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Chelsea, United battle to stay in touch with runaway City

London (AFP) – Chelsea and Manchester United go head to head this weekend in a match neither club dare lose as Manchester City entertain Arsenal eyeing a chance to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola’s unbeaten City are smashing records with impunity and are already five points clear of Jose Mourinho’s United after nine wins in 10 games.

Elsewhere, Tottenham will look to build on their impressive 3-1 win against European champions Real Madrid in midweek and Liverpool will attempt to stay on the coattails of the Premier League pacesetters at West Ham.

Here are five things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend:

Can Chelsea rediscover their hunger?

Chelsea turned last season’s Premier League race into a procession but it’s been a different story this time around, with three defeats already — they only lost five matches in the whole of last season. 

Manager Antonio Conte criticised his side after they crashed 3-0 in Rome this week, saying they “lacked everything”, though they are still likely to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages.

Chelsea are already nine points behind leaders Manchester City and defeat against United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday would leave them with an impossible-looking task.

“We must find the hunger we showed all of last season, and sometimes this season,” said Conte. “But this season has been up and down. We need to find consistency.”

Will Mourinho attack Chelsea?

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho was lambasted for his cautious tactics in a 0-0 bore draw at Anfield last month, with critics saying he had missed a trick by failing to test Liverpool’s suspect defence.

Since then they have laboured to a couple of wins against Benfica in the Champions League and beaten Spurs 1-0 on home turf in the Premier League, as well as losing to Huddersfield.

Ex-Chelsea boss Mourinho, who held a finger to his lips and told the doubters to calm down after his side beat Spurs last weekend, is unlikely to be persuaded to depart from his pragmatic game plan against Chelsea even though Conte’s men are coming into the match on the back of a poor defensive display against Roma. 

How far can Aguero go?

Sergio Aguero, who this week became Manchester City’s all-time record goalscorer with 178 strikes, would be the stand-out star at many Premier League clubs. 

But it is a measure of the attacking riches at Guardiola’s disposal that he has to share star billing with a host of other quicksilver forwards. 

Aguero is some way down the goalscoring charts, at 12th on the Premier League list, well behind Alan Shearer at the top on 260 goals.

But it is his strike rate that catches the eye. The Argentine, who arrived at City from Atletico Madrid in 2011, averages 0.69 goals per match, well ahead of Shearer (0.59) and just ahead of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (0.68).

“What he has achieved has made him a legend. He’s gone down in history, so I would tell him to enjoy,” said Guardiola, whose side face Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday.

Can Everton stop the rot?

Managerless Everton, who host Watford at home on Sunday, are in freefall and must find a way to arrest their slide.

The Merseyside club, who boast a proud record of being ever-present in the English top-flight since 1954, find themselves in the relegation zone with only two Premier League wins.

Caretaker boss David Unsworth, in charge since Ronald Koeman was sacked, has pleaded for the new manager to be given time to turn things around.

“Whoever gets the honour of being Everton boss, including me, needs time with this set of players,” he said.

Can Burnley gatecrash the party?

The Premier League has a familiar look after 10 matches with the “Big Six” in the top six spots. But lurking just outside that gilded group are Burnley, level with Liverpool on 16 points.

The club’s away form has caught the eye, including an opening day victory against Chelsea and an impressive draw against Tottenham at Wembley.

Sean Dyche, who takes his team to Southampton on Saturday, is refusing to get carried away.

“We are earning respect, a side that feels like it can do what the Premier League needs, but there’s still work to be done,” he said. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’ve made a good start but there’s a long race to go.”

Fixtures (kick-offs 1500 GMT unless stated):


Huddersfield v West Brom, Newcastle v Bournemouth, Southampton v Burnley, Stoke v Leicester (1230), Swansea v Brighton, West Ham v Liverpool (1730)


Chelsea v Man Utd (1630), Manchester City v Arsenal (1415), Tottenham v Crystal Palace (1200), Everton v Watford (1630)

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