4 Points Before the Weekend

 

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Will United Suffer A Cup Hangover?

Manchester United won the English Football League Cup at Wembley thanks for a late header from, you guessed it, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Although United were outplayed in most of the game and Southampton was wrongly denied a goal, United claimed their first piece of silverware under Mourinho.

United will face Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, who sit in 14th,  this weekend at Old Trafford.  Although the cup hangover has historical precedents, even at United, Mourinho’s men  will be expecting an easy win just like they did in the reverse fixture on the opening day. Bournemouth have not won a game in the League since December 13 and have picked up just one point out of a potential 30. The one point was a 3-3 draw against Arsenal, a game in which Bournemouth led 3-0.

United are boosted by the return of Phil Jones, although Henrikh Mkhitaryan is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

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Can Liverpool Bounce Back?

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are a team in tatters, bereft of solutions to  end their mid-season meltdown. With 1 win in 7, the team once considered a title challenger, have their top 4 finish ambition in grave danger.

Liverpool’s recent 3-1 loss to Leicester City was the crowning moment in a luckless 2017.

A game against Arsenal couldn’t be more ill-timed. With Liverpool’s stellar record against top PL sides, the Gunners might not find it too easy. 

Although Liverpool’s achilles heels has been weaker oppositions – with their five losses this season coming against Leicester, Hull, Swansea, Burnley, Bournemouth – they have have won against Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton  and Arsenal and drawn against Manchester United.

Arsenal themselves are not in the best run of form and Wenger’s future has been under intense scrutiny after lackluster losses to Chelsea (3-1) and Bayern Munich (5-1). But for a team with a consistent record of eking out victories in the final quarter of the season to clinch a coveted Champions League spot, Arsenal know that a win against Liverpool is crucial and at this stage, possible given the Merseyside side’s defensive vulnerabilities.

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Can a revitalized Leicester defeat the trendy Hull?

Leicester’s 3-1 win over Liverpool was the perfect end to a tumultuous week. In a week clouded by the controversial sacking of Claudio Ranieri, the man who made Leicester City the EPL Champions, many were eager to see the players’ response.

The response  was an improved performance that took many down memory lane, when Leicester were spirited and battle ready. Their brilliant performance has raised many doubts regarding whether they were really putting in effort for Ranieri this season. As pundits have stated, they won against Liverpool not because of tactical changes but because they put in effort – where has this effort been since September? 

The question for Leicester, besides who replaces Ranieri, is whether they can replicate their performance against Liverpool and push to avoid relegation, a downgrade that would be as astonishing as their success last season.

Hull, on the other hand, have been given a lifeline through Marco Silva. The Portuguese manager has proven that he has what it takes to at least claim some scalps in the PL. Very much the new trendy team in the league, it’ll be interesting how the Tigers set up against the champions. The latter will surely look to exploit space behind the defenders, but Hull don’t usually play with a very high line.

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Can Spurs keep Lukaku quiet?

Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku will be facing each other this Sunday at White Hart Lane. Koeman’s 7th place Everton will simply have to play their very best to stop a rampant Spurs, who are starting to see the bright side of a calamitous European campaign.

The likes of Lukaku and Barkley will have it all to do against Tottenham’s defense, second to none in the league. The Toffees will be encouraged to hear that both Vertonghen and Alderweireld were taken off in the second half against Stoke – Pochettino has said this was a precaution more than anything else, but it is possible that one or both miss the match.

Still without Rose, Spurs will have to make do with Davies who has been serviceable if not spectacular on the left side. Playing at home, the side will simply have to play with 3 at the back, by far the most attacking and intense formation that Pochettino has implemented yet.

There are rumors that Kane might be out as well – if true, then all signals point to Heung-Min Son starting up top, as Pochettino seems to prefer the Korean over Vincent Janssen as of late.

 

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