It’s here, the final weekend before we say goodbye to the Premier League for just over a month to make way for the World Cup.
Gareth Southgate has picked his squad and perhaps James Maddison and Co will subconsciously take their foot off the gas in a bid not to injure themselves, such was the joyous reaction to being selected.
Arsenal can extend their lead at the top of the league table heading into the break, Newcastle United can prove they mean business, and some of the other big clubs just need to bounce back to winning ways and head into the break on a high note.
Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea are the teams needing to finish on a high after all failing to find any consistency in the opening weeks of the new campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo in particular might be sweating on his starting role having featured in the nightmare defeat by Aston Villa last weekend.
Down the bottom, pressure is mounting on Everton boss Frank Lampard, while Southampton hope new manager Nathan Jones can inject a new lease of life.
Sportsmail takes a look at 10 things to watch out for in the final round of Premier League fixtures before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be sweating on his place in the Manchester United starting line-up
Arsenal can extend their lead at the top of the Premier League heading into the winter break
Pressure is already mounting on Everton boss Frank Lampard, given their poor run of form
WORLD CUP STARS MAY TAKE FOOT OFF THE GAS
The amount of injuries that we’ve seen in recent weeks that have hampered players chances of heading off to Qatar, it could prove to be an interesting watch this weekend.
Some players may decide to take their foot off the gas, given that it’s the final game before the World Cup, and only just a week away.
We’ve already seen the likes of Ben Chilwell and Reece James ruled out of the major tournament after being injured in the weeks leading up to it. Players may be more reserved and cautious than perhaps your average Premier League weekend.
You’d like to think players will play their hearts out still, but you can definitely imagine it will be playing on their minds with the opportunity of playing in a World Cup only coming around every four years.
International managers will also no doubt be fearing the worst and hoping the final fixtures don’t change any of their plans for the tournament at the final hurdle.
World Cup stars may take their foot off the gas to avoid injury, like Chelsea star Reece James
NEW MANAGER BOUNCE FOR SOUTHAMPTON AT ANFIELD?
Appointed on Thursday, a trip to Anfield on Saturday, it doesn’t get much harder than that for the new Southampton manager Nathan Jones.
The former Luton Town boss watched on during the Saints mid-week Carabao Cup victory over Sheffield Wednesday where he will have assessed the squad, well somewhat.
The 49-year-old will not have much time to implement his style or even have time to look at his squad, but one thing you can normally guarantee from a new manager is players with a point to prove.
The Saints head into the clash as complete underdogs with nothing to lose, therefore could we see the cliche new manager bounce against the odds against Liverpool.
Nathan Jones first match in charge as Southampton manager will be at Liverpool on Saturday
LAMPARD OUT FOR REVENGE AT BOURNEMOUTH AFTER CUP MAULING
Frank Lampard heads back to Bournemouth just a matter of days after suffering a heavy 4-1 Carabao Cup defeat in mid-week.
Everton need to bounce back and avoid heading into the World Cup break flirting with the relegation zone.
This fixture is vital for both side’s to avoid such a feat, although the pressure is on the former England and Chelsea star, given the Toffees have lost five of their last seven matches.
Lampard slammed his players after their ‘poor’ display at the Vitality Stadium in mid-week, but he must put that behind him, and use that defeat as fuel as they head back to Bournemouth for a key Premier League fixture.
Revenge, that will the word on Lampard and his players tongues, and should surely help motivate them.
Everton were thrashed 4-1 by Bournemouth at the Vitality in the Carabao Cup in mid-week
NEWCASTLE WANT ANOTHER LONDON SCALP
Newcastle keep rising to every challenge that they’ve faced and they now have yet another this weekend as they face Chelsea.
Eddie Howe’s Magpies currently sit third in the Premier League, having lost just once so far this season to Liverpool, while they’ve drawn with both Manchester City and Manchester United.
They’ve already beaten Tottenham and now it’s all about whether or not they can claim another London scalp and big six club on their mission to go against the odds this season.
A victory over the Blues could firmly establish their position as a team battling to finish in the top four, as they head into the World Cup break.
It would also see them go nine points clear of Chelsea, which is a clear indication of their intent.
Newcastle United could move nine points clear of Chelsea, if they can beat them on Saturday
CAN LETHARGIC SPURS AND KANE FINALLY PUT IN A GOOD FIRST-HALF?
What has happened to Tottenham? They looked solid in the first few games of the Premier League season, but now they look tired and lacking real creativity.
Weirdly, Spurs have struggled in the first-half of matches rather than the second-half, which isn’t what you’d expect from a tired team. Perhaps it shows they still have character and fight under boss Antonio Conte.
The north London outfit have been massively let down in their last five fixtures in all competitions during the first-half, thankfully coming back to rescue something from the games Sporting Libson, Bournemouth and Marseille.
They did, however, come unstuck against Newcastle United and Liverpool while also suffering Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest in mid-week.
Star man Harry Kane is exhausted according to Antonio Conte, but they’ll have to find a way through tiredness and find a way to put in a good first-half performance, especially given they are coming up against an extremely energetic and attack-minded Leeds United.
Harry Kane and Tottenham have looked tired in recent weeks and now face a tough Leeds test
WHICH JEKYLL AND HYDE LIVERPOOL WILL SHOW UP?
An important clash for Liverpool if they want any hope of chasing down the Premier League front-runners, but one that you can’t anticipate what team will show up.
The Reds have beaten elite clubs such as Manchester City, Napoli and Tottenham this season, but the reason they’re struggling is their form against weaker teams.
Southampton are exactly the sort of opponent Jurgen Klopp’s side have failed to beat so far this campaign.
Thankfully, it is at Anfield as they’ve still kept an impressive record at home, and away is where they are really struggling to pick up points.
A victory could put Liverpool back in a realistic position to change down the top four after the World Cup break. We will just have to see which performance it will be whether it’s Jekyll or Hyde.
Liverpool have struggled to beat the weaker teams in the Premier League so far this season
WILL RONALDO KEEP HIS PLACE, LET ALONE THE ARMBAND?
Cristiano Ronaldo, despite all off the issues surrounding the forward, was not only back in the starting line-up for Manchester United but handed the captain’s armband last weekend.
It didn’t go well, as the Red Devils suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, but now the question is will the Portuguese superstar remain in the team who are desperately crying out for a natural goal scorer or will he be dropped once again?
Another question is if he does remain in the starting line-up will he keep the armband or was the Villa match just purely down to no Bruno Fernandes or Harry Maguire last weekend.
There is so many questions around Ronaldo, but you have to wonder if he was given a run of games, rather than being in and out whether he could find his scoring boots and be the answer to United’s lack of goals.
United have become a solid side under Erik ten Hag in recent weeks, but they still lack goals, and have looked less solid at the back without Raphael Varane. The defeat to Villa was a first in their last six league fixtures.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo keep his place in the starting line-up, let alone the captain’s armband?
MUCH-NEEDED MINUTES FOR KALVIN PHILLIPS
Kalvin Phillips big money move to Manchester City has back-fired as a whole so far, starting off playing as second fiddle to Rodri, before then getting injured – meaning he has played very little this season.
The former Leeds United midfielder is expected to board the plane to Qatar for the World Cup after declaring himself fit earlier this week.
He was a key figure for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions at Euro 2020, hence his selection once again, but he needs minute to prepare himself.
City could see it as another opportunity to play Phillips as they out-of-form Brentford in the early fixture on Saturday.
It will be much needed if England are to rely on him as a strong option in midfield after he came off the bench in their 2-0 mid-week Carabao Cup win over Chelsea.
Kalvin Phillips could get some much needed minutes for Man City ahead of the World Cup
CAN UNAI EMERY KEEP UP DREAM START?
Unai Emery got off to a dream start as Aston Villa manager with a huge 3-1 victory over Manchester United, to prove the doubters wrong that he is not a manager for the Premier League.
The Spaniard arrived at Villa Park earlier this week, making his return to the Premier League after he left Arsenal for Villareal back in 2019.
Villa did not just beat United, but totally outclassed them with early goals from Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne. Was it the new manager bounce or can they now continue such performances.
Next up is a trip to Brighton & Hove Albion, who will be full of confidence after beating Wolves in the league and Arsenal in the Carabao Cup this week.
Emery’s record against the Seagulls is not the greatest, having drawn on both occasions when in charge of the Gunners, but it’s a new team for him and Brighton now also have a new manager since those matches. Emery will be hoping he can continue his bright start.
Unai Emery got off to a dream start as Aston Villa manager, can he continue the bright start
FOREST NEED TO ROLL WITH CUP MOMENTUM
Nottingham Forest have had a miserable start to life back in the Premier League, having only won twice so far this season.
Steve Cooper’s side did, however, pick up a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup in mid-week after a 2-2 draw with Brentford in the league last weekend.
Forest desperately need points and can take encouragement from that performance as they welcome Crystal Palace to the City Ground.
It wasn’t just the win they can build on, it was more the fact that they outplayed Spurs for huge chunks of the match.
They also showed huge character as they went down to 10 men when Orel Mangala was sent off in the 75th minute for picking up a second yellow.
Nottingham Forest can take encouragement from their mid-week Cup victory over Tottenham