PEP Guardiola versus Mikel Arteta and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer versus Frank Lampard in the FA Cup, Jose Mourinho in an Anfield-flashback high pressure Premier League contest with Brendan Rodgers – this is potent weekend of managerial narratives in English football. If your Twitter timeline is not dominated by the word 'fraud' from Saturday to Sunday, reinstall the app because it would appear to be broken. Starting with the Premier League fixtures, here are this week's tips.
Norwich's grim current Premier League experience consists of setting new records for consecutive defeats each week. They're up to eight now and the way Burnley are playing, it'll take a brave person to bet against that reaching nine. If so, that'll be 26 defeats in total for Norwich in the league this season, you've guessed it, another club record.
Since being trounced 5-0 on their first game back after the restart, the Clarets are unbeaten in six matches including a trip to Anfield where they became the first away side to take Premier League points off Liverpool for 18 months, and a draw with Wolves last time out courtesy of Chris Wood's 96th-minute penalty. Burnley have an outside shot at finishing in a Europa League position for the second time in three years, but they will require two wins. However, with Norwich and Brighton to face, that's a real opportunity.
With the exception of that Man City clash, Burnley have not conceded more than one goal in a league game since January 11, while Norwich have scored just four in 14 matches since then. The fight has gone from Norwich whereas the Clarets are in comfortably their best form of the season. Back Burnley for a narrow victory here.
Bournemouth racked up the most shots any away side had ever managed against Pep Guardiola's Man City (14) on Wednesday, but still fell to defeat in a performance that summed up their season. Consistent failure to take chances, lax defending, and ultimately a spirited comeback that came too late. The Cherries' last two performances have easily been their best of 2020, but requiring four points from their last two games as they probably do, those displays may are likely to be in vain.
Southampton have been one of the best performing sides since the Premier League restart with just a 2-0 defeat at home to Arsenal and Thursday's 1-1 draw with Brighton blotting their copybook. They recently return from away trips to Watford, Everton and Man Utd with five points, and put in one of the defensive performances of the season to beat Man City 1-0. Like Bournemouth's survival bid, Southampton's fine run is likely to come too late in the campaign, but motivation ought not be an issue in this local derby.
You never want to lose to a rival, especially in a season when they get relegated, and you certainly do not want a relegated rival to do the double over you. That's what Southampton will aim to avoid after Bournemouth's 3-1 win at St. Mary's in September, but I fancy the draw.
Rooting for Tottenham against Leicester on Sunday pic.twitter.com/qsSHJE06fS
— Aaron Wan Biscammer (@Nigerianscamsss) July 16, 2020
It's Jose Mourinho versus Brendan Rodgers in a high stakes game where everything Rodgers has worked towards for the whole season can come crashing down in an instant. If you're getting Liverpool versus Chelsea at Anfield in 2014 flashbacks, don't worry, because in all probability so is the Leicester manager. Mourinho destroyed the greatest opportunity of Rodgers' career in 2014 – six years on, can he destroy the second?
Lose and Leicester handed the initiative and probably fourth spot to Man Utd. Win and Man Utd can still take fourth from them when they face off on the last day. Now that's serious pressure. And Spurs' form is good. Mourinho's side have put their poor defeat at Sheff Utd behind them to take 10 points from the next 12 available, conceding just two goals since Bramall Lane.
Leicester steadied the ship on Thursday following their capitulation at Bournemouth to see of the Blades 2-0 in fairly comfortable circumstances. Tottenham have the chance to win three straight matches at their new stadium for the first time, while Leicester are on their worst away run since 2017 – no wins in seven on the road, and four defeats. After taking 38 points from their first 16 games, Leicester have taken just 24 from their next 20. The wheels have come off at precisely the wrong time – back Spurs.
Just over a month on from his first, humbling clash with Pep Guardiola, former Man City assistant Mikel Arteta gets another crack at beating his old club. He has a considerable tide to turn here though with Arsenal losing their last seven matches against City in all competitions with a combined score of 2-20. The Gunners' form has picked up since then with a disappointing North London derby their only defeat since June 20.
You can argue Arsenal are coming off the back of their best result of the season having come from behind to beat Liverpool on Wednesday, but that would be a slightly rose-tinted reflection. Arteta's side mustered just three shots for their two goals, allowing Liverpool 24, and 68.9% possession. You can just about get away with that against a Liverpool side clearly not at their best following their title celebrations, but against Man City, hungrily chasing down a second straight treble, you will be exposed.
Although both sides rested players for their most recent games, Guardiola's ability to re-introduce Aymeric Laporte, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne is an injection of quality Arteta simply cannot match. Liverpool let Arsenal off the hook this week, City will not make the same mistake.
This will be the fourth consecutive season Chelsea and Man Utd have met in the FA Cup with the Blues winning in the 2017 quarter-final and the 2018 final, and Utd winning in the fifth round last season. It will also be the fourth meeting between the sides this season with Man Utd winning all of the previous three (twice in the Premier League, once in the League Cup). Only once in Chelsea's entire history have they ever lost four games to a single opponent in a season, and wouldn't you know it? That opponent was Man Utd in 2011.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side recently became the first Premier League side to win four straight matches by three or more goals. Sure they were then pegged back by Southampton on their own patch, but a defiant 2-0 away at Crystal Palace got them back on track. All in all, Utd are 17 games unbeaten in all competitions. Chelsea on the other hand followed their heavy defeat at Sheff Utd with a fortunate win over rock bottom Norwich – not exactly the type of confidence-inspiring performance required ahead of the biggest week of the Blues' season.
Within a week, Chelsea will face three of the top seven – Man Utd here, followed by Liverpool and Wolves in the Premier League. Just like Leicester, this is incredible pressure to bear as a highly promising season threatens to unravel. With a more pleasant home clash against West Ham to follow for Utd, they can go all out here, and inviting English football's best current attack to go all out is not likely to end well for Chelsea. Back Utd to seal their fourth win over Chelsea this season and book an all-Manchester FA Cup final.