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Season starts now for Everton

Everton
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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Wenger future, Champions League, relegation battle the Prem's key issues

There's no more international breaks between now and the end of the season, with the Premier League hotting up at both ends of the table. 

Each club in the top flight has a key issue to resolve between now and the end of the campaign -- from those fighting for a Champions League place to those battling to survive, everything will be resolved in the next few months. 

Our Premier League bloggers tackle the crucial question their club must answer.

CHELSEA: Being 10 points clear with 10 games remaining carries with it a degree of self-satisfaction that has already manifested itself in the chant "We're gonna win the league," which supporters have been singing with increasing gusto and belief. Architect-in-chief of the title charge is Antonio Conte. Feted by the fans, he is on the radar of Inter Milan, who have the money and home-country appeal to tempt the Italian away from Stamford Bridge. Should Conte leave, it would wipe out the current feel-good factor in a heartbeat. Are Chelsea doing enough to ensure this does not happen? -- Mark Worrall

TOTTENHAM: Spurs have tailed off in each of Mauricio Pochettino's previous two seasons in charge, winning just four of their final 10 Premier League fixtures on both occasions. Can they finish strongly this time, secure second place and even win the FA Cup?  -- Ben Pearce

MAN CITY: Qualification for the Champions League is looking pretty secure, but can City end the season with a trophy? With only one realistically left to capture, it is vital Pep Guardiola's first term ends with something tangible to build on. City's first great trophy-winning side of the modern era is about to be dismantled and the next one built out of its ashes. An FA Cup as the transition takes place would be an ideal foundation for the new era under the Catalan. -- Simon Curtis

LIVERPOOL: A new injury, this time to Adam Lallana, emphasises the difficulty Liverpool have had keeping their best players fit and firing on all cylinders, despite this happening in an England game. Jurgen Klopp's frenetic style is delighting fans but if it is indirectly leading to a loss of key players during key moments in the season, it may have to be adjusted. Qualification for Europe next season would only exacerbate the problem, so alterations to style and training regimes will be important parts of Liverpool's schedule during the summer.  -- Steven Kelly


MAN UNITED: Can Jose Mourinho get Manchester United's attack firing? If they start scoring goals with the regularity we rightly expect from such talented forwards, then so much else -- including not only a Champions League place, but maybe even a third-place finish -- will fall into place. -- Musa Okwonga

ARSENAL: The big question around Arsenal at the moment is the subject of the manager's future. Although the current indications suggest Arsene Wenger intends to stay at the club, there is still no real clarity about his decision. Arsenal need an answer soon to prevent the lingering doubt becoming ever more corrosive. -- James McNicholas

Arsene Wenger has yet to sign a new contract at Arsenal, with his existing deal expiring at the end of the season.

EVERTON: A seven-point gap and vastly superior goal difference to West Brom in eighth has Everton looking upward rather than over their shoulder. The question now is whether it will be Europa League or Champions League next season. -- Luke O'Farrell

WEST BROM: With just nine games remaining, can Tony Pulis keep West Brom motivated enough to finish strongly in eighth place and record his first top half finish as a Premier League manager?  -- Matthew Evans

STOKE: With the side long-balling their way to a safe yet uninspiring finish, fans are right to question whether Mark Hughes' exciting brand of football is ever going to make a return. -- James Whittaker

SOUTHAMPTON: Can Southampton push on for a top-half finish? European qualification for a third successive season looks an unattainable dream so manager Claude Puel's only focus will be on ending his maiden season as high up the table as possible. -- Alex Crook

Southampton reached the EFL Cup final last month but now focus is on ensuring a respectable league finish.

BOURNEMOUTH: Simon Francis and his position in the team for next season not only as captain but as a player is in serious doubt. He has from now until the end of the season to try and ensure his future as a Bournemouth player. -- Will Kent

WEST HAM: The main concern before the end of the season is ensuring West Ham don't get dragged into a relegation dogfight, while trying to build some sort of base for Slaven Bilic to build on next season. With fixtures against Hull, Swansea and Sunderland in the next month, Bilic's own position is under close scrutiny. -- Peter Thorne

BURNLEY: The Clarets need to be wary of complacency as the end of the season nears, with safety not quite assured and a run of seven games without a win in all competitions seeing them slip back towards the relegation zone. A couple of victories would likely be enough to survive, but the upcoming fixtures look testing and Stoke at home on April 5 will be very important. -- Jamie Smith

WATFORD: After an encouraging start, Watford's season has disintegrated into a grim battle on the fringes of the relegation scrap. This has left Hornets fans pondering the future of head coach Walter Mazzarri, while also asking what steps need to be taken to ensure future progress instead of the current stagnation. -- Mike Parkin

LEICESTER: The question remaining for Leicester is whether they can go from the sublime to the brilliantly ridiculous and somehow win the Champions League, although realists and pessimists will simply ask for 40 points as soon as possible so everyone at the club can breathe easy ... and continue to dream. -- Ben Jacobs

Leicester have endured a difficult season domestically but remain very much alive in Europe.

CRYSTAL PALACE: Can Sam Allardyce continue to work his magic and secure the points his team needs? Of the 10 remaining fixtures, Palace have to face Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United. They have the quality, but do they have the tenacity to get a win or two from any of these teams? -- Rob Sutherland

SWANSEA: The only question anyone in Swansea cares about is the biggest one of all -- can they survive the drop? After two losses on the trot against beatable teams, Sunday's must-win against Middlesbrough could provide the answer. -- Max Hicks


HULL CITY: The one issue hanging over Hull City is the same one that has run through their season; can they stave off relegation back to the Championship? It remains an uphill task but they're alive and kicking under coach Marco Silva. -- Phil Buckingham

MIDDLESBROUGH: Was the sacking of Aitor Karanka too little, too late, or can Middlesbrough pull off something spectacular to avoid the drop? It's all to play for in the last 10 games as they play a number of six-pointers against relegation rivals in a bid to retain Premier League status. -- Catherine Wilson

SUNDERLAND: With most Sunderland supporters now resigned to at least a season in the Championship, any discussion of how another great escape might yet happen seems pure fantasy. Despite the slender hope generated by Jermain Defoe's goals and Jordan Pickford's goalkeeping heroics, it is more realistic to wonder when in April -- when seven games are scheduled -- relegation will become a mathematical certainty. -- Colin Randall

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