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5 talking points: Erling Haaland a doubt for Manchester City's clash with Liverpool

2P2D6N2 Erling Haaland #9 of Manchester City during the Premier League match Manchester City vs Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, United Kingdom, 4th March 2023 (Photo by Conor Molloy/News Images)

The Premier League returns from the international break in style with the clash of Manchester City and Liverpool in the early Saturday game. Here are some of the talking points from that game and the other fixtures going into the weekend.

Manchester City v Liverpool – Saturday 12:30 GMT

Whilst not having the same title-deciding consequences this fixture has often posed in recent seasons, City certainly need to pick up all three points to bridge the gap to Arsenal at the top of the league.

With top scorer Erling Haaland an injury doubt after pulling out of Norway’s Euro 2024 qualifiers, more emphasis may fall onto the shoulders of Kevin De Bruyne in this game.

The Belgian midfielder is the only player in the league to currently sit within the top 10 of PFF grades for passing, crossing, and shooting, as detailed below:

Data facet Overall rank Positional rank (CM) No. of events

PFF grade


3 2 700 94.6
Crossing 3 1 205



10 4 47 86.5
Ball Carries 13 9 141


Nottingham Forest v Wolves – Saturday 15:00 GMT

An important game for both teams as they look to avoid relegation, the likelihood is that it will be a low scoring affair with one goal potentially being the decider either way.

These are two of just four teams in the league to have registered less than 100 shots on target as we approach the final stretch of the season. Wolves have managed 96 and Forest a league low of 83, both averaging just over three shots on target per game.

In comparison, the top two of Arsenal and Manchester City have managed almost double the amount of Forest with 160 shots on target. This lack of testing the opposing keeper, probably unsurprisingly, has seen both net only 22 goals this season, joint lowest alongside Everton and Crystal Palace.

Chelsea v Aston Villa – Saturday 17:30 GMT

Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins
2PG1P0G Birmingham, UK. 18th Mar, 2023. Ollie Watkins (AV), right, congratulates Jacob Ramsey (AV) after he scored the second Villa goal (2-0) at the Aston Villa v AFC Bournemouth EPL match, at Villa Park, Birmingham, UK on 18th March, 2023. Credit: Paul Marriott/Alamy Live News

Although they would have wanted to win last time out against Everton, Chelsea have been improving in recent weeks.

As have Villa who are themselves unbeaten in their last four league games. In Ollie Watkins, they have a striker in form and looking to score in his fifth-straight away league game. Watkins heads into the game with a PFF shooting grade of 87.8, the fourth best in the league.

Chelsea will be looking for new signing Enzo Fernandez to continue his good form in midfield. Fernandez has been one of the more probing passers in recent weeks, playing the most line-breaking passes (26) out of anyone in the league in the last two weekend’s whilst also earning a spot in back-to-back PFF Team of Weeks.

Newcastle United v Manchester United– Sunday 16:30 GMT

A repeat of the EFL Cup Final, these two meet separated by only three points in the battle for Champions League qualification. The visitors will be hoping Marcus Rashford has recovered from the knock that kept him out of England’s two Euro 2024 qualifiers last week. They travel to the north-east having failed to score in their last two outings, however.

Newcastle’s league leading defence, with only 19 goals conceded, has been key to their success. Fabian Schär ranks inside the top 10 of PFF challenge grades with a grade of 84.0 on the season, closely followed by Dan Burn just outside the top 10 with a PFF challenge grade of 81.1.

Everton v Tottenham – Monday 20:00 GMT

Whilst Spurs begin life after Antonio Conte and with off field issues lurking in the background, Everton will be hoping to pick up more much needed points in their bid for survival on Monday night.

Since the appointment of Sean Dyche, Everton have won three of their four home league games 1-0. Their improved form defensively at home has been led by centre-back James Tarkowski who is having a strong season despite the team’s struggles at the wrong end of the table.

Tarkowski ranks above all players in the league when it comes to PFF challenge grade at 93.2. In the previous league season with Burnley, he finished the campaign with the fifth best PFF challenge grade of 91.2, showing his consistency at the top level. Tarkowski’s defensive metrics are strong wherever you look:

Data facet Overall rank (events won) No. of events Events won % won

Aerial duels

5 178 118 66%
50/50 duels 5 48 41



17 107 51 48%
Total 1 333 210


Tarkowski and the rest of the Everton defence will have to be on guard to stop the new all-time England men’s leading scorer, and 87.7 PFF shot graded, Harry Kane.

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