Manuel Pellegrini on his return to the English Premiership after he was shown the exit door at Manchester City, a year after he beat Liverpool to the title has lost all three of his opening games, something his employers must be bewildered about following their huge summer spend. Arsenal, who had lost their opening two games rallied from a sleek Arnautovic strike to beat the Hammers 3:1 at the Emirates. Elsewhere, the fortunes of Jose Mourinho hit a new low on Monday as Tottenham Hotspur heaped more misery on the Red Devils with a 3:0 success at Old Trafford, a result that dragged United further down the ladder, Burnley awaits Manchester United at Turf Moor on Sunday and it must not be the same story. Four teams remain perfect, Liverpool, who had to do it the hard way at home to Brighton, Watford, who seems to have it going their way at this stage, Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea and the slayers of the Devils, Spurs.
Premier League predictions, where we look at the upcoming fixtures is here and we have to stick our necks out again, as always, there are a host of tricky ties everywhere as we head into the first international break of the season after this round, the European transfer window slams shut too this weekend and we’ll be fully aware of who stays and who leaves, all eyes will be at Turf Moor, but West Ham must win too. Here we go!
Saturday 1st September
Leicester vs Liverpool
King Power Stadium
Leicester are on a roll, they went to Southampton and conquered last weekend, especially after the saints were reduced to ten, Harry Maquire’s screamer handed the Foxes the maximum points that took them to seventh on the log, their second win on the bounce after their opening day loss at Old Trafford. In town against the 2016 champions is the league leaders, Liverpool; three wins in three and no goals conceded, it certainly is still early days but Liverpool are real title contenders. Jurgen Klopp’s men labored to a 1:0 win at home to Brighton, goalkeeper Allison was the man of the match as the Seagulls threatened to find an equalizer, that’s why he was brought in, good business so far. Liverpool won both legs of this fixture last season, but the previous two before that on this ground were well won by the Foxes, with a quick reminder of Jamie Vardy’s brilliance in the season the Foxes stunned the world. Mohammed Salah is yet to hit the gear that got him famous last term, Sadio Mane was a bit quiet in the win over Brighton and Roberto Firminho is yet to spark to life, when the three do, they will be unstoppable; Nigerian forward, Kelechi Ihenacho will speahead Leicester’s attack in the absence of the suspended Vardy, alongside youngster, James Maddison, it will be an explosive encounter, interesting fixture to start the weekend with.
Player to watch: Mohammed Salah
Verdict: Liverpool to win or draw
Chelsea vs Bournemouth
If you want some crisp entertainment, whatever you are up to by 3:00pm on Saturday, don’t miss this fixture. Bournemouth are one side that doesn’t know what defeat feels like, just when you think you have their backs to the ground, like dust, they rise again, ask Everton. Two goals down and one man up, they rallied back at the Vitality stadium to earn a point, although they eventually evened up numerically with a red card of their own not long after Theo Walcott’s goal, Adam Smith followed Richarlison for an early bath. At St James’s Park, Chelsea had to sweat for their perfect start to coach Maurizio Sarri’s reign, the Magpies were not going to let them run off with the win, Joselu cancelled out Eden Hazard’s opener from the spot but American right back, Yedlin managed to turn in Marcus Alonso’s shot, there was little the young defender could do to that to be honest. Chelsea with their mesmerizing pressing game up against a fleet footed attacking Bournemouth side, talking history, the Cherries did get one over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season, 3:0 at the end of January, they will draw inspiration from that as Chelsea are still susceptible at the back. Whatever happens, you will enjoy this fixture.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard
Verdict: Chelsea to win
Brighton vs Fulham
Brighton needs attention, especially after they took Manchester United to the cleaners the other time, even Liverpool didn’t find them interesting despite them going down 1:0. Against the Kops, The Seagulls gave a good account of themselves, they could have gotten something from the game had Brazilian stopper, Allison not been at his best, Fulham must be wary of the threats from Chris Hughton’s side.
Fulham scored four times against Cardiff, one of those a sensational scorcher from Jean Michel Seri, the opening strike must be a contender for goal of the month; the win was a much needed reprieve for Fulham who had lost their opening two, both after spirited fights. Brighton was the last winner in a fixture between these two, a 2:1 success at Craven Cottage in January 2017 while still both in the second tier of English football, more interestingly, Brighton have only lost once to Fulham in the last six fixtures with the Seagulls winning the remaining five,
Player to watch: Glenn Murray
Verdict: Brighton to win or draw
Everton vs Huddersfield
The next of the simultaneous fixtures is at Goodison Park, where Marco Silva’s Everton hopes to continue their impressive start to life in the current Premier League season. The Toffees have been quite interesting to watch, they however have to watch their disciplinary records as the loss of their goal machine, Richarlison last weekend to a very avoidable red card will haunt them at some points. Losing a two goal lead must hurt Everton after Bournemouth equalized last weekend, they will look to right the wrongs this weekend.
Huddersfield are the poorest side in the Premier League, give or take, they look a certain candidate for the drop; their poor form in front of goal didn’t start today, they got promoted to the Premier League with a negative goal difference, the first time that would happen in the history of the league, the Terriers don’t score goals, if you don’t score you can’t win games, they do have a brilliant manager in David Wagner, but he won’t go in there to turn in the ball himself. The goalless draw at home to Cardiff explains where the problem lies for the Terriers, they pressed and fought, but they just don’t know how to drag the round leather past the goal line. Everton will teach them a lesson or two, Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun sure know where the goal post is. Everton have scored in all the games they have played so far, they will not be kind to Huddersfield. There have been three fixtures between these two, Everton won them all.
Player to watch: Gylfi Siggurdson
Verdict: Everton to win
Crystal Palace vs Southampton
Crystal Palace lost at Watford, not for the lack of reasonable efforts, they did all they knew in the books but the Hornets were just too interested in that fixture than the Eagles. Wilfred Zaha was quiet for way too long in the game, he was booked for a careless and needless tackle in the first half and could have been sent off as he was in the eye of the storm for so long, he did get a goal at the tail end of the game, but it was too late to be impactful. Southampton would rue their lucks at home to Leicester, they got their noses in front through captain Ryan Betrand, the England left back fired in from outside but Leicester rallied and turned the result on its head to hand the Saints yet another defeat.
For Palace, their decision to keep starting Christian Benteke upfront will relegate them, the Belgian appears clueless most times in front of goal, his decision making skills are out of date, his positioning is appalling and he’s just not the kind of striker that you need to compete. Southampton on their parts are their own problems, they don’t score goals and they don’t even have an idea of how to defend leads, they also have to caution themselves with bookable tackles, this is a must win for either side. Southampton have won three of the last five fixtures against Crystal Palace, including the last at Selhurst in September 2017 which Mark Hughes men won 1:0, the only fixture that didn’t end with more than one goal against these two London clubs.
Player to watch: Wilfred Zaha
Verdict: Palace to win or draw
West Ham vs Wolves
The last of the simultaneous fixtures on Saturday takes us to London Stadium where Wolves will be the visitors on the day, the Premier League new boys stunned everyone with a super brave performance last weekend when they hosted and held the champions to a 1:1 draw, a result that must ring in the head of everyone at the London Stadium. West Ham gave their all but they were still to blame last weekend, Arsenal weren’t at their very best, the Gunners couldn’t impose their game on the Hammers and the latter should have done better especially after scoring first. West Ham remains the only team without a point this season, bottom of the log and must start firing, they seem to be buoyed by the new stadium curse but no excuses would be tenable after spending so much in the summer transfer window.
Wolves are exciting to watch, coach Nuno Espirit Santo looks fearless, his lads made him proud against Manchester City, they will be very daring against the Hammers. Give or take, West Ham needs a result from this game, the investors must be kept happy, the fans deserve better, and recent history favors the Hammers too, they have won three of the last five including the last two at home to Wolves.
Player to watch: Felipe Anderson
Verdict: Both teams to score
Manchester City vs Newcastle
It’s a very difficult time for the Toon Army, they were quite unlucky last weekend and they have to negotiate the champions this weekend and then Arsenal immediately after the international break, they will have some reprieve after then as they would be up against Crystal Palace after the tie with the North London side. Joselu got off the bench to head home off a decent cross that left many questions for David Luiz to answer, the St James’s Park crowd went berserk, but it was not meant to be as DeAndre Yedlin diverted a Marcos Alonso shot past his own goalkeeper, they live to fight another day but how well will they fare against the wounded champions?
Manchester City were given a very rude reality check at the first fixture of last weekend, Wolves stood up to them and got counted, holding the champions to a 1:1 draw; wounded and angry, the Cityzens will look to devour the Magpies on Saturday, it would be a perfect opportunity for them to bounce back and keep Liverpool, Chelsea and the leading lots in sight. Rafael Benitez won’t want to have a look at the stats leading up to this game, they have always been battered by City, in the Cityzen’s 2015 triumph, they trounced Newcastle home and away, scoring eleven times and conceding just once, put your money on Aguero to score here, he likes the Toon Army.
Player to Watch: Sergio Aguero
Verdict: City to win
Sunday 2nd September
Cardiff vs Arsenal
Cardiff City Stadium
Cardiff remains the only team in the Premier league this season that is yet to score a goal, but they are up against a team that concedes average of two goals a game this season, they should fancy their chances, but they haven’t scored a goal against Arsenal since 7th of January 2006 in an FA Cup clash at Highbury which they lost 2:1. Arsenal weren’t spectacular against West Ham but they got a result, having gone behind, the Hammers’ lead only lasted five minutes before Nacho Monreal blasted in from close range. Arsenal went on to win, it wasn’t the prettiest of displays but it was not enough. Cardiff managed a point against Huddersfield in a game they should have won, they played against a team that doesn’t score goals even if you give them an open goal, they had numerical advantage after Jonathan Hogg was sent off, in the end they settled for a point that adds to the one they got from their clash with Newcastle, another fixture that handed them numerical advantage.
Arsenal have the clear edge here, new manager, new style and lots of optimism, Cardiff can’t remember when last they got one over the Gunners, in fact they haven’t scored against Arsenal in 12 years, in front of their own fans in South Wales, they will look to rewrite a very ugly history. For Arsenal, it is time for Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to start performing, he needs goals to boost his confidence, maybe this is his time.
Player to watch: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Burnley vs Manchester United
It’s a do or die affair for Jose Mourinho, whatever language he chooses to speak to the lads, they must come through for him on Sunday at Turf Moor. Manchester United were well destroyed by their easiest opponents by statistics at Old Trafford, Spurs, Mauricio Pochetino’s men beat United by 3:0 with nothing left to be said than the gibberish the Portuguese gaffer went to the press to dish out; Jose Mourinho never admits he’s wrong, we’re getting used to that. Burnley have crashed out of Europe, they failed to get past Olympiakos over two legs and may well enjoy that because their league form should improve, now they can concentrate on matters that truly matter. Last weekend they suffered at Fulham, conceding four times, something they aren’t really used to.
Is the third season curse troubling Jose Mourinho already? Burnley won’t be kind to him, but they should hustle hard to get a result here, James Tarkowski was rewarded with a call up for England, that should inspire him to fight against the Devils on Sunday. Manchester United have won the last two at Turf Moor between these two with the last coming earlier this year, a Jesse Lingard inspired 1:0 win. It’s a do or die affair for Jose Mourinho, whatever language he chooses to speak to the lads, they must come through for him on Sunday at Turf Moor.
Player to watch: Jesse Lingard
Verdict: Manchester United to win
Watford vs Tottenham
At about the same time when Jose Mourinho would be fighting for his life at Turf Moor, two teams on maximum points, Watford and Tottenham would be squaring up and one thing that would happen is that one team’s 100% record will end, well or both of them will drop points. Tottenham beat Manchester United black and blue at Old Trafford, a performance they will never forget for good reasons; they were outplayed in the first half but they defended well and they were lucky too, some dreadful finish from a certain big Belgian let them off the hook twice.
Watford fought and fought till they grounded out a 2:1 win against Crystal Palace, what a result it was for them as they held off a late surge from the Eagles. Now they have to defend their 100% start to the season against a team on rampage. If Jarvi Garcia saw Spurs’ win over United, he can take some lessons, the North London side were beaten to crosses and couldn’t win second balls in the first half, the towering Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue can learn a thing or two there.
Lucas Moura is a man on fire, he’ll once more be key for the North Londoners, as they head into the break, they will both want to go on a high. Statistically, Spurs know exactly how to handle the Hornets with the Vicarage Road Landlords only picking a point in the last five meetings, Spurs have won their last five in all competitions, Watford doesn’t look like they can stop them.
Player to watch: Lucas Moura
Verdict: Spurs to win
Strictly the writer’s opinion