Three talking points from the Premier League

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Kevin De Bruyne’s explosive return to Premier League action inspired Manchester City to a dramatic 3-2 win at Newcastle and sent a warning to the defending champions’ title rivals.

City climbed to second and within two points of leaders Liverpool, who had the weekend off for their winter break.

Aston Villa failed to take advantage and move joint top as they were held 0-0 in a bad-tempered clash at Everton.

Honours were also even at Old Trafford as a 2-2 draw with Tottenham did little to aid Manchester United’s hopes of a top-four finish.

AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend:

CITY POISED TO POUNCE

De Bruyne came off the bench to score and set up Oscar Bobb’s stoppage time winner at St. James’ Park on his first Premier League appearance for five months after a serious hamstring injury.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said “the whole country is starting to shake” as De Bruyne approached a return and City look ominously poised to strike in the title race when they return from a two-week break.

Pep Guardiola’s men have now won six consecutive games in all competitions despite missing Erling Haaland for over a month.

The Norwegian could also be back by the time City next take the field in the Premier League at the end of the month.

The prospect of De Bruyne and Haaland linking up once more is a scary one for the challengers to City’s crown.

No side has ever won four consecutive English top-flight titles.

But after an understandable dip in standards from winning a treble last season in the first part of the campaign, City are still well-placed to defend their title should they click into gear in the second half of the season.

SPURS SHOW STYLE UNITED LACK

Tottenham may not have managed to leave Old Trafford with the three points that would have taken them into the top four, but a depleted Spurs still showed the United crowd what they are missing.

Twice United led in the first half through fine finishes from Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford.

Yet, Ange Postecoglou’s men were never thrown off course as they dominated with 64 per cent of possession and six shots on target to United’s two.

New United co-owner Jim Ratcliffe was in attendance to cast an eye over his new $1.3 billion investment for the first time.

The performance and result he saw will do little to ease the rising pressure on Erik ten Hag.

Nearly two years into the Dutchman’s reign, Ten Hag is yet to leave his mark with an identifiable style of play in the manner Postecoglou managed within months at Tottenham.

Spurs are also eight points better off in the table with United’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League fading by the week.

VILLA FEEL THE HEAT

Aston Villa have surprised many fans with their unexpected title challenge, but their prospects of being crowned champions for the first time since 1981 would have been even greater but for an untimely recent stumble.

For the second time in recent weeks, Villa missed the chance to go top of the table after their 1-1 draw with bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United last month.

In between times, they also blew a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at Manchester United.

Alex Moreno’s first half goal was disallowed by VAR for a tight offside call that left Villa frustrated at Goodison Park.

But they didn’t create enough to beat an Everton side fighting to avoid relegation.

“It is not enough for us the point we achieved today,” said coach Unai Emery, whose side now sit in third place, two points behind Liverpool, having played a game more than Klopp’s men.

Source: AFP

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