Premier League preview: Tottenham boss Mourinho can't afford to get it wrong vs. Wolves
Tottenham vs. Wolves has the makings of a big game as both teams chase a European place. How will Jose Mourinho respond after the loss at Chelsea? Here's what we are watching out for in the Premier League this weekend.
THE WEEKEND'S BIG QUESTIONS
How will Jose Mourinho approach the game against Wolves?
Jose Mourinho's constant insistence that, without Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min, there's only one possible way he could set up his Tottenham team is just about plausible, if not massively convincing, against RB Leipzig in the Champions League and away to Chelsea. But what about against Wolves? How does Mourinho gauge this one?
This is a big game, against an excellent team who are one of Tottenham's rivals for a European place. But what would Mourinho be saying about the attacking players he has if he doesn't think they can compete in a home game against a team of similar quality, who played on Thursday, when Tottenham will have had eight days to prepare? Surely he can't be as negative in this game as he has been before, can he? If he does, it might be another piece of evidence that he's yesterday's coach.
Was West Ham's performance vs. Liverpool the start of a recovery?
For a while on Monday night, it looked like football would do what football does and make West Ham the first team to beat Liverpool this season. But Liverpool did what Liverpool do and got those two late goals to consign the Hammers to a fifth defeat in seven and emphasise even further what desperate trouble they are in. Still, if David Moyes was sunny of disposition, he could spin it as a positive, reason that quite literally nobody beats Liverpool in the Premier League and their performance at Anfield is something to build upon.
For their sake, it had better be, because their game against Southampton at the weekend is now colossal, firstly because ... well, any game would be after a run as bad as theirs, but after this one their next fixtures are Arsenal (a), Wolves (h), Tottenham (a) and Chelsea (h). Not that the Saints should be regarded as a team they should beat: Ralph Hasenhuttl's men are the fifth-best away team in the Premier League, and the Hammers have the second-worst home record. This could get ugly.
Can Liverpool break the record for most consecutive wins?
After most weekends for the past few months, it has been a challenge to come up with new ways to describe Liverpool's dominance over the rest of the Premier League. If they win on Saturday, though, it will be more straightforward: Victory over Watford will be their 19th in a row, breaking the record that they jointly hold with Manchester City, setting further in stone this Liverpool side's place in history.
Does it mean much? Jurgen Klopp will probably shrug and say it doesn't, but more tangibly, it will be another step toward confirming the title, which at the moment is on pace to be confirmed against Crystal Palace toward the end of March. With Manchester City otherwise engaged with the Carabao Cup final this weekend, a Liverpool win will put them an extraordinary 25 points ahead. It doesn't matter how many times you see that written down, it still doesn't quite seem real.
MAN TO WATCH
It was impossible not to feel delighted for Ighalo as he scored his first goal for Manchester United against Club Brugge on Thursday. But now sentiment must be set aside, because Ighalo's work really starts: We don't know how serious Anthony Martial's thigh injury is, but United would be foolish to risk the Frenchman for the trip to Everton on Sunday if there is any doubt over his fitness.
All of which means all eyes are on Ighalo, who'll now almost certainly have to be their attacking focal point, thrown into the Premier League team probably a little earlier than is ideal. But this is his big chance to show those that scoffed at United signing him that they were wrong, and to justify the faith they showed in him.
THE GAME YOU'RE NOT PLANNING TO WATCH ... BUT SHOULD
Brighton vs. Crystal Palace
Frequently one of the most entertaining fixtures in the calendar, if only because of the strange and long-running rivalry between the two sides. There are various theories about why these two don't like each other, most of them dating back to a couple of games in the 1970s, but it remains odd that teams some 46 miles apart maintain such enmity. It's most certainly there, though, and while this is a game between two relatively mediocre teams who are probably competent enough to stay up, but not good enough to do much more than that, it is still certainly worth a look.
ONE THING THAT WILL DEFINITELY HAPPEN
Burnley will beat Newcastle in the grimmest game you'll see
Newcastle have one win in their last nine. Burnley have won four of their last five. The form indicates that there's only one way this encounter will go, but would we recommend watching it? No, we would not. Sean Dyche generally bristles at the suggestion that his Burnley side are not great to watch, but aside from the brilliant left foot of Dwight McNeil, not many neutrals would willingly part with cash to see them. Newcastle will be trying to grimly hang on and get something -- anything -- to stave off the threat of the relegation scrap, and aside from the chaos of Allan Saint-Maximin and occasional flashes from Miguel Almiron, aren't great entertainers either. No, we wouldn't suggest clearing space in your diary for this one.
Brighton 1-0 Crystal Palace
Bournemouth 0-2 Chelsea
Newcastle 0-1 Burnley
West Ham 0-3 Southampton
Watford 1-3 Liverpool
Tottenham 2-2 Wolves
Everton 3-2 Manchester United