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Five storylines heading into Premier League Week 26


Everton’s Spanish manager Roberto Martinez shouts at his players at extra time during the English FA Cup Third Round football match replay between Everton and West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, in east London, on January 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR LIVE SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

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Week 26 of the Premier League season will feature 10 matches this Saturday and Sunday. After a week off from league play, footballers across England’s top-flight are set to be reacquainted with each other as the hunt for the title resumes.

And as with every slate of competitions in the soccer world, a bundle of storylines leading up to match day exist.

What are few thoughts to keep in mind while watching this weekend? We’ve got five drawn out below.

[RELATED: Premier League Standings | Stats]

1. Adam Lallana faces former club Southampton in battle of top 7’s— When midfielder Adam Lallana left the up-and-coming Saints for an apparent upgrade in Liverpool this summer, Saints fans were outraged, as details emerged that the 26-year-old may have forced the completed transfer, although he denied this. The tables have turned presently, with Southampton manager Ronald Koeman leading his side to a spectacular fourth-place standing up to this point, while Liverpool boss Brendan Rogers has witnessed his squad’s decline from a viable title contender last season to an unqualified, seventh-place side currently. How will supporters receive Lallana at St. Mary’s, where the Reds try to win a second match vs. Koeman and Co. this season?

2. Hammers hope to rebound from FA Cup; Red-hot Kane in the way West Ham have enjoyed an ideal run of results that have Big Sam’s side past mid-table in eight place, though last week’s 4-0 trouncing against West Brom in the FA Cup fifth round has soured moods. Contention for a Europa League spot is certainly possible for the Irons, and any points out of their upcoming match against Spurs will contribute to this end goal. However, as of Feb. 10, Tottenham midfielder Harry Kane had scored eight goals in 2015, next to superstar Lionel Messi for the most in Europe. Spurs’ latest league contest ended in a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool, but Kane is superbly dangerous up front and can seriously impact his outfit’s run of form.

3. Injured Gunners at risk against Crystal Palace?— For Arsenal, the Eagles should not present a significant challenge if Wenger has close to a full selection of players. However, the Gunners may not have multiple men on the pitch with midfielders Aron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta, as well as defender Mathieu Debuchy, already declared out. Mathieu Flamini, Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may not perform too, both ruled as doubts. But in good injury news, Jack Wilshere is back, a probable substation for this game. Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal’s leading scorer and assister, along with Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla, have generated productive attacking play, which has spurred encouraging results for Wenger in the season’s second-half.

4. Bony gone, Swansea aims to sweep Manchester United— Some may argue that dynamic between these two teams has changed since their last competition together. Now facing a potential two-game sweep, the Swans journeyed to Old Trafford in August and stole three points from the Red Devils after Gylfi Sigurdsson, taking advantage of United’s lax defending, buried the 72nd-minute winner. New boss Louis van Gaal had his group’s top-five capability questioned during the 2014-15 campaign’s early stages, but gradually recovered to third place, their rank at the moment. Following an enthusiastic opening to the year, Swansea leveled out near mid-table, but as of late, have managed to win only one out of their past five matches, a streak subsequent to the $43.12 million (£28 million million) exit of star striker Wilfred Bony to Manchester City.

5. Everton’s opportunity to grab three points in tough stretch — Roberto Martinez’s side has suffered a fair amount of injury turmoil this year, and the Toffees’ have not met top-five expectations, which were fortified by the summer extensions of young talent Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley. And at this phase, preparing for a winnable fixture on Sunday against Leicester City, Everton may channel increased urgency to edge toward the upper-quarter of the league table. Martinez has watched his crew battle Liverpool and Chelsea in the past two weeks, and grab merely one point over that span. Next Sunday, a trip the Emirates will force the Toffees to experience another demanding tilt, so a match at Goodison Park against the relegation-bound Foxes has come at the right time.