Manchester City and Tottenham provided a spectacle for the ages in their midweek Champions League clash and the two teams will meet again at the Etihad Stadium – this time with both needing Premier League points.
Here, Football Paradise looks at the fixture and four other talking points ahead of this weekend:
Can City and Tottenham go again?
Even before these teams provided an instant classic on Wednesday night, the Saturday lunchtime kick-off looked to be the defining fixture of the weekend. But the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final has amped that up several notches, not least because of its dramatic denouement. The question now is: are both teams physically and mentally ready for their top-flight showdown? It is a quick turnaround but this is no time for reflection. City need to rouse themselves to edge out Liverpool in the title race. Meanwhile Tottenham have to temper their elation as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are all within three points of them in the battle to finish in the top-four.
Can Liverpool remain focused?
City follow the visit of Tottenham with a trip to Old Trafford for the Manchester derby next Wednesday, an unenviable couple of fixtures. By contrast, Liverpool’s next two opponents are Cardiff and Huddersfield before a trip to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final. It would be understandable if the Reds – who are two points clear of City but have played a game more – were to overlook a Bluebirds side battling for survival and the already-relegated Terriers. The dutiful Jurgen Klopp will remind his players to be on their guard ahead of their trip to south Wales as he said: “These are all massive games. None of them are won before we start.”
Are United running out of steam?
“Look at where we were when we came in on 19 December and where we’re at now,” Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said ahead of this Sunday’s trip to Everton. The answer is the same: sixth. That is probably underselling Solskjaer’s impact somewhat, as he has lifted them into a position where Champions League qualification is a possibility. But a 3-0 humbling in Barcelona ended their European ambitions this season as they slid to a fifth defeat in their last seven fixtures. Has there been a drop-off since Solskjaer took the reins permanently? The Norwegian emphatically thinks otherwise but they need to recover from this mini-slump and quickly.
Are Brighton on a cliff edge?
Brighton had the opportunity in midweek to put a considerable dent in Cardiff’s survival hopes and immeasurably boost their own. Neil Warnock’s side proved to be anything other than generous visitors as they left the Amex Stadium with a 2-0 win that moved them to within two points of the Seagulls. Brighton’s fate may be in their own hands but four of their remaining five matches are against sides in the top half of the table, not a desirable run for a side that have lost five consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time in 12 years. Saturday’s 3pm kick-off at Wolves is the next chance to arrest an alarming slide in form.
Who wants to finish seventh?
It is hardly back-page material but seventh spot will be enough to guarantee European football next season if Manchester City overcome Watford in the FA Cup final. However, claiming the final Europa League spot last term did not work out well for Burnley, who were defeated in the play-off round and have been battling to secure their top-flight status in recent months. Leicester currently occupy seventh place but manager Brendan Rodgers appeared to be ambivalent about the possibility of finishing there as he said: “There’s an argument for and against it. It could come too early for us, especially when we’re trying to create something.”
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