After a weekend of FA Cup action, the Premier League is back, and it's headlined by a crazy fixture rearrangement! But the main match of this shortened set of fixtures comes from East Lancashire. Can Manchester United rise to the top of the table before their huge cash with Liverpool at Anfield?
Game of the week
Burnley vs Manchester United: Turf Moor, 20.15 (Sky Sports)
Burnley made a meal out of MK Dons on Saturday afternoon in the FA Cup. The Clarets struggled to break through their resilient opponents but they held their nerve to win in the penalty shootout. Sean Dyche fielded a strong line-up and he will have been disappointed not to win the match within 90 minutes; their exertions might leave them a little tired for this upcoming league tie.
Manchester United were also a little blunt in the cup, narrowly beating Watford of the Championship. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be delighted at the fact that his team were able to win after he had made wholesale changes. Bruno Fernandes, in particular, was in need of a rest.
Nick Pope should return to the Burnley line-up after suffering a slight knock on his ankle. His presence between the sticks is key. But United’s outstanding away record is tough to ignore and their rested stars will be hungry to go top of the tree with a victory at Turf Moor.
Sheffield United vs Newcastle United: Bramall Lane, 18.00 (Sky Sports)
Chris Wilder won his 100th match as Sheffield United manager on Saturday; he had been waiting a long time to get it! But his strong starting eleven still looked defensively vulnerable against a Bristol Rovers team that are two divisions below them. Hopefully, this victory offers a platform to build upon for the remainder of the season.
It has hardly been plain sailing for Newcastle United, either. They have really struggled as an attacking force since losing Allan Saint-Maximin, who is suffering from Long Covid. Their weekend efforts against Arsenal were admirable, but they were also indicative of an offensive bluntness.
Both of these teams struggle to score goals but neither are massively convincing at the back. Nonetheless, it seems highly unlikely that the Blades will finish the season winless. This represents a very presentable opportunity to break this duck!
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Everton: Molineux, 20.15 (Sky Sports)
A fantastic goal from Adama Traore was enough to see Wolverhampton Wanderers past Crystal Palace. The Spain international has been up and down this season, just like his team, but his blistering strike from 25-yards will have delighted Nuno Espirito Santo. Wolves aren’t in a relegation scrap so a good run in the FA Cup could help to spark their campaign.
Everton also enjoyed some cup success, although they made hard work of Championship strugglers Rotherham United. The Millers took the match to extra-time but a composed finish from Abdoulaye Doucoure prevented the possibility of an upset. Everton were far from vintage but they got the job done.
The boost that comes from the return of Lucas Digne and James Rodriguez is almost countered with the injury to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. In come the two most creative outlets and out goes the top goalscorer! From a purists perspective, not having Calvert-Lewin or Raul Jimenez on the pitch is a bit of a shame.
Manchester City vs Brighton & Hove Albion, 18.00 (BT Sport)
Manchester City have had a wonderful 2021. They dismantled Chelsea in the Premier League before beating Manchester United to reach the Carabao Cup final. Not resting on his laurels, Pep Guardiola fielded a very strong starting eleven for their FA Cup clash with Birmingham City and they wrapped the game up inside 33 minutes.
Brighton & Hove Albion have been struggling and this match is not an ideal way to turn that form around. They needed penalties to avoid an upset against minnows Newport County. Something isn't quite clicking for Graham Potter and he needs to quickly find some answers.
Guardiola’s team have been rather unspectacular for most of the current season, but they have never been far away from the top of the tree. All of a sudden, that spark looks to have returned and they look very capable of taking back their Premier League crown. Brighton won’t be surviving based on matches like this!
Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 20.15 (Amazon Prime)
Tottenham Hotspur’s clash with Marine was a proper FA Cup clash; the true definition of a David versus Goliath! Jose Mourinho’s men ran out as 5-0 winners but it was a truly incredible day for the Marine players and coaching staff. That being said, this fixture rearrangement will certainly have kept them on their toes. Still, they will be happier than their opponents.
Fulham will not be happy. They were due to be having a midweek break and now, after the cancellation of Tottenham’s fixture with Aston Villa, they are being asked to fill the gap with their match against Spurs. Initially, this London derby was due to be played at the end of 2020 but Fulham were unable to play due to their own COVID-19 outbreak. This rescheduling gives them just a few days to prepare.
Despite the short notice, Scott Parker’s tactics for this match should still be rather fresh in the memory. Fulham have also kept three clean sheets in their last four matches; it could be a tough game for a Tottenham team that likes to play on the counter.
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace: Emirates Stadium, 20.00 (Sky Sports)
Crystal Palace are out of the cup but that won’t bother Roy Hodgson too much. The former England manager decided to rest many of his starting players, including star-man Wilfried Zaha, in order to keep on top of this hectic schedule. Hodgson can now solely focus his efforts on reviving Palace’s form in the Premier League.
The Eagles have had a small resurgence but Arsenal are in higher spirits. Arteta will be banking on his young attackers to provide the energy that had been severely lacking in a number of his more experienced players.