WITH seven clubs from last season involved in European competition in midweek, it represents the chance for others to capitalise on any post-Continental hangover.
Those who suffered damaging defeats in Europe will be hoping to get back to winning ways domestically while those who won comfortably will be hoping to build on the momentum. FocusM looks at some of the talking points from the weekend’s matches.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspurs (Sat, 8.30pm)
Spurs lost their unbeaten record when they were brought crashing to earth with a heavy 4-1 reversal at home to Chelsea. That the Blues were managed by former manager Mauricio Pochettino only rubbed salt into the wound. The fact that the London derby was fraught with controversy with sending offs and disallowed goals also compounded matters.
Spurs supporters can hardly complain when they benefitted in a similar fashion when defeating Liverpool a few weeks ago. The subplot will be the battle of the South Korean forwards with Spurs’ Son Heung-Min facing off against compatriot Hwang Hee-Chan.
Arsenal v Burnley (Sat, 11pm)
Mikael Arteta proclaimed he was completely “sickened” by the goal that sank the Gunners at St James Park last weekend. VAR had allowed the winning goal to stand despite three separate incidents that should have nullified it, not least the ball seemingly going out of play.
There will be little sympathy for Arteta simply because he took a very different view when asked about the VAR fiasco that cost Liverpool the game against Spurs recently. He also conveniently omitted to mention that Kai Havertz should have seen red at Newcastle. Such blinkered complaining will see many neutrals wanting Burnley to pull one over the whinging Gunners.
Crystal Palace v Everton (Sat, 11pm)
Both teams play on the counter and adhere to a game plan that eschews possession. The Eagles won at Burnley with 32% possession and at Old Trafford with 23%. The Toffees took a point from Brighton’s visit with just 20% of the ball and all three from a trip to West Ham with 36%.
Such stats point to a cagey affair with the onus possibly falling on the home side to show a bit more impetus. But both managers will fancy bagging maximum points given their recent form with mid-table safety very much up for grabs after some early scares at the wrong end of the table.
Manchester United v Luton Town (Sat, 11pm)
The Hatters came within minutes of a famous victory against more illustrious opponents in Liverpool last weekend. That it needed a last-ditch Luis Diaz equaliser to deny Luton all three points will give them hope that their fate is not yet sealed and a great escape might just be on the cards.
They come up against a Manchester United side reeling from a bruising 4-3 defeat to Copenhagen in Europe in midweek. Will the Red Devils come roaring out of the blocks like a wounded animal, or will they still be feeling sorry for themselves? It better be the former if Erik Ten Haag wants to hang on to his job.
Bournemouth v Newcastle United (Sun, 1.30am)
The Magpies are reeling from back-to-back defeats to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and will want to show that they do indeed belong among the elite. They will want to do so by making short work of Bournemouth—the side their current manager Eddie Howe performed miracles with a few years ago.
The Cherries are hovering precariously close to the drop zone and will need to start putting points on the board to avoid a return to the championship.
Aston Villa v Fulham (Sun, 10pm)
Unai Emery’s transformation of Aston Villa has been nothing short of remarkable since taking over from Steven Gerrard. To put things into perspective, Aston Villa have won their last dozen home games and their victory over Fulham will equal the record set by their mighty 1983 side. Fulham are winless in their last three and will be rueing conceding in the final minutes at home to Manchester United last weekend.
Villa will be looking to crack the top six this season after making it into the Europa Conference League spot last season while the Cottagers will be hoping to emulate that achievement by qualifying for Europe’s third-tier competition.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Sheffield United (Sun, 10pm)
The Seagulls will be flying high after a famous victory over Ajax of Amsterdam in Europe in midweek, but are winless in five in the Premier League. Roberto De Zerbi has rotated his attacking options to keep them fresh. Exciting youngster Evan Ferguson has featured heavily domestically, while on-loan Ansu Fati has been deployed in European competition.
The Albion faithful are demanding to see the two forwards in tandem to sharpen their attacking play and take advantage of their high press. The Blades fresh from securing their first win of the season will be hoping for a turnaround in fortunes to engineer a great escape.
Liverpool v Brentford (Sun, 10pm)
The Merseysiders will be smarting from their midweek defeat in France to Toulouse but more worryingly for Jurgen Klopp were the defensive lapses. A lack of an established defensive midfielder has also created an imbalance for the team with Wataru Endo blowing hot and cold while Alexis Mac Allister is better suited as a no. 8. Curtis Jones who impressed in that role is struggling with a calf issue and promising youngster Stefan Bajcetic has not featured at all this campaign due to injury.
Similarly, Thiago Alcantara has faded into being the forgotten man at Anfield with his prolonged hip issues. The Bees will be looking to exploit the many holes that often appear in Liverpool’s rear guard.
West Ham United v Nottingham Forest (Sun, 10pm)
David Moyes will be desperate to improve the Hammers’ league form as they have only managed one win from their last seven. Key to this will be the partnership between the impressive Jarod Bowen and Mohamad Kudus, who need to start clicking as an attacking unit sooner rather than later.
Forest have backed manager Gary Cooper to the hilt but he must engineer some positive results for that goodwill to endure. Mid-table safety is very much within grasp for Forest but greater consistency will be required. An away win will do much in their quest for another season of top-flight football.
Chelsea v Manchester City (Mon 12.30am)
This is definitely the big game of the weekend even if Chelsea are not exactly title contenders this season. But the huge array of talent will make this compulsive viewing as plenty of intriguing battles take shape all over the pitch. Not least the battle between Manchester City’s electrifying wing wizard Jeremy Doku and a fit-again Chelsea skipper Recce James.
Raheem Sterling will be up against his former side and will be keen to show that City were wrong to let him go. City are purring along nicely and look odds on favourites to make it four titles in a row, even this early in the season. Eerling Haaland’s continued goal-plundering is key to that ambition. – Nov 11, 2023
Main photo credit: This is Anfield