Belfast Telegraph

Premier League talking points

This weekend provides the last chance for Premier League clubs to change, or polish, their fortunes before all eyes turn to the international arena.

Here, Press Association Sport assess six of the best points of order.

CITY'S BARCA BOOST Few really considered Manchester City's six-game winless streak to be evidence of a major structural problem for Pep Guardiola's side and any lingering whispers were blown away by the side's dazzling defeat of Barcelona in midweek. It was a famous result not only in the club's season but also in its history. Having stared down the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez and come out on top, the business of staying at the Premier League summit should really seem quite prosaic. Over to Middlesbrough to provide the rebuttal...


Jose Mourinho is to, put it mildly, in something of a funk. A promising start to life at Manchester United has quickly given way to a string of disappointing results, most recently defeat in Fenerbahce. Being in the Europa League is distasteful to the Red Devils. Being beaten in it is worse. Being beaten in it with a near full-strength team is beyond the pale. A trip to struggling Swansea is a fairly hospitable fixture on paper and victory is crucial to steady a listing ship.


Having now made the worst start in Premier League history, what next for perennial relegation flirts Sunderland? Typically in the last few seasons the go-to strategy has been to dispense with the man in the dugout and find someone to save the club before delivering them back into the abyss shortly after. Moyes must know this weekend's trip to Bournemouth is critical - particularly with the international break often proving irresistible to trigger-happy owners. Defeat could be the final entry in a sorry chapter.

KARIUS NEEDS A CLEAN SHEET Liverpool are the joint top-scorers in the league alongside Manchester City, netting 24 times in 10 games. They have also conceded the most goals in the top six and could do with locking the back door against Watford. They have managed just one clean sheet so far and have been breached by the likes of Burnley, Hull, West Brom and Swansea. Despite his protestations, Jurgen Klopp will know some tightening up is required, not least for the confidence of his relatively inexperienced goalkeeper Loris Karius.


Tom Heaton has emerged as the one of the season's breakout successes, topping the Premier League's save statistics and turning in his best performance yet to deny his former club Manchester United last weekend. Heaton's form is sure to have cemented his place in the England squad and another shutout against Crystal Palace would only improve his standing further.

ENGLAND INJURY WATCH Gareth Southgate's first England get together last month was disrupted by a series of untimely injuries, with the likes of Harry Kane, Adam Lallana, Danny Drinkwater, Raheem Sterling and Glen Johnson all unavailable. Games against Scotland and Spain are the former Middlesbrough manager's last chance to impress the powers that be and he will be crossing his fingers for no new fitness problems.


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