Premier League preview: Will Kane's injury be a curse for Liverpool?

Why Tottenham 'barely have a chance' vs. Liverpool (1:02)

Steve Nicol says Tottenham can only beat Liverpool if Liverpool beat themselves. (1:02)

Everything you need to know about this weekend's Premier League action, all in one place.

Jump to: Will Kane's injury hurt Liverpool | Saints to suffer PTSD | Moyes to pass first test | Man to watch | Game not to miss | Stats of the weekend | Team that needs some luck| One thing that will definitely happen | Predictions

The weekend's big questions

Will Harry Kane's absence actually make things harder for Liverpool?

The short, lacking in nuance answer to that question is: "No, obviously not, you fool."

The slightly longer, more nuanced answer is: maybe. Tottenham have actually coped pretty well without Kane in the past, his annual one-to-three-month injury usually negotiated as well as can be expected for a team that hasn't had another centre-forward worth speaking of for a decade. But in this specific instance, with Jose Mourinho leading a team against a thrilling Liverpool side chasing the league title, it could mean Mourinho goes ... well, even more Mourinho.

The Spurs manager loves the role of the spoiler, his mentality in these games rather akin to a child who smashes their sibling's toy: the "if I can't have it, nobody can have it" theory. With Kane available, in a home game with his side needing a result, Mourinho might still have felt obliged to attack and compete like a normal football team. But without Kane, he might think Spurs can't win by conventional methods, and there's a stronger-than-average chance that he will bunker down and get his team to simply do everything they can to frustrate Liverpool and earn a draw, by any means necessary. It could be a long evening for Jurgen Klopp's champions-elect.

Will Southampton suffer from footballing PTSD?

At the time, it felt like the end of the world for Southampton, but ultimately it seems the only medium/long-term casualty of their 9-0 defeat to Leicester back in October was goalkeeper Angus Gunn, who hasn't played a minute of league football since. Which makes some sense. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl survived despite suggestions, after such a calamitous defeat, that his position was untenable, and the Saints hierarchy have been rewarded for sticking with the Austrian.

The two sides meet again for the first time since that Friday night rout, and this is where the illogical psychology of football comes in. Southampton have slowly recovered since that evening, winning five of their last eight to clamber back up to 12th place and in terms of points, are the same distance from Spurs in sixth as they are to Bournemouth in 18th. But the Saints players would not be human if the sight of those blue shirts and Brendan Rodgers and Jamie Vardy didn't give them flashbacks, a sort of mild form of footballing PTSD, which could easily affect how they play on Saturday. It will be fascinating to see if it does.


Has Kane's injury dashed Tottenham's top 6 hopes?

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Will David Moyes pass a real test back at West Ham?

If you're feeling uncharitable towards David Moyes, you could write his opening two wins back at West Ham off as gimmes, a thrashing of beleaguered Bournemouth followed by a solid victory against League One Gillingham in the FA Cup. But if the Hammers get a result in their next encounter, it will be a little more difficult to quibble with his impact. Travelling to Sheffield United is a tough task as Chris Wilder's side are one of the more punishing opponents in the Premier League, so this is a real test for Moyes. If his side pass it then there may be real cause for optimism in East London.

Man to watch

Granit Xhaka

Perhaps it was a move to help win over the dressing room, where Granit Xhaka is reportedly very popular, but it was a big call for one of Mikel Arteta's first acts as Arsenal manager to persuade Xhaka that he should turn down Hertha Berlin and stay at the Emirates. Xhaka's rift with the Arsenal crowd seems to be behind both parties now, but a more pressing issue is whether the Swiss midfielder's performances will actually be worth the effort.

Xhaka was calamitously bad in the first half of their FA Cup win over Leeds (with the caveat that no Arsenal player was good), and was extremely lucky not to donate a couple of goals to the Championship side. Xhaka owes Arteta a performance to justify his manager's faith, starting against Crystal Palace on Saturday. And if you believe in narratives like this, Palace were the opponents during his minor meltdown against the Emirates crowd.

The game you aren't planning to watch, but should

Bournemouth vs. Watford

This is arguably the biggest game of the weekend, a clash between one side on the up and another very much not. Watford's form has been recovering at around the same time as Bournemouth's has completely collapsed. Just a point separates the two teams now, compared to the eight when Nigel Pearson was appointed at Watford just a month and six games ago. So a classic relegation "six-pointer" then; one team looking to further their recovery and another trying to start one. For Bournemouth's part, their hope is that the goals scored by Callum Wilson and Dominic Solanke in the FA Cup will spark some sort of form for them, because boy do they need it.

Stats of the weekend

- Tottenham-Liverpool highlights the Premier League slate on Saturday. Liverpool have gone over a year (Jan. 3, 2018) since their last Premier League loss and are on a 37-game league unbeaten streak. The Reds are also unbeaten in their past eight PL matches in London, and seek to win four straight in London for the first time since October 1989.

- Crystal Palace host Arsenal, which sees the oldest head coach in the Premier League (Roy Hodgson, 72) facing the youngest head coach in the Premier League (Mikel Arteta, 37) -- an age difference of almost 35 years (34 years and 229 days). Hodgson was six years into his managerial career when Arteta was born.

- Leicester City defeated Southampton 9-0 earlier this season in what tied the record for largest win in Premier League history and broke the record for largest away win. The most goals a team has scored against an opponent in a single PL season is 12; Leicester need three goals to equal the totals 1995-96 Blackburn scored against Nottingham Forest and Tottenham scored against Wigan in 2009-10

The team that needs a bit of luck

Aston Villa

Aside from Bournemouth, Aston Villa must be the unluckiest team in the Premier League as far as injuries are concerned this season. They have lost their first-choice goalkeeper and only centre-forward to speak of, and it's only down to the excellence of manager Dean Smith and various players, most prominently Jack Grealish, that they managed to win their last league game against Burnley and get a creditable draw against Leicester in their Carabao Cup semifinal.

By the time Sunday's game against Manchester City comes around they may have recruited replacements in those two key positions, but if they don't then they will need all the luck in the world to get out of this in one piece.

One thing that will definitely happen

Everton will be frustrating, whatever the result against Brighton

The irritation for Everton fans in losing last weekend's Merseyside derby was not the defeat -- they're used to that. It probably wasn't even that the defeat came against Liverpool's B team -- they have so much talent at Anfield, that sort of thing can happen. The irritation was more the absolutely spineless performance, surrendering to their local rivals with barely a whimper.

So whatever happens against Brighton, they will probably frustrate their supporters: if they don't win, it's another set of points down the toilet and they'll be looking over their shoulders at the relegation spots. But if they do win by showing some gumption (and they'll have to against Brighton) then we should rightly wonder where that moxy was last weekend.


Sheffield United 2-0 West Ham United

Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal

Everton 3-1 Brighton

Leicester 3-1 Southampton

Manchester United 1-1 Norwich City

Chelsea 2-0 Burnley

Wolves 3-0 Newcastle

Tottenham 1-3 Liverpool

Bournemouth 1-2 Watford

Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester City