Premier League talking points: The De Bruyne & Haaland show, Nkunku woe, Richarlison blow

We pick out the big issues ahead of this weekend's English top-flight fixtures

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Will De Bruyne & Haaland light up derby?

It is Manchester derby time on Sunday, a fixture that seems to particularly appeal to Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland.

The City striker is back in top gear after returning from injury and, in the 6-2 FA Cup thrashing of Luton Town on Tuesday, Haaland became the first player to score five goals in a game on two occasions for the club.

Four of those were set up by regular partner in crime Kevin De Bruyne and the duo have now combined 16 times as supplier and finisher.

Despite their respective injuries this season, Haaland leads the Premier League scoring charts with 17 goals while De Bruyne has provided 12 assists in all competitions after only making his first appearance in January.

Next up is Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium, a fixture that has seen Haaland score five times in four matches – including a hat-trick at home last season, two supplied by De Bruyne, which also saw the former Borussia Dormtund attacker provide two assists.

“It's coming, we're coming,” Haaland said after the win at Kenilworth Road. “Finally I am feeling good. It's an amazing feeling. Exciting times ahead. We are ready to attack.”

Can Klopp's kids be given a rest?

Table-toppers Liverpool will be hoping to end another successful week with three points having defeated Chelsea in the League Cup final then overcome Southampton in the FA Cup, despite missing a host of key players through injury.

For the 3-0 win over the Saints, Klopp named six players aged 21 or younger in his starting XI, with all the goals coming from teenagers. Jayden Danns scored twice – in what he called “the best day of my life” – while Lewis Koumas scored the other on his debut.

But the senior players are set to return with top scorer Mohamed Salah back in training next week, while manager Jurgen Klopp should have Andrew Robertson, Wataru Endo, Dominik Szoboszlai and Darwin Nunez available for Saturday's trip to Nottingham Forest.

Klopp admitted on Friday that his young players are not ready for the spotlight: “We all agree if we put just the young boys on the pitch … they have no chance. They need to be guided and led,” said the German. “It was wonderful them on that night [against Southampton], but now it's about dealing with the challenges coming up.”

Is Gary O'Neil one of the managers of the year?

From being harshly ditched by Bournemouth to being talked about as a possible Manager of the Year award winner at Wolves, the stock of English coach Gary O'Neil has never been higher.

Last week's 1-0 home victory of rock-bottom Sheffield United may have lacked the kudos of some of their wins this season but it was still three points that lifted Wolves into the top half of the table.

It also means that O'Neil's side are very much in the running to appear in Europe next season as they sit just one point behind seventh-placed Brighton.

Wolves have beaten reigning champions Manchester City, did the home and away double over Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, plus secured draws against the likes of Aston Villa and Newcastle United.

They are also through the FA Cup quarter-finals where they will face second-tier Coventry City for a place in the last four. Next up is a Newcastle United side also looking to force their way into the European picture.

“Extremely happy,” said O'Neil on Friday. “Every single player in the squad should be extremely proud of what they have managed to produce.

“If the expectation is to see us win the FA Cup and finish in Europe then this will be the toughest part of the season, for sure.”

How will Chelsea react to latest Nkunku injury?

Another week and another spell on the sidelines for Chelsea's £52 million summer signing Christopher Nkunku.

The striker, who scored 23 goals in 36 games for RB Leipzig last season, has barely featured for his new club after sustaining a serious knee injury in August that kept him out until December.

A hip problem then kept him out for another three weeks before he returned to action looking far from match fit. And, after coming on as a substitute against Liverpool last week, he has now picked up a hamstring injury than means a further month in the treatment room.

The 26-year-old France international has managed just two goals 10 appearances for Chelsea, who sit 11th in the table.

Winning the FA Cup – they face Championship leaders Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in the quarter-finals – is their most likely opportunity of attaining European football next season. The likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United also remain in that competition, though.

“He's a bit unlucky,” said Pochettino of Nkunku, whose team are away to Brentford on Saturday. “It's tough for a player that didn't play too much. He was so good in pre-season but it has been a difficult season for him.”

Can Spurs cope without Richarlison?

Another London club to suffer an injury blow to a key striker are Tottenham Hotspur after Richarlison was ruled out for up to a month due to a knee injury.

The Brazilian has been in superb form for the North London club, scoring nine goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances, but picked up the problem during Spurs' home defeat against Wolves two weeks ago.

“Going through the last game, Richy has picked up a bit of a knee injury, so he will be missing for three or four weeks,” Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou said ahead of their game at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

“He’s had a great middle part of the season for us and been a big contributor but that’s kind of how his season has gone and we’ll just have to compensate for him not being there.”

Spurs are currently fifth in the table, five points behind Aston Villa in fourth albeit with a game in hand.

Updated: March 02, 2024, 10:46 AM