With Arsenal on FA Cup duty this weekend their three major title rivals will all be expected to claim three points as they face clubs in the bottom three.
Leaders Leicester welcome crisis-hit Newcastle on Monday night after Tottenham travel to last-placed Aston Villa while Manchester City can pass the Gunners when they take on Norwich. Here we get an insight into the five Premier League games of the round.
1. Stats stocked in favour of City going third at Carrow Road
With Arsenal playing in the FA Cup this weekend, Manchester City have an opportunity to retake third place and Norwich don’t look capable of stopping them. Only Aston Villa have resisted fewer shots for each goal conceded this season than the struggling Canaries’ average of 6.9, with their opponents having needed almost three fewer efforts to breach them than the 9.7 required to net against the average Premier League side. City fans shouldn’t be too concerned if Norwich manage to make it to half-time without falling behind. The Canaries have found it particularly difficult to contain their opponents after the break, with the 18.4% of shots they have conceded in the second half of matches higher than any other Premier League side.
2. Swansea likely to score first against Cherries
Swansea have started matches well this season, having scored the Premier League’s highest percentage of goals in the first half of matches with 57.1%, and this habit could give them an edge at Bournemouth. The Cherries’ defence has been the top-flight’s least resilient before half-time, conceding 17.7% of the shots they have faced, so the away side have a good chance of striking first.
3. Stoke and Saints defences go to sleep after the break
The second half of this match could be more interesting that the first – at least for the neutral – based on how much laxer Stoke and Southampton’s defences have been after the interval. Only the Saints have seen a higher percentage of the Premier League shots they have faced arrive after half time than their hosts, with 60.1% to the Potters’ 58.8%. It’s far from certain that both will find the net though: each has been involved in just 11 league matches this season in which both teams have scored, which is the joint-lowest in the division.
4. Miserly Spurs defence a headache for Villa
Aston Villa look unlikely to improve their perilous situation when Spurs roll into town this weekend. Their visitors’ defence is the toughest in the top flight, having faced 13.3 shots for each goal conceded, and it’s been 10 away matches since they were last breached more than once. Villa by comparison have resisted fewer shots for each goal conceded than anyone else: a mere 6.8, which is a little over half of what their visitors have managed.
5. Early goals on the agenda when Leicester host Newcastle
Newcastle have travelled badly this season, with it taking over twice as many shots for them to score each away goal as hosts Leicester have needed to find the net in front of their own fans: 17.7 to 8.3. The off-pitch turmoil at St James’ Park will hardly be ideal preparation for the visitors, giving the Foxes the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table. There’s also a good chance of seeing an early goal in this match based on how quickly these two sides have got down to business this season. Only Southampton have taken a greater share of their shots in the first quarter of an hour than these two, who have struck 15.7 and 15.6% of theirs in this period respectively.