The midweek Premier League action continues on Wednesday as leaders Liverpool host Chelsea, Manchester City welcome Burnley and Tottenham face Brentford ; follow every game live on our digital platforms; free match highlights available shortly after full-time
Maddison set to start as Spurs push for a successful finish to the season
The end of Tottenham’s bid for a cup success under Ange Postecoglou this season also signals the start of the business end of their Premier League campaign to achieve a top-four finish. While Postecoglou has played down suggestions of a ‘target’ in his first term in charge, with no cup football Spurs have plenty in their favour to push for Champions League qualification.
Heung-Min Son’s absence was felt in that 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, where Spurs uncharacteristically managed just one shot at home. But James Maddison’s return from injury brings hope the team can recapture the better form they have shown this year.
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Image: James Maddison made his return to action against Man City in the FA Cup after three months out
It was a chastening comeback for Spurs’ creator – Maddison had just six touches during his 18 minutes on the field before Nathan Ake’s 88th-minute winner for City – but a role from the start beckons against Brentford on Wednesday.
Two of his five Premier League assists this season came in the opening weekend away game at Brentford and it is fitting his season restarts in earnest against those same opponents. Spurs fans will hope for a similar output from the summer signing who quickly became a key figure at the club before his three months out with an ankle injury.
Tactically, a first pairing with Rodrigo Bentancur intrigues, but with Son still away on international duty, Spurs will be looking for leadership and some magic from Maddison.
Man City run starting? Burnley beware
Image: Manchester City's Erling Haaland
Almost imperceptibly, Manchester City, the reigning Premier League, European, and now world champions, have accumulated seven consecutive victories in all competitions. It has become almost trite to note their capacity to ‘go on a run’ but here we are.
The fit-again Kevin De Bruyne has already showcased his ability to decide games with his match-winning contribution against Newcastle last time out in the Premier League and the impending return of Erling Haaland further shifts the dial in Pep Guardiola’s favour.
The City head coach said recently that De Bruyne and Haaland do not necessarily help his team to play better football – he has Rodri and Bernardo Silva for that – but they do help his team to win matches. It is all beginning to look a little ominous in the title race.
Ominous sums up the situation for Vincent Kompany as he returns to City with Burnley. Two of their next three after this are against Liverpool and Arsenal but now eight points from safety there are no free hits at this stage. A favour from his old club? Not likely.
Rising stars to shine as Chelsea visit Anfield
The notion you do not win anything with kids has long been quashed and when Liverpool and Chelsea meet in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley next month the point will be underlined.
The academy graduates have been delivering for Liverpool this season. Assists for Conor Bradley (aged 20) and James McConnell (19) against Norwich in the FA Cup on Sunday caught the eye, while Jarell Quansah’s (21) assurance at centre-back is almost a given now.
Bobby Clark (18), Kaide Gordon (19) and Owen Beck (21) stepped off the bench in the previous Premier League game at Bournemouth, with the former trusted to help see out the Carabao Cup semi-final tie with Fulham last week. The number of players currently aged 21 or under used by Jurgen Klopp this season is now at a staggering total of 13.
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s win against Bournemouth
Chelsea are just one behind, with Cole Palmer (21), their standout starlet this term. However, while much has been made of their expensively recruited young players, homegrown Alfie Gilchrist (20) was among their better performers in the FA Cup tie with Aston Villa on Friday night.
Expect the rising stars to shine brightly at Anfield on Wednesday.
Unconvincing Man Utd face Wolves test
Image: Erik ten Hag is coming under increasing pressure
Even a 4-2 FA Cup win was not enough to keep talk of a Manchester United crisis at bay. Not when that win came against League Two opposition in Newport County. Not when the build-up was overshadowed by reports of Marcus Rashford’s nocturnal activities.
Such is life for Erik ten Hag. With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new era now under way, any stumble puts the spotlight back on the United coach and a trip to Molineux to face in-form Wolves provides the next opportunity for a referendum on all things United.
Gary O’Neil’s side are unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions and come into this in good spirits after defeating rivals West Brom in a fraught Black Country derby on Sunday. Wolves have not lost in front of their own fans in four-and-a-half months.
A win on Wednesday would be enough to lift them above United in the Premier League table – and increase the pressure on Ten Hag once more. He has players returning from injury and insists all it will take is time. But a win – and a performance – is needed.
Phillips steps into central role at West Ham
Image: Kalvin Phillips has joined West Ham on loan until the end of the season
A new year and a new start for Kalvin Phillips. After just 31 appearances in two-and-a-half seasons at Manchester City, he will hope to play a major role for West Ham. In fact he could go a long way to matching that number of games in the remainder of this campaign, should he help the Hammers go far in the Europa League.
The new chapter starts at home to Bournemouth on Thursday and in his interviews since his arrival Phillips has looked like a player with renewed enthusiasm for the game and the fresh challenge ahead for him. The encouraging comments from David Moyes about his quality will have boosted his confidence and given him belief he can be a central figure in east London.
It seems like a perfect fit, with the Hammers looking for a player to bring energy and quality on the ball in the middle of the park following Declan Rice’s departure. Euro 2024 is an obvious target for Phillips but becoming an influence at the heart of a Premier League club is his more immediate goal. This week he can begin to prove to his doubters he can still deliver on that remit.
Wednesday and Thursday’s Premier League fixtures
Manchester City vs Burnley – kick-off 7.30pm
Tottenham vs Brentford – kick-off 7.30pm
Liverpool vs Chelsea – kick-off 8.15pm
West Ham vs Bournemouth – kick-off 7.30pm
Wolves vs Man Utd – kick-off 8.15pm
Free match highlights of all this week’s Premier League matches will be available on the Sky Sports Digital platforms shortly after full-time
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