London - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes charge of Manchester
United for the first time this weekend as their on-fire rivals Liverpool aim to
become the Premier League's Christmas number one.
Former United striker Solskjaer, named caretaker manager at
Old Trafford this week following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, is gunning to
make a statement on Saturday at Cardiff City, where he flopped as coach in
At the top of the table, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have a
chance to open up a four-point lead over Manchester City at Wolverhampton
Wanderers on Friday, with Pep Guardiola's team not in action against Crystal
Palace until the following day.
Third-placed Tottenham, five points behind second-placed
City, face a tricky trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton while Chelsea host
Leicester and Arsenal, smarting after Southampton ended their 22-game unbeaten
run and League Cup defeat to bitter rivals Spurs midweek, welcome Burnley to
AFP Sports picks out some of the main talking points ahead
of the weekend fixtures in the Premier League.
Can Solskjaer restore Man United magic?
Manchester United's rotating cast of players have failed
dismally to live up to the club's tradition of swashbuckling football in a dire
season that led to Mourinho's dismissal.
All eyes will be on caretaker manager Solskjaer as he begins
his attempt to turn around the club's fortunes at Cardiff.
Among the issues facing the Norwegian are bringing Paul
Pogba back into the fold, liberating stifled attacking players and tightening
up a leaky defence.
Solskjaer, who managed Cardiff from January to September
2014, has a special place in the hearts of United fans and has talked about the
"very talented squad".
Disgruntled supporters will not be expecting miracles but
they will want to see an immediate change in style.
Liverpool keep feet on the ground
Manchester City started the season as hot favourites to
defend their Premier League crown but Liverpool have turned the campaign into a
genuine title race.
If Jurgen Klopp's unbeaten leaders beat Wolves on Friday it
would be their seventh league win on the bounce and guarantee them to be top of
the table on Christmas Day.
Each of the past four sides to be in front on December 25
have gone on to win the title, though Liverpool themselves were the last side
to fail to do so, in 2013/14.
Midfielder James Milner said the players are keeping their
feet on the ground despite their sparkling start to the season.
"A big strength of this group is how we've improved
over the last few years but also how we stay in the present and focus on each
game," he said.
De Bruyne, Aguero boost Man City firepower
A single Premier League defeat, against Chelsea, hardly
spelled disaster for Manchester City but it notably came with both Kevin De
Bruyne or Sergio Aguero missing.
Both players started in the midweek League Cup win on
penalties against Leicester, with De Bruyne scoring his first goal of an
For all their much-vaunted strength in depth, Guardiola
needs De Bruyne's creativity and Aguero's goals as he remains in the hunt for a
trophy clean sweep.
Will Pochettino's head be turned by Man United?
Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly Manchester United's first
choice for their next permanent manager - potentially meaning months of anxiety
ahead for Tottenham fans.
Spurs' multi-pronged trophy assault risks being sidetracked
by constant speculation linking their highly-rated manager to the United job
and on Thursday he was stopped from answering questions on the issue at his
Former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is among those who
believes he should stay put in north London, saying Spurs are a better team
"Man United is a massive club but I think in his
situation when he's building such a good team at Tottenham -there's a lot of
work to be done at Man United to build a good team," he told talkSPORT.
"Where do you find the players? It's getting more and more