League leaders Manchester City against Chelsea and the north-London derby are two of the highlights of the Premier League in a weekend affected by the African Cup of Nations.
Any slim hopes Chelsea have to getting back into the title race rest on them taking all three points from their visit to the Etihad Stadium. Thomas Tuchel’s side can take heart from their qualification for the Carabao Cup final during the week, but will be without Reece James, Andreas Christensen and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy (who has Covid-19) for the game.
Manchester City will be missing John Stones, while Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling are also doubts due to coronavirus.
The other two big games of the weekend are on Sunday, with Tottenham at home to Arsenal in what looks to be an interesting north-London derby.
Although Tottenham were knocked out of the Carabao Cup semi-finals by Chelsea during the week, they will be keen to show their recent improvement under Antonio Conte against an Arsenal side that currently sits fifth in the table and who held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield this week.
Liverpool will be optimistic of keeping pace in the title race as they play at home to Brentford, who were on the wrong end of a 4-1 thrashing to Southampton during the week.
Jurgen Klopp’s team is handicapped by the loss of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Nabi Keita, who are all playing in Cameroon and Divok Origi and Thiago Alcantara both sidelined, this and the coming games will be a stiff test of the depth of Liverpool’s squad, reports Xinhua.
There is a huge game at St James’ Park, where Newcastle will have new signings Chris Wood and Kieran Trippier making their Premier League debuts in a massive relegation clash against Watford.
Trippier played in Newcastle’s defeat to third division Cambridge United last weekend in the FA Cup and his new side will need to improve on that display, although Wood should add some weight to an attack missing Callum Wilson.
It’s been a difficult week for Rafael Benitez at Everton after Lucas Digne’s departure to Aston Villa and defeat away to the bottom of the table Norwich would further complicate life for a coach who is very unpopular with Everton supporters.
Aston Villa could hand starts to Digne and Philippe Coutinho when they entertain Manchester United on Saturday. The game gives Villa a rapid opportunity to avenge last Monday’s FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford in a game where Steven Gerrard’s side was arguably the better.
Saturday also sees Wolverhampton Wanderers at home to Southampton, who travel boosted by their win at home to Brentford, while the home side has lost Romain Saiss to ACN duty.
Fourth place West Ham take on Leeds on Sunday with the visitors needing to keep an eye on West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen, who is currently pushing for an England call-up. Bowen began his career at Leeds, before moving to Hull City as a youngster prior to his transfer to West Ham two years ago.