Belfast Telegraph

Premier League talking points

Premier League clubs bid farewell to 2017 with games across Saturday and Sunday as the hectic festive schedule continues.

Here Press Association Sport details what to look out for during this weekend's round of fixtures.

Will Carlos Carvalhal have an instant impact at Swansea?

The Premier League's most recent managerial appointment was a surprise given Carvalhal departed Sheffield Wednesday on Christmas Eve following a seven-game winless run. The Portuguese has been parachuted into a top-flight relegation battle as his new team are five points from safety ahead of a trip to Watford. The Swans have lost nine of their past dozen contests and are in desperate need of the new manager bounce that Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester and West Ham all got.

How will Crystal Palace approach a clash with rampant Manchester City?

City coasted to an 18th successive Premier League victory on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory at Newcastle where the hosts' tactics were criticised. Gary Neville claimed the Magpies showed "no ambition" and were "embarrassing" but Rafael Benitez defended the way he set his team up to ensure City did not shred them apart. Palace, thumped 5-0 by Pep Guardiola's outfit earlier in the season, are fully aware of how that can be done, though Roy Hodgson may be a bit more adventurous in light of a recent improvement.

Can United banish the malaise?

It is fair to say Jose Mourinho's Christmas was far from merry. A Carabao Cup defeat to Championship side Bristol City was followed by disappointing draws with Leicester and Burnley as Manchester City extended their lead over United to 15 points. Mourinho's moans about an inadequate transfer kitty and his players being "childish" has only added to the gloom. Fortunately, Southampton are the next visitors to Old Trafford and their poor spell has lasted far longer, with Mauricio Pellegrino's side without a win in seven. It would seem a perfect chance for Mourinho to end 2017 with a modicum of joy.

Are injury-hit Stoke in for another top-six thrashing?

Mark Hughes' Potters have suffered defeats to Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham this term, conceding 19 goals in the process. Furthermore, they are visiting Chelsea without three centre-backs - Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Kurt Zouma - and Erik Pieters may not be fit to feature at left-back. Hughes' side could therefore be forced to play two 18-year-olds in the full-back spots along with midfielder Geoff Cameron in central defence. Alvaro Morata will be licking his lips.

Can either Bournemouth or West Brom end their terrible form?

It is possible that both Bournemouth and West Brom can finish the calendar year outside the bottom three, though in the case of Alan Pardew's side they would need to snap their dreadful winless run against Arsenal. It is 18 top-flight games since the Baggies last had a win to celebrate and Pardew is still yet to toast three points in six attempts. Bournemouth, who entertain Everton, have gone eight matches without a victory but perhaps Callum Wilson's late equaliser against West Ham could be a turning point.


From Belfast Telegraph