With the rarity of an undisrupted programme, the Premier League once again delivered a weekend of excitement and intrigue.
With stories at the top and bottom of the table, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key talking points from the last round of fixtures before the international break.
Life’s a pitch
Manchester City’s 12-game winning run came to a halt at Southampton as they were held to a surprise 1-1 draw on Saturday night, but boss Pep Guardiola declared the performance “by far” their best of the season. Aymeric Laporte cancelled out Kyle Walker-Peters’ early opener as the visitors could not make relentless pressure pay. Laporte went on to blame the St Mary’s pitch, saying it was too small. Despite dropping points for the first time since October City still hold a comfortable cushion at the top of the table, sitting nine points above Liverpool who were 3-1 winners at Crystal Palace – thanks in part to another head-scratching VAR decision, and 10 above Chelsea, who beat Tottenham.
Same old story at Stamford Bridge
Antonio Conte remains the only Chelsea manager in the Premier League era to have lost a game to Tottenham at Stamford Bridge as the west London club’s home domination over their city rivals continued. Spurs’ 2018 victory at the Bridge under Mauricio Pochettino is the only time they have won there in the Premier League and even with Conte now in their dugout that could not change as the hosts eased to a 2-0 victory. Things could have been different had Harry Kane’s first-half goal not been controversially ruled out, but Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva goals after the break ensured that the Blues maintained the upper hand in the race for the top four.
Ranieri facing the sack?
Friday night’s 3-0 home defeat to relegation rivals Norwich could be terminal for Claudio Ranieri who must be entering the international break with dread. Managers have lost their job at Watford for much less than the dismal showing against the Canaries, but that defeat means that the Italian has taken just seven points from 11 games in charge at Vicarage Road. And with Newcastle also winning – for just the second time this season – and Burnley taking an impressive point at Arsenal, it was a bad weekend for the Hornets.
Newcastle making moves
After a run of tough fixtures, Newcastle knew they would have to start putting points on the board against teams around them in the table and they have done that. After drawing against Watford last week, they posted just their second win of the season when they beat Leeds 1-0 at Elland Road. That moved them to within a point of safety and also pulled the Yorkshire club back closer to trouble. Their next game has even more importance on it as they welcome Everton to St James’ Park, with the Magpies presumably refreshed after a trip to Saudi Arabia.
United’s ominous late show
It looked like being another disappointing result for Manchester United when they faced top-four rival West Ham at Old Trafford as they laboured towards a goalless draw. But Marcus Rashford popped up with virtually the last kick of the match to win it in a way that is synonymous with the Old Trafford club in the Premier League era. That moved them into the top four and gave them belief that they can kick-start their season and push on after the resumption.
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