Chelsea host Liverpool, Swansea to face Arsenal at the Liberty and Palace looking to bounce back against Manchester United in South London.
We take a forward look at this weekend’s Premier League fixtures and give you a preview of what to expect in the three most important match-ups.
Chelsea vs Liverpool
Probably the most eye-catching fixture of the weekend will see Chelsea host Liverpool in what is likely to be a must win for both sides. Jose Mourinho may be facing his last chance as manager of Chelsea, with a loss possibly being the final straw for owner Roman Abramovich. The Portuguese will be sitting with the rest of his management staff and players in the Chelsea dugout despite a pending sideline ban. After their defeat to Stoke City in midweek which saw his team out of the League Cup, a trophy they won last season, this really could be the end of Jose Mourinho’s second tenure at Stamford Bridge.
On the contrary, Jurgen Klopp picked up his first win as Liverpool boss against Bournemouth on Thursday, which will boost his side’s morale ahead of this much important clash with the league champions on Saturday. This could seriously be the time for Klopp to shine as the ‘normal one’ on Merseyside. This is his first real test as Liverpool boss and he is known for his success in the big games.
The two managers have met on three previous occasions, all during the 2012/13 Champions League campaign that saw Klopp pick up a win and draw against the Portuguese Mourinho in the group stage, before he dumped the Chelsea boss then in-charge of Real Madrid out in the semi-final’s courtesy of a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Recent fixtures between the two sides have been rather close, with Chelsea’s memorable 2-0 win at Anfield in 2014 heralding the only encounter to be separated by more than a solitary goal in the past eight meetings. Despite their current league position in 9th place, Liverpool have only been behind twice all season; fewer than any other team. This proves the difficult task Chelsea are up against in Satuday’s game.
Chelsea’s star man for the occasion may again be Willian, who is the single player out of the entire squad to have performed up to standard this season. His contribution will be vital if Chelsea are to come away with all three points or any points at all from this game.
Liverpool’s key player will likely be Roberto Firmino who endured his strongest performance in a Reds’ shirt in midweek. He will be excited to finally and properly announce himself in front of the world’s eyes on Saturday.
Swansea vs Arsenal
This game will help us decide on the authority of Arsenal’s title challenge. In the past, streaks of good form have been conclusively marred with shock defeats as we saw in midweek with The Gunners losing at the hands of second division Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup after defeating Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Champions League only a week earlier.
Swansea have suffered a recent run of poor results in the league, and will be attempting to add on to their late victory against Aston Villa on Wednesday with a home win against Arsene Wenger’s team. Wenger will be hoping to avoid a similar fate to last season in which his side lost both encounters against the Welsh outfit home and away.
Arsenal will be without midfielder Aaron Ramsey and English duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who both picked up their injuries in Sheffield in midweek. However, the likes of Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who were rested for The Gunners’ League Cup tie on Wedensday, will all be available. The triplet will have to make an impact in this game in order for the North London outfit to pick up all three points at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea’s key man this season has been Andre Ayew, who moved from Marseille in the summer. He has netted five goals so far this term, two coming against big boys Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. Arsenal will be hoping to keep the Ghanaian quiet, but Wenger’s defense certainly won’t achieve that with ease. The past 10 meetings between the two sides have distributed an even number of wins, with both outfits claiming four victories.
Crystal Palace vs Manchester United
After a superb start to the season, Crystal Palace’s form has merely dropped over recent weeks. Louis van Gaal’s side of late have also suffered inconsistency in their results. United have experienced back-to-back stalemates in the league and cup, failing to score in both matches.
United captain Wayne Rooney has been subject of criticism lately due to his below-par performances, which has led to a desire by Manchester United supporters to have the impressing Anthony Martial lead the line. The youngster has been successful since arriving from Monaco for a record transfer fee for a teenager, scoring three goals and assisting one in five starts.
Meanwhile, United old boy Wilfried Zaha will be seeking to prove a point to his former employers who made the decision to let him go after concluding that he wasn’t good enough to make an impact at Old Trafford. The 22-year-old has completed the most dribbles for The Eagles this season and is second in the list for chances created.
Elsewhere, West Brom host high-flying Leicester City, league leaders Manchester City are at home to Norwich City, Watford face a tough task in West Ham, Newcastle entertain Stoke City, Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland travel to Everton, Bournemouth battle Southampton and manager-free Aston Villa play Tottenham.
By Ollie Carroll