The Premier League returns this weekend with some pivotal matches for sides in the bottom half of the division.
Here, FP details five talking points prior to the latest slate of top-flight games.
Can Baggies bad boys aid an under-pressure Pardew?
The heat is on basement dwellers West Brom and boss Pardew, who is rumoured to be fighting to save his job having won just one Premier League fixture since being appointed in November. The mood has not been helped by a disastrous trip to Barcelona where four senior players – Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill – were alleged to have been involved in the theft of a taxi. Pardew has confirmed Evans will be reinstated as captain against Huddersfield this weekend, while Barry and Livermore could also feature. Pardew desperately needs a performance from his experienced players and they owe him one following recent events.
How will Morgan Schneiderlin respond to the boo boys?
Barry and Evans were both jeered by a section of West Brom supporters at last weekend’s FA Cup tie with Southampton, seven days after Everton midfielder Schneiderlin had heard jeers from his own supporters greet his arrival as a substitute. Toffees boss Sam Allardyce, who admitted he was surprised by the reception the out-of-form midfielder received, has implored his player to “let your football do your talking”. That will be easier if Allardyce elects to start him at Watford rather than leave him on the bench until the final 10 minutes again.
Who will claim three points in the congested bottom half?
With Arsenal and Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final and Manchester United hosting Chelsea on Sunday, the majority of Saturday’s fixtures involve the relegation scrap. Only four points separate 11th-placed Watford and 18th-placed Southampton, and West Brom’s clash with Huddersfield is not the only contest featuring two sides scrapping for survival as Swansea visit Brighton in another proverbial six pointer.
Will Liverpool avoid another case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’?
Jurgen Klopp’s side will go second if they manage to beat West Ham at home on Saturday, something they have failed to do in the Hammers’ previous three trips to Anfield. Liverpool’s three Premier League losses have all come after impressive results – a 4-0 win over Arsenal, a 7-0 thrashing of Maribor and a 4-3 victory over Manchester City. Their last contest was the 5-0 mauling of Porto so it would follow a similar pattern if they were to come unstuck against West Ham, and Klopp will be keen to guard against complacency on a big weekend for their top-four prospects.
Will Paul Lambert turn to an 18-year-old in Stoke’s relegation scrap?
Stoke have registered only one victory since Christmas and have scored just five times in those eight Premier League games. Lambert is seeking some attacking firepower ahead of the trip to Leicester, where he will be without 37-year-old Peter Crouch due to injury. That could led to a senior call-up for teenage striker Tyrese Campbell, the son of ex-Arsenal and Everton forward Kevin Campbell, after his hat-trick for the under-23s last weekend piqued Lambert’s interest.
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