5 talking points ahead of this weekend’s Premier League action
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes the helm at Manchester United.
Manchester City bid to maintain their Premier League title challenge against Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium, but the spotlight will be shared with rivals Manchester United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes charge of his first game as United’s temporary new manager at Cardiff after Jose Mourinho was sacked this week and the Norwegian hopes to hit the ground running.
Here Press Association Sport focuses on five key talking points from this weekend’s top-flight fixtures.
Returning hero Solskjaer has plenty to ponder
Ole's comments on Sir Alex in full... #MUFC— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 21, 2018
Solskjaer will hope to help launch a new era for the club with a morale-boosting victory in the evening kick-off at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday. The former United striker has said he wants the job on a permanent basis and that every player will start with a clean slate. Does that mean a return to the starting line-up for Paul Pogba? Will Luke Shaw be included in the squad? And who will replace Romelu Lukaku, who looks set to miss the trip after being given time off?
City slickers kept on their toes
Pep Guardiola’s thoroughbreds cantered to the Premier League title last season, but are being given a good run for their money by Liverpool this time around. City have bounced back from their first defeat of the season at Chelsea earlier this month with three straight wins in all competitions, but know any dropped points against Palace could see them fall off the pace. David Silva is back in training after a hamstring injury, but is not yet ready for match action. Palace have lost six of their last seven games on the road.
Pochettino’s star continues to rise
Tottenham are also going so well again this season that boss Mauricio Pochettino has inevitably been linked with the vacant Old Trafford hotseat. The Argentinian has kept the Londoners within striking distance of the top two while guiding them to the Champions League knockout stage. Spurs’ midweek Carabao Cup win at Arsenal was another boon, but how will their manager respond to mounting speculation over his future?
Gunners mettle to be tested
Unai Emery appears to have won over his doubters, but back-to-back defeats have halted his side’s 22-game unbeaten run and threaten to check all their momentum. Emery faces a defensive dilemma in the lunch-time kick-off with Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Shkodran Mustafi all ruled out. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is also unavailable, while Sean Dyche’s Clarets are bidding to avoid an eighth defeat in 10 league matches.
Ralph out to wreck Huddersfield hopes
Both clubs will have identified this match as a chance to collect some much-needed points in their fight against the drop, but it is Southampton who have the feel-good factor heading into the John Smith’s Stadium showdown. That is after new boss Ralph Hasenhuttl inspired Saints to their first home league win of the season last week against Arsenal – ending the Gunners’ 22-match unbeaten run in the process. Now the Austrian will hope to build on that when he goes head-to-head with David Wagner, whose Huddersfield side are looking to avoid a fifth successive defeat.