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Premier League and Carabao Cup final: 10 things to look out for this weekend

first_img1) Wenger seeks carriage clockEven those in Arsenal’s “Leave” camp might indulge Arsène Wenger’s chance to tick off missing items in his résumé. Winning the Europa League would end a sorry story in European finals: Wenger holds the unenviable record of defeats in each of the three competitions he has contested. The League Cup has been almost as cruel, even if Wenger has used the competition as work placement for youngsters. A selection including teenagers Theo Walcott and Cesc Fàbregas was eventually overpowered by a full-bore Chelsea team and a Didier Drogba winner in 2007’s final, and his team were also beaten in 2011. “They are destroyed,” said Wenger aftera communication breakdown between keeper Wojciech Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny allowed Obafemi Martins to score Birmingham City’s late winner. Beating Manchester City would bury those ghosts from Wenger’s wilderness period, during which Arsenal went nine years without silverware. And winning at Wembley on Sunday and in Lyon in May might even convince him it is finally time to pull the curtain down. JB• ‘We were too complacent,’ says Wenger after Östersund scare• Östersund, the club with ‘no history and no ideas’ that took on Europe2) The Mourinho v Conte meetingJosé Mourinho and Antonio Conte never really buried the hatchet after their big blow-up earlier in the season and with their sides clashing in a crucial showdown after a week when both were involved in taxing Champions League encounters, the managers’ interaction on the Old Trafford touchline should be fascinating. United have been criticised for their pragmatic approach in drawing with Sevilla but Mourinho will not care in the slightest as long as they come through the second leg. He may be tempted to take the same approach against his opponents on Sunday given Chelsea find themselves three points behind and clinging on to fourth place after a poor run. In the blue corner, Conte looked like he had rediscovered some of his mojo in the draw with Barcelona on Tuesday and will no doubt relish the opportunity to put one over his predecessor. Whether Eden Hazard makes way for a conventional No 9 like Álvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud after being surprisingly handed an advanced role against Barça could determine who is left smiling come Sunday teatime. EA• Chelsea forward Batshuayi accuses Atalanta fans of racism• Conte says he needs to settle differences with Chelsea board to stay Liverpool could hit the ground running on their return from a warm-weather break in Marbella Photograph: Diogo Baptista/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire/Rex/Shutterstock Read more Ten things to look out for this weekend Facebook Twitter Listen Share on WhatsApp Share on Twitter features Jürgen Locadia opened the scoring against Coventry City last weekend. Photograph: DigitalSouthSHM/Rex/Shutterstock Topics Manchester United were dull but does Mourinho have a duty to entertain? Share via Email Pinterest Pinterest 9) Burnley to end their mid-season stall?By the time Burnley kick off against Southampton at 3pm on Saturday, Leicester’s earlier match against Stoke may have dropped Sean Dyche’s team to eighth. Burnley’s descent would be a long time coming; they are bottom of the form table, having collected just two points from their last six matches. They did hold Manchester City 1-1 at home, but fatigue has set in. There have been no victories since 12 December, when beating Stoke lifted them to fourth. Dyche, handed a £15m new contract last month, has been waiting to eclipse last season’s total of 40 points for too long; they have been crawling to the 36 they have now. “This is a team that have got injuries,” Dyche said this week, though the treatment room is emptying. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton is back from a shoulder problem to challenge Nick Pope, revelatory since stepping in for the club captain in September. Striker Chris Wood is also fit, but the continuing absences of Robbie Brady, Jon Walters and Steven Defour, all with knee injuries, supply further reasons for the ongoing slump. JB• The Rumour Mill: Sterling to Real Madrid? Darmian to Juventus?center_img 10) Bournemouth and Newcastle looking for safetyNeither Bournemouth nor Newcastle have played for two weeks. Eddie Howe’s side have had timeto stew after a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Huddersfield, while their visitors this Saturday are entitled to remain high on the hog following their splendid victory over Manchester United. Neither team is safe, but Newcastle have long been considered the more likely contenders for the drop. If they can build on momentum generated by the most recent and impressive of a run of three matches without defeat, they will be level on points with a Bournemouth side who seem likely to welcome Jermain Defoe back from injury. Sidelined with a fractured ankle since shortly before Christmas, the striker may well feature on the bench at the Vitality Stadium. With just three league goals from nine starts and six substitute appearances, he seems unlikely to start many games in what is left of the season. BG• The Knowledge: What is the longest acrostic spelled out in a football table? Reuse this content Share on Pinterest Messi at Chelsea, messy at Wigan and much more – Football Weekly Extra Premier League Twitter 4) Evans flip-flop endemic of Pardew’s loose styleJonny Evans previously occupied a special place in West Brom supporters’ hearts. Many will tell you he is the club’s best player since those late-1970s and early-1980s days when Cyrille Regis, Tony Brown, Laurie Cunningham and Bryan Robson bestrode the Hawthorns. There have been some fallow times in the Black Country since that era, with West Brom down the divisions, but Evans’s class in possession and positional sense cast him as a thoroughbred, mature and responsible. Then came Barcelona. Last Saturday’s FA Cup defeat to Southampton saw Evans stripped of the captaincy and barracked by fans in the Smethwick End yet the armband has been returned for Saturday’s home match with Huddersfield. That swift reinstatement would seem endemic of Alan Pardew’s loose, indulgent management style, which has delivered a single Premier League victory in 13 matches, and dropped the Baggies to the bottom of the table. Pardew is very probably doomed in the near future, while Evans has severe making up to do to those who previously idolised him. JB• ‘God teaches us to forgive’: Pardew reinstates Evans as captain5) A more intense Stoke City?Paul Lambert has declared himself content with the five points Stoke have garnered from four matches on his watch, but they remain in the relegation zone and, by their new(ish) manager’s own admission, dropped three points against Bournemouth and Brighton that could have lifted them higher up the table. Despite this profligacy, Lambert has every right to feel pleased with Stoke’s progress since he took over and they seem likely to kick on; without a match for two weeks, they have been able to improve their fitness and stamina, and should now be more capable of the intensity he insists will propel them to safety. Reports from Clayton Wood suggest Stoke’s players were running their legs into stumps as rivals West Brom lorded it up in Barcelona, which ought to help in the battle for survival. “They’re giving us everything that’s been in their bodies,” said Lambert of a set of players who now face two eminently winnable away fixtures against Leicester and Southampton. Taking four or more points from those would make a run of four games against Manchester City, Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham considerably less daunting. BG• Messi at Chelsea, messy at Wigan and much more – Football Weekly Extra Messi at Chelsea, messy at Wigan and much more – Football Weekly Extra Share on Messenger Share on Facebook 3) Liverpool out to debunk myths and end Hammers hoodooThe football writer Andrew Beasley wrote a very good article recently in which he debunked the long-standing perception that it is “typical” of Liverpool to beat strong teams while struggling against weaker ones. Beasley drew on hard data and firm logic to make his case and ultimately it was a convincing one. Saying that, given Liverpool followed up their 4-3 win over Manchester City last month with a 1-0 defeat at Swansea City, it would not be a surprise if some supporters are anxious about how a team that hammered Porto 5-0 in their last outing performs against West Ham at Anfield on Saturday – particularly as Liverpool have failed to win any of their past three home games against the London side. Now really is the time to change that given how tight the race is for a top-four place and the opportunity that presents itself to Liverpool – a relatively straightforward fixture on the same weekend that rivals Manchester United and Chelsea are facing each other while another, Arsenal, are not in league action. A march is there to be made by Jürgen Klopp’s team and, coming off a warm-weather break in Marbella, they should be in the right shape, mentally as well as physically, to seize the chance. SN• Liverpool push past United to Uefa Youth League quarter-finals• Firmino cleared by FA over Holgate racism allegations Listen 6) The Tosun one?Temperatures are dropping again across the country, which isn’t great news for Cenk Tosun because he cannot play football when it’s cold. Not my words but those of Sam Allardyce when explaining why the striker has featured so little for Everton since joining from Besiktas in January. There have been only two starts and one 12-minute substitute appearance for the 26-year-old Turkey international, leading to bafflement among Evertonians and baffling reasoning on the part of their manager. “When it is chucking it down with rain – it is not that he is not used to it, he is – but it’s freezing,” were Allardyce’s exact words when asked why Tosun is struggling to get a look in. One wonders if a player who has scored four times in this season’s Champions League may get another opportunity to impress for Everton when they travel to Watford on Saturday. Given Javi Gracia’s side have kept only one clean sheet in their past six games, this would be the ideal moment for Tosun to get off the mark for his new side. SN• Firmino cleared by FA over Holgate racism allegations7) Spurs seek to sustain surge at PalaceThe Premier League’s form side have collected more points (15) since the turn of the year than anyone else, and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping they can maintain that as the season reaches its denouement. Spurs have ended the campaign strongly in the last two years, amassing nine successive victories between Christmas and Easter in 2016-17 as they came up short behind Chelsea, and were similarly impressive the previous season. “I don’t know what it is about this time of year but it’s probably all about how we train,” said Christian Eriksen this week. “We work hard, especially in pre-season and we really pick up this time of year.” Their recent performances in the victory over Arsenal and the 2-2 draw against Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League tie should add to Tottenham’s swagger in Sunday’s game with Crystal Palace, which has been rearranged from Monday night to accommodate the FA Cup replay against Rochdale – as should the injury-hit Eagles’ run of four matches without victory. EA• Tottenham have capacity to win the Champions League, says Moura8) Locadia to sharpen focus against SwanseaIt’s been an eventful few months in the life of Jürgen Locadia. The part-time singer and musician will be expected to focus on his day job after becoming Brighton’s record £14m signing from PSV during the January window, and made a promising debut against Coventry City in the FA Cup last weekend. His first appearance had been delayed by a hamstring injury, but he scored and hit the woodwork as he wreaked havoc in the Coventry penalty area during a lively first half, before visibly tiring after the interval. The very early signs suggest Locadia could provide the cutting edge Brighton require to maintain their Premier League status. Saturday’s opponents Swansea are likely to be tougher than Coventry, but the 24-year-old is almost certain to kick on in the wake of last weekend’s run-out, his first in more than two months. BG• What a difference 12 months make as Brighton talk switches to survival• Hughton calls on own experience to sustain Brighton’s run in FA Cup Facebook Share on LinkedInlast_img read more