Premier League talking points

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Paul Lambert will return to the dugout in the Premier League for the first time since 2015 on Saturday after replacing Mark Hughes as Stoke boss.

Elsewhere, leaders Manchester City are aiming to bounce back from their first league defeat of the season last weekend and Theo Walcott is set to make his Everton debut.

Here, Press Association Sport picks over the weekend’s potential issues.

Paul Lambert impact

Lambert returned to management earlier this week when he was the shock name to replace the sacked Hughes. The Scot watched on from the stands as the Potters were beaten 3-0 by Manchester United, but will have seen signs of encouragement at Old Trafford after Stephen Ireland missed two glorious first-half chances. A lack of confidence throughout the squad was evident, though, meaning Lambert has a tough job on his hands to lift spirits ahead of the Huddersfield match. Stoke also face Watford, Bournemouth and Brighton in their next few games and Lambert will be looking for a reaction as his side, currently one point from safety having lost eight of their last 11 league matches, look to pull away from the drop zone.

How will City react to first league defeat?

City head into their home clash with Newcastle in unknown territory after losing a league game for the first time this season at Anfield last Sunday. Liverpool ran riot in the second half, scoring three goals in nine minutes, before City responded to make the scoreline respectable. But they have a great chance to return to winning ways and extend their 12-point lead at the top against a Newcastle side struggling at the wrong end of the table.

Chelsea need to start firing

Antonio Conte’s team have not experienced a great start to 2018, drawing all five matches, although they did beat Norwich on penalties in the FA Cup last time out after the score was 1-1 after 120 minutes. They have scored only three goals since the turn of the year and Conte has been linked with a whole host of strikers in the January transfer window. They are without Pedro and Alvaro Morata at Brighton following their red cards against Norwich and need the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian to step up.

Theo Walcott to end Everton’s striker issues

The England forward ended his long affiliation with Arsenal earlier this week, opting for a fresh challenge with Sam Allardyce at Everton. Like Chelsea, the Toffees have struggled in front of goal and have found the net only twice in their last six matches, which were all winless, and will need Walcott to hit the ground running. Allardyce, who is set to take charge of his 1,000th match, has been criticised for his lack of adventure during the early stages of his reign at Goodison Park but has no excuses now he has Walcott and £27million signing Cenk Tosun on board.

Uncertain times at Arsenal

Walcott has left behind an Arsenal side seemingly in turmoil, both on and off the field. Not only are the Gunners without a win in their last five matches, including defeats to Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth, they are reportedly on the verge of losing star player Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United. There could be an unsavoury atmosphere at the Emirates on Saturday when they take on resurgent Crystal Palace, the last team they beat, and they need three points to keep the fans on side.

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