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Premier League talking points ahead of weekend action

liverpool vs aston villa
They were once captain and lieutenant at Liverpool, but Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers will be in opposite dugouts on Saturday as Aston Villa head to Leicester

After an action-packed midweek round of games, the Premier League quickly returns this weekend.

Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool will look to gain an advantage in the title race while there is a huge game at the bottom between Newcastle and Burnley.

Here, the PA news agency picks out some of the main talking points.

Ralf’s reign begins

Ralf Rangnick took a watching brief on Thursday as Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-2 at Old Trafford, with interim boss Michael Carrick immediately announcing after the game that he was leaving the club. Rangnick will be in the dugout for the first time on Sunday as United host Crystal Palace, managed by a familiar foe in the shape of Patrick Vieira. This will be the first chance to get a glimpse of what the German’s United might look like and on paper it will be a good chance to try and get themselves back in the race for the Champions League places.

Can Chelsea steal an early march?

Chelsea are currently a point clear at the summit of the table, but Thomas Tuchel has not been happy with his side’s last two performances. The Blues were below par against Manchester United last weekend and then needed a late goal to beat lowly Watford in midweek. They will face a tough test as they kick off the weekend’s action with a trip across London to face West Ham, but if they can win they will move four points clear of Manchester City, who visit Watford in the evening kick-off and five in front of Liverpool, who play Wolves at 3pm.

Howe long until Newcastle win?

Newcastle are the only side in the top four divisions of English football not to win a league game this season and they have been unable to gain a ‘new manager bounce’ from Eddie Howe’s appointment. There were encouraging signs during the midweek draw with Norwich, where the Magpies performed admirably with 10 men for most of the match. They have another prime opportunity to end their drought when Burnley visit St James’ Park in what could be classed as a six-pointer. The Clarets, who beat Newcastle on penalties in the Carabao Cup earlier this season, could move six points above their relegation rivals and even at this early stage of the season that would be a big gap. If Howe is going to lead Newcastle away from danger, then you sense it has to begin on Saturday.

Gerrard and Brendan’s reunion

They were once captain and lieutenant at Liverpool, but Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers will be in opposite dugouts on Saturday as Aston Villa head to Leicester. Gerrard wore the armband and was the figurehead of the side managed by Rodgers that went close to winning the Premier League title in 2013/14. Gerrard is still in the early stages of his managerial career in the league where he excelled as a player at Anfield and will be hoping to get Villa back to winning ways after they were beaten by Manchester City in midweek. Leicester, who have been top four challengers in the last two years, are having a more difficult time of it this season.

Benitez’s backing

Rafael Benitez has had the dreaded vote of confidence from the Everton hierarchy after Wednesday’s 4-1 Merseyside derby defeat made it eight games without a win. The Spaniard may be safe from the sack for now but he is certainly under pressure and will be desperate for his side to stop the slide when they host Arsenal on Monday night. After a solid start to the season, the Toffees are looking over their shoulder at the wrong end of the table going into a very busy period so will see the visit of the Gunners, who were beaten at Old Trafford on Thursday night, as a good chance to gain some much-needed momentum.

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