Belfast Telegraph

Premier League talking points

Alan Pardew, Jose Mourinho and Leicester are all under pressure to secure victories in the Premier League while Liverpool and West Ham also have hurdles to overcome.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at five talking points ahead of this weekend's matches.

LAST CHANCE SALOON FOR PARDEW?

After six consecutive defeats and sliding to 17th in the Premier League table, Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew knows time is running out. The Eagles boss appeared even to recognise that failure to beat Southampton at home on Saturday could spell the end of his tenure at Selhurst Park. "I'm a realist," Pardew said. "I have to make sure the next result is a positive one." Palace's players were summoned for extra training on Friday but if they defend like they did in the 5-4 loss to Swansea last weekend, Pardew's time may well be up.

WILL MOURINHO STICK OR TWIST?

Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham last weekend but blew away the same opponents 4-1 in the EFL Cup three days later. The difference? Jose Mourinho finally let loose his attacking talents, in particular the excellent Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial, who scored twice, while the under-used Michael Carrick was brought into midfield. With Wayne Rooney suspended, Mourinho has the perfect opportunity to retain those who impressed when United face Everton on Sunday.

ARE LEICESTER REALLY IN TROUBLE?

Leicester's success in Europe continues to mask their poor form in the Premier League, where the Foxes currently sit two points above the relegation zone with just one win from their last eight matches. On Saturday they travel to Sunderland, who are bottom but showing signs of recovery after they beat Bournemouth and Hull, before holding out for 74 minutes against Liverpool. No reigning champion in England has been relegated since Manchester City in 1937 but a disappointing result for Leicester this weekend and they are serious contenders for the drop.

HOW WILL LIVERPOOL COPE WITHOUT COUTINHO?

If the Premier League Player of the Year award was handed out in December, Philippe Coutinho would certainly be high up the list. The Brazilian has been irresistible so far this season, contributing five goals and six assists to Liverpool's surge to second place. But the Reds are now without their key creator, who injured his ankle against Sunderland last weekend. Coutinho is expected to be out for around six weeks and the impact of his absence will first be felt against Bournemouth on Saturday. The likes of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum must step up.

CAN WEST HAM TURN IT AROUND AT HOME?

West Ham's match at home to Arsenal on Sunday will be the first derby at the London Stadium since violence erupted in the Hammers' EFL Cup victory over Chelsea in October. The form of Slaven Bilic's side has worsened since then, with the team failing to win any of their last five matches, and defeat against the Gunners could see them fall into the Premier League's bottom three. Frustration is growing among West Ham supporters - the hope is it does not boil over again this weekend.

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