Manchester United travel to Tottenham on Saturday desperate to stay in touch with the Premier League’s top four as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City threaten to break away from the pack.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is clinging to his job after United’s humiliating 5-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool last week. His side have taken just one point from the past 12 on offer.
Leaders Chelsea, Liverpool and defending champions City all have winnable matches this weekend while Leicester and Arsenal go head to head in an intriguing battle between two sides who have found their form.
AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the action.
Solskjaer on the brink
Solskjaer called his team’s humbling by Jurgen Klopp’s men at Old Trafford his “darkest day” as Red Devils boss.
The Norwegian has reportedly been given three games to save his job but the fixtures are daunting – trips to Tottenham and Atalanta before a derby against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The Liverpool drubbing came a year after 10-man United collapsed to a 6-1 home defeat against Spurs.
“This is miles worse,” Solskjaer said. “We have big games coming up, so no time to sulk, no time to feel sorry for yourself. We have to come together.”
United have flattered to deceive since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December 2018, failing to win silverware or mount a realistic title challenge.
Despite recently recruiting Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, they find themselves eight points off leaders Chelsea and realistically out of the title picture.
They have kept just one clean sheet in all competitions this season and will be without the suspended Paul Pogba in London.
Top three to cut loose?
It would take a brave punter to bet against either Chelsea, Liverpool or defending champions Manchester City winning the Premier League table.
Just two points separate the clubs, with fourth-placed West Ham three points behind third-placed City.
The title favourites have made their moves early this season in contrast to the 2020/21 campaign, when Everton, Arsenal, Leicester, Southampton and Tottenham all took turns at the top before City surged to their third title in four years.
Fresh from their stunning Old Trafford rout, Liverpool host a Brighton side struggling to convert their positive play into goals and victories.
The Seagulls are fifth in the table but have only scored nine times in nine matches and are winless in their past five games in all competitions.
Chelsea, who smashed Norwich 7-0 last weekend, will fancy their chances against struggling Newcastle, who are being managed by interim boss Graeme Jones after this month’s Saudi-led takeover and the sacking of manager Steve Bruce.
City take on struggling Crystal Palace, who have won just one and drawn six of their nine league games under new boss Patrick Vieira.
Arsenal, Leicester look upwards
Arsenal and Leicester suffered poor starts to their league campaigns but are both only three points off the top four following a sharp uptick in form.
Mikel Arteta’s men were bottom of the table after losing their first three matches without scoring a goal – their worst start to a season in
67 years – but are unbeaten in eight games in all competitions.
The Gunners have not competed in the Champions League since 2017 and Leicester have replaced them as top-six regulars.
The Foxes followed their Community Shield triumph against Manchester City with just two wins from their opening seven Premier League fixtures but are buoyant after back-to-back victories against Manchester United and Brentford.
Brendan Rodgers’s side have narrowly missed out on Champions League football for two seasons running despite spending more time in the top four than any other team during that time.
“It might be different this season compared to the last two when we started on fire and dropped off,” said Rodgers. “This can be the season where we build and finish the second part really strong.”