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W2W4: Liverpool might benefit from change; Chelsea must move past Kepa drama

There's a host of midweek games in the Premier League which could have a significant impact on the title race. But what matters most? Nick Miller explains.

A change might be helpful for Liverpool

Something isn't quite right at Liverpool. The defence has been fine and the midfield is doing a solid enough job, but the forward line has lost some zip. The difficulty of having such a finely tuned attacking trio is that it only takes a couple of small things to be awry to throw the whole thing off: That certainly is what it looks like is happening at the moment. Mohamed Salah's decision-making is askew; Roberto Firmino didn't look fit even before going over on his ankle against Manchester United; and although Sadio Mane has scored a few goals recently, he is less of a threat on his own than as part of the three.

A change might be as good as a rest, and that change might well be forced upon Jurgen Klopp for Wednesday's game against Watford, with Firmino's injury. That there isn't a natural replacement for the Brazilian might actually work to their advantage this time; something a little different, whether that's Xherdan Shaqiri, Adam Lallana, Divock Origi or Daniel Sturridge, might just do the trick in the short term.

Can Chelsea shine after the Kepa saga?

Call this adorably naive, but it wasn't that difficult to believe Chelsea's official line that the, shall we say, "difference of opinion" over Kepa Arrizabalaga's substitution in the Carabao Cup final was actually just a misunderstanding. The trouble is, from Maurizio Sarri's perspective it simply looks abysmal: This was essentially a physical manifestation of the reports that his players are no longer listening to him.

Chelsea fining Kepa a week's wages was a smart move, if only because it takes the heat off Sarri ahead of their game against Tottenham on Wednesday. Had they let the situation drag on, there might have been an expectation that the keeper should be dropped, which would have been a symbolic and ultimately fairly pointless move: Surely dropping the most expensive goalie in the world for a game versus Harry Kane would have been self-defeating.

Maybe the worst part of all this is that the row overshadowed a pretty good performance from Chelsea: Had it not occurred and they had simply lost on penalties, then we probably would be talking about a side that kept Manchester City at bay, potentially turning a corner, one that actually is listening to the manager. If they can put in a similar showing against Spurs, we won't be talking about Kepa for much longer.

Spurs must stop their season unravelling

Even Mauricio Pochettino doesn't really believe that Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Burnley was down to Mike Dean's officiating. His outburst after the final whistle was a fairly straightforward expression of frustration at how his team managed to lose the game and the inadequacies of their performance. Winning the league was always an extremely long shot before that defeat anyway, but as they still have to play Manchester City and Liverpool, it was technically still in their hands.

It isn't anymore, but the trick for Pochettino now is to ensure that defeat doesn't lead to their season unravelling like it did at Turf Moor. In some respects, it had been coming, if only because they have enjoyed some luck and had some late victories earlier in the season (not least in the previous fixture against Burnley); but if they manage to turn Chelsea over and emphasise the weekend was an aberration, it will soon be forgotten.

Manchester United are the walking wounded

Liverpool losing just one player from Sunday's game was a great result in comparison to Manchester United's myriad ailments. Nemanja Matic and Anthony Martial already were injured, then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to remove Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard, meaning Marcus Rashford had to stay on despite operating on one leg for most of the game.

So where does that leave them for the trip to Crystal Palace on Wednesday? It might give Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez a chance to prove themselves, but that's not necessarily a good thing, given the way they've performed in their relatively rare first-team outings.

The question for Solskjaer is how he balances the fitness of his squad in the games ahead: Does he gamble on some players and risk further injury to continue their momentum in the league or keep everyone back so they're fit as they can be for the Champions League second leg against Paris Saint-Germain? Either is a risk, and it will be interesting to see just how much he risks at Selhurst Park.

For Fulham and Huddersfield, this is now about reclamation of dignity

As if another disheartening defeat wasn't enough, Fulham's 3-1 loss at West Ham on Friday ended with heated arguments among the away fans, and at least two of their number were removed from the London Stadium with arms flailing. That loss meant they stay eight points from safety, meaning in all likelihood they will join Huddersfield in returning to the Championship. Huddersfield's relegation won't be confirmed for a few weeks, but their biggest target in the coming weeks is to beat Derby's record low points total of 11.

For Huddersfield, and to a slightly lesser extent Fulham too, the coming months are no longer a survival campaign. This is now about recovery, reclaiming some form of dignity in what has been a harrowing season for both sides. Their aim must be to just slip away, rather than be remembered as one of the most embarrassingly bad teams in Premier League history.