PL talking points: Barnes key for Newcastle, Burnley’s great escape?

Newcastle’s Barnes ready to fill in for Gordon

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Newcastle and West Ham

Newcastle vs Everton – Tuesday, kick-off 7.30pm

The good news for Everton? Old friend Anthony Gordon is suspended for Newcastle for their trip to St James’ Park. The bad news? Harvey Barnes looks ready to step into Gordon’s shoes.

Gordon was a constant pain for West Ham in Newcastle’s 4-3 win on Saturday, winning two penalties and setting up another goal before getting himself clumsily sent off.

That would have been a blow for Newcastle had Barnes not stepped off the bench and scored twice to complete the turnaround. For once, Eddie Howe has an availability problem that actually fixes itself.

Harvey Barnes scores to give Newcastle a 4-3 lead against West Ham
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Harvey Barnes scores to give Newcastle a 4-3 lead against West Ham

Barnes has endured a difficult debut season at Newcastle, with a mid-season foot injury overshadowing some dangerous cameo appearances off the bench. Should the 26-year-old be chosen as Gordon’s replacement on Tuesday night against Everton, it will be just his third start since his £50m move from Leicester.

And this may be the perfect game to welcome him back, Barnes has scored against Everton in each of the last two seasons.
Sam Blitz

Can Muniz keep firing for Fulham at Forest?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Fulham

Nottingham Forest vs Fulham – Tuesday, kick-off 7.30pm

The loan signing of Armando Broja from Chelsea was not cheap but perhaps it has paid for itself in an unusual way if his arrival has had any impact whatsoever in the dramatic turnaround in form of Rodrigo Muniz. It is eight in eight for Muniz since Broja signed.

Fulham have scored 18 goals in total in those games, playing the sort of care-free football under Marco Silva that one might hope to see of a team that has no chance of being relegated and little more chance of forcing their way into the European conversation.

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Fulham boss Marco Silva was full of praise for in-form striker Rodrigo Muniz after the Brazilian scored a late equaliser against Sheffield United with an incredible scissor-kick

On the beach? Not quite. But it makes this the sort of game that Nottingham Forest need to make count if they are to enjoy a rematch next season. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are toiling right now, failing to convince in their draws against Luton and Crystal Palace.

That was enough to take them back out of the drop zone following their points deduction and, improbably, their poor form is still better than Luton and Everton. But Forest are going to have to help themselves at some point. This is a big chance to do just that.
Adam Bate

The great escape is on! Is this Burnley’s time to shine?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley

Burnley vs Wolves – Tuesday, kick-off 7.45pm

Suddenly, Burnley have a chance. Three games unbeaten in the Premier League now, the result at Chelsea might have been the most impressive of the lot. The draw at West Ham saw them drop points late on. Brentford had 10 players. This felt a bit different.

This time, Burnley were down to 10 – a goal and a player down at Stamford Bridge. The newfound spirit that they take back to Turf Moor to face a depleted Wolves side is enough to offer hope that an unlikely escape is possible. Burnley are now only four points behind.

The improvement has coincided with the recall of Arijanet Muric, long overdue in the eyes of some Clarets supporters. Vincent Kompany’s change of goalkeeper appears to have worked but it is a change of mood that was required too and there are signs of belief now.

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It feels like a good time to face Wolves. They are without Pedro Neto and Hee-Chan Hwang, the man whose goal decided this fixture at Molineux. Matheus Cunha may be fit enough for the bench but it is undoubtedly an opportunity. Can Burnley capitalise on it?
Adam Bate

Could Solanke snatch the golden boot from Haaland and Salah

Dominic Solanke celebrates after scoring Bournemouth's opening goal against Everton
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Dominic Solanke celebrates after scoring Bournemouth’s opening goal against Everton

Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace – Tuesday, kick-off 7.45pm

Dominic Solanke has become a firm fixture in fantasy football teams across the country. With just three assists this season, that pick has been purely based on goals.

Unsurprisingly then, Solanke is firmly in the race for the golden boot. The Bournemouth striker is joint second top scorer in the Premier League on 16 goals, only two behind leader Erling Haaland. He is re-entering form too, with two goals in his last two games.

Solanke will fancy his chances against Crystal Palace. They have kept just one clean sheet in the Premier League since November 4 when they beat Burnley 2-0, the only one since also came against The Clarets.

Challenging the likes of Haaland and Mo Salah will be no mean feat but it will be games like this one, with a home crowd and a less than secure defence to attack, that Solanke can state his case.
Laura Howard

Will West Ham’s rollercoaster of a season finish on a high?

Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paqueta celebrate after West Ham take a 3-1 lead at Newcastle
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Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paqueta celebrate at Newcastle – before it all went wrong

West Ham vs Tottenham – Tuesday, 8.15pm kick-off

David Moyes has so far overseen a tumultuous season at West Ham. Commendable victories over Arsenal and Tottenham earlier in the season have been tempered by heavy defeats to Fulham and the Gunners.

After falling to an inspired comeback against Newcastle United from a position of control on Saturday, Moyes will be hoping his side can bounce back against Tottenham.

It would be a timely three points. A Europa League clash against Bayer Leverkusen, who remain undefeated, looms on the horizon and West Ham only cling on to a European qualification spot for next year by one point in the Premier League.

Opponents Tottenham face battles for European football of their own with a Champions League spot on the line. But Moyes will see opportunity in his opponents’ defeat at Fulham and unconvincing win at home to Luton, as he looks to boost his side for a run-in which could still make this season a big success.
Laura Howard

Goal difference a major boost for Arsenal – can they keep it up?

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Arsenal vs Luton – Wednesday, kick-off 7.30pm

Manchester City and Liverpool have the know-how, but Arsenal have the numbers in their favour. Having both the best attack and defence in the league means the Gunners have the best goal difference, which could be crucial come May 19.

Should Arsenal keep their healthy tally over their two title rivals, then all they need at this stage is to better Liverpool and Man City’s run-in by one positive result to claim the title.

So while the visit of Luton may represent a game that Arsenal should win, the manner of which they pick up three points will sit in their minds, especially given Liverpool and City both have home games against Sheffield United and Aston Villa – the latter can be leaky at times with a high line.

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The omens look good for the Gunners too. Luton have conceded two or more goals in six out of their last eight away games in the league, while Arsenal have won five from five against the newly-promoted sides this term, scoring at least three goals in each of those games.

The goal difference situation means winning ugly may not suffice anymore, it’s about how you win. The tense crawling over the line in recent weeks against Brentford, Porto and Man City cannot become a regular occurrence for Arsenal.
Sam Blitz

New hope of a turnaround springs for Brentford?

Brentford vs Brighton – Wednesday, kick-off 7.30pm

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April signals a month of reckoning for a Brentford side that currently sit just five points clear of the relegation zone with only two wins in their last 18 matches.

The west London side dominated against Manchester United on Saturday, striking the woodwork four times, but struggled to make their chances pay. It is a tale of Brentford’s season, perennially unlucky with both injuries and results.

Poor luck can only justify so much and despite the credit Thomas Frank has accrued he will need that luck to turn around in April with crucial games against Luton and Everton on the horizon.

The first test comes from fellow Liverpool managerial candidate Roberto De Zerbi, whose Brighton side will expose whether Brentford’s performance was the first sign of a spring rejuvenation or merely a reflection of United’s struggles.
Laura Howard

Man City face another huge test in their title race run-in

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Gary Neville thinks that Manchester City are still well-placed to win the title and expects them to make fewer mistakes during the run-in than their rivals

Man City vs Aston Villa – Wednesday, kick-off 8.15pm

Perfection is required of Manchester City now. Placed third on both points and goal difference following their scoreless draw against Arsenal on Sunday, all Pep Guardiola’s side can do is deliver a faultless run-in and pray.

That is easier said than done. Aston Villa presents the toughest test of the Citizens’ mettle from the remaining games having come out on top at Villa Park in December. Leon Bailey made the difference on that occasion as City failed to score.

The defending champions also struggled to convert chances on Sunday, and this time, Villa will be galvanised by the nearing prospect of Champions League qualification. They are also in search of an immaculate run-in of their own with Tottenham breathing down their necks in the race for fourth place.

City so often find a way to turn it on when it matters, but Sunday could indicate that their late season perfection is wavering along with their title hopes.
Laura Howard

Liverpool must maintain focus as title race excitement heats up

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Roy Keane was left purring by Mo Salah’s 65th-minute goal, which proved decisive for Liverpool against Brighton

Liverpool vs Sheffield United – Thursday, kick-off 7.30pm

After Manchester City and Arsenal cancelled each other out with a 0-0 draw at the Etihad on Sunday, Liverpool have been put firmly in the Premier League title race driving seat. Guarding against unnecessary slip-ups now seems their greatest challenge.

On the surface, Sheffield United seem an unthreatening foe. Having conceded 11 in their last three games, the fixture appears more of an opportunity to boost goal difference rather than a threat to Liverpool’s title hopes.

The league leaders must not rest on their laurels. Having conceded early to Brighton on Sunday, they have shown they are not infallible. As a clash at Old Trafford against Manchester United at the weekend awaits, Liverpool must maintain momentum to ensure there are no slip-ups along the way.

The league leaders’ hopes will be boosted by the imminent return of Curtis Jones, while the Blades continue to struggle with an extensive injury list.
Laura Howard

Mount targets momentum on Stamford Bridge return

Mason Mount thought he had scored the winner for Man Utd at Brentford in the 96th minute
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Mason Mount thought he had scored the winner for Man Utd at Brentford in the 96th minute

Chelsea vs Man Utd – Thursday, kick-off 8.15pm

A mid-table battle might not have been how Mason Mount anticipated his Chelsea return to play out, but he will arrive at Stamford Bridge wanting to prove his own decision right.

For all of three minutes on Saturday, Mount appeared to be belatedly living up to his billing as Manchester United’s hero. That was until Kristoffer Ajer corked celebrations with a deserved 99th-minute equaliser.

It was another underwhelming United performance in a season which has proved equally underwhelming for the Englishman. Ruled out through injury since November, Mount returned with a cameo in the FA Cup victory over Liverpool touted to kickstart a so far limp season for Erik Ten Hag’s side.

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Upon leaving Chelsea for Manchester United in the summer, Mason Mount released an emotional message via his Instagram to say goodbye to the Blues

While United’s boost has not materialised, Mount could be finding his stride. His goal against Brentford was his first of the season and a clash with his former club, who have conceded two in each of their last five matches, presents an opportunity for more.
Laura Howard

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