By Toby Godfray
- Five burning questions ahead of the second round of Premier League fixtures
- Predictions for all 10 of the weekend’s matches
Only one week into the new Premier League season and there have already been stunning goals, impressive debuts, shock results, touchline tantrums and, of course, highly disputed refereeing decisions.
Expect nothing less as we enter this weekend’s second round of fixtures. However, what are the five questions worth debating before Game Week two kicks off?
How will Manchester United fare in their home tie against Southampton?
In the last three times this fixture has been played at Old Trafford, United have lost twice and drawn once; one could argue the Saints are their bogey team. However, the Red Devils go into this Friday night clash – the first of 12 games this year to be played on a Friday – full of confidence after comfortably seeing off Bournemouth 3-1 the week before.
Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed his debut Premier League goal against the Cherries, a feat also achieved by the Swede on his maiden appearances in the Champions League, Serie A, La Liga, and Ligue 1, but the focus will be on world-record signing Paul Pogba. Costing a fee of £89 million, that may rise to £93 million with add-ons, Pogba will surely go straight into the anchoring midfield two, adding much needed flair and athleticism in the middle of the park.
Whether last year’s Bundesliga Midfielder of the Year Henrikh Mkhitaryan will join Pogba in the starting XI rests with new Boss José Mourinho. Likely to receive a grand reception from the Stretford End, Mourinho will look to dominate the game, but will be wary of the threat posed by the Saints on the break with the likes of Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond if United push too high up the field. Assuming they can keep those two quiet, then I see nothing stopping United from racking up another three points.
Who will prosper when last year’s Champions and Runners Up meet at the King Power for the game of the weekend?
Leicester and Arsenal each failed to continue where they left off from last season, with both losing on the opening day. Leicester were unable to open up a spirited Hull side, and really missed the defensive cover of N’Golo Kante. With the exception of the Frenchman they’ve kept the core of their 2015/16 title-winning squad, and arguably boast the fastest front two in the League with Jamie Vardy and new signing Ahmed Musa. Expect the Foxes to bounce right back in front of their own fans, but the same cannot be said for the visitors Arsenal.
Once again the Gunners have had a quiet transfer window, and once again they lost on the opening day in a game where they lacked a cutting edge. Boos and calls for ‘Wenger Out’ followed, and a disjointed Arsenal team with players returning back from injuries or extended rest breaks after the Euros could find themselves on the end of a trouncing at the hands of Ranieri’s men. The return of Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud cannot come soon enough for Arsène Wenger.
Will Burnley and Crystal Palace score?
‘What kind of a question is that?’, you may be thinking to yourself. However, after blanks in the opening weekend against lower-table opposition, where both these teams conceded late-ish goals to gift three points to Swansea and West Brom respectively, these two clubs will be worried about the lack of clear chances they were able to create in the final third.
With 38 goals between them last year, Burnley‘s duo up front of Sam Vokes and Andre Gray should allay any fears that goals will be hard to come by. That said, if we look back at the last time Burnley were in the Premier League, they scored only one goal in their first six games, and then netted just three times in their last 12 games.
This was the season after Sam Vokes and Danny Ings’ 41 goals had fired the Clarets into the Premier League, so maybe lightning will strike twice? The visit of a confident Liverpool side awaits at Turf Moor; Burnley must break their early duck to have any chance of getting a result here.
With regards to Crystal Palace, their only striker is Connor Wickham. That goes some way to explaining their recent £30 million bid for out-of-favour Liverpool strike Christian Benteke. Palace cannot rely on Andros Townsend’s audacious long shots as a source of goals, and must buy a 15-goal-a-season striker as soon as possible. A shutout away at Spurs this weekend is highly likely.
Who is the player to keep an eye out for?
Long gone are the days when £25 million seemed a large amount of money. Earlier this week Everton fans discovered this is how much it cost their club to secure 27-year old Yannick Bolasie.
It is likely new manager Ronald Koeman will throw the winger straight into the starting XI against West Brom this Saturday. Bolasie is undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in this League, and has not only been purchased on the basis he always runs Liverpool ragged, but because of his offensive capabilities. A combination of strength, pace, power, trickery and a hunger to do well on debut could spell trouble for the West Brom rearguard.
Who is a banker for 3 points?
Whether Pep Guardiola is aware of the phrase ‘but can he do it on a wet night at the Britannia?’, we cannot be sure. We can however be certain that Stoke to do not quite pose the aerial threat once commonly associated with the Potters. Their possession-based game under Mark Hughes could play right into City’s hands.
Guardiola’s side swept away Steaua Bucharest in a 5-0 hammering in Romania on Tuesday night in their Champions League qualifier, and look in no mood to give their opposition a sniff. Skippered by David Silva – the players’ choice in Vincent Kompany – City seem more professional than ever before, and look like a team with real class and commitment to getting the job done. Shored up the return of Nicolas Ottamendi at centre-half to partner John Stones, a victory looks inevitable for City.
Manchester United 2-0 Southampton
Stoke 0-2 Manchester City
Burnley 1-2 Liverpool
Spurs 3-0 Crystal Palace
Swansea 0-0 Hull
Watford 0-1 Chelsea
West Brom 1-2 Everton
Leicester 2-2 Arsenal
Sunderland 1-1 Middlesborough
West Ham 2-1 Bournemouth
The Premier League kicks off at 8:00 BST on Friday 19th August where Manchester United welcome Southampton to Old Trafford.
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