It’s been almost two full weeks since Aston Villa sent us into the international break talking about their drubbing of defending champions Liverpool. The Reds will kick off what will be a welcome return to Premier League football. Here’s a look ahead at what’s to come:
Saturday, October 17th:
Everton v. Liverpool
What better way to kick off the weekend than with the Merseyside Derby, 235th Edition? When you mention the word “rivalry” this is what comes to mind. The two clubs are literally less than a mile apart, and the atmosphere is always electric. Of course, the stands at Goodison will still be empty thanks to the pandemic, so the voltage may be turned down just a bit. Still – Liverpool will be looking to bounce back from the aforementioned loss to Villa. Everton plan to continue their absolutely raging hot start to this campaign. They’ll be confident that they’ll be victorious in this match for the first time in a decade.
The Reds will welcome Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara back into the team. Both have tested negative after coming down with COVID. Everton also expect some of their squad back in the fold, with Andre Gomes, Allan, and Seamus Coleman all overcoming various knocks. If this game lives up to its billing, it should be the game of the weekend, by far.
Chelsea v. Southampton
After making his Premier League debut before the break, new keeper Eduard Mendy may miss this match, having picked up a knock while on international duty for Senegal. On top of that, Ben Chilwell is likely to be absent while dealing with a lingering foot injury.
Southampton will be without Stuart Armstrong, who tested positive for the coronavirus. They’ll still enter this contest feeling confident after having won their previous two league matches. Despite that, I think Chelsea will take care of business on their home pitch. Keep an eye out for who Lampard taps between the sticks if Mendy is unable to go.
Manchester City v. Arsenal
Mikel Arteta will return to the Etihad to face his old boss, Pep Guardiola. It’ll mark their third meeting, having split the previous two matches. It will be interesting to see which side prevail. After a promising start, City have stumbled in recent matches. Their last two league matches have been lackluster at best. A 5-2 loss to Leicester was followed by a 1-1 draw with Leeds. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus won’t be available, which doesn’t help matters.
Arsenal are on the other side of the street. After a sluggish beginning to the Arteta era, the squad are beginning to gel and will come into the clash with confidence. Their recent form at the Etihad hasn’t been great. They’ve lost each of their last 4 matches there, and will be looking to put an end to that streak.
Newcastle v. Manchester United
All of the pressure will be on the visitors in this one. The Red Devils have been dreadful so far this season. Their debut match in the campaign saw them felled by Crystal Palace. They followed that up by being thoroughly outplayed by Brighton. A late gift was the only reason they escaped that match with all three points. Of course, their most recent league fixture saw former manager Jose Mourinho exact revenge on his former club. An absolutely abysmal 90 minutes found them on the short end of a 6-1 scoreline against Tottenham. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to get his squad back to their form from Project Restart, or speculation about his job security will only continue to grow.
Newcastle will be reconfiguring their squad a bit. They welcome a bunch of players back who are returning from injury (Paul Dummett, DeAndre Yedlin, Jamal Lewis, and Ciaran Clark should all be available. Allan Saint-Maximin should also be able to go despite a recent knock. On the flip side, they’ll still be without Martin Dubravka, Matt Ritchie, and Dwight Gayle. This has the makings of a draw if Manchester fail to rise to the occasion, as Newcastle are in good form of late and will prove a tough opponent to be sure.
Sunday, October 18th:
Sheffield United v. Fulham
This is a battle of the bottom, pitting two winless teams against each other to kick off the Sunday slate. It might have been expected that Fulham would be without a point, having only rejoined the Premiership this season. What’s more surprising is that Sheffield, the darlings of last season, have failed to come away from any fixtures thus far with all three points.
The Blades will have some injury concerns to deal with, as both Oliver Burke and David McGoldrick picked up injuries while on international duty. They’ll join Jack O’Connell and Lys Mousset in missing this match. Rhian Brewster could make his debut for the club as a result, and the hope is that he’ll be able to increase the goal tally for Sheffield. Through 4 games they’ve only managed a single goal.
Fulham may counter with some team debuts of their own. New acquisitions Joachim Andersen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek may very well see the pitch right from the start for the club. Something has to give in this match, surely. I suspect that Sheffield will start to right the ship, while Fulham’s struggles will continue in the top flight.
Crystal Palace v. Brighton
After the Merseyside Derby, I think this match has the potential to be the next best watch of the weekend. Both of these squads have shown promise so far this season. Palace felled Manchester United and Southampton, but came back down to Earth a bit against Chelsea and Everton.
Brighton have played some inspiring football but have had a fair bit of bad luck, and as a result only have one win to show for it thus far. Both teams have injury concerns, so it will be interesting to see who is fit and available to suit up. History between these clubs has been very even and very tight, and there’s no reason to expect that this tilt won’t go the same way.
Tottenham v. West Ham United
The international break may have ended up slowing down Spurs, who were building momentum in their last two games. They dominated Newcastle before a controversial VAR decision cost them two points in Matchweek 3. They took out their frustration against a Manchester United side that look absolutely lost. Spurs crushed their rivals 6-1 only to have to wait two weeks to get back to it. During the international break, Harry Kane complained of muscle fatigue, which could mean another “debut” for Gareth Bale.
The Hammers have been in a good run of form in their own right. They’re coming off of back-to-back clean sheets against Wolves and Leicester, and will look to continue the trend. Based on what I saw Spurs do to my Red Devils, though, I’m going to give the nod to Tottenham in this one.
Leicester City v. Aston Villa
This match is the inverse of the Sheffield v. Fulham match. These clubs sit second and third in the table, even on points and both in good form. Leicester will look to Jamie Vardy to continue his hot start to the campaign while hoping that injury concerns all over the pitch don’t hinder their chances. They’ll want to bounce back from a disappointing 3-0 defeat to West Ham before the break.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, should come into the King Power with their chests puffed out. As mentioned earlier, they closed out Matchweek 4 by taking Liverpool to task in a 7-2 thrashing. Much like Spurs, it’ll be interesting to see how the international break impacts their run of form. I expect this to be a close affair as both squads battle to stay near the top of the table.
Monday, October 19th:
West Bromwich Albion v. Burnley
These two clubs are in the same boat as Sheffield and Fulham. Neither club has secured a victory in the season thus far, and both will hope to crack the win column when the final whistle blows on this match.
Burnley continue to deal with a laundry list of injuries. Jack Cork, Matthew Lowton, and Ben Mee continue to be unavailable. While Sean Dyche hopes that Jay Rodriguez will be able to suit up, teammates Kevin Long and Johann Gudmundsson both picked up knocks while on international duty and may miss this match.
West Brom also find themselves shorthanded up front. Callum Robinson is likely to miss the match in addition to Kenneth Zohore and Hal Robson-Kanu, who were both already on the shelf. It figures to be a war of attrition. West Brom had come out firing in their last match against Chelsea, only to let it slip as Chelsea came back to draw even on the day. Burnley may benefit from the lack of attackers for West Brom, and this could be their opportunity to finally break through this season.
Leeds United v. Wolves
The Matchweek closes out with a fun matchup of two similar, yet very different squads. Marcelo Bielsa have announced their return to the top tier with a bang, playing an electric style of attacking football. Their opponents have often been a bit shellshocked at the style of play Leeds offer.
The Whites take the game right to their opponents, regardless of who it may be that they’re facing. Of course, when you press forward in that way, you pontentially leave yourself exposed at the back, and Wolves are a team that could very well exploit that. They are a club that like to play on the counter-attack. If they can stick to their game plan and not allow Leeds to run them ragged, they may come away with points in this match.