Premier League: Chelsea can confirm title bid while Ronaldo could sink Spurs again in midweek round

Less than 48 hours since the dust settled on last weekend’s action, it is already time to gear up for another round of Premier League fixtures with nine games to come over the next three days.

Top-flight chiefs have crammed in a set of midweek games for fans to feast on ahead of the Qatar World Cup, which will bring club football to a halt when it gets underway next month, although Arsenal and Manchester City are not involved after their clash was postponed to accommodate the former’s rescheduled Europa League tie against PSV Eindhoven. 

There are plenty of talking points to mull over as we head into the 12th game week of the campaign, and it could prove a crucial one for several clubs.

Less than 48 hours since Manchester City and Liverpool ended last weekend’s action, it is already time to gear up for another round of Premier League fixtures

With teams on the up, others on the decline and various managers fighting for their jobs, the Premier League landscape may well have changed significantly by the end of play on Thursday.

So what can fans look forward to in the second midweek round of the season? Sportsmail has picked out eight fascinating aspects of the nine matches in store.

Bosses under pressure 

For Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard, this week promises to bring either a much-needed lifeline or the final nail in their coffin at Leicester and Aston Villa respectively.

Brendan Rodgers (L) and Steven Gerrard (R) both find themselves under serious pressure

Leicester fans want to see the back of Rodgers after winning just one game so far this season

Aston Villa have been in equally-uninspiring form, losing five of their first 10 matches

Both managers are under serious scrutiny heading into their next fixtures. Rodgers’ position as Foxes boss is hanging by the barest of threads after winning just one game all season, while Gerrard is becoming an unpopular figure amongst Villa fans having lost five of their first 10 matches. 

Liverpool’s former manager-and-captain duo are in desperate need of three points to lift some pressure from their shoulders, with Leicester looking to take them against Leeds at the King Power and Villa away at Fulham.

Should they come away empty handed once more, or even take a solitary point, it would not be a surprise to see either boss axed before the end of the week.

Ralph Hasenhuttl is also under the cosh at Southampton, who are without a win in five games. Defeat away at Gary O’Neil’s high-flying Bournemouth would likely raise questions over his future at St Mary’s.

Southampton have also been sleepwalking into crisis under Ralph Hasenhuttl in recent months

Omens good for Reds

When Liverpool’s stuttering season hit another snag away at Arsenal last week, their chances of toppling an Erling Haaland-inspired Manchester City the following Sunday appeared slimmer than ever.

But what a difference a week makes. 

First, the Reds injected some confidence at the perfect time by dismantling Rangers in a sensational 7-1 victory at Ibrox last Wednesday. The Scottish club may have been overmatched, but it was an impressive showing nonetheless and, more crucially, some optimism had returned ahead of Sunday’s challenge.

In the end that optimism proved justified, as Jurgen Klopp’s men thwarted Haaland and his providers before inflicting City’s first defeat of the season thanks to a superb Mohamed Salah strike.

Nine days on from their setback at Arsenal the mood surrounding Liverpool has soared, meaning West Ham will be up against it when they visit Anfield on Wednesday.

The Merseyside club can finally build momentum and get their season up and running with another victory, which would tee them up nicely for a trip to basement-boys Nottingham Forest at the weekend.

And to make matters worse for David Moyes’ Hammers, they are without a win at Anfield since August 2015. It would take a mighty upset to change that this week.     

Liverpool can build momentum against West Ham after Sunday’s win over Manchester City

The Hammers are without a win at Anfield since 2015, which David Moyes will hope to change

Will CR7 sink Spurs at Old Trafford again?

Arsenal vs Man City may be off the cards but fans still have a Big Six showdown to look forward to this week, with Manchester United set to welcome Tottenham to Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

Spurs will be seeking revenge after back-to-back defeats against the Red Devils last season, and you would hardly blame them for breathing a sigh of relief if Cristiano Ronaldo is demoted back to the bench.

Ronaldo, who has only started twice in the Premier League this term, opened the scoring in United’s three-goal win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last year and then powered them to victory with a stunning hat-trick in the return fixture five months later.

The 37-year-old is not in the same scintillating form right now, having scored just two goals in 12 outings after seeing his game time reduced by Erik ten Hag.

Man United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo scored four times against Tottenham last season

But ahead of the two sides’ meeting on Wednesday, Ronaldo is not enjoying the same fortunes

He was given a rare start in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle, only to be hooked off with 18 minutes remaining as Ten Hag’s men searched for a later winner – which pretty much speaks volumes about his standing under the new head coach.

In their recent home triumphs over Liverpool and Arsenal, Ronaldo had to settle for a place on the bench as the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Antony inspired United to victory.

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Ten Hag is likely to stick with that winning formula here, yet if called upon at some stage Ronaldo could reignite his season with a fifth goal in three games against Spurs. 

North London could rule 

As well as avenging last season’s double defeat, Tottenham have the added motivation of climbing up into second place if they get the better of United on Wednesday.

With Man City out of action, a win would see Antonio Conte’s men leapfrog the champions by three points this week, albeit having played an extra game.

Tottenham can give north London a stranglehold on the Premier League by beating United

If that scenario plays out, north London will enjoy a stranglehold on the Premier League – albeit a potentially brief one – with Arsenal at the summit and their bitter rivals just behind them in second.

And given City’s game-in-hand will eventually come against Arsenal, Spurs could hold onto the position for some time should the Gunners topple Pep Guardiola’s side.

Wednesday’s trip to Old Trafford is therefore the perfect chance for them to gain ground. 

Blues can flex title muscles  

Chelsea are a team brimming with confidence right now after five straight wins under Graham Potter – and another over Brentford on Wednesday would seal their status as title contenders.

Potter, who replaced Thomas Tuchel as Blues head coach last month, arrived at Stamford Bridge with a host of problems to overcome, but just six games into his tenure most of them are now a distant memory.

Chelsea could emerge as dark horses for the title if they earn a fourth straight win vs Brentford

Graham Potter has turned the club’s season around after getting off to a flyer as head coach

A previously-leaky backline has now registered four consecutive clean sheets, Mason Mount is back to his brilliant best and even Kepa Arrizabalaga, a No 2 goalkeeper under Tuchel, has been pulling out match-winning performances in the sticks.

They are a shadow of the fragile, toothless side which slumped to defeat at Dinamo Zagreb and Southampton after being torn apart by Leeds earlier in the season.

A win at Brentford would move Chelsea one point behind City and five behind Arsenal having played the same number of games. And with another 84 to play for, a title challenge would not be beyond them.

If Potter’s purple patch continues, the Blues may just be dark horses in the race to become champions. 

Saints up against it 

As previously noted, Southampton have been sleepwalking into crisis of late, with their last win coming against Chelsea on August 30.

Ralph Hasenhuttl desperately needs to stop the rot at St Mary’s, but on Wednesday night they have an extremely tough task awaiting them away at Bournemouth.

The Cherries have enjoyed a spectacular revival under caretaker manager Gary O’Neil, who is yet to suffer defeat since filling the void left by Scott Parker’s sacking at the end of August.

Despite Parker’s claims that his squad were ‘underequipped’ to compete in the top flight, O’Neil has since amassed 10 points from his first six games at the helm, an unexpectedly impressive run of form which has lifted them to 10th in the table.

Form very much indicates that it could be a difficult evening for Southampton, and Hasenhuttl could emerge as favourite in the sack race if that proved the case.

Gary O’Neil will aim to continue his superb start as Bournemouth interim boss vs Southampton

Crucial night for Toffees

It all looked so rosy for Everton after their 2-1 win at Southampton on October 1.

Frank Lampard had just guided the Merseyside club to back-to-back victories, while they were also enjoying a six-game unbeaten run after conceding just seven goals in eight games.

For the first time in years, the sentiment around Goodison Park was firmly positive and, perhaps only marginally, the future looked bright.

Everton have since been brought crashing back down to earth in defeats against Man United and Tottenham, and while Lampard can definitely draw positive from their spirited performances in both they now risk slipping back into a relegation battle.

Another huge test awaits them on Wednesday night, when they return to the scene of Lampard’s first game in charge at Newcastle.

The Toffees were comfortable brushed aside 3-1 that night, yet this week’s clash offers the chance to demonstrate exactly how far they’ve come since then. If they fall to the same fate, question marks over Lampard’s reign will resurface. 

Everton were brought crashing back down to earth with defeats against Man United and Spurs

Question marks over Frank Lampard’s reign could resurface if they lose at Newcastle this week

De Zerbi eyes liftoff

Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi is still on the hunt for a win after taking one point from his first three games in charge, and if he doesn’t get off the mark on Tuesday pressure will begin to mount on the new coach.

He couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to claim his first win, with Nottingham Forest, who sit rock bottom of the league, visiting the Amex this week.

Steve Cooper’s men have lost seven out of 10 so far this season, though after putting pen to paper on a new contract earlier this month the struggling manager’s position is seemingly under no threat.

Both he and De Zerbi, however, are crying out for three points and their respective outlooks for the season likely hinge on Tuesday’s result. 

Merry

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