With the Premier League season back in full flow this weekend, Week 13 offers plenty of intriguing storylines to sink our teeth into.
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Below are five to keep an eye out for as the second third of the season begins on Saturday.
[ MORE: PW’s PL picks – Week 13 ]
Man, it’s good to have the PL back.
Can slick City kick on?
Manchester City sit join-top of the Premier League with Arsenal but you get the sense that Manuel Pellegrini‘s men are ready to kick on. With Sergio Aguero and David Silva ready to return from injury against Liverpool on Saturday, all of City’s stars will align on the pitch at the same time. Striking the correct balance between defense and attack is now the main challenge for Pellegrini. With Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling (who will play against his old club Liverpool for the first time on Saturday) and Wilfried Bony stepping up and delivering in Silva and Aguero’s absence over the past month, he will have a selection headache for this clash. It’s not just in attack either as City have two top-class players for each position on the pitch. Their squad depth suggests the tough stretch they have coming up — eight games in 30 days in three different competitions — will be handled but facing a dangerous Liverpool outfit directly after the international break will prove a tough test of their title credentials as City are clearly the favorites to win it all.
Injury-hit Liverpool delivered a reality check
Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool were delivered a reality check before the international break with a home defeat to Crystal Palace. Talk of mounting a title charge was doing the rounds at Anfield as Klopp’s exuberance was beginning to rub off on fans but those who have watched the Reds closely this season know that sneaking into fourth place would be a remarkable achievement. Klopp could have captain Jordan Henderson back this Saturday after his foot injury, while Daniel Sturridge is back in full training but this game may come too soon for him. There are positives for the German boss with the side looking much more assured defensively and he has had nearly two weeks to work with some of the non-international players on the training ground to further spread his message of gengen pressing. It will be interesting to see how Liverpool cope with Man City’s pace and ingenuity in attack on Saturday as Klopp’s men must prove they learned from that reality check before the break.
Chelsea, Norwich in relegation six-pointer…
There’s a heading I never thought I’d write. Wow. It has got that bad for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho that Norwich are above them heading into this clash at Stamford Bridge. The Blues, after seven defeats in their opening 13 games of the season, sit three points above the relegation zone in 16th place but you know they will figure this out and rise towards the top six. Norwich are one place and one point above them but you get the sense that Alex Neil‘s side are in for a long, hard season. Yes, they ground out a 1-0 win before the break but defensively they worry me. With Chelsea fired up to prove all the doubters wrong, it’s difficult to envisage anything other than a home win this weekend. It will be interesting to see the kind of team Mourinho selects as he’s had two weeks to stew on that defeat to Stoke City. I suspect some of Chelsea’s talented youngster could be thrown in for this clash between two teams battling against relegation…
Tottenham Hotspur’s progress this season has flown under the radar as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side haven’t lost since the opening day of the season (12 games unbeaten) and his young squad are reflective of his managerial style. Dele Alli and Eric Dier have been revelations in central midfield while Spurs defensive unit has improved drastically, meaning when Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen deliver magic at the other end it usually grabs them three points. Talking of magic, there’s been plenty of that from West Ham this season as Slaven Bilic‘s side sit in sixth place and level on points (21) with fifth-place Spurs. These two London clubs have a real shot at challenging for a top four position but over the course of the season you have to see Spurs will be the favorites to return to the UEFA Champions League. Only 8.2 miles separates the two clubs but historically the distance between these teams has been much greater. With West Ham moving into the Olympic Stadium from next season and having bigger crowds than Spurs, you get the sense that gap is closing. True, Spurs’ redeveloped WHL will see them move back ahead in a few years but for now these two London club are closer in terms of on and off the pitch performance than they have been in a long time.
Battle of the USMNT ‘keepers
Jurgen Klinsmann believes that he has “two number one’s” in Brad Guzan and Tim Howard as the duo split the U.S. national team’s World Cup qualifiers over the break. Howard, 36, kept a clean sheet in Trinidad and Tobago, while Guzan, 31, let one in during the 6-1 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There really isn’t much between these two even if Howard’s pedigree and previous experience gives him the edge. At Goodison Park on Saturday the duo will meet for their club teams with Howard’s Everton hosting Guzan’s Aston Villa. The latter recorded an impressive 0-0 draw at home against Man City in Remi Garde’s first game in charge but heading to play the Toffees is a tough proposition for any team, and especially the team propping up the table. As for Howard, there are growing complains among Everton fans about his performances but Roberto Martinez is sticking with the veteran goalkeeper. The battle of the USMNT’s two number one’s will be an intriguing watch this weekend.