1. Brighton v Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm (GMT)
Lallana’s winning mentality can threaten former teammates
Brighton have quietly changed their transfer policy. In recent years, relatively expensive buys such as Alireza Jahanbakhsh (£17m) and Jürgen Locadia (£14m) have proved underwhelming. Rather than rely on purchases from abroad, the club have invested in home-grown talent – both from the academy, with Ben White and Aaron Connolly, or by buying British-based teenagers Steven Alzate (Leyton Orient) and Tariq Lamptey (Chelsea). They have also picked up some crafty free transfers in Danny Welbeck and Adam Lallana. The latter two combined for the opener in the win over Villa last weekend but the focus is on Lallana with his former club Liverpool coming to town. The midfielder is carrying a knock from Villa but looks a shrewd purchase having featured in all nine league matches this season, and brings a winning mentality. Lallana said this week: “Sometimes beating the big boys isn’t about luck or set pieces. It’s about a mentality shift. It’s about really believing you can win. I can maybe help the belief of the team.” MB.
2) Agüero’s return to fitness can end City’s scoring troubles
Pep Guardiola’s side have never had any trouble creating chances but converting them is becoming a bit of a worry for Manchester City. Against Olympiakos, City had 22 shots, half of which were on target, but only Phil Foden found the net. City have failed to score more than once in their past six Premier League outings, which is not good enough for a side targeting the title. The free-flowing move that ended with Foden’s winner in Athens was a sign of what City are aiming to do. Burnley have not conceded in two games since their captain, Ben Mee, returned and will not allow City anything like the number of chances they created in midweek. The lethal Sergio Agüero is again fit and eager to prove why a contract extension should be sorted quickly, as without him they have looked blunt in front of goal. If everything does click once more, however, it could be a difficult day for the Clarets and season for anyone who faces City.
• Manchester City v Burnley, Saturday 3pm
3) Rivals’ title credentials in focus at Stamford Bridge
Should Tottenham emerge from Stamford Bridge unscathed, their credentials for a long-haul title chase will start to look irresistible. If Chelsea make it seven straight wins in all competitions and leapfrog their London rivals then the same might be said of them. Sunday’s game is a huge one and, in the circumstances, the two days’ extra preparation Frank Lampard’s side will have enjoyed could prove crucial. They beat Rennes on Tuesday night while Tottenham had to wait until Thursday to see off Ludogorets. Given the feat required to play this season in its entirety, perhaps it is best for anyone to be philosophical about such matters and acknowledge these things will happen. But José Mourinho may need little invitation to address one of his pet bugbears, the fixture schedule, if things go against Spurs. However, if the game pans out in their favour then, part-way through a formidable run that brought a win over Manchester City last week and sees meetings with Arsenal and Liverpool on the horizon, he might prefer to reflect that this Tottenham side appears to be the real deal. NA
• Chelsea v Tottenham, Sunday 4.30pm
4) Raw Nkounkou up against it when Leeds visit
In the past ten years, Everton have not needed to worry about the left-back position. For more than a decade Leighton Baines provided dedicated service up and down the flank, becoming one of the most consistent full-backs in the Premier League, not to mention his 33 goals in the competition. He was ousted by Lucas Digne following the Frenchman’s arrival from Barcelona and Digne has proven to be equally impressive. Sadly for Carlo Ancelotti, Baines retired in the summer and now Digne is out injured for a sustained period. Digne already has four assists in eight games this season, a sign of his importance to the Toffees. His replacement is Niels Nkounkou, a 20-year-old compatriot of Digne but without the experience of his more-esteemed teammate. Nkounkou has only one top-flight career appearance to his name, a defeat to Newcastle. Now he has the perpetual threat of Leeds to resist, so Nkounkou must quickly prove his worth. WU
• Everton v Leeds, Saturday 5.30pm
5) West Brom upbeat for battle of the winless
Saturday night is all right for fighting relegation, even in November. If either side loses this weekend’s duel of the winless wonders at the Hawthorns, they will fear the worst. “Maybe people expect the atmosphere here to be all dark and miserable but it is anything but, we are very positive,” said the West Brom manager, Slaven Bilic, in advance of his team’s showdown with Sheffield United. Their optimism is not groundless: West Brom have played some bright stuff in recent weeks even if they have yet to convert promise into a victory. Sheffield United have looked relatively downcast, grasping for confidence and cohesion. Given the pressure and the teams’ struggles when it comes to scoring, you sense the first goal is going to be critical on Saturday. So one of the key questions facing Chris Wilder is whether to keep faith with Oli McBurnie despite recent misses or give young Rhian Brewster another chance to kickstart his Blades career? PD
• West Brom v Sheffield United, Saturday 8pm
6) Ceballos needs to step up for Arsenal
For all the talk about Arsenal’s misfiring strikers, other areas of the team are falling short in the personality test too. Thomas Partey’s addition was the first building block in what eventually needs to be a brand new midfield and, since his injury against Aston Villa, old issues have reared their heads. Dani Ceballos’s form is a particular cause for frustration: the Spaniard is clearly gifted and, in the first half at Leeds last weekend, showed some welcome vigour and intent around the attacking third. One early shot flew not far wide and there was a purpose to his passing and movement that has sometimes been lacking. While his performances for Arsenal have hardly been poor there is a sense he is capable of far more, whether that is down to him or the tactical instructions handed down by Mikel Arteta. Ceballos needs to begin imposing himself on games regularly and the visit of Wolves would be a good place to start, particularly given there is no guarantee Partey will be passed fit for an assignment in which defeat would usher in some dark clouds. NA
• Arsenal v Wolves, Sunday 7.15pm
7). Van de Beek and Fernandes have a chance to gel
Manchester United have stuttered their way through the season thus far, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær struggling to source an XI that can create the right balance for a side aiming to make it into a top-four position come the end of the season. In the majority of games, two defensive midfielders have been selected and the Norwegian has been unable to find a way to fit Donny van de Beek into his first-choice team. Against Istanbul Basaksehir, however, the Dutchman was deployed – in a deeper role than normal – alongside Fred, as United picked off the Turkish champions with their first-half display the best of the campaign. Some feared Van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes would not be able to operate successfully in the same side but they proved on Tuesday this was more than possible. Fernandes had the space and freedom he desires, scoring two early on, while his new colleague was diligent in a slightly unfamiliar role but one in which he could thrive in the Premier League and could be another piece in the jigsaw in the long term.
• Southampton v Manchester United, Sunday 2pm
(THE GUARDIAN.COM UK)