By Toby Godfray
- Five burning questions ahead of the third round of Premier League fixtures
- Predictions for all 10 of the weekend’s matches
Two weekends into the Premier League season, and we examine the main talking points of what is set to be a very exciting set of games.
Who will come out on top as Bournemouth host Crystal Palace on the South Coast?
Neither of these two teams are yet to register a point this campaign, and neither side go into the game with their confidence sky-high.
After another blank away at Spurs, Crystal Palace will look to new striker Christian Benteke – a midweek £27 million signing from Liverpool – to solve their current goal drought. The whole team will have to work hard to create chances for Benteke if he is to fire them off the foot of the table. Manager Alan Pardew may also try to regather a sense of team spirit after the recent departure of Yannick Bolasie to Everton, and speculation that Wilfried Zaha could transfer across to North London in a £15 million deal with Spurs.
Bournemouth were highly unfortunate not to secure a point last week away to West Ham, with their 10 men conceding an 85th minute Michail Antonio header just eight minutes after Harry Arter’s sending off. Their fans must stay patient; the team has had two difficult opening fixtures, and there are all the signs that the attacking threat of Jordon Ibe, Callum Wilson, Joshua King, Benik Afobe & co will soon fire. Expect a strong performance from Eddie Howe’s team, which may be enough to impose a third loss on Crystal Palace’s changing team.
Which Liverpool side will turn up at White Hart Lane?
With results about as consistent as Manager Jurgen Klopp’s mood, Liverpool have become the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ side of the Premier League. With four goals notched up against each of Barcelona (pre-season) and Arsenal this month alone, the Reds are perhaps at their best when teams try to match them man-to-man; as opposed to sitting deep and leaving no room in behind; a tactic expertly deployed by Burnley last weekend. Even with 81% of the ball, Liverpool were unable to fabricate any clear-cut chances and lost 2-0; yet Burnley only had three shots on target.
Spurs are unlikely to mirror these same tactics, and will back themselves to keep the ball and outplay the visitors – which could be a dangerous ploy if the right Liverpool team turn up. Sadio Mané returned in this week from a minor shoulder injury to star in a 5-0 League Cup rout of Burton Albion, in which the Senegalese attacker claimed man of the match in a fantastic display of pace, trickery and vision. There is no doubt Mané will have a big say on the outcome of this early kick-off on Saturday, but will it once again be a case of Liverpool having to outscore the opposition to force the result their way?
Who will slip up first – Pep, José or Conte?
City, United and Chelsea are backed by many this year to finish as the top three (not necessarily in that order). All began the season under new management, and all have recorded two victories out of two prior to this weekend.
With a home tie against last-week’s surprise conquerors of Liverpool, Burnley, Chelsea probably in fact have the easiest fixture, as long as they can find a way of penetrating through Sean Dyche’s two banks of four defensive set-up. City host an injury-hit West Ham side who look way short of their 2015-2016 form and weak on both flanks; on paper City should breeze past the Hammers, but we know nothing is ever so straightforward in football. United visit former employee Mike Phelan’s Hull City side, who are one of the three other teams to register a 100% record up to this point, despite having only 13 fit first-team players. Clearly a team with real spirit and fight, United will want to score early and take the sting out of this Hull side. With little firepower to bring on off the bench, Phelan may just run out of luck in this one if United take the lead and he is forced to chase the game.
So yes, we believe the Premier League’s top three will all win again – what a surprise… maybe the only teams they’ll drop points against is one another!
Who is the player to keep an eye out for?
Formerly the scapegoat for England’s disappointing exit to Iceland in this year’s Euro’s, Raheem Sterling has emerged as a new player this season at City. Pep Gaurdiola, criticised by some for his man-to-man management of goalkeeper Joe Hart, – who is perhaps not head and shoulders above other keepers in the League – has struck a promising relationship with Sterling. In other words, he has whispered in Sterling’s ear “if there is a two-on-one, pass it across goal because you can’t finish”. But in all seriousness Sterling, who is still just 21 years old, now seems a lot closer to justifying the £50 million originally forked out for him by City. Evidently brimming with confidence under his new manager’s wing, Sterling could well be the architect of West Ham’s downfall during the 4pm kickoff on Sunday. Also keep an eye out for his new haircut; not quite as good!
Will David Moyes’ fortunes change at St.Mary’s?
Probably not. A trip to Southampton promises a tough fixture for Moyes’ Sunderland, and there is little to suggest the Black Cats will come away with a result from this one. They showed valiant resistance against Man City on the Premier League’s opening day, but succumbed to a damaging 2-1 defeat at home to Middlesbrough last weekend – who knows how big a three points this will be come the end of the season! As per, Sunderland look off the pace at the start of this season, but that’s to be expected; annually they love to sink themselves deep into a relegation dogfight before turning on the style mid-March and miraculously surviving with games to spare. So no, Moyes’ fortunes are likely not to change, but he can be confident the score line will not match the 8-0 thrashing that some of his squad suffered in this fixture two seasons ago.
Tottenham 2-2 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-0 Burnley
Crystal Palace 1-1 Bournemouth
Everton 3-3 Stoke
Leicester 2-1 Swansea
Southampton 4-1 Sunderland
Watford 1-2 Arsenal
Hull 0-2 Man Utd
West Brom 1-1 Middlesbrough
Man City 3-0 West Ham
The Premier League action kicks off at 12:45 on Saturday with Tottenham vs Liverpool.
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