The first weekend of 2021 brings another series of exciting Premier League fixtures – a look at some of the talking points ahead of the games is taken by PA news agency.
Manchester City has yet to announce the names of the three additional players who tested positive for the coronavirus this week, so it’s hard to tell how big the squad is that Pep Guardiola would have at his disposal at Chelsea on Sunday. Gabriel Jesus is one of the currently isolated players in Manchester City (Clive Brunskill/PA) It is already clear that Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus will be absent, but before the lineup at Stamford Bridge is revealed, those who tested positive on Monday – contributing to the delay of the game at Everton – will not be known. Just as it looked like they were going to get into the title chase, any major weakening of the squad will be a huge setback for City. Will Liverpool win at Southampton? Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp struggled to get past a draw in their last two games against West Brom and Newcastle (Nick Potts/PA) Champions Liverpool may have defeated Crystal Palace 7-0 and defeated Tottenham, but disappointing draws against Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle mean that the strength of the fixture list is taking its toll, along with the long injury list. The team is in a fantastic place and has done well so far, but even the halfway mark has not been achieved by the Premier League. To defend their title, Jurgen Klopp’s team will have to come up with a lot of stuff in the Premier League. Under the conditions, a tough ride to Southampton on Monday will not be the best alternative. What does the future hold for Burnley? Sean Dyche was able to get money for his squad this month (Dave Thompson/PA) In the last transfer window, Sean Dyche made no secret of his anger at Burnley’s lack of investment, but the next one promises to be different after the club was taken over this week by American company ALK Capital. Recent findings have pushed the Clarets away from the relegation zone anyway, so it will be important to see whether when his side host Fulham, manager Dyche has some extra momentum. Steve Bruce comes under fire from Newcastle fans (Scott Heppell/PA) As Newcastle host high-flying Leicester, an entertaining game is in store at St. James’ Park. Bruce hopes to dispel more criticism. After beating champions Brentford in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals before Christmas, fans’ criticism of Newcastle coach Steve Bruce reached a crescendo – what the manager described as unjustified “mass hysteria” after a rough few weeks was compounded by positive tests for Covid 19. The Magpies then faced a series of tough games, but in beating Manchester City, they were respectable and kept champions Liverpool to a draw. Another good outcome against Leicester could give Bruce breathing space, but after many draws, the Foxes, looking to get back to winning ways, have the opportunity to reopen wounds. Can the Blades finally win a match? Sheffield United is still looking for their first win of the season in the Premier League (Peter Powell/PA) With just two points after 16 games, Sheffield United is facing a dismal 2021. While performances have been good so far, if morale is impacted by more bad results, they could soon take a nosedive. To be able to stand a chance, the team of Chris Wilder clearly needs to start winning – and soon. Next up is Crystal Palace, which, before Christmas, conceded 10 goals in two games against Liverpool and Aston Villa. The Blades can’t afford to let this opportunity slip away with matches against Tottenham and all Manchester clubs in January.