By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- The Premier League returns after the FA Cup Third Round, as Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United in Game of the Week
- Arsenal travel to West Ham to face the Hammers at the London Stadium on Saturday lunchtime
- A revitalised Manchester City entertain Wolves at the Etihad, looking to keep pace with leaders Liverpool
PREMIER LEAGUE – The top flight swings back into action in style this weekend, as Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United meet at Wembley Stadium in Game of the Week.
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Game of the Week: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United (Sunday, 16:30)
Niall: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces his biggest test so far as Manchester United manager as his side travel to Wembley to face a Tottenham side who are trying to keep alive their faint title aspirations.
The Red Devils have undergone a shift in style since the departure of Jose Mourinho late last year. They have gone from being defensive to being a more progressive attacking side that gets more out of the forward talent and Paul Pogba in particular. The dynamics of this match have therefore changed since they last met where Spurs ran out 3-0 winners at Old Trafford.
This is by far the biggest test for Solskjaer since he took over as Manchester United manager and the first time his side go into a match as underdogs. Despite the improved performances, there are still questions surrounding the Red Devils because they are yet to play a top side since the switch in the dugout.
Despite losing to Wolves at the end of last year, Tottenham’s form has generally been good with that defeat being their only one in their last ten games in all competitions. It seems like they are clicking overall and as a result the goals have been flowing in recent weeks. And whilst it seems like the title race has two horses, Tottenham are only six points behind Liverpool and are still in the race even though their chances seem feint.
Mauricio Pochettino could be facing his next employers here, but for now his focus is strictly with Tottenham and finally breaking his trophy duck. It feels like Spurs’ pressing style could force United into mistakes that could be costly in the end.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester United
Neil: After four-straight league wins on the bounce for Solskjaer, this will be the litmus test of how far the Red Devils have come in the short time since the Norwegian took the helm in Manchester.
The visitors have scored at least twice in each game during their last 360 minutes of game time, as United’s greatly vaunted offensive talent have been on full display in recent weeks.
Whilst wins against Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, AFC Bournemouth and Newcastle United were all welcome wins and serious signs of progress, the Lilywhites at home are a different kettle of fish entirely.
With Harry Kane‘s crosshairs now fully mobile also, Spurs and indeed the England skipper will be eager to test a United back line that while lately has not been tested, is still undoubtedly creaky.
So could this be the beginning of the end of the honeymoon period for ‘OGS’? I have high hopes this could be a classic Premier League meeting between these two and I have a hunch the spoils will be shared.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Manchester United
Neil’s One to Watch: West Ham United vs. Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30)
We kick off the Premier League’s return at the London Stadium, as West Ham United host Arsenal on Saturday lunchtime. With both sides having negotiated their respective FA Cup Third Round ties, the two London clubs will be seeking a win here.
For the Hammers, the past week has been dominated by events off the field with star striker Marko Arnautovic having been heavily linked with a move to China after an unnamed club bid £35m for the Austrian, which he himself is reportedly keen for West Ham to accept – as per BBC Sport.
The player is unlikely to leave at the very least this month with Manuel Pellegrini stating Arnautovic is not for sale, which should see the player lead the line providing he overcomes a minor back problem, looking to add to his goal tally this term – including three in his last two games.
Unai Emery‘s men returned to winning ways against a beleaguered Fulham side on New Years’s Day, but a meeting with the Irons will likely present a far sterner test for a side who have caused problems for the visitors in the past.
Both Arnautovic and joint-top Premier League scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be on show here in Stratford, where goals should be on the menu, particularly with the pace of Felipe Anderson for the hosts.
Goals have indeed been the narrative for much of Arsenal’s season and this should be no different. I do however, expect the Gunners to earn a hard-fought three points, but it will not be an easy task.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-2 Arsenal
Niall’s One to Watch: Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers (Monday, 20:00)
Three losses in the opening half of the season has meant that Wolves’ performance against the Champions has been somewhat overlooked. Can they repeat it at the Etihad when these two teams go at it again on Monday evening?
What was most impressive about Wolves’ performance against City at Molineux was that they stuck to their game despite facing one of the best teams in Europe. That has been a staple of their time in the Premier League thus far and a result they have managed to get some good results against the top six.
Manchester City are seemingly past their winter slump and having beaten Liverpool last time out, they are now only four points off the top of the Premier League. There is little doubt Pep Guardiola is one of the best tactical managers in the world and he will have looked at the reverse fixture to see how Wolves managed to have success against his side and look to prevent that happening again.
The Citizens are a force everywhere, but at home is where they are at their best. Wolves will be game and can make this a more competitive fixture than many will expect, but the chances of them repeating the previous draw are not good with the hosts having scored an astonishing 18 goals since the turn of the year.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Premier League Gameweek 22 Game of the Week sees Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
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