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Man City v Arsenal the highlight of a Big Weekend for De Zerbi, Man Utd, Sterling

Man City v Arsenal the highlight of a Big Weekend for De Zerbi, Man Utd, Sterling

The Premier League is back with the leaders going to the champions in a crunch title clash. Also: Roberto De Zerbi faces Liverpool; and what next for Manchester United?

Game to watch: Manchester City v Arsenal
In a rare three-horse race, it is impossible to call any game in isolation a title-decider. But Arsenal’s trip to City will almost certainly carry some sway in the final reckoning.

It was a similar story almost a year ago when the Gunners went north but by that late April meeting, they were already wilting and City had their wicked way with Mikel Arteta’s men. This, though, appears to be a very different Arsenal – one that doesn’t look like fading from the race.

Actually, they seem to be pacing themselves just right. The concern for Arteta may be the international break clogging up their momentum but Pep Guardiola has more reason to rue the brief ceasefire in the title hostilities.

Guardiola watched Kyle Walker and John Stones limp out of England fixtures, while Manuel Akanji also picked up a knock on Switzerland duty. There are no guarantees over Ederson’s fitness, leaving City facing the prospect of a patchwork defence.

That ought to encourage Arsenal but so buoyant are they, City’s state of health is almost of no significance. Unlike last season, when Arteta’s side seemed all too aware of their inferiority to Pep’s winning machine, these Gunners will reasonably fancy themselves to go to the Etihad and turn over the Treble winners.

That said, just as likely is City putting Arsenal back in their box. All the while Liverpool watch and wait…

Manager to watch: Roberto De Zerbi
Liverpool will keep an eye on the Etihad while travelling back from the south coast having faced De Zerbi’s Brighton in Sunday’s early kick-off.

The Seagulls will have had a longer break than most having not played since exiting the Europa League 4-1 on aggregate to Roma. With Europe no longer a consideration, now it is all about bringing continental football to the AmEx again next season.

De Zerbi has had the club’s first European campaign and some wretched luck with injuries to act as mitigation for only six wins in their last 22 Premier League games – a record that highlights their frustrating inconsistency, ill-timed for the manager as some of Europe’s biggest clubs suss his credentials for their managerial vacancies this summer.

Xabi Alonso leaning towards staying at Leverkusen for at least another season will only raise the stock of De Zerbi as an option for Europe’s heavyweight sides, with Barcelona and Manchester United sniffing around the Italian as much as Liverpool and Bayern.

That won’t worry Brighton, but they and De Zerbi, each for their own ends, need now to put use the restart as a reset for the run-in. A European place is their ambition; the bottom half could be their reality if Liverpool triumph at the AmEx.

READ: Premier League manager rankings

Team to watch: Manchester United
United supporters have just about come down from the high of knocking Liverpool out of the FA Cup in the last minute of added time a fortnight ago. Now what?

As much as those fans buzzed off beating their arch-rivals, they almost know what to expect on Saturday at Brentford: more of the same sh*te that’s been served to them between the sporadic moments that tease us all into thinking that maybe, just maybe, United have finally caught on.

For Erik ten Hag, it has to be different this time. The manager won a lot of favour by beating Liverpool and the gung-ho approach he took in chasing victory. But Bruno and Antony at the back amid all-consuming chaos is hardly a sustainable tactical plan.

As fancied as United might be in the FA Cup, at least to reach the final, the final 10 games of the Premier League season are more likely to decide Ten Hag’s fate, if it has not already been decided. Six points off fifth-placed Tottenham and nine – albeit with a game in hand – behind Villa in fourth is a daunting gap to make up. Saturday night has to represent a continuation of the positivity harnessed at Old Trafford two weeks ago and the start of a sustained assault on those above them.

Player to watch: Raheem Sterling
It’s by no means certain we’ll get the opportunity to watch Sterling on Saturday. Mauricio Pochettino would have to be the forgiving sort to select the winger against Burnley, especially while the Chelsea boss is desperately trying to save his job.

Pochettino played Sterling in the FA Cup win over Leicester a fortnight ago in the hope the England veteran might prove a point in the wake of his latest Three Lions omission. He certainly did that – just not the one he intended.

Sterling was awful against the Foxes. He laid on one goal but generally looked short on confidence, missing a penalty he took off Cole Palmer before summing up his day with another set-piece on which he pulled rank, only to find the upper tier of the Matthew Harding Stand from inches outside the box.

The home fans jeered that free-kick but, mercifully, they were rather kinder when Sterling was eventually put out of his misery. At least Sterling has had a couple of weeks to clear his head before Burnley show up but while he rested, his rivals for a place in the frontline, Noni Madueke and Mykhaylo Mudryk, have been catching the eye on international duty.

EFL game to watch: Ipswich v Southampton
The EFL know how to do Easter right, with full programmes on Good Friday and Easter Monday featuring eight televised games either side of a Premier League weekend. Your family didn’t want to talk to you anyway.

Friday is massive in League Two, with third-placed Wrexham hosting leaders Mansfield aiming to draw level with the Stags, all the while Stockport go to bottom-of-the-table Forest Green.

In the Championship on Good Friday, the top three – Leeds, Leicester and Ipswich – are all on the road and on the box, while Monday gives Southampton the chance to regain a foothold in the promotion race when they go to Ipswich on the same evening Leeds host seventh-placed Hull.

Read more: Eight Championship relegation candidates ranked based on likelihood of dropping to League One

European game to watch: Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund
These two might not be going toe-to-toe at the Bundesliga summit but Der Klassiker remains Germany’s biggest game, with both in dire need of the points for reasons neither are accustomed to.

Bayern are already 10 points off Bayer Leverkusen in an unfamiliar losing battle for the title, while Dortmund are scrapping for a Champions League place in fourth, with RB Leipzig hot on their tail. Both might be going well in Europe but, domestically, it is already a season to forget.

That said, Bayern and Dortmund were just starting to put some form together before the break, with Saturday’s hosts winning their last three while scoring 16 goals, and BVB have won their last four – their best run in a year.

Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho provide an anglo angle, though Kane is battling to be fit having missed England’s friendlies with an ankle injury.

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