Three people in the spotlight this weekend

Sports Mole takes a look at three individuals who are under pressure heading into the Premier League weekend.

Another Premier League weekend is ahead of us, and there are plenty of players and managers who are under pressure to deliver.

Below, Sports Mole has once again taken a look at three individuals who need to enjoy a successful weekend to escape more criticism.


1. Gus Poyet

In truth, it's the Sunderland players who deserve to be on this list. However, every football fan in the country will have their eye on the Black Cats boss this weekend as his side look to recover from the embarrassing 8-0 defeat they suffered to at the hands of Southampton last Saturday. Every single person involved in the humiliation, including Poyet, now has a point to prove.

Manager Gustavo Poyet of Sunderland gives instructions during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on August 24, 2014© Getty Images

Despite leading Sunderland to safety last season, reports in the summer suggested that Poyet was struggling to connect with his players and that his future is in doubt. An 8-0 loss was always going to see those doubts raised again. Is there a problem in the dressing room? Or was the loss to Southampton just a terrible day at the office?

Sunderland's supporters will want to see a response, but a tough test awaits the team as they prepare to host Arsenal on Saturday afternoon. The Gunners are also desperate to hit top form in the Premier League, and will arrive at the Stadium of Light looking to pile more misery on Poyet. Sunderland may lose again, but they cannot afford to produce another below-par performance.


2. Mario Balotelli

When Balotelli arrived at Anfield in the summer, it was clear just how delighted the majority of supporters were to see the striker sign for the club. The Italian moved to the club at a time when the Reds were still reeling from the loss of Luis Suarez. Balotelli's future looked bright, but the pressure has quickly been piled on shoulders.

Liverpool's Italian striker Mario Balotelli plays during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane in London on August 31, 2014© Getty Images

Just one goal and a series of frustrating performances have seen his critics return, and his place in the side appears to be under threat following the loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday night. It may not come as a huge surprise if he finds himself on the bench when Liverpool take on Hull City on Saturday afternoon.

If Brendan Rodgers elects to keep faith with his £16m signing, there simply has to be a response from Balotelli. Daniel Sturridge is not expected to return from injury until late November, and the need for goals is greater than ever as Liverpool look to close the gap on the sides above them in the table. Balotelli must prove his worth, and he must do it consistently. That could be as a substitute on Saturday, but he must take whatever chance he is given.


3. Louis van Gaal

The Dutchman is the second manager to be named on this list ahead of Manchester United's meeting with league leaders Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday. It's a big game for Van Gaal as he looks to prove that his side are making progress in the early stages of his reign. He's recently been eager to stress that United are not out of the title race, despite heading into the game 10 points behind Jose Mourinho's side. If the club's fans were honest, they probably don't believe that they can win the title this season.

 Manager Louis van Gaal of Manchester United walks to his seat prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on August 24, 2014© Getty Images

However, that does not mean that this game loses any of its significance. Van Gaal has been trusted to lead the club back to the glory days which were so regular under Sir Alex Ferguson. For him to achieve that goal, United must be able to produce their best against the biggest sides in the Premier League. Chelsea are rightly considered favourites, but Van Gaal can prove a few of his critics wrong by guiding his team to all three points.

A victory at Old Trafford could be a big turning point in United's season as they look to prove they can challenge the likes of Chelsea once again.


Gareth Bale of Real Madrid celebrates scoring their second goal in extra time during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz on May 24, 2014
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