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Premier League talking points

The FA Cup semi-finals may mark the main events of the football weekend but there is still much to play for in the Premier League.

FOOTBALL 21/04/17 18:21
Premier League talking points

With the battle for top-flight survival coming to a head, the likes of Swansea, Hull and Middlesbrough will be hoping for a positive weekend, while Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton can put pressure on their top-four rivals who are focused on their Wembley dates.

Here, we look at the main talking points over the next couple of days.

Tributes expected for former Premier League defender Ugo Ehiogu

Middlesbrough's Ugo Ehiogu cannot believe his luck after missing a great chance to equalise with a header against Southampton
(Steve Mitchell/EMPICS)

Clubs are likely to pay tribute to Ugo Ehiogu, who played in the Premier League for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, after he died on Friday morning aged 44. The ex-England international, who was Tottenham’s Under-23s coach, collapsed at the club’s training centre on Thursday after reportedly suffering a cardiac arrest. Now in the Sky Bet Championship, Villa have announced they will hold a minute’s applause for Ehiogu before their derby against Birmingham, with Premier League clubs likely to follow suit.

Can Middlesbrough kick-start their survival bid on the south coast?

Middlesbrough caretaker manager Steve Agnew gestures on the touchline during the Premier League match at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
Boro caretaker boss Steve Agnew (Richard Sellers/PA)

Steve Agnew’s appointment at the Riverside Stadium has not yielded a change in results or fortune for Middlesbrough. Boro are winless from his five matches in charge and are now in danger of being cut adrift with a six-point gap opening up between themselves and the safety of 17th place. Scoring remains the main issue for a side promoted last season, with just 23 in their 32 games so far. A trip to face Bournemouth could prove the perfect way to start their own attempt at another great escape, with the Cherries shipping 63 league goals to date. With a Tees-Wear derby against bottom side Sunderland followed by games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool to come, there is no time like the present for Agnew to enjoy his maiden victory.

Will it be the Tigers or the Swans smiling on Saturday evening?

Swansea manager Paul Clement (Steven Paston/PA)
Swansea manager Paul Clement needs a win (Steven Paston/PA)

With Boro struggling to keep their heads above water, it appears to be coming down to a two-horse race to determine who else will drop through the Championship trap-door. Hull currently sit just above the relegation zone on 30 points and have a winnable game as Watford visit the KCOM Stadium, with Tigers boss Marco Silva looking to extend his own personal run of 40 home matches unbeaten as a manager. If Watford can get a result to bolster their hopes of a top-half finish, Swansea will be looking to capitalise – they are two points behind Hull and manager Paul Clement has labelled the visit of Stoke a “must-win” for the south Wales side.

Can Big Sam upset another one of the big boys?

(Adam Davy/PA)
(Adam Davy/PA)

After springing a surprise to win at leaders Chelsea earlier in the month, Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace then hammered Arsenal 3-0 at Selhurst Park. The Eagles have won five of their last seven league games as Allardyce appears to have worked his magic to drag them seven points clear of the bottom three. They came back from two goals behind to draw with reigning champions Leicester last weekend and will be hoping to dent Liverpool’s recent resurgence with another positive result at Anfield, with the Reds looking to move one step closer to sealing a top-four finish.

Can Lukaku make it a perfect 10 against West Ham?

Everton's Romelu Lukaku (second left) celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game
Romelu Lukaku enjoys scoring against the Hammers (Dave Howarth/EMPICS)

Everton hot-shot Romelu Lukaku is the Premier League’s leading goalscorer this season, with an impressive 24 goals to his name. The 23-year-old’s form has helped keep Ronald Koeman’s side in with an outside chance of gate-crashing the top-four and he will be licking his lips at the prospect of lining up against one of his favoured opponents on Saturday. Lukaku has found the back of the net in his last nine matches against the Hammers and the Belgium striker, selected in the PFA Team of the Year earlier in the week, will no doubt be confident of extending that run to double figures.

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