5 talking points ahead of this weekend’s Premier League action
Liverpool have a 22-point lead at the top of the table.
The Premier League’s first winter break is at its midway point and while it is a chance to recharge the batteries for some, others are returning for the run-in.
Runaway leaders Liverpool resume action after some warm-weather relaxation and are one of eight teams in action this weekend.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points across the latest round of Premier League fixtures.
Extended rest for Reds stars?
The battle for mid-table salvation
Southampton and Burnley have both edged themselves away from the relegation places in recent weeks and they meet at St Mary’s in the early kick-off on Saturday, looking for the win that would provide a little more breathing space. Both are on 31 points and seven clear of the drop zone but it is so tight down at the bottom of the table that either could still get sucked back into danger in the remaining matches. The same also applies to Newcastle, who are also on 31 points and split the Saints and Clarets in the standings on goal difference heading into the weekend. Steve Bruce’s team are unbeaten in league and cup since a New Year’s Day defeat to Leicester and will be looking to maintain that momentum at Arsenal on Sunday. The Magpies host Burnley at the end of the month.
Spurs eye top four
Villa hoping for more home comforts
Dean Smith’s side have dipped in and out of the relegation zone for much of the campaign but will head into their match against Tottenham outside of the bottom three, a point better off than West Ham below them. Villa have won four of their last six games in all competitions at Villa Park, including their last two – a crucial last-gasp victory to come from behind to beat Watford and an equally dramatic success against Leicester to reach the Carabao Cup final. Villa were defeated at Bournemouth at the beginning of the month and will be hoping a return to Villa Park can inspire another memorable win.