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Partey in derby race; Lampard and Bielsa Spygate reunion; Solskjaer’s latest crisis - talking points

James Robson,Simon Collings,Jack Rosser,Malik Ouzia and Dan Kilpatrick
·6-min read
 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

It was a good week for English clubs in Europe, with six of the Premier League’s seven representatives already guaranteed to be playing knockout football after Christmas.

Now attention turns back to another set of domestic fixtures, headlined by Sunday’s north London derby.

Here are the big talking points ahead of the weekend action…

Partey faces race to be fit for north London derby

Jose Mourinho, if he is to believed, has been sweating over the fitness of Harry Kane ahead of Sunday’s north London derby. But Mikel Arteta has had his own fitness worries to contend with.

Thomas Partey has been working all week to get fit as he has not played since injuring his thigh at the start of November. The Ghanaian is desperate to feature at Spurs and has been pushing all week to be involved. He is due to train on Saturday with the team for the first time and then a decision will be made if he can make the squad. Simon Collings.

Spurs fans to return

Jose Mourinho has passionately challenged Tottenham fans to "wear the shirt and play the game" when they return to the stadium for Sunday's derby, suggesting he is wary of the danger of the occasion falling flat.

The 2,000 fans will all be in Tottenham's single-tier South Stand behind the goal, which was designed to maximise acoustics. They should be able to make plenty of noise but with so few in the cavernous stadium, groans of frustration will be just as evident as cries of support. That could work in Arsenal's favour if they can find a way to frustrate their high-flying hosts, so it will be intriguing to see what impact supporters have on the match. Dan Kilpatrick.

Solskjaer’s latest ‘crisis’

As Manchester United plan their trip to West Ham, they come up against a former manager who has finally rehabilitated himself after his Old Trafford nightmare. David Moyes will know precisely how Solskjaer is feeling as the Norwegian teeters from one crisis to the next.

But don’t expect West Ham’s boss to show him any generosity on the day. United have had a bad time at the London Stadium - losing in humiliating fashion on their last two visits. Third time lucky? James Robson.

Parker hoping hard work isn’t undone within space of a week

After beating Leicester City on Monday night, Fulham are on a high. But if there was one game that could bring them back down to earth with a bump then it is a trip to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side dismantled Burnley last weekend and they will be hoping to do the same to Fulham as well.

Parker will be desperate to make sure that isn’t the case. Fulham’s morale has, at times, been low this season and they can’t face it collapsing again - particularly after that big win over Leicester. “We haven’t won many games but when you get a positive result against a tough team it helps,” said Parker. Simon Collings.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Zidane in peril at Real

Zinedine Zidane faces a crucial week as he fights to save his job at Real Madrid. Real are facing an early Champions League exit after they were beaten 2-0 by Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday and their defence their Spanish title has derailed after taking one point from three games.

They play Sevilla on Saturday before facing Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Wednesday knowing they must win to be sure of progress to the knockout stage. They then meet Madrid rivals Atletico next weekend. With Mauricio Pochettino top of a shortlist of possible replacements, Zidane’s position is perilous. Malik Ouzia.

Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Musiala hoping to build on Champions League start by downing RB Leipzig

By now we are getting used to young English talent thriving in Germany. Jadon Sancho led the way and now others are following suit. Jamal Musiala is certainly one of those and the 17-year-old is already making a name for himself.

The England Under-21 international got his first Champions League start on Tuesday, playing 76 minutes in the 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid. He impressed too, earning praise from his manager Hansi Flick - who now has a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s top of the table Bundesliga clash with RB Leipzig. Simon Collings.

Action Images via Reuters
Action Images via Reuters

Moyes set to return to Haller

West Ham rode their luck in beating Aston Villa on Monday night. All at the London Stadium know they'll have to do better if they are going to get a result against Manchester United this weekend.

Manager David Moyes opted to bring Michail Antonio straight back into the side against Villa, but it was clear the forward was not fully fit and the 30-year-old was hooked at half-time, before being ruled out of Saturday’s clash.

Now Moyes looks certain to bring Sebastien Haller back in. The club record signing has been improved of late but struggles for goals when the Hammers play three at the back, as they will do against United tomorrow. Jack Rosser.

West Ham United FC via Getty Ima
West Ham United FC via Getty Ima

Beef with Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa won’t have needed to deploy any spies around Cobham to know just what a threat Chelsea pose. The Leeds manager, who infuriated Frank Lampard’s Derby during the whole ‘Spygate’ episode a couple of years back, will be well aware if the task that faces his team this weekend.

Lampard was able to drop nine players in Seville in the Champions League midweek and still won 4-0. It was the perfect way to mess with Bielsa’s mind ahead of Leeds’ trip to Stamford Bridge. With that much strength in depth, it’s almost impossible to predict Chelsea’s starting line up. James Robson.

<p>Lampard clashed with Bielsa over the ‘Spygate’ incident in his Derby County days</p>Getty Images

Lampard clashed with Bielsa over the ‘Spygate’ incident in his Derby County days

Getty Images

Palace must find attacking verve

After two games, two defeats and no goals, Roy Hodgson knows Crystal Palace need to get on the front foot this weekend. The Eagles face West Brom on Sunday and having fallen short against Burnley and Newcastle will be desperate to ensure they don't come out of a run of winnable matches with nothing to show.

The return of Wilfried Zaha after his positive Covid test should aid their cause, but after consecutive sloppy starts Hodgson has been calling on his squad to step up and show some confidence ahead of their trip to the Hawthorns. Jack Rosser.

Getty Images
Getty Images

In-form strikers do battle

The two top scorers in the Championship meet at Brentford on Saturday. Adam Armstrong has scored 14 goals for Blackburn Rovers and Ivan Toney now has 13 goals since his £10million move to Brentford over the summer.

After a slow start to the season, Brentford are really clicking into gear under Thomas Frank and beginning to look like the real deal. The Bees have won three in row, are unbeaten in eight matches and are now just two points off leaders Norwich after Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Rotherham. If Toney keeps up his red-hot form in front of goal, they will surely be in the automatic promotion mix come the end of the season. Malik Ouzia.

Getty Images
Getty Images

This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League.

Terms: Min £10 Same Game Multi bet on any EPL match this Fri - Sun. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded at bet settlement. Excludes cashed out bets. T&Cs apply.

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