The festive rush might be subsiding but there are plenty of points to prove as the Premier League settles back down into its more regular format.
Here, Press Association Sport picks over the weekend’s potential issues.
Pressure on Wenger
Arsene Wenger has described Arsenal’s Sunday trip to Bournemouth as a “massive” game as the Gunners aim to get their Premier League campaign back on track. With Wenger still consigned to the stands and speculation raging over the respective futures of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, victory on the south-coast is imperative to gloss over the short-term turmoil. The midweek Carabao Cup draw at Chelsea did little to ease Gunners’ fans concerns in the wake of last week’s embarrassing FA Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest.
Only a big win will boost Jose’s Pep talk
Nothing riles Jose Mourinho more these days than current comparisons between himself and his soaring City rival Pep Guardiola. While City are almost out of sight in the title race Mourinho’s status as United’s saviour still seems somewhat insecure. And the manner in which the light blues have swatted all before them has raised the bar for the rest – for comparison’s sake, only an emphatic win over the likes of struggling Stoke will suffice.
Hectic schedule continues for Conte
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea have no end to their hectic schedule in sight and they cannot afford to take their eye off the ball against the likes of Leicester. Despite sitting in third place the race for the Champions League places has seldom seemed so tight, and Conte will have to make the best of all at his disposal – as well as demanding reinforcements – in the weeks ahead. Ross Barkley is still sidelined by injury but his imminent involvement should help Conte’s men considerably.
Everton may no longer have relegation on their mind but boss Sam Allardyce still has plenty to prove as his side head to Wembley on Saturday. Two consecutive Premier League defeats and an FA Cup exit have inevitably started to raise questions over Allardyce’s suitability to have his current 18-month contract extended. His first significant signing, Cenk Tosun, a £25million arrival from Besiktas, could be handed his first start against Spurs and the striker’s impact, or otherwise, could go a long way towards determining Allardyce’s fate.
Pardew under pressure to deliver overdue Baggie bonus
In a potentially pivotal weekend at the bottom of the table, West Brom and Swansea could find their survival hopes severely compromised. The pair already languish four points adrift of the pack and a failure to pick up points against Brighton and Newcastle respectively may spell the beginning of the end. Astonishingly the Baggies are without a Premier League win in 20 games and Alan Pardew must be targeting the Seagulls clash as a must-win match-up if his side are to stand any chance of turning the tide.