FA Cup quarter-final weekend means a reduced Premier League programme of just three matches.
However, there is no less intrigue in the games which remain with significance at both ends of the table.
Here the PA news agency takes a look at some of the issues.
Spotlight on Spurs
Rarely can a trip to Aston Villa have taken on the significance of Sunday’s game for Tottenham’s players. Having had their attitude lambasted by manager Jose Mourinho after surrendering a 2-0 first-leg lead to crash out of the Europa League to Dinamo Zagreb, there will be as much focus on the players’ behaviour as there is on the performance itself. It is likely only four of the midweek team – Hugo Lloris, Davinson Sanchez, Harry Kane and Lucas Moura – will survive the cut but the return of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (who served a European suspension) will add some much-needed strength.
Can Mourinho make Spurs winners?
After one of the worst defeats in his hugely successful career, Mourinho appears to be at something of a crossroads. Brought in by Spurs to end a 13-year trophy drought and get the club back into the Champions League, the Portuguese’s hopes are now pinned on the Carabao Cup. Unfortunately he faces arch-nemesis Pep Guardiola and a flying Manchester City next month. A top-four finish looks beyond them even though, if they beat Villa, they could be just three points behind Chelsea. And Mourinho voicing doubts about the players he has at his disposal does not bode well for the long-term stability.
It is another relegation six-pointer with victory offering at the very least a five-point cushion to third-bottom Fulham. There is no doubt beleaguered Newcastle manager Steve Bruce needs it more having won just two of the last 17 league matches, a run which would have included 11 defeats had it not been for Jamaal Lascelles’ last-gasp equaliser against Aston Villa last week. However, Brighton, whose win over Southampton last weekend ended a run of five games without victory, cannot afford to lose as that would leave them within three points of the reach of Fulham having played the same number of matches with their next three fixtures Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea.
Moyes: twist not stick?
David Moyes’ record against the established big six is poor and that is largely due to the over-cautious approach – keeping things tight for 70 minutes and then trying to nick something – he takes against the so-called ‘superior’ sides. It was in evidence again in last weekend’s dreary 1-0 defeat to Manchester United and, while the Hammers boss will argue he does not have the quality to take on the top sides at their own game, this season more than most has been a great leveller. Nevertheless, in 10 matches against the big six he has won just once and lost seven but with the chance to go level with fourth-placed Chelsea surely now is the time to go for it against Arsenal, in 10th?
Time for Arteta to take a wider view
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta may have to start considering different priorities. Ten points adrift of the top four with Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea to play before the end of the season, Europe may offer a better route to success, although they will be wary of the threat of Leicester and Rangers conquerors Slavia Prague. But he cannot allow that mentality to filter into their already inconsistent league form.
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