Thursday 14 December 2017

Premier League talking points

Liverpool have the chance to pile more pressure on under-fire Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
Liverpool have the chance to pile more pressure on under-fire Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

There may only be four Premier League fixtures this weekend due to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup but the games could have a big impact at both ends of the table.

Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton have opportunities to strengthen their chances of European qualification, while Bournemouth, Swansea and Hull will all be hoping to boost their survival prospects.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the main talking points.

MORE WOE FOR WENGER?

Arsenal may not be in league action this weekend because of cup commitments but some of the club's unhappy fans could be feeling more disgruntled come Monday. Following their Champions League humiliation by Bayern Munich and three defeats from their last four league games, m anager Arsene Wenger is perhaps under more pressure than at any other point of his 21-year spell in charge of the Gunners. His under-performing side would find themselves five points adrift of the top four should Liverpool beat Burnley at Anfield on Sunday. Granted the Gunners will have two games in hand on Jurgen Klopp's men, but they will be playing catch-up and still have to face both Manchester clubs, Everton and fierce rivals Tottenham before the end of the season.

CAN THE SWANS FLY AWAY FROM DANGER?

Saturday could potentially be a big day in Swansea's season. After a largely forgettable campaign, Paul Clement's men can put clear daylight between themselves and the relegation zone with victory at fellow strugglers Hull. Aside from their Yorkshire opponents and Bournemouth, no other relegation-threatened club is in action which means the Swans could be eight points clear of the bottom three come full-time at the KCOM Stadium. Recent form is in their favour with four victories from the last six matches meaning they have accumulated seven points more than Marco Silva's second-bottom Hull during that period.

BOURNEMOUTH WITHOUT BANNED MINGS

The Cherries still have some work to do to secure survival for the second successive season and it will be interesting to see how Eddie Howe's team bounce back from the media scrutiny surrounding Tyrone Mings' clash with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and subsequent suspension. Bournemouth clearly feel aggrieved at the five-game ban handed out by the Football Association but they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves. Manager Howe will be desperate for his players to put the incident behind them - starting against mid-table West Ham on Saturday - and recapture the form that saw them start 2017 in 10th place.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CHANCE FOR EVERTON?

Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin risked upsetting the Goodison Park faithful this week by suggesting that the Toffees are still a couple of years away from challenging for Champions League qualification. With Ronald Koeman's side currently eight points off the top four, the former Manchester United player's honest assessment does not seem too wide of the mark. If Everton do have genuine European ambitions, they will view West Brom at home as a fixture they should be winning, especially given the fine form of striker Romelu Lukaku who goes into Saturday's game against one of his former clubs with six goals in his last four matches. That said, Tony Pulis' eighth-placed Albion will prove a tricky test as they continue their pursuit of the club's highest-ever Premier League finish.

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