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City host Allardyce’s Leeds as Arsenal face Newcastle test

Manchester City can take a decisive step towards a third consecutive Premier League title this weekend as they face struggling Leeds while Arsenal make a daunting trip to Newcastle.

Veteran Sam Allardyce takes charge of his first match in charge of Leeds against a City side that have won their past nine league games.

Second-placed Arsenal still have hopes of a City stumble but Newcastle have a huge prize of their own to play for, knowing victory at St James’ Park would put them on the brink of Champions League qualification for the first time in two decades.

AFP Sport looks at some of the key talking points ahead of the action:

Big Sam’s big challenge

Sam Allardyce boasted he is “as good as” City boss Pep Guardiola in an extraordinary press conference to announce his return to the Premier League.

The 68-year-old has just four games to prove it and pocket a reported £2.5 million bonus ($3.1 million) for keeping Leeds in the top flight.

Javi Gracia paid the price for a run of one point from five games, during which Leeds conceded 18 goals, as he was sacked on Wednesday.

Allardyce’s reputation for keeping sides up against the odds has persuaded Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani to gamble on the former England boss

But Allardyce faces a huge task with the trip to treble-chasing City followed by clashes against Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham.

“It’s probably only the biggest challenge (of my career) because of the shortness of games that are left,” said Allardyce.

Another victory would take Guardiola’s men four points clear at the top, at least until Sunday, but he is wary of the impact Allardyce could have.

“It will be tough because he has the charisma,” said Guardiola. “He will put out the pressure to the players and he knows exactly what to do in this kind of situation in a relegation battle.”

Arsenal eye Newcastle revenge

To have any chance of winning their first league title for 19 years, Arsenal must win where their challenge for a top-four finish disintegrated last season.

Mikel Arteta’s men had a return to the Champions League in their own hands with two games to go a year ago, only to be well beaten in a 2-0 defeat by the Magpies.

“We don’t forget the game we had there last season,” said Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka

“I have to be honest, they destroyed us. They were much, much better, they wanted it more. We have to go there and show them we are ready and why we are where we are.”

Newcastle have won eight of their past nine league games to close in on a top-four finish.

Given their healthy goal difference, Eddie Howe’s men likely need just six points from their remaining five games to join Arsenal and City in next season’s Champions League.

 

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