Aston Villa’s relegation could be confirmed on Saturday during a round of Barclays Premier League fixtures where leaders Leicester could stretch their points advantage into double figures.
Here’s a look at some of the talking points ahead of this weekend’s top-flight contests.
1. Can Aston Villa cling on for another week?
Aston Villa have been a Premier League fixture since the competition’s inception in 1992 but, barring something extraordinary, that run is set to end. The Midlands club must at least match Norwich’s result at Crystal Palace or their relegation fate will be sealed. For Villa’s long-suffering fans, it will only be confirmation of something which has seemed inevitable for months.
2. Can Leicester turn up the heat on Tottenham?
Last week second-placed Spurs played a day earlier than Leicester but their draw at Liverpool ensured the Foxes retained a healthy cushion prior to their clash with Southampton. This time around Claudio Ranieri’s side visit Sunderland before Tottenham entertain Manchester United. So, by the time they kick off in North London, Spurs could be 10 points adrift.
3. Is Tottenham’s Manchester United hoodoo still a thing?
White Hart Lane has been a happy hunting ground for Manchester United, who last lost there in 2001 and are unbeaten in 14 games since – winning one of those matches despite being 3-0 down at half-time. Given the two teams’ respective campaigns, this would seem to be the perfect time for Mauricio Pochettino’s men to snap that rotten record.
4. Can Everton display some chemistry?
After a third successive loss in the league, Everton full-back Leighton Baines revealed he felt there was a lack of chemistry in Roberto Martinez’s ranks. The Spaniard confirmed Baines apologised for comments he perceived to be misinterpreted but the fact remains that all is not well at Goodison Park. They have a chance to show they can gel together at fellow FA Cup semi-finalists Watford.
5. Will the misery continue for Crystal Palace?
Palace’s 14-game winless streak in the league has heightened fears they could be sucked into the relegation picture and that will only be enhanced if they lose at home to Norwich. Alan Pardew’s outfit are another FA Cup semi-finalist who have seen their league form falter, yet there were signs of fight in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with West Ham.
6. Who will Jurgen Klopp play up top?
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp sprung a surprise at old club Borussia Dortmund on Thursday night by starting Divock Origi rather than Daniel Sturridge in attack. The Belgian rewarded his manager’s faith in him with an away goal and for Sturridge, who has Euro 2016 aspirations, he will hope he can get his shot to impress against Stoke on Sunday.
7. Will the Antonio Conte news have an effect on Chelsea?
Chelsea this week announced that current Italy manager Antonio Conte will take charge at Stamford Bridge next season, meaning short-term fix Guus Hiddink only has seven matches remaining. The Dutchman still has yet to taste defeat in the Premier League since arriving and his players now have extra motivation to impress the manager-in-waiting when they travel to Swansea.
8. What sort of team will Manchester City put out?
Manchester City have returned home from a midweek Champions League draw at Paris St Germain, with the return leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday. While PSG can rest players this weekend having already won the Ligue 1 title, can Manuel Pellegrini truly afford to rotate his squad against West Brom given they are not assured of a top-four berth yet?
9. Is Rafael Benitez running out of time?
Last weekend’s crushing loss to Norwich has left Newcastle with a mountain to climb to avoid slipping into the Sky Bet Championship. The Magpies, who are now six points from safety, visit Southampton this weekend and must pick up some points soon having taken only one from a possible nine since Rafael Benitez arrived in the North East amid much fanfare.
10. Can Alex Iwobi continue his form?
Winger Alex Iwobi has made two Premier League starts for Arsenal and scored on both occasions. The home-grown teenager’s emergence has helped keep alive the Gunners’ slim title hopes ahead of a tricky trip to London rivals West Ham on Saturday when anything less than a victory will surely rule Arsene Wenger’s men out of championship contention for another year.