PL Preview: Will Sanchez’s league debut spur United on?

Premier League Preview Manchester United

So far, 2018 has been a very kind year for Manchester United. From the winning start to the signing of Alexis Sanchez, to even going through to the fifth round of the FA Cup thanks to a comfortable 4-0 win at Yeovil.

However, in their next league game, Jose’s men face their toughest task of 2018 so far as they visit Wembley to play Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night.

Following a man-of-the-match performance against Yeovil, Alexis Sanchez looks set to make his Premier League debut for the Red Devils.

Sanchez could become the third player in Premier League history to score against Spurs for two separate clubs in the same season, having scored in Arsenal’s 2-1 win in November.

Against Yeovil, Jose rested a few key players such as Paul Pogba, David De Gea and Antonio Valencia. While Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku both made cameos off the bench, each grabbing a goal.

Michael Carrick also returned after being sidelined with a heart problem, and showed fans exactly what they have been missing in his absence.

Meanwhile, Spurs have been struggling compared to their usual standards. They currently sit in fifth in the Premier League and narrowly escaped FA Cup embarrassment at the hands of Newport County on Saturday.

The Exiles forced Spurs to a replay at Wembley, after Premier League top scorer Harry Kane’s equaliser saved his side’s domestic campaign.

However, Spurs’ record of beating big teams at Wembley this season speaks for itself, having triumphed over Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool at home.

In terms of injuries, Serge Aurier (ankle) and Christian Eriksen (flu)’s absences could prove to be a significant blow to Pochettino, while the only addition to Jose’s injury list is Daley Blind, who is out with a knock.

Wednesday night’s matchup could prove to be an exciting one, however, momentum certainly swings in favour of United.

The first of Tuesday’s games sees Arsenal venture to South Wales to face bottom-of-the-table, Swansea City.

Swansea are aiming to win back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time this season, following their 1-0 upset of Liverpool in their last league fixture.

Manager, Carlos Carvalhal, fielded a rotated squad as Notts County held his side to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup. But we can expect a much more familiar starting 11 against Arsenal, as Carvalhal has publicly stated his prioritisation of league games.

Swansea have the opportunity to finally climb out of the relegation zone, should West Brom and Southampton both lose their respective games.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have won four out of their last five Premier League meetings with Swansea, and have scored in all six of their matches at the Liberty Stadium overall.

Tuesday night’s clash could see the debut of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who looks to find his footing in a more consistent run of form.

Should the Mkhitaryan that helped United to Europa League glory turn up, Arsenal could become a serious attacking threat. Especially with the likes of Ozil, Lacazette and possibly Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in the fold.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Liverpool visit the John Smith Stadium to take on a turbulent Huddersfield team.

David Wagner’s men failed to win in six league games and find themselves staring in the face of relegation after a promising start to the campaign.

Liverpool have suffered from back-to-back losses in all competitions, following losses at the hands of Swansea City in the league and West Brom in the FA Cup. However, they’re yet to lose back-to-back games in the league under Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds’ star man this season, Mohamed Salah, has scored 18 goals in 23 matches in the Premier League this season. The quickest a Liverpool player has ever gotten to 20 league goals is in 27 games, reached by both Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge.

Despite a rocky spell in recent games, Liverpool are likely to triumph over Huddersfield, whose struggles extend further. That is, of course, unless Wagner’s men can pull off yet another upset against a top six side at home.

Tuesday night also plays host to another London derby, as David Moyes’ West Ham welcome Crystal Palace.

The Hammers have the opportunity to creep into the top half of the table for the first time this season. Ever since the appointment of Moyes, the Scotsman has managed to drastically turn around his side’s fortunes in impressing fashion.

The most notable achievement – as well as lifting the Hammers well outside the relegation zone – coming in the form of a rejuvenated Marko Arnautovic, who is recovering the performances of recent seasons that earned him a move to East London.

However, West Ham will be without their Austrian star, along with Manuel Lanzini, Pedro Obiang and Jose Fonte as well as seven other first-team stars who are all out through injury.

Not to mention Arthur Masuaku, who has received a six-match ban for spitting on former Red Devil, Nick Powell, during their FA Cup loss to Wigan.

Roy Hodgson’s men will look to take advantage of their opponents’ misfortunes, as they themselves have managed to pry themselves free of the relegation zone after a lengthy spell at the bottom.

However, the gap between 12th and 18th currently sits at just three points, meaning that both sides can easily find themselves amongst the strugglers yet again.

The first of Wednesday’s games sees runaway leaders, Manchester City, host 19th placed West Brom.

In a very physical encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium, Pep’s men brushed past their Welsh opponents to seal their place in the FA Cup fifth round.

City will be without German starlet, Leroy Sane, for at least a month however as he suffered suspected ligament damage from a dodgy tackle at the hands of Cardiff’s Joe Benett.

Bernardo Silva may come into the fold in Sane’s absence, the Portuguese forward had a goal controversially disallowed in Sunday’s FA Cup tie.

West Brom themselves go into the game off the back of success in the FA Cup, after beating Liverpool 3-2 at Anfield.

However, City have scored at least twice in their last 11 home matches in the Premier League, and their class will likely prove too much for Alan Pardew’s men.

Elsewhere up north, Sam Allardyce’s Everton host a Leicester City side who have kept a clean sheet in all three of Premier League matches in 2018.

The Foxes have enjoyed a drastic turnaround in performances under Claude Puel, beating Peterborough United 5-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup and sitting in seventh place in the league.

The game will be Sam Allardyce’s 1000th in charge of an English club, and no cup competition could mean that a refreshed Toffees could nab their first win since mid-December.

Although, this will be quite the challenge given Leicester’s impressive displays that have seen Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy re-find their league-winning form.

Reigning champions, Chelsea, also take on 12th place Bournemouth on Wednesday evening. Conte’s men have kept four consecutive clean sheets at home in the league, while Bournemouth are unbeaten in five league matches.

Having been knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the semi-finals at the hands of Arsenal, Chelsea recovered with a strong 3-0 victory over Newcastle United in the FA Cup.

Eden Hazard has scored five goals in his last four Premier League appearances against AFC Bournemouth, as Chelsea have the opportunity to tie with United on points should they lose to Spurs.

Meanwhile, at the Bet 365 Stadium, underperformers Stoke City look to win back-to-back league games for the first time since January 2017, as they welcome Watford.

Despite beating Huddersfield 2-0 in their last game, Stoke are only three points above the relegation zone. However, the Potters have the highest percentage of points from home games this season, with 74% of their points coming from home.

Javi Gracia aims to become the first Watford manager to start their reign off with a win in the Premier League, following the sacking of Marco Silva earlier in the month.

On the south coast, Southampton look to desperately end their 11-game streak without a win, as they take on south coast rivals, Brighton.

The Saints have failed to win a league game since November but managed to beat Watford 1-0 in the FA Cup on the weekend.

In their last league games, Southampton held Spurs to a draw at home, while Brighton suffered a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea.

Charlie Austin’s absence through injury limits Manuel Pellegrino’s attacking options. But after two positive results against Watford and Tottenham, Brighton pose less of a challenge, despite sitting two places above The Saints in the table – albeit being only one point separating the sides.

The final game in these week’s midweek run sees Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United host a Burnley side who themselves are suffering from seven league games without a win.

Sean Dyche’s men finally let go of seventh place after losing 1-0 to Manchester United in their last league game.

However, it was a 1-0 win against Newcastle that gifted Burnley seventh place to begin with earlier on in the season, thanks to Jeff Hendrick’s 74th-minute winner.

Newcastle currently sit just in 15th, but are just three points off bottom and are level on points with Brighton and Stoke below them.

There are a couple of games this week that could re-shuffle the structure of the bottom half of the table yet again.

Anyone from ninth downwards can realistically slump into the relegation battle, and with February just around the corner and 14 games left of the season, now is the time where managers really need to start worrying.