MX23RW : Sunday, January 20 18:12:48

5 talking points ahead of this weekend's Premier League fixtures

5 talking points ahead of this weekend's Premier League fixtures
© Reuters
Liverpool are six points clear of the chasing pack.

Liverpool have a six-point lead at the top as the Premier League season moves into its second half this weekend.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some talking points ahead of the latest round of fixtures.

What has gone wrong at Manchester City?

Pep Guardiola has experienced a sudden dip in fortunes
Pep Guardiola has experienced a sudden dip in fortunes (Martin Rickett/PA)

Just a few weeks ago, City were looking formidable in their title defence but now they find themselves third, seven points behind Liverpool, after a sudden slump. Pep Guardiola's men have lost three of their last four games – one more defeat than in the entirety of last season. Midfielder Fernandinho was sorely missed in this week's back-to-back losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester, and there will be concern he is again a doubt for Sunday's trip to Southampton. City's defence has also lost some of its shape, with no clean sheets in their last six games. With a crunch clash against Liverpool coming up next Thursday, City cannot afford to drop any more points this weekend.

Can Liverpool handle the pressure?

Liverpool are now setting the pace
Liverpool are now setting the pace (Peter Byrne/PA)

Jurgen Klopp's side have acquitted themselves superbly so far, reaching the halfway stage unbeaten and with a healthy cushion at the top. They have conceded just seven times and shown a previously unseen ability to win without playing at their best. But perceptions of them have suddenly changed. No longer are they seen as a side clinging onto the coat-tails of City, they have been installed as outright favourites for the first time. As Guardiola has pointed out, that brings a different pressure. Add to that the lack of a league title since 1990, and the season from here on becomes as much a test of nerve as ability. The visit of Arsenal on Saturday presents them with a stern examination of their credentials.

Are Spurs the real deal?

Spurs have hit form
Spurs have hit form (Adam Davy/PA)

City's slip has also allowed Tottenham to climb the table and, at present, they are Liverpool's closest challengers. They are brimming with confidence after five successive wins and goals have started to come in waves, with a 6-2 victory at Everton followed by a 5-0 thrashing of Bournemouth. Unlike Liverpool, they do not have the pressure of leading to bother them, or the concerns of City. They will look to maintain their momentum as Wolves visit Wembley for what could be a compelling game.

Can Claude Puel keep it going?

Puel fought back from the brink to mastermind two stunning wins
Puel fought back from the brink to mastermind two stunning wins (Nigel French/PA)

The Leicester manager was reported to be on the brink of getting the sack just a week ago when it was claimed he had lost the dressing room. If that was the case, it seems to have quickly changed after successive wins over Chelsea and Manchester City. That has dramatically changed the feeling in the Foxes camp. A home clash against Cardiff, while presenting a different type of challenge, would seem to offer the opportunity for momentum to be maintained.

Bottom two crunch clash

Huddersfield have lost six in a row
Huddersfield have lost six in a row (Dave Thompson/PA)

Bottom side Huddersfield travel to 19th-placed Fulham for a game neither side can really afford to lose. Huddersfield have lost their last six games and are five points off safety. A lack of ruthlessness in front of goal is costing the Terriers. Fulham's leaky defence has been their biggest weakness this season. There have been signs Claudio Ranieri has tightened up the rearguard in the last two games but the Cottagers are also without a win in six and in need of a lift.

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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool23193154134160
2Manchester CityMan City23182362174556
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs23170648232551
4Chelsea23145440192147
5Arsenal23135548321644
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd23135546331344
7Watford239683232033
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves239592731-432
9Leicester CityLeicester2394102929031
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2394103034-431
11Everton238693433130
12Bournemouth2393113342-930
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2375112532-726
14Crystal Palace2364132332-922
15Southampton2357112540-1522
16Burnley2364132343-2022
17Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2356121931-1221
18Cardiff CityCardiff2354141944-2519
19Fulham2335152151-3014
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2325161340-2711

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