Premier League: What to look out for on the final weekend before the World Cup

    There's still a lot to play for before football jets off to Qatar (Pictures:
    There’s still a lot to play for before football jets off to Qatar (Pictures:

    With under 10 days until the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, the focus is shifting away from the Premier League.

    But it’s not over yet! With one last weekend still to go, every match counts.

    We’re savouring one last weekend of Premier League action before the beautiful game packs its bags for the World Cup.

    Here’s what’s happening.

    Norway’s finest

    While the Premier League’s other star names (or at least those who have avoided the injury bug) will be strutting their stuff in Qatar, the league’s top scorer and the creative force behind the league leaders both have the month off because, despite the talents of Eriling Haaland and Martin Odegaard, Norway have failed to qualify for the World Cup.

    Pep Guardiola will rest easy knowing his big goalgetter is resting up and playing golf in Spain rather than getting kicked around the park, although the Manchester City manager is not without his concerns.

    ‘How perfect he’ll be in the second half of the season depends on how he behaves in Marbella,’ he said.

    Manchester City v Fulham FC - Premier League
    Erling Haaland is expected to behave himself on his month off (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

    ‘He will play golf, hopefully not eat and drink too much and come back in great shape for the second half of the league.’

    So, strap in this weekend and savour one last look at a duo who have combined for 21 goals and five assists already this season.

    Momentum stuffer

    Talking of Odegaard’s Arsenal, tomorrow night’s trip to Wolves could be bittersweet for fans of the effervescent league leaders.

    The influence or even existence of momentum is questioned by many sages but you can bet plenty of Gooner fear the groove their players currently find themselves in could easily be disrupted by an unprecedented four-week sabbatical.

    Sure, the World Cup offers a nice chance to recharge the batteries for Odegaard, Scotland’s Kieran Tierney and even Mikel Arteta and his staff, but there will be doubts about whether the magic spell that has carried them to 11 wins from 13 games will be broken when the visit of West Ham heralds the resumption of the Premier League on Boxing Day.

    Under temporary management

    Caretakers have been all the rage this season but Unai Emery has been installed at Aston Villa and by the time the action resumes Julen Lopetegui will have taken full control at Wolves. Why even poor old Gary O’Neil might finally have been granted a permanent parking space at Bournemouth.

    Emery and Lopetegui are meticulously prepared managers with Europa League winner’s medals on their CVs and having a mini pre-season under their belts will surely see their teams far more organised and sure of their roles after Christmas.

    It has been an underwhelming first stanza of the season in the west Midlands but if you are playing Wolves or Villa, this weekend is likely to represent the last chance for some cheap points.

    Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League
    Unai Emery is prepared to change Aston Villa’s fortunes (Picture: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)

    Life and limbs

    There will be packed crowds and passion in Qatar, of course. But will there be anything to match the kind of fervent atmosphere Nottingham Forest fans will generate when Crystal Palace visit the City Ground tomorrow?

    Will the World Cup provide anything to compare to the spectacle of a heavyweight Newcastle fan who has forgotten to clothe the top half of his body?

    In both the World Cup and the Premier League there will be late goals and last-gasp drama accompanied by pandemonium in the stands but in only one case will the celebrations be led by supporters who are three sheets to the wind and able to hug their fellow man without fear of arrest.

    Glove for the game

    In recent weeks, Leeds winger Crysencio Summerville has scored back-to-back winners in the last ten minutes against Liverpool and Bournemouth.

    The Dutch midfielder’s emergence has also coincided with one of the great seasonal developments of the English game – footballers in gloves.

    Despite the mild start to autumn (who needs central heating anyway?), Summerville has been one of the first players to reach for the finger warmers.
    With the centre of the footballing universe relocating to the gulf for the next month gloves, snoods, yellow balls and cups of Bovril are about to take a back seat.

    Wrap up warm and enjoy one last weekend of foot-stamping, chilled football.

    Points mean passion

    Non-plussed by Kevin de Bruyne’s piledriver for Belgium, uninterested in Kieran Trippier’s assist for England and not angry that Bruno Fernandes is on the bench for Portugal again?

    That strange sense of apathy you feel for the games being played out in front of you, that lingering suspicion that the football you are watching doesn’t really matter? That’s because, without valuable points for your precious fantasy football team, it really doesn’t matter that much.

    Of course there are World Cup fantasy football competitions but they lack the history and prestige of that one where you consistently beat up on your sister but always finish below the nine-year-old son of some bloke you used to work with.

    So, let’s savour one last weekend of hating yourself for cheering on Mohamed Salah and checking Raheem Sterling for a pulse just because you ‘have’ them in some made-up game which means nothing and everything all at the same time.

    A bit like football really.

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