Another week of fixtures in the books. Has the picture of the 2020-2021 season begun to take shape at all, or is it still too early to put much stock into anything? Methinks it depends on your allegiance and how that skews your view of the table as a whole. But hey – that’s half the fun, right?
This final weekend of October brings us another full slate spread over four days, so let’s get to it!
Friday, October 30th:
Wolves v. Crystal Palace
The first matchup of the weekend features two teams who have been on a see saw so far this season. Both teams sit mid-table and will be looking to climb the ladder with victory.
Palace will be getting reinforcements ahead of this match, with several key players returning from injury or COVID-related absence. They came out of the gates quickly this season with victories over Southampton and Manchester United. They failed to take any points in the following two matches, losing to both Everton and Chelsea. Weeks 5 and 6 saw them back on the upswing, drawing with a tough Brighton squad and defeating Fulham 2-1 last week. Wilfried Zaha has continued to sizzle thus far, scoring 5 goals in six matches. He’s already on the cusp of matching his season total from all of last season.
Wolves enter the match almost entirely healthy. Only defender Jonny Castro is unavailable to Nuno Espirito Santo for this tilt. After defeating Sheffield to open the campaign, Wolves dropped matches against Manchester City and West Ham. They found their form again with 1-0 victories over Fulham and Leeds before drawing 1-1 with Newcastle last week (a match they were minutes away from winning). It should prove to be a tightly contested match, but I think Wolves will find a way to prevail if they can manage to contain Zaha.
Saturday, October 31st:
Sheffield United v. Manchester City
City will head to Bramall Lane not looking themselves. Their domestic form has been lackluster (at least by their standards) and they currently sit 13th in the table. They’ll want to bring some of their form from the Champions League (back to back wins) into this match. They’ll be somewhat shorthanded, but with the embarrassment of riches available to Pep Guardiola, they’ll still be able to put a top-notch squad on the pitch for this match.
The Blades are still in search of their first victory this season. They’ve managed a single point so far, and sit 19th in the league. That point came against Fulham, the only squad beneath them in the table. Despite losing to Liverpool 2-1 last week, they did play better football. Hopefully, for them, it will lead to a run of success. It will prove to be a challenge against this City side, even with their vulnerabilities at the back. They are still a formidable foe. While their play is much improved of late, I still think Sheffield will fall short in this one.
Burnley v. Chelsea
While the results don’t necessarily show for it, Burnley are always a difficult match – especially on their home pitch at Turf Moor. They’re in a similar position to Sheffield, sitting just above them in the table, also in search of their first win. Injuries have been a huge part of the story for Sean Dyche’s squad so far this season, though they do seem to be finding form of late. They hung tough with a Spurs side that has been on fire this season. That will need to continue if they hope to take anything from this matchup.
Chelsea come into this match after a pretty even, if uneventful, game against Manchester United. They’ll feel somewhat hard done by due to a non-VAR reviewed “mugging” of César Azpilicueta in the box that, truthfully, should have led to a penalty kick. It ended up in a scoreless draw thanks in large part to new keeper Benjamin Mendy. Frank Lampard is still experimenting with formation and lineup construction as he tries to assimilate all of the new signings in his squad. That inconsistency may offer Burnley a chance to take something from this match. I think a draw would be a good result for the Clarets, but I do think Chelsea prevail.
Liverpool v. West Ham United
The defending Champions have had to overcome some challenges already this season. Fresh off the loss of Virgil Van Dijk, they now find themselves even more shorthanded at the back. Fabinho, who was filling in for Virgil, was lost to injury during the team’s Champions League match in the week. Despite these difficulties, the squad still sit in second place and are in fine form. The 7-2 loss to Villa seems to have only been a blip, not a harbinger of things to come. It will be interesting to see how the mounting injuries, combined with the packed fixture list across all competitions, ultimately impacts Liverpool’s ability to defend their title.
The Hammers will head to Anfield brimming with confidence. They’re unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches. After a thrilling comeback against Spurs to salvage a point, they went toe-to-toe with Manchester City last week. Prior to those draws, they’d beaten Leicester and Wolves. Knowing that Liverpool are dealing with injury will only increase their belief that they can take something from this match. In fact – history may be their biggest competition. They haven’t beaten the Reds since the 2015-2016 FA Cup.
Sunday, November 1st:
Aston Villa v. Southampton
Villa come into this match having finally tasted defeat this season. After winning four straight games, they ran into a buzzsaw in Leeds United, and more specifically Patrick Bamford. After a scoreless first half, the Whites came out firing on all cylinders. Bamford’s 74th minute goal capped off his hat trick and left Villa with their first loss. Still – they are in fine form to start the campaign and will look to get back to their winning ways.
Southampton will feel good about their chances in this match. After a rocky start to the season, the Saints’ play has improved remarkably. They carved out a draw against Chelsea two weeks ago, and followed that up with a dominant performance against League leaders Everton. All told, they’re unbeaten in their last 4 while posting clean sheets in three of those matches. With both teams occupying spots in the top half of the table, this promises to be an entertaining battle. It could go either way given the way both teams are playing, but I do think Southampton will continue their upward trajectory.
Newcastle v. Everton
Having played to a rather uninspiring 1-1 draw against Wolves last weekend, Newcastle will welcome the League leaders to St. James’ Park. They’ll have some significant injury concerns with Jonjo Shelvey, Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, and Martin Dubravka all likely unavailable. The absences could make it even more difficult given their style of play, but they still have some formidable players to give it a go. Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser, and Allan Saint-Maximin will look to attack a backline that will be shorthanded in hopes of taking points.
Everton have proven not to be invincible. After getting out to a scorching start, they finally lost last week. They were thoroughly outplayed by Southampton, and their lives were further complicated by the sending off of defender Lucas Digne. He will join Richarlison on suspension this week. That could prove to be a big loss for the Toffees. They’ll likely also be without right back Seamus Coleman, while key addition James Rodriguez remains a question mark regarding his availability for this match. Still, I think Everton will bounce back from their loss last week and return to the winning ways that have left them at the top of the table.
Manchester United v. Arsenal
On paper, this looks to be the match of the weekend. A matchup between two of the “big six” is always hotly anticipated. The reality, however, is that both of these teams currently sit in the bottom half of the table.
For United, it will be a question of which team shows up. The thrashing at the hands of Tottenham seems to have served as a benchmark for the club. Since that defeat, the team has gone unbeaten across all competitions. They defeated Newcastle soundly by a 4-1 scoreline and managed a draw with Chelsea last weekend. Their Champions League start has been even more impressive. A late Rashford goal saw them defeat PSG 2-1, and they followed it up with a 5-0 drubbing of RB Leipzig during the week. If they can carry those kinds of performances back into the League, they can finally start to head in the right direction domestically. This match is a must-win if the Red Devils hope to get back into contention.
The Gunners are coming off back to back losses to Manchester City and Leicester, and will want to turn things around quickly. Their side will be bolstered with the likely return of Willian from injury. However, the strike force of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have yet to round into form from last year. They will need to find their scoring boots if they want to take points here, especially if United continue to carry their European momentum.
Tottenham v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Spurs return home from their Europa League defeat in the week hoping to get back on track at home. Their domestic performances have been mixed so far this season. When they’ve been “on”, they’ve dominated. They beat Southampton 5-2 and Manchester United 6-1. But they’ve also turned in relatively lackluster performances against Newcastle and West Ham. Despite the inconsistency, they sit 5th, thanks in large part to the most prolific points-scoring duo in the Premiership this season. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have been electric, accounting for 9 of their team’s 16 goals so far. If they continue to produce, a victory should be in the offing here.
I’m beginning to sound like a broken record when it comes to Brighton. They continue to play solid football, but some bad luck has left them with only one victory thus far. They do have some injury concerns, and Lewis Dunk is still serving a red-card suspension as well. It will be a challenge for the Seagulls to get anything from this game, especially since Mourinho’s men will want to move on from their mid-week defeat quickly.
Monday, November 2nd:
Fulham v. West Bromwich Albion
A battle at the bottom kicks off the final day of Matchweek 7. West Brom, currently sitting 16th, will visit Craven Cottage to take on last place Fulham.
Needless to say, this match is big for both squads. If either has plans to avoid relegation, these are the matches they need to be winning. Both teams have shown some promise in attack, but each has shown vulnerability at the back as well. Given the importance this match holds for both clubs, it has the chance of ultimately being an entertaining, hard fought match. Victory for either side will be essential, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it ultimately ends in a draw.
Leeds United v. Leicester City
The Matchweek closes out with what promises to be an exhilarating matchup. While Man United v. Arsenal may look to be the match of the weekend on paper, this tussle may ultimately prove to be the most entertaining of the lot.
Given the up-tempo, energetic football these clubs play, we could be in for a treat. Patrick Bamford and Jamie Vardy have 6 goals each, and it’s likely that one or both of them could add to their tally in this match. Leicester currently sit 4th, while Leeds are 6th. Both clubs emerged victorious last weekend and will want to take all three points here as well. Save some of your energy for this one, as it could be exhausting just to watch these two clubs square off. This will be another hard-fought game that could very well end in a draw. As a neutral who enjoys good football, I can’t wait to watch how this one plays out.
As we turn the calendar to November, how will the results this weekend impact the table? Here’s to another exciting week in the Premier League!
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