SINGAPORE — What are the key matches and storylines to look out for in the next round of English Premier League (EPL) action? Yahoo News Singapore lists the top three:
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Liverpool vs Everton (Sunday, 1.30am Singapore time)
One of the "sliding door" moments of this EPL season came in the reverse fixture of this classic Merseyside derby: What if Jordan Pickford had not slammed into Virgil van Dijk and probably ended the Liverpool star defender's season?
Would the defending champions have struggled so mightily had the Dutchman not suffered the anterior cruciate ligament injury? Would Liverpool still be mired in a lengthy injury list? Would their title defence be still on track, and not be derailed after a dire run of two wins in their last 10 matches?
Certainly, the clash had left a lot of bad blood among the two arch rivals, with Liverpool players and manager Jurgen Klopp repeatedly questioning Pickford's actions, and why he was not shown the red card for that horrendous tackle.
As the two sides prepare for Sunday's clash, it is perhaps just as well that Anfield will not have a baying, hostile crowd. Merseyside derbies are notorious for having plenty of red-card offences, and a crowd baying for blood could adversely affect the players.
Both sides badly need a win too. Liverpool have tumbled from top spot to sixth place after their poor run of results, and badly need to stop their three-match losing streak to harbour hopes of regaining Champions League qualification next season.
A 2-0 midweek win over RB Leipzig in that competition would have given a big boost to their brittle confidence, and the Reds will be hoping they can build upon that victory.
Everton are also struggling with only two wins in their last eight EPL matches, especially during recent losses to relegation strugglers Newcastle and Fulham. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has criticised his team for lacking the fighting spirit needed to keep up their challenge for European qualification.
They lie one spot and three points behind Liverpool, with a game in hand, and a win would certainly give the Toffees the impetus to push on and do better than their city rivals this season.
Can they? Signs point to a Liverpool win, given their sparkling performance against Leipzig that also gave them a much-needed clean sheet after several error-strewn matches by their patched-up defence. However, this is the Merseyside derby, and as the reverse fixture showed, the fierce contest will make even the most unflappable players lose their minds.
SCORE PREDICTION: Liverpool 1 Everton 0.
Arsenal vs Manchester City (Monday, 12.30am)
The student welcomes the mentor, as Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta prepares to face league leaders Manchester City and their manager Pep Guardiola, whom he had shaped his coaching philosophy on after three-years as their assistant manager.
A brilliant 4-2 over Leeds United last weekend, courtesy of a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hat-trick, as at least placed the Gunners in a confident mood ahead of the daunting match. Man City, after all, are on a 12-match winning run in the league and opened up a massive 10-point lead atop the EPL table.
After struggling early in the season, Guardiola's side have clearly rediscovered their imperious form that made them consecutive champions in 2017/18 and 2018/19. With stalwarts Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero returning from injury, their strikeforce is scarily good – with the likes of Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling all on song.
And then there is their much-improved defence, helmed by the underrated Ruben Dias, which has conceded just twice in the past nine matches. Undoubtedly, Man City are odds-on favourites to win their third title in four years.
Yet, on their day, the Gunners could worry City with their youthful energy, with Aubameyang ably supported by three burgeoning talents in Buyako Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe and new signing Martin Odegaard.
Still, City have found a way to win their games, much like how Liverpool did last season. And Arsenal are unlikely to have the guile to stop Guardiola's side from taking another major step to the title.
SCORE PREDICTION: Arsenal 0 Manchester City 2.
Manchester United vs Newcastle (Monday, 3am)
They are the closest challengers to Manchester City at the top of the EPL table, yet Manchester United could find themselves out of the title chase if they do not pick up their sputtering form soon.
Three draws and a loss in their last five matches had widened the gap between the two Manchester clubs to a yawning 10 points, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be frustrated at how his side failed to cling on to top spot after a superb 13-match unbeaten run.
That said, this weekend's clash against a dire Newcastle side gives them a great opportunity to go back to winning ways. The Magpies suffered a crushing blow with news that key striker Callum Wilson will be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury.
That put a huge dampener on what seemed like an uptick in form for Newcastle, with recent wins over Southampton and Everton stemming the alarming slide into relegation trouble.
They are only six points above Fulham, which occupy the final relegation spot, and Wilson's injury has fans dreading the prospect of being sucked into a dogfight for EPL survival with Fulham.
A shock win at Old Trafford will definitely ease all the tensions within the club, but it seems as unlikely as Magpies owner Mike Ashley finding a prospective buyer for the club this season.
SCORE PREDICTION: Manchester United 4 Newcastle 1.
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