Belfast Telegraph

Xhaka absent and Watford chase first win – 5 Premier League talking points

Manchester City face Southampton again while Liverpool take on Villa.

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka will not feature as his squad face Wolves (Nigel French/PA)
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka will not feature as his squad face Wolves (Nigel French/PA)

By PA Sport Staff

The Premier League swings back into action after a dramatic round of Carabao Cup fixtures during the week.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the major talking points ahead of the weekend.

Xhaka absent for Arsenal

Tensions between Arsenal fans and club captain Granit Xhaka reached boiling point last weekend when the midfielder was booed off the pitch as the Gunners drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace. Xhaka responded to the jeering by cupping a hand to his ear and mouthing expletives before rejecting a handshake from Unai Emery and taking off his shirt as he left the pitch. The 27-year-old was omitted from the squad that travelled to Anfield and subsequently lost on penalties to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night – although Emery insisted the decision not to include him had been reached before Sunday’s incident. Xhaka has since turned to Twitter to address his outburst, explaining that repeated abuse from fans “stirred him up”. The Swiss international will not be included in Emery’s squad as Arsenal host Wolves on Saturday and it remains to be seen whether or not he retains the club captaincy.

Watford’s worries show no sign of abating

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Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores (Nick Potts/PA)

Watford’s woes do not look like easing any time soon, with the winless Hornets hosting fourth-placed Chelsea on Saturday. Manager Quique Sanchez Flores has had no luck since returning to the helm in September and the Hornets currently sit bottom of the Premier League having amassed just five points – all from draws. An upturn in fortunes against Frank Lampard’s Chelsea seems unlikely, as the Blues have firmly hit their stride by winning their last four league games.

Southampton face stiffer City test

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Southampton’s Jan Bednarek after his side’s 9-0 defeat to Leicester (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Southampton went some way to bouncing back from a devastating 9-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester last Friday when they posted a respectable 3-1 loss to Manchester City on their way out of the Carabao Cup. The two squads meet again on Saturday, but Saints may find themselves tackling a much stronger City team. Pep Guardiola did not field his strongest starting XI for the midweek match, resting Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. Both could return at the Etihad, alongside the previously suspended Fernandinho, to pose an even greater threat to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s struggling Saints.

United on the up?

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Manchester United have found some form (Joe Giddens/PA)

Manchester United appear to have turned a corner after an erratic campaign so far this season. The upward curve began when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side took a point from their clash with league leaders Liverpool and has continued by winning their next three matches. Bournemouth are next in line, a club who are suffering the opposite fate having not claimed a victory in four games. Injury concerns over Victor Lindelof, Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire could create an issue for United however, especially considering the recent form of forward Rashford.

Klopp pulling clear

Liverpool head to Aston Villa as they bid to maintain their unbeaten status and strengthen their hold on top spot. Jurgen Klopp’s squad are only the fourth team in Premier League history to gain 28 points after 10 games, with Chelsea also achieving the feat and Manchester City doing so twice. On all three past occasions, the team in question went on to win the league, leaving Liverpool perfectly poised for their first Premier League title. Villa stand in the way this weekend and will be bolstered by their 2-1 defeat of Wolves in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. Klopp’s squad are a more testing proposition, however, even as they battle through an increasingly crowded fixture list.

PA

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