Saturday 24 February 2018

Coutinho set to return to Liverpool starting team: Five talking points ahead of weekend action

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho came on against Southampton during the week
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho came on against Southampton during the week

Jim van Wijk

Liverpool will kick off the weekend's Premier League action on Saturday when they host Swansea at Anfield, while Tottenham travel to Manchester City in the late kick-off.

Will Arsenal be able to keep themselves in the title race by beating Burnley on Sunday afternoon before leaders Chelsea look to strengthen their grip on top spot when relegation-battlers Hull come to Stamford Bridge?

Here is a look at some of the Premier League talking points ahead of the 22nd round of matches.


Just in case anyone still didn't know, it is some 293 miles from Plymouth to Liverpool, so Jurgen Klopp will be grateful for a somewhat shorter ride to Anfield when the Reds get back into league action.

The pressure is on at the top of the table, with every slip ready to be punished - as Tottenham showed last weekend. Liverpool - who are expected to welcome back Philippe Coutinho to the starting 11 - can crank things up a gear with victory over Swansea before anyone else has kicked off. Fail to deliver maximum points after drawing at Old Trafford, and Klopp will be left with more questions about just how far his squad can go - but if all else fails, they can always get a giant pasty to help them along the way....


As the old saying goes, turning it on at home is one thing, but can this team deliver on a cold January afternoon up at Stoke? Jose Mourinho's squad certainly have shown plenty of the right stuff during their impressive unbeaten run which leaves United just two points off fifth-placed Manchester City.

The Potters are, though, now a very different proposition under former Red Devil Mark Hughes, who has his own team producing some quality football with players who can cut open any defence. Don't expect Jose to park the bus, but Stoke won't either.


If Pep Guardiola did not know what the Premier League would hold, he has found out the hard way. After such an impressive start to the campaign, the wheels are certainly wobbling, even if they have not yet completely come off, following a 4-0 drubbing at Everton. However, it is too easy to overlook City have still won five of their last seven games.

When it goes right, they can be unplayable - a bit like Tottenham, who have won seven in a row since losing to United. It is all set up to be a cracker at the Etihad Stadium from 5:30pm. So, 0-0 it is then...


Back-to-back Premier League defeats before Christmas had everyone again writing off the Gunners' season. Since then, there have been just the two dropped points - away to Bournemouth in the crazy 3-3 draw, which said a lot about the character of Arsene Wenger's squad. Just as City are not yet out of the title race, nor can Arsenal be discounted just yet - only a point behind Liverpool and Spurs. Burnley won't roll over at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, so the Gunners will have to work for a result - something Alexis Sanchez for one will relish.


Chelsea hold a seven-point lead heading into this weekend's fixtures. Just what that will be by the time the Blues kick-off against Hull remains to be seen.

One things looks certain, though, and that is Diego Costa being back in the fold. After reports of a training-ground bust-up, complaints of a bad back and headlines of a mega-money move to China, the Brazilian-born frontman was all smiles again as he joined in with the rest of the squad this week. "He is only focused on Chelsea, to play with us and to continue to help us," said manager Antonio Conte. Music to the ears of all Chelsea fans, perhaps not so to new Hull boss Marco Silva.

Press Association

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