Chelsea focus on football and title race hots up: Premier League talking points
The Blues host Newcastle this weekend.
Thomas Tuchel and his Chelsea players will hope to focus on events on the pitch as they return to action in the Premier League this weekend.
The London club host Newcastle on Sunday with the ramifications of the Government restrictions placed on them this week still to become clear.
Elsewhere, the battles for the title and to avoid relegation continue. Here, the PA news agency looks at some talking points ahead of the latest round of fixtures.
All eyes on Chelsea
The immediate future of Chelsea is uncertain after the UK Government imposed sanctions on their owner, the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, on Thursday as part of its response to the war in Ukraine. Until the situation is resolved, the club must operate under strict financial conditions and it is unclear how long they can be sustained. Amid the turmoil, manager Tuchel and his players are trying to concentrate on their jobs. They managed to deliver a 3-1 win at Norwich on Thursday but a resurgent Newcastle will hope to capitalise on any distractions.
Title race intrigue
Manchester City and Liverpool are involved in another compelling duel for the title, as they were three years ago. On that occasion City emerged victorious on the final day, edging it by 98 points to 97 after a race of near-relentless high standards. Many are predicting this year’s contest could also go down to the wire. City currently hold a six-point advantage but Liverpool have a game in hand and are still to play at the Etihad Stadium. The Reds are in action first this weekend as they travel to Brighton on Saturday with City not playing until visiting Crystal Palace, who beat them in October, on Monday.
Battle at the bottom
The scrap to avoid relegation is also tight. Newcastle have pulled away from the danger zone in recent weeks but Leeds and Everton, two clubs in poor form, have slipped into serious trouble. Everton, although they have games in hand on their rivals, are just a point above the bottom three with Leeds, after six successive defeats, only one point higher. Leeds face a ‘six-pointer’ against bottom side Norwich with Everton having a tough home visit from Wolves. Burnley, looking to get out of the relegation zone, have a tense trip to another side that could be sucked into the battle, Brentford. The other side involved, Watford, are at Southampton.
United in Champions League fight
Manchester United received widespread criticism after their second-half surrender in last week’s derby against Manchester City. The 4-1 defeat was another poor result in a frustrating season and left them outside the top four. With Arsenal above them having a number of games in hand, they face a tough task to get back in there. This weekend they host a Tottenham side who still have a shot at securing a Champions League spot themselves. United’s difficulties have prompted speculation about a number of players, notably Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford, and interim boss Ralf Rangnick needs a response at Old Trafford.
West Ham bid to regroup
West Ham have also been in Champions League contention in what has largely been a fine season to date, but manager David Moyes will want to nip recent poor results in the bud to prevent it petering out. Three successive defeats have seen the Hammers knocked out of the FA Cup, slip to sixth in the Premier League and cede the initiative to Sevilla in their Europa League last-16 tie. Moyes will want a response against an Aston Villa side that have won their last three without conceding.
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