Newcastle United vs Aston Villa: Can Toon capitalise on Grealish absence? - Premier League Preview
Newcastle United kick off this weekend’s Premier League action with a visit from Aston Villa on Friday evening.
The Magpies go into this one just one point outside of the relegation places, and are still without key trio Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin, and Miguel Almiron.
Likewise, Villa will be without star man Jack Grealish but will be hoping that they still have enough to pick up a first win in three to move level on points with Liverpool in eighth.
We’ve had a look at some of the biggest talking points ahead of this weekend's Premier League action below:
Newcastle United vs Aston Villa: Can Toon capitalise on Grealish absence?
With both sides missing their key attacking talents for this clash, it could be like watching two knights joust with foam pool noodles.
Villa boss Dean Smith confirmed on Thursday that while his meticulously-groomed talisman is nearing fitness, Friday’s trip to Tyneside will come too soon for him.
Speaking in a press conference, he said: “Jack Grealish is a lot better, but you won’t see him at Newcastle unfortunately.
"It hasn’t helped that he’s been ill this week, which has kept him off for a couple of days.”
As for Steve Bruce’s Magpies, they will still be without the creative Cerberus of Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin, and Miguel Almiron, and the Toon Army will have to be a lot sharper on the front foot than they were in last weekend’s dire 0-0 stalemate against West Brom.
If there's one silver lining for the under-fire United boss, however, it’s that an empty stadium should mean that he is safe from flying cabbages – whether that be from the home or the away end.
Leeds United vs Chelsea: Will Bielsa's men throw a spanner in the works for revitalised Blues?
Saturday’s early kick-off sees Leeds play host to Thomas Tuchel’s newly revitalised Chelsea side.
The Whites will probably just be glad that this one isn’t taking place in the capital, especially after losing a fraught clash with West Ham on Monday night to perpetuate the hoodoo surrounding their so-called ‘London Curse’.
If there was one bonus to be taken from that defeat against the Hammers, however, it was the return of midfield general Kalvin Phillips.
The Yorkshire Pirlo has been sublime since stepping up to the Premier League, and Marcelo Bielsa’s side always look much the better for his inclusion.
To get anything from this one he and his teammates will need to be at their absolute best too.
It's all been very Vorsprung durch Technik at Stamford Bridge since Tuchel took over from Frank Lampard earlier this year, but it’s safe to say that the German coach won’t have come up against a challenge quite like the one Leeds should offer him this weekend.
Crystal Palace vs West Brom: Is Fireman Sam about to have survival hopes extinguished?
In life, there are but three certainties: death, taxes, and Big Sam Allardyce beating the drop.
Or at least that’s how it looked prior to him taken over at West Brom partway through this season.
In truth, since day one it has looked as if the Premier League’s ultimate escapologist might have bitten off more than he can chew at The Hawthorns, and as he continues to wriggle and writhe in his padlocked burlap sack, his side are lowering ever closer to the shark tank of relegation.
Last Sunday’s clash with Newcastle United was a golden opportunity missed to secure three points, and if the Baggies can’t scrape a win against Crystal Palace in Saturday’s 3pm kick-off, it could be curtains for the top flight’s most sought after firefighter.
Everton vs Burnley: Can Toffees continue European march?
If you’d have offered Everton fans the opportunity to be two spots above Liverpool with 11 games to play at the beginning of the campaign, they would have bitten your hand off.
Increasingly under Carlo Ancelotti, however, the Blues are beginning to resemble something of a football powerhouse in their own right, and what better way to reiterate their newfound status as a major player than by securing Champions League football this term?
Admittedly, defeat to Chelsea on Monday night was a bump in the road, but the Toffees are still very much in this race, and will fancy their chances against a Burnley side who have failed to win in any of their previous five.
It’s never a good idea to bet against Sean Dyche’s men though, and with the threat of relegation still looming large, expect the Clarets to be fired up for their trip to Merseyside.
Fulham vs Manchester City: Can Cottagers cause a second major upset?
Every season it feels as if there is one Premier League side who rally to pull themselves out of the relegation dogfight at the final moment, and this year it really does look as if Fulham are the club who will get out of it.
Scott Parker's men were in fine form going into last weekend’s clash with Liverpool, and a stunning 1-0 win over the champions at Anfield has massively aided their survival hopes.
Granted, the Reds have been handing out three points at a rate that makes the DVLA look like amateurs, but still, it was a huge achievement that puts them in a strong position going into the last quarter of the campaign.
A meeting with Man City should make for another mammoth task for the Cottagers, but Parker will be hoping his plucky squad can pull off another suitably massive shock on Sunday.
Southampton vs Brighton: Can Albion rediscover their goal-scoring touch?
You don’t have to look very far to identify the root of Brighton’s issues this season.
The Seagulls have averaged a goal per game in the Premier League so far, but their xG has been nearly double that figure, coming in at 1.8.
Sooner or later, that kind of wastefulness is going to come back to haunt you, and Graham Potter's men are now clear of the relegation zone by goal difference alone.
Thankfully, they come up against a Southampton side who have shipped the second-highest amount of goals in the division so far this term, and with a tricky run of fixtures against some of the league’s heaviest hitters just around the corner, this is a winnable match that Albion must, well, win.
Leicester City vs Sheffield United: Do the Blades have any fight left in them?
If this season were a heavyweight prizefight, you get distinct impression that Sheffield United's corner would be getting very very close to chucking in the towel.
At times in recent weeks the Blades have shown glimpses of the moxie that made them so successful last term, but those moments have been few and far between, and a defeat against Leicester on Sunday would leave them at least 12 points adrift with just nine matches to play.
It’s sad to admit, but Chris Wilder’s men could be down for the count.
Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur: The tamest North London derby on record?
It’s been quite some time since Arsenal vs Spurs was a little more than a mid-table encounter, and while Jose Mourinho and his men would probably argue that they are still in the hunt for a top four spot, their general malaise at times this season makes it hard to look at them as anything more than outsiders.
The Gunners’ season has been farcical for large spells, and a calamitous error last weekend from apparent die-hard Burnley fan Granit Xhaka was emblematic of a campaign that has veered far too often into ridiculousness.
Still, derby day is usually a point at which the burning fires of resentment ignite even the dampest of fuses.
This time, however, it’s hard to see what there is to get overly worked up about this time around.
Manchester United vs West Ham: Hasn’t Moyesy done well?
For a long period of time, David Moyes was written off as a has-been.
Doomed spell after doomed spell at club after club left many questioning whether he still had what it takes to cut it at the top level, or indeed, if he ever had it at all.
The Scot’s jinx really began when he took over the reins at Old Trafford in the aftermath of Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
Regarded by many as a like for like replacement, a Fergie-lite if you will, little was made of the fact that, in truth, United were something of a poisoned chalice by that point, with an ageing, creaking squad that was inevitably going to collapse under the weight of expectation at some point.
Some might even say that Ferguson, the great tactical schemer that he was, got out while he could.
But finally, after years in the wilderness, Moyes has been able to redeem himself this season at West Ham.
The Irons are, somewhat incredibly, genuine contenders for a Champions League place this term. Anybody who claims that they saw their enormous success coming is either a liar or a time traveller, it's that simple.
If Moyes can pick up another valuable three points here, he would take a massive step towards realising an impossible dream at the London Stadium.
Wolves vs Liverpool: Can Klopp’s men save some face?
As unimaginable as it would have been even three months ago, Liverpool probably aren’t going to make the top four.
It’s not impossible that they do, of course, not by a long way, but the fact is that the odds are stacked against them.
With that in mind, this season is now about damage limitation and a potential run in the Champions League.
To build the foundation for either, the Reds must start winning again, and a Wolves side who themselves have underwhelmed this term should make for relatively beatable opponents on Monday night.