W2W4 previews the Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines as Man City look to get back on track vs. Tottenham, but they can't win the title unless Man United lose.
Can Man City get back on track?
It has been bruising fortnight for Manchester City. Had they beaten Manchester United to claim the title, it would have been the perfect end to a runaway triumph in the Premier League. Instead, United's fightback leaves the leaders requiring two more wins to seal their success. After Tuesday's Champions League exit to Liverpool marked three consecutive defeats, Pep Guardiola's side are staggering to the finish line.
On Saturday, Guardiola returns to the fixture in which he suffered his first defeat in England. City began the previous campaign with 10 straight wins in all competitions, scoring 30 goals and conceding only six. But Celtic showed they could be rattled with a 3-3 draw in the Champions League, before Tottenham delivered a pulsating performance at White Hart Lane to claim a 2-0 victory.
As City remained winless for six games, slipping from first to fourth in the table, the result against Spurs proved to be the beginning of the end for several members of the squad. Only five of the first XI have been regulars in the starting XI this season, with Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Jesus Navas and Fernando all departing, and John Stones and Claudio Bravo dropping to the bench.
It was clear Guardiola had a sizeable rebuilding job on his hands, and he may feel in a similar position now if City are to hurdle the latter stages in Europe next year.
That is perhaps the real test for City at Wembley. The immediate concern is claiming the two victories to win the title, but in the wider picture the players must prove themselves to Guardiola all over again. From the very start of his reign when he replaced Joe Hart with Bravo, he has shown he isn't afraid to make ruthless decisions. Even Raheem Sterling, who has been transformed by Guardiola, will know he cannot afford any complacency after being left out of the team for the first leg of the Champions League semifinal at Anfield.
With Tottenham unbeaten in 14 Premier League matches, and demonstrating their appetite for big occasions with a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge, Saturday will be a huge test for City. Guardiola directed blame towards the officials after the defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday but, if they continue to crumble, it will be the players the manager begins to question.
How will Man United line up?
After falling at the Champions League round of 16 against Sevilla, it has been a relatively quiet week for Manchester United following the derby last weekend. In the second half at the Etihad Stadium, United delivered one of the best performances of Jose Mourinho's reign, denying City their coronation with three goals in 16 exhilarating minutes.
It was evidence of what United are capable of when the gloves are off. At 2-0 down they had to go for it, but all too often Mourinho has been overly cautious with his starting tactics, with Paul Pogba's lack of freedom in midfield a particular point of debate.
It will be interesting to see where the Frenchman plays in Sunday's clash with West Brom. Afforded the opportunity to break forward and get in the box against City, he produced two excellent finishes to restore parity. Perhaps it will have convinced Mourinho to move his star player closer to the attack, with a home game against the basement side providing the perfect opportunity to experiment.
United were held to a 0-0 stalemate at Old Trafford by West Brom last April, one of 10 home draws in the top flight. Almost exactly a year later, they must show they can build on the victory at City to offer hope of a closer title race next season.
Conte's last stand
There were rumours this week that Antonio Conte was on the verge of leaving Chelsea, but the Italian will still be in the dugout at Southampton on Saturday. Given the club's dreadful run of form, it is surprising the situation has been allowed to reach this stage.
With six games remaining Chelsea are 10 points behind Tottenham in the race for fourth, with seven wins in 20 matches in 2018 -- and one of those coming via a penalty shootout against Championship side Norwich City in the FA Cup. It has been a miserable run to all but confirm Conte's departure, which, given the manager's demeanour, may have been decided some time ago.
After they allowed West Ham a point at Stamford Bridge last Sunday, the Blues travel to fellow relegation strugglers Southampton this weekend in a dress rehearsal for next week's FA Cup semifinal. Should they lose at St. Mary's to afford Mark Hughes his first Premier League points as Saints manager, will Conte be able to cling on for the trip to Wembley? He already looks as though he'd rather be anywhere else.
Last push for Palace
Roy Hodgson has turned Crystal Palace around once this season, and he will need to do so again to lift the Eagles to safety. Following Bournemouth's late equaliser last week, Palace's recent record stands at one win in 10 matches.
Although it looks bleak at the moment, Palace's destiny is in their own hands. They have a relatively favourable run-in, with every opponent aside from Leicester currently in the bottom half. But it is vital that Hodgson's side claim a win this weekend to kickstart their survival bid -- and what better fixture to do it in than at home to bitter rivals Brighton.
Newcastle on the up Following three straight victories, including an impressive 2-1 triumph at Leicester last week, things are looking up for Newcastle. Once tipped for relegation, the Magpies are in the top half thanks to Rafa Benitez's shrewd management.
Sunday's home game against Arsenal provides a test of just how far they have come. Given all the off-field distractions this season, victory against the Gunners en route to a top-half finish would be a remarkable achievement.