxford, and while Arteta eased fears by claiming that the winger should be fit to face Tottenham, it could make more sense for the Arsenal manager to bring the England international off the bench rather than risk him from the start.
This may be good news for Fabio Vieira, who has made a slow start to his Arsenal career, but showed against Oxford that he is ready to have an impact on games. Vieira impressed against Oxford with two assists on the night, showing his capacity to decide games. So Arteta should seek to capitalise on the Portuguese playmaker’s FA Cup buzz, by handing him another start this weekend.
#Time Gianluca Scamacca got more goals
Gianluca Scamacca has shown some moments of quality in a West Ham shirt but hasn’t really set the world alight in the Premier League following his summer move from Sassuolo.
Three goals in 15 Premier League appearances is nowhere near good enough of a return for a player of Scamacca’s quality, especially with West Ham spending a lot to acquire his services. One would argue the big Italian is still getting used to the new league but it is high time he starts delivering goals to help his West Ham team move far away from the dreaded dotted lines in the table.
Scamacca will perhaps find no better time to get back to scoring ways than when West Ham travel to Wolves at the weekend. Against a Wolves side that still remains vulnerable at the back despite showing improvement in the early weeks of Julen Lopetegui’s tenure, the Italy international must fancy his chances.
#Can Newcastle respond to the shock FA Cup defeat?
Newcastle United were stunned 2-1 by League One Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. Barely anyone saw that coming, and for a Newcastle team that has enjoyed a great season so far and playing an exciting brand of football, Eddie Howe would rue the chance to end the club’s long drought for silverware.
Nonetheless, Howe and Newcastle will need to dust themselves off quickly as they host Fulham in the Premier League at the weekend. Fulham have been the surprise package this season, with Marco Silva doing a remarkable job to get his team to play a quick, sharp and entertaining style of football.
The Cottagers should provide a stiff test that Eddie Howe’s Newcastle side will cherish in front of their home support. All eyes will be on how the Magpies react to their shock FA Cup elimination at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday.