Conduct questioned in spying saga
The football world has been gripped by “Spygate”, which sounds like it has all the makings of a blockbuster narrative, but in reality turned out to be a Leeds United staff member lurking in the bushes of a Derby County training session.
Pundits, journalists and fans alike have been at odds over the rights and wrongs of Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa’s conduct, after admitting he has sent a member of staff to watch every team they have faced this season in training.
However, is there anything wrong in a manager gaining an unsporting advantage or is it merely “just part of the game” as some of his rival managers have suggested?
Meanwhile, away from the Sky Bet Championship and back in the Premier League, the standout match of the weekend throws up a London derby at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal welcome Chelsea with both teams chasing a coveted Champions League spot.
The home side will be aiming to cut the deficit to their fourth-placed visiting side, having dropped six points behind Chelsea, but will be aiming to clinch a fifth straight victory at home.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leicester City
Claude Puel became the clear favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave his job after David Wagner’s departure from Huddersfield Town this week, but can boost his job prospects with a victory away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Leicester City have won only once in their last nine visits to Wolverhampton, however, there may be confidence taken from the home side’s inconsistent form at Molineux, where they have lost five of their latest seven Premier League home games, four of them 2-0. Prediction 1-0
AFC Bournemouth v
West Ham United
Bournemouth’s excellent start has turned badly wrong with Eddie Howe’s side suffering 11 defeats in their last 14 matches. Three of their five meetings hosted by Bournemouth have ended as score draws but with West Ham winning seven of their last ten games, Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be confident of sealing another three points. Prediction 1-2
Crystal Palace have won their last two Premier League away games, including at Manchester City, but it will be a big ask for Roy Hodgson’s side to continue that sequence at Anfield.
Palace should not be short of confidence because they triumphed in Merseyside for three seasons in a row before last term, but Anfield has become a fortress for the league leaders this campaign with only Manchester City stopping Liverpool from winning there this term in the league. Prediction 1-0
Manchester United v
Brighton & Hove Albion
Six wins in a row for Manchester United, including at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, have restored the feel-good factor to Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
They will be expected to make it seven on the bounce since the popular Norwegian took charge, but their opponents are not the type to roll over easily.
Brighton have beaten United twice at the Amex Stadium since they were promoted and while they are not as strong on the road, they made United pull out all the stops on their trips north in both the league and the FA Cup last season. Prediction 2-0
Newcastle United v
Newcastle host Cardiff in what could prove a vital encounter with the home side having dropped into the relegation zone after a 2-1 loss at Chelsea.
Cardiff travel to St James’s Park on the back of just a goalless draw against rock-bottomed Huddersfield, leaving Neil Warnock’s side just a point clear of their rivals in the drop zone.
Southampton v Everton
Southampton are at home to Everton as they look to extend their three-match unbeaten streak across all competitions.
The home side held Chelsea to a goalless draw before beating Leicester in their previous two league matches and will be aiming to take advantage of Everton’s struggle for consistency, especially on the road, where they have earned just two wins in ten away games. Prediction 1-1
Watford v Burnley
Burnley travel to Watford aiming to add to their four-match winning streak across all competitions.
The visiting side have beaten West Ham (2-0), Huddersfield (1-2), Fulham (2-1) in recent weeks to climb to fifteenth place and three points clear of the drop zone. Watford beat Crystal Palace last time out to extend their own unbeaten run to four games across all competitions.
Arsenal v Chelsea
Arsenal have dropped six points behind the Premier League top four but have the opportunity to close the gap against fourth-placed Chelsea tomorrow.
Unai Emery’s Arsenal have earned four home wins in a row since early December and outclassed both Burnley (3-1) and Fulham (4-1) in their last two home outings. Chelsea have suffered inconsistent form of late but came into the encounter on the back of a narrow 2-1 win over Newcastle last weekend. Prediction 2-2
Huddersfield Town v
Mark Hudson takes charge of Huddersfield Town for the first and possibly only time after David Wagner parted company with the club by mutual consent.
Huddersfield are stranded at the bottom of the table and eight points from safety going into the weekend. Since suffering back-to-back defeats, Manchester City have secured three straight wins, including a vital 2-1 success over Liverpool, leaving them four points behind the league leaders.
Tottenham make the trip across London without influential duo Harry Kane, out injured until March, and Heung Min Son, who is competing with the South Korea team at the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The visiting side head into the game on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United last time out but have a strong chance of bouncing back against a Fulham side five points adrift of safety after just one win from their last nine. Prediction 1-2