By Rebecca Johnson, PA
Coronavirus is still causing Premier League postponements, while the clubs in the top four go head-to-head and Ralf Rangnick aims to extend Manchester United’s unbeaten run.
Here, we take a look at five of the talking points ahead of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
𝗚𝗔𝗠𝗘 𝗢𝗙𝗙 ❌#NUFC's fixture against Southampton at St. Mary's on Sunday has been postponed due to ongoing Covid-19 cases and injuries amongst the Magpies’ first team squad.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) December 31, 2021
The last couple of weeks have seen a whole host of Premier League fixtures cancelled due to Covid-19 and injuries and this weekend sees some teams playing their first competitive league fixtures since mid-December. There are still a flurry of postponements, with both Norwich’s trip to Leicester and Newcastle’s visit to Southampton postponed due to coronavirus cases and injuries.
Top four go head-to-head
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 30, 2021
The New Year fixtures sees the top four sides face each other, with Arsenal hosting leaders Manchester City and Liverpool travelling to second-placed Chelsea. City were able to extend their lead to eight points clear at the top of the table with a 1-0 win against Brentford, while Chelsea’s draw with Brighton and Liverpool’s loss to Leicester saw both sides drop points in the race to the summit. Although Gunners manager Mikel Arteta will miss the City match after testing positive for Covid, his side have been in good form recently with four league wins from their last five games.
A Romelu return?
It remains to be seen whether Romelu Lukaku will feature against Liverpool at the weekend. The forward told Sky Sport Italia that he is “not happy” with his situation at Chelsea in an interview released on Thursday, but understood to have been conducted three weeks ago. Thomas Tuchel said in his pre-match press conference that he was frustrated by the “noise” of the story and said that he did not feel that Lukaku was unhappy, adding that “if there is something to discuss it’s behind closed doors, for sure”.
Red Devils revived by Rangnick
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 30, 2021
Manchester United’s unbeaten run continues under manager Ralf Rangnick and they moved back into the top six after beating Burnley 3-1 at Old Trafford. However, it has not all been plain sailing so far for their new manager. His side had to be bailed out by substitute Edinson Cavani who salvaged a point against strugglers Newcastle and face another challenge when they host Wolves in their New Year fixture.
Fight for survival at the bottom
New year, same aim for the teams at the bottom of the table who continue their fight to stay in the league. With both Newcastle and Norwich’s games postponed, it gives third-from-bottom Burnley a chance to try and earn their first win since October. Sean Dyche’s side have three games in hand over their fellow relegation rivals and travel to Leeds, who are 16th, while Watford will be looking to pull away from the drop zone with a result against Tottenham.