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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Liverpool host Manchester City as English Premier League returns

AFP , Friday 12 Jan 2018
Liverpool
Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne Reuters
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The Premier League returns this weekend after an FA Cup hiatus with a heavyweight clash between Liverpool and Manchester City while Arsenal cannot afford to be cut adrift in the race for Champions League places.

Chelsea take on Leicester in a clash of the past two winners of the Premier League, Spurs host Everton, second-placed Manchester United play Stoke and Arsenal, in sixth spot, travel to Bournemouth.

Here are some of the main talking points ahead of the action:

Liverpool start post-Coutinho era

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool host Manchester City on Sunday in the first match since Philippe Coutinho's big-money transfer to Barcelona. The club's "Fab Four" of the Brazilian, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have terrorised opposition defences this season.

Liverpool have scored 50 goals in the Premier League, second only to Manchester City, and five more than second-placed Manchester United.

And they have shored up their suspect defence by paying an eye-watering £75 million to Southampton for defender Virgil Van Dijk. Klopp hailed Coutinho's "professionalism" as the Brazilian secured his dream move. On paper the team still have plenty of goals in them but have they lost the player who made them tick?

Will City come unstuck at swashbuckling Liverpool?

The sides who have most troubled Manchester City this season are those who have sat deep and conceded possession to Pep Guardiola's slick Premier League leaders.

City had a spell when they needed a succession of late goals to see off their opponents, with narrow victories against Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham. But Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, even without the departed Philippe Coutinho, are unlikely to hold back at Anfield, where the home crowd will demand they take the game to City.

Liverpool boast an array of exciting attacking talent but Klopp will have to find a way of knitting it together in the absence of the departed Brazilian. An attacking approach could favour City but if Liverpool find their mojo there could be an upset.

Can spurs keep their biggest stars?

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is adamant the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli are going nowhere but can he withstand the pressure in the cut-throat world of top-level football where the natural pecking order usually asserts itself eventually?

Kane has hinted that Spurs will need to match his ambitions if they wish to hang on to him. "I've always said, just keep progressing, keep getting better," Kane said. "We want to start winning trophies so that's the aim. As long as the club keeps doing that then I'm happy here."

There is no suggestion that home-grown Kane is agitating for a move, with the club on the verge of moving to a new stadium but Levy sounds confident he can keep the circling sharks at bay. "I'm 100 per cent confident," he said. "Every single player that we want to keep, I can assure you will be playing for Tottenham Hotspur next season."

Leicester Could Face Former Midfield At Chelsea

Leicester's Premier League-winning midfield of Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante could line up together against their former team for the first time this weekend. The pair were instrumental in Leicester's 2015-16 title triumph alongside Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez but have both since decamped to Stamford Bridge, where Kante became a title winner again last season.

"One of the reasons Danny is here is because he won the title with N'Golo two years ago," said Chelsea boss Antonio Conte after his side recently demolished Stoke.

Drinkwater praised Kante after he joined the London club. "I played with N'Golo for a season and there was not really a game I didn’t enjoy playing next to him... I think we hit it off from the first game and after that we did not really lose. He is a top lad, the most down-to-earth person you will meet."

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