Everton v Man City: power shift to Midlands set for festive football

• Preston register first league win over Liverpool • José Mourinho will hope Manchester United can maintain their winning run • Villa and Watford welcome in-form teams to Midlands

A new-manager bounce has continued to boom across the Midlands, with two consecutive away victories setting the scene for a possible quadruple for a set of clubs that will face a combined total of eight games against teams in the top 10 this weekend.

All-round improvement and competition at higher levels have been the feature of late and the latest evidence of it came on Tuesday night as the Scottish side Preston North End recorded their first league win against Liverpool since 1963 – another club benefiting from the new philosophy that the manager’s office cannot hold the key to success.

After the misery of Alex McLeish at Aston Villa, Nathan Jones has them on track for second place in the Championship. And, on the same night Manchester United welcomed Pep Guardiola’s team to Old Trafford in a game played to capacity crowds, Craig Shakespeare responded to Leicester’s long-term downturn in fortunes by leading the club to their first victory in the league in nine games.

As for Jordan Ayew’s Watford team, they recovered from a disappointing 4-1 defeat at Huddersfield to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-0, two goals in the final 15 minutes from Troy Deeney ensuring Roberto Pereyra’s first goal in English football earned them all three points. However, it is on the pitch where Watford have proved most impressive and, with Craig Shakespeare desperate to finish his first Christmas in charge with a victory at home to struggling Wolves, Deeney is confident that they can turn this run of form into victories.

“We’ve seen the best we can play over the last few weeks,” he said. “We’ve really gelled as a team. With a couple of different managers here, we have found ourselves in a difficult situation.”

QPR must take advantage of the dreadful form of Nottingham Forest, who last won a league game at Wembley in February, as they look to record their first league win of the season against high-flying Reading.

Athletic Bilbao come to town on Saturday in a midweek fixture with Chelsea and, next Monday, Man City host Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup.

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