LONDON: Jurgen Klopp must juggle Liverpool’s Premier League ambitions with a pivotal Champions League trip to Paris Saint-German while Tottenham hope to prove their mettle with a victory against Chelsea in the game of the weekend.
For the first time in English top-flight history, there are three unbeaten teams after 12 matches, with Liverpool tucked in two points behind leaders Manchester City and Chelsea a further two points adrift.
Liverpool travel to seventh-placed Watford on Saturday, seeking to stay in touch with City while Pep Guardiola prepares to face his predecessor Manuel Pellegrini, who is now in charge at West Ham.
Manchester United host Crystal Palace after their dispiriting defeat against City while Arsenal have a tricky tie at Bournemouth.
AFP Sport picks out some of the key talking points ahead of this weekend’s matches.
Klopp’s balancing act
Last season’s Champions League finalists Liverpool will travel to Paris next week for their penultimate group game with their hopes of reaching the knockout stages in the balance.
But first they must negotiate a potential banana skin at Watford, knowing that slipping further behind against City could prove fatal, even at this early stage of the season.
Klopp gave an upbeat assessment of the season so far despite a couple of disappointing Champions League defeats.
“So many things are better than last year,” he said. “Defending is better, set-pieces are better, we are much more mature in games, game management is better. So many things are better.”
“It’s all good, I like the season,” he added. “There has been a lot of improvement so far and there is still space for further improvement. But a very intense period is coming up now.”
Can Spurs earn statement win?
Tottenham have won nine of their Premier League games so far but, significantly, two of their three defeats have come against top-four rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
Now they have the chance to leapfrog Chelsea with a victory at Wembley, with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino suggesting the lack of Champions League football is helping his London rivals.
“This season they are competing in the Europa League again and it’s completely different for Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool or us because we’re competing in the Champions League,” he said. “It’s a completely different competition.
“I am not surprised (by their start) because Chelsea have an unbelievable squad and players. This summer they invested. They signed players, quality players and they added to the squad. But it’s normal, they have one point more than us.”
Can Arsenal reverse mini-slump?
Arsenal travel to Bournemouth on Sunday, hoping to break a run of three consecutive draws in all competitions.
Manager Unai Emery has claimed the club needed a breath of fresh air after 22 years of Arsene Wenger.
So far his formula appears to be working, with the club just three points off the Champions League places, but he is in no doubt about how tough the task will be, despite the bright start to the season.
“We need to give the team another push,” Emery said in an interview with Spanish sports daily Marca. “Our aim is to be in the top four but it isn’t easy. It’s getting harder and harder to get there.”
Will ‘Tinkerman’ work his magic?
Claudio Ranieri won the Premier League title in his last spell in the Premier League with Leicester but must now roll his sleeves up for a Fulham rescue act.
Only two sides have ever had fewer points after their opening 12 Premier League games to a season than Fulham’s tally of five this campaign — Everton and QPR.
Despite the daunting challenge, Ranieri’s passion for the game remains undimmed after his 18th managerial appointment.
“Clean everything and restart,” he said when the club’s six-match losing streak in the league was mentioned ahead of Saturday’s visit of fellow strugglers Southampton.