Manchester City will test the strength of Manchester United’s recent revival at Old Trafford this weekend, while red-hot leaders Tottenham are seeking their eighth win in 10 games.
Pep Guardiola’s champions have put their own mini-slump behind them and go into Sunday’s game against their local rivals as firm favourites.
Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham can go five points clear of the chasing pack, at least temporarily, if they beat Crystal Palace on Friday.
AFP Sport picks out three talking points ahead of the action in the English top flight.
Can Rashford find cutting edge against Man City?
Marcus Rashford scored the winning goal at Old Trafford last year as Manchester United came from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1 — the ninth time in a row he had scored at his home ground.
The England forward went on to score 30 goals for the club during the season, lifting himself into the bracket of elite forwards.
But it is a different story during the current campaign, with Rashford stuck on a solitary goal in a team struggling to find fluency and a cutting edge.
United, in eighth place, have scored just 11 times in the Premier League this season — just twice more than City forward Erling Haaland has managed on his own.
Manager Erik ten Hag predicted earlier this month that Rashford would soon be “on fire”, but the 25-year-old has failed to score for United since then, though he netted for England at Wembley.
United have carved out three wins on the bounce in all competitions but remain far from convincing. They need their big players to step up if they are to have a chance of beating the treble winners.
Spurs riding high
Ange Postecoglou has had a transformative effect since arriving at Tottenham, earning 23 points already — the biggest haul for any manager after their first nine matches in the competition’s history.
Spurs, who will fancy their chances of beating Crystal Palace, have the luxury of focusing on domestic concerns while their rivals are juggling European commitments.
Son Heung-min, with seven league goals, continues to fill the void left by the departed Harry Kane while James Maddison’s arrival from Leicester has added a new creative dimension, with five assists and three goals so far.
“We have a brilliant relationship,” said Maddison. “Sonny was a player I loved for years and years watching and now it is an absolute pleasure to play with him.
“He is a world-class player. I don’t throw that around a lot. We like to link up, we work a lot on it in training and we are starting to understand each other’s runs.”
Villa’s Emery factor
Unai Emery and fifth-placed Aston Villa have flown under the radar but are now forcing people to sit up and take notice.
The club were 16th when the Spaniard arrived from Villarreal last year but he inspired them to a seventh-place finish, which meant qualification for the Europa Conference League.
Only three clubs — Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool — have won more top-flight points than Villa’s total of 68 since the weekend of Emery’s first game in charge in November 2022.
“We did the first objective, which was to be in Europe and we’re playing in the Conference League and I think it’s amazing for me and for the club, for the supporters and for the players,” said Emery, whose team host struggling Luton on Sunday.
“The next step, of course, is try to do something in Europe and try to progressively get in other European competitions like the Europa League or Champions League — that is my dream and my objective and I am working hard to get it.”
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