Premier League: What you need to know for this weekend

Craig Forrest and Danny Dichio talk about facing French star Eric Cantona on the 25th anniversary of his arrival in England.

The Premier League season continues this weekend with Matchday 25, and Sportsnet will have live coverage of five games:

Saturday, February 11
• Manchester United vs. Watford, 9:30 a.m. ET / 6:30 a.m. PT (Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific)
• Stoke City vs. Crystal Palace, 9:30 a.m. ET / 6:30 a.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE)
• West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion, noon ET / 9:00 a.m. PT (Sportsnet World NOW)

Sunday, February 12
• Burnley vs. Chelsea, 8:30 a.m. ET / 5:30 a.m. PT (Sportsnet World)
• Swansea City vs. Leicester City, 10:30 a.m. ET / 7:30 a.m. PT (Sportsnet World)

You can also follow all of the Premier League action this weekend online with SPORTSNET’S LIVE MATCH TRACKER.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of this weekend…

THE BIG GAME

Liverpool vs. Tottenham: Anfield will host a marquee top-four battle when Liverpool hosts Tottenham on Saturday afternoon.

Spurs are second in the table, nine points behind leaders Chelsea, so they need a victory in order to keep the Blues within reach. Liverpool sits in fifth, a point behind Arsenal, and have been in dreadful form as of late—they lost away to Hull City last week, and are still looking for their first Premier League win of 2017.

Liverpool are riding an eight-match unbeaten run against Tottenham in the Premier League (with five wins), and Spurs have lost 15 of their 24 Premier League visits to Anfield (with only two wins).

PLAYER TO WATCH

Harry Kane, Tottenham: He has been involved in all three of Spurs’ goals in their last two Premier League matches at Anfield, scoring twice and assisting on another. The Englishman has 14 goals this season—tied for third in the league—and he’s a big reason why Tottenham is sitting in second place.

LEICESTER BACKS EMBATTLED RANIERI

Leicester City enters this weekend just one point above the relegation zone, having lost 13 of its 24 league games. There’s a legitimate chance the Foxes could go down—an incredible story when you consider the miracle campaign they pulled off a year ago when they won the Premier League.

Things are tense around Leicester at the moment, with questions arising about the future of manger Claudio Ranieri. The club backed the Italian earlier this week in an attempt to calm the growing furor.

“In light of recent speculation, Leicester City Football Club would like to make absolutely clear its unwavering support for its first team manager, Claudio Ranieri,” the club said.

Leicester City visits Swansea City on Sunday.

MAN UNITED TO REDUCE TRANSFER ACTIVITY

Manchester United said this week it is going to reduce its spending in the transfer market.

United has spent approximately 500 million pounds on new players under the last three managers—David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and current boss Jose Mourinho—while failing to finish in the top three in each of the last three Premier League seasons.

“We aren’t in a position necessarily where we have to churn a large number of players,” Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice chairman, said on Thursday. “We want to get to a more steady state, and to be buying and potentially selling a lower number of players each year.”

Manchester United hosts Watford on Saturday.

EVERTON KEEN TO HOLD ONTO LUKAKU

Romelu Lukaku is a reported transfer target of Chelsea, but Everton is looking to sign the Belgian forward to an extension.

Lukaku leads the Premier League in scoring with 16 goals, and he netted four times in the Toffees’ win over Bournemouth last weekend. Lukaku signed a five-year deal with Everton in July 2014 after joining for a club record fee of 28 million pounds from Chelsea.

“I didn’t speak to the board about Romelu but if his agent has mentioned he likes to stay or is close to a new deal then that’s perfect for Everton,” manager Ronald Koeman said this week.

Everton visits Middlesbrough on Saturday.

INTERESTING STAT

JAMES SHARMAN’S THOUGHTS

Ahead of every weekend this season, Sportsnet commentator James Sharman will give his three thoughts on what’s going on in the Premier League. These might not always be the biggest stories, but rather his personal observations as the games approach each Saturday.

Here’s an excerpt from this week’s blog…

Rather than boss a match by always being in possession, N’Golo Kante seems to always be on any opponent with the ball. It is truly uncanny, he is like a magnet, his victims iron. Add to this the fact that he rarely picks up fouls, and you begin to understand the importance of Kante to Chelsea as it marches to the title, just as he was for Leicester City last season

To read the full blog, CLICK HERE

THE BIG QUESTION

After a slow start to the season, Manchester United has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance over the past few months. The Red Devils have climbed to sixth in the table and they have a legitimate chance at finishing in the top four. But there’s a sense they are still missing something to become a title contender.

All of which leads us to ask “The Big Question”…

What is Manchester United’s biggest off-season need?

Sportsnet wants to know what you think, so have your say by voting in the poll. Then tune in to Sportsnet’s Premier League coverage this weekend as soccer commentators James Sharman, Craig Forrest and Danny Dichio debate “The Big Question.”

HE SAID IT

“Against a team like Tottenham, we need everything we have got. It’s a strong opponent. If we play like we did [last week] in the first half against Hull, no chance. If we play like we did in the second half, better chance – but we should play better.” – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp

SPORTSNET’S LIVE MATCH TRACKER

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