Man Utd face Liverpool test, Arsenal back in the groove
Rampant Manchester United are eager to inflict more pain on Liverpool at Anfield as Arsenal aim to pull further clear of Manchester City in the Premier League title race this weekend.
The Gunners are hot favourites to see off Bournemouth at the Emirates, while City face a Newcastle side hoping to put the bitter disappointment of their League Cup final defeat behind them.
Tottenham must bounce back quickly from an FA Cup exit to maintain their advantage over Newcastle and Liverpool in the race for a top-four finish.
AFP Sport looks at some of the key talking points ahead of the weekend’s action in the English top flight.
United’s revenge mission
Liverpool won both Premier League fixtures against fierce rivals United last season by an aggregate score of 9-0.
However, the fortunes of both clubs have dramatically changed over the past 12 months.
Fresh from lifting the League Cup to end a six-year wait for silverware, United’s run of one defeat in 22 games has kept them in the hunt for a quadruple of trophies.
But with an 11-point gap to leaders Arsenal, anything less than a first win at Anfield since 2016 for Erik ten Hag’s men could signal the end of their title challenge.
Liverpool, who lost against United at Old Trafford earlier this season, are in need of the points in their push to finish in the top four.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have crept back into contention for a Champions League place thanks to a run of 10 points from their past four league games.
But in the middle of that run, the Reds’ deficiencies were brutally exposed in a 5-2 home defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League.
“I think Man United is the team in form in the moment, maybe together with Arsenal and City,” said Klopp after a 2-0 win over Wolves on Wednesday.
“If you face United at the weekend whichever result you’ve had before, either way you have to strike back or whatever, but now we have to use it for our general situation.
“We have to build on the performance and on the result and we try everything to do exactly that.”
Arsenal’s bid for a first league title in 19 years looked to be on shaky ground last month when they took just one point from three games, including a 3-1 home defeat to City.
But Mikel Arteta’s side have responded in style with three straight wins to carve out a five-point lead at the top of the table.
“When you look at them every single day, you just feel how much they want it, how much they really want to produce what we ask them to do and how much they want to please our people,” said Arteta after Everton were dispatched 4-0 on Wednesday.
“I had no doubts that we were going to turn things around in performances and results.”
More of the same will be expected from Arsenal against a relegation-threatened Bournemouth side.
City face a tougher test on paper with the visit of Newcastle, but there is little for the champions to fear in the Magpies’ form of late.
Newcastle have slipped outside the top four after winning just once in the Premier League in 2023 so far.
Sorry start to Spurs’ big week
A big week for Tottenham got off to the worst possible start with defeat in their FA fifth-round match against Championship side Sheffield United.
Spurs, who have not won a trophy since 2008, have to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit when they host AC Milan in the Champions League last 16 next week.
But first they have a tricky trip to Molineux to face a Wolves team also desperate for the points to pull away from the relegation zone.
“Now, the FA Cup has gone. We have other chances, other competitions, other games,” said Spurs assistant boss Cristian Stellini, who has deputised for Antonio Conte while he recovers from gallbladder surgery.
“This is football. You have to keep going and find again the same desire.”