1. Fans are back!
Well, some of them. Although there will be a maximum of 2000 supporters allowed, and only half of the Premier League clubs are situated in the tier two areas that are permitted to host them, seeing real people in grounds again this weekend will be a sight for sore eyes.
We say seeing them because we probably won’t be hearing them much: all the spectators will have to wear face masks and will be asked not to sing or chant “excessively”. We’ll see how that goes.
West Ham’s clash with Manchester United on Saturday will be the first Premier League match with fans in attendance since March, and there will also be small crowds in place at Chelsea v Leeds, Tottenham v Arsenal, Liverpool v Wolves and Brighton v Southampton.
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2. Mourinho's Spurs look to assert north London dominance
There's little doubt which team is on top in north London this season. Jose Mourinho’s league-leading Tottenham side go into Sunday’s derby against Arsenal as huge favourites and boasting their biggest-ever lead over their rivals before this fixture.
Spurs are guaranteed to be at least 12 places ahead of the Gunners come kick-off, beating the record 11-place gap from the 1993/94 season – when Spurs were 10th and Arsenal 21st after just one week of action.
It will be a big test for Mikel Arteta’s team, who have won just once and scored just twice in their last six Premier League outings. Spurs, meanwhile, haven’t been defeated since the opening day and boast a stern defensive record, having conceded just once in their last five games.
On top of that, Mourinho boasts a 100 per cent home record against Arsenal as a Premier League manager from 10 meetings during spells at Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs.
Everything points to a home win, but feel free to insert your own cliché about derby matches, form books and windows.
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3. My kingdom for a week without VAR chaos
Are you sick of it yet? It feels like we’re stuck in a time loop this season, with each passing weekend bringing fresh controversy and complaints about the use and interpretation of VAR.
Last weekend, Aston Villa manager Dean Smith complained that it “frustrates everyone but there’s nothing we can do about it” after a late Ollie Watkins equaliser was chalked off because his arm had strayed offside.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was also furious following his side’s draw with Brighton, and his captain Jordan Henderson called for the technology to be scrapped, after VAR disallowed a Reds goal and then awarded the Seagulls a penalty in the dying minutes.
So, we’ll ask again nicely: Can we *please* start the festive period with a weekend free of VAR controversy?
4. Bamford back at the Bridge
Patrick Bamford has been busy proving his doubters wrong this season by scoring seven goals in 10 Premier League appearances as Marcelo Bielsa’s main man up front at Leeds.
This weekend he has the chance to prove a point against his former employers Chelsea, who signed the striker at the age of 18 but never gave him a proper chance in the first team, sending him out on loan six times.
The Blues can go top of the table, at least temporarily, with a win at Stamford Bridge, while Frank Lampard has a decision to make on his selection up front after Olivier Giroud smashed four goals past Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday.
5. Can Fulham spark another upset?
However, the Cottagers can’t escape the fact that they have the worst defensive record in the league, conceding 19 goals in 10 games, and they face an almighty task at the Etihad as they eye a second consecutive upset.
6. Moyes eyes revenge as United come to town
David Moyes’ boys are flying at the moment. Their win over Villa on Monday was their third in a row and propelled the Hammers into fifth place, even if they didn’t entirely impress in that game.
What Moyes would give for a sweet victory over his former employers, who travel to London on the back of a Champions League defeat to PSG.
The European defeat was a blow but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has otherwise been able to get a better tune out of his side recently, overseeing four consecutive wins before Wednesday’s 3-1 loss.
That included a comeback from two goals down to beat Southampton 3-2 last weekend, with Edinson Cavani scoring twice late on to prove that he hasn’t lost his devastating eye for goal.
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7. Wolves a potential banana skin for Liverpool
Wolves travel to Anfield on Sunday on the back of a 2-1 win away to Arsenal that lifted them to within a point of the top four.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have proven to be tricky opponents for Liverpool in the past, with the Reds requiring a late winner from Roberto Firmino to record a 2-1 victory in their last meeting back in January.
Since then, though, Diogo Jota has switched sides and the Portuguese forward will be eager to continue his dazzling form against his former employers after netting four goals in his last five Premier League games under Jurgen Klopp.
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