| 5.7°C Dublin

Talking points ahead of the midweek round of Premier League fixtures

That battle at the top of the table is tight.

Close

Dean Smith faces his former club Aston Villa this week (Mike Egerton/PA)

Dean Smith faces his former club Aston Villa this week (Mike Egerton/PA)

Dean Smith faces his former club Aston Villa this week (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Premier League continues apace with a full round of fixtures taking place over the next three days. The top three will be hoping to avoid slip-ups as they all host struggling teams, while Dean Smith will attempt to bring down the team he supports and was managing until just last month.

Here, the PA news agency looks at these and some other talking points ahead of the games.

Coronavirus looms over fixtures

Close

Tottenham have been hit by an outbreak of Covid-19 (Adam Davy/PA)

Tottenham have been hit by an outbreak of Covid-19 (Adam Davy/PA)

Tottenham have been hit by an outbreak of Covid-19 (Adam Davy/PA)

The recent Covid-19 outbreak at Tottenham has underlined the issues the game could still face in getting fixtures played. Spurs have already been unable to play two games and, with Leicester having also had positive cases, there has been some doubt over whether Thursday’s game between the two clubs can go ahead. With Manchester United, Norwich and Aston Villa also having been affected by positive cases and with the Omicron variant spreading, there is clear potential for disruption to the season.

Battle at the top

Close

Manchester City will be looking to maintain the pace at the top (Martin Rickett/PA)

Manchester City will be looking to maintain the pace at the top (Martin Rickett/PA)

Manchester City will be looking to maintain the pace at the top (Martin Rickett/PA)

The intriguing three-way fight at the summit between Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea goes on with all three sides at home to teams in the bottom six. Leaders City will get the chance to increase the pressure first as they take on Leeds on Tuesday before Liverpool and Chelsea look to respond against Newcastle and Everton respectively on Thursday. Just two points separate the contenders and any of them could be top come next weekend. All three needed penalties to eke out their latest victories and, with the games coming fast, there could be further twists ahead.

Rafa under fire

Close

Rafael Benitez (centre) is enduring a tough time at Everton (Peter Byrne/PA)

Rafael Benitez (centre) is enduring a tough time at Everton (Peter Byrne/PA)

Rafael Benitez (centre) is enduring a tough time at Everton (Peter Byrne/PA)

Everton’s miserable run of form continued as they were beaten by Crystal Palace on Sunday. The fans may have so far vented much of their anger in the direction of the board but manager Rafael Benitez is undoubtedly now under fire. The Spaniard was always unlikely to be cut much slack given his past associations with Liverpool and the situation is worsening with each bad result. His decision to substitute Richarlison at Selhurst Park also seems to have exacerbated the frustration many feel. Benitez has been hindered by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury and, after just one win in 10, he badly needs a change in fortune.

Smith facing Villa

Close

Dean Smith (right) guided Villa to promotion (Mike Egerton/PA)

Dean Smith (right) guided Villa to promotion (Mike Egerton/PA)

Dean Smith (right) guided Villa to promotion (Mike Egerton/PA)

Dean Smith began the season planning Aston Villa’s next stage of development after successfully guiding his boyhood club back to the top flight and consolidating their position over the previous three years. Things unravelled with five consecutive defeats heading into November costing him his job. Remarkably, he was back in the game within a week as he took up the vacancy at bottom side Norwich. The sides clash at Carrow Road on Tuesday in a game that is sure to present a strange set of emotions for him.

Burnley have chance to claw out of bottom three

Close

Burnley are yet to fire this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

Burnley are yet to fire this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

Burnley are yet to fire this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sean Dyche’s Burnley have missed a number of opportunities to win games this season and remain in the bottom three. As the Clarets continue to play positive football, alarm bells do not seem to be ringing at Turf Moor yet, but the statistics show they are not scoring enough and are conceding too many. They need to start picking up wins and Wednesday’s visit of Watford, the team immediately above them, is the type of fixture they need to be taking advantage of to pull themselves away from potential trouble.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy