The race for the Premier League title and the battle to evade relegation are back on this weekend.
Here Football Paradise examines five talking points heading into the action.
The honeymoon is over
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’ success as interim manager made his permanent claim to the Manchester United job impossible to ignore. But having auditioned so superbly, a less sympathetic phase begins as he works to prove he was the right choice despite his inexperience. A run of two defeats to Arsenal and Wolves must be ended against Watford to avoid any early-reign jitters setting in.
The international break is over, enabling Manchester City to resume their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple. Fulham should be swatted aside with ease, leaving 14 games left for history to be made. Pep Guardiola’s men trail Premier League leaders Liverpool by two points but have a game in hand and their only rivals for the title host Tottenham on Sunday.
Callum Hudson-Odoi won his first caps in England’s recent Euro 2020 qualifiers, but will Chelsea pick him for Sunday’s trip to Cardiff? The outstanding 19-year-old has yet to start a Premier League match for the Blues yet is trusted by Gareth Southgate, albeit against the Czech Republic and Montenegro. Bayern Munich failed with repeated attempts to sign him in January and Chelsea must prove he is part of their plans if they are to convince him to stay.
Huddersfield have already escaped the embarrassment of being the worst side in Premier League history – that undignified record belongs to the Derby County team that managed 11 points in 2007-08. But were they to lose all seven of their remaining games then only the Rams would have performed more poorly and the Terriers could even match them for the earliest Premier League relegation on Saturday.
Counting the cost
Bournemouth’s ongoing top-flight survival is a warming against-the-odds tale, yet a delve into the figures reveals the financial challenges involved in safeguarding Premier League status. The most recent numbers show salaries climbing by 42 per cent to £101.8million and a net loss of £10.5million. In contrast, Huddersfield’s wage bill is substantially lower at £62.6million and their accounts show a net profit of over £25m.
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