AFTER midweek cup exertions in the League Cup (also known as the Carabao Cup), the English top flight returns for round six of fixtures. FocusM gives the lowdown on each of the games:
Aston Villa v Brighton (Sat, 7.30pm)
Villa’s surprise defeat to Everton in midweek underlines that they are very much a work-in-progress. Unai Emery will be hoping that the cup loss was just a mere blip and that his team regains the tactical discipline needed to deal with a high-flying Brighton. The Seagulls have hit the ground running and are quietly making a very strong case for a top-four finish.
Manchester United v Crystal Palace (Sat, 10pm)
Both sides met in the League Cup just a few days ago with the side from Old Trafford winning comfortably 3-0. Erik Ten Haag seems to have steadied the ship after recent wobbles and will be trying to secure back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Roy Hodgson will be hoping the returning duo of Erebechi Eze and Marc Guehi will give his Palace side added creativity. They were insipid in the cup tie and a similar showing could lead to a thrashing.
Bournemouth v Arsenal (Sat, 10pm)
Arsenal needs to find the consistency that made them surprise title challengers last season. They are tipped to challenge City again this season but have not been anywhere near their best in the early part of the campaign. Mikael Arteta has an embarrassment of riches upfront with Bukayo Saka, Eddy Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus all looking sharp and hungry.
The Spanish manager needs to find the right midfield combination that will allow his captain Martin Odegaard to fully realise his potential.
Everton v Luton Town (Sat, 10pm)
Two vital away wins have given Everton a rare sense of optimism. The Toffees will feel they have momentum as they seek their first home win of the season. Luton have looked out of depth at times this season but are no pushovers. Just a few weeks ago, this encounter would have already been billed as a relegation six-pointer but Sean Dyche seems to have finally gotten his team going in the right direction.
West Ham United v Sheffield United (Sat, 10pm)
Hammer fans are getting used to watching their side in Europe and will expect them to do the necessary against newly promoted Sheffield United. The Blades have yet to register a win this season and are propping up the table thus making them easy fodder for West Ham.
However, the Blades were desperately unlucky to concede two late goals at Spurs and could prove more stubborn than their table position suggests.
Newcastle United v Burnley (Sat, 10pm)
Newcastle will be on a high after dumping out Manchester City in the League Cup, earning them an away trip to Manchester United in the next round. The Magpies displayed great determination in wanting to end their decades’ long trophy drought and Eddie Howe will be hopping they bring the same doggedness into the weekend. Vincent Kompany’s Burnley are misfiring badly and urgently need a win to boost morale.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City (Sat, 10pm)
Both sides will be licking their wounds after third-round exits in the League Cup. The hosts suffered a shock defeat to lower division side Ipswich Town while City were edged 1-0 by Newcastle.
Pep Guardiola has in the past suggested scrapping the competition to ease fixture congestion but having won the trophy so many times in recent years, it will still have hurt the serial winner in him. Expect a backlash from the champions.
Tottenham Hotspurs v Liverpool (Sun, 12.30am)
Quite possibly the pick of the weekend’s games as two in-form sides face off. The hosts are making light of Harry Kane’s departure with new captain Son Heung-min stepping in superbly. His quickly maturing partnership with new boy James Maddison is key to Spur’s good form and Liverpool will have to be wary of the threat they pose.
Liverpool conceded early again in midweek and will need to stop this habit if they are to get anything from a very tough away fixture.
Brentford v Nottingham Forest (Sun, 9pm)
Brentford lies in 13th place and the fact that so many pundits are surprised at their “lowly” position speaks volumes about the job Thomas Frank has done. The Bees have beaten the best in the past and showed fearlessness and commitment to attacking football but their stutters this season highlight the importance of Ivan Toney to the grand plan.
The striker banned for gambling offences is now subject to interest from Arsenal. Brentford should seriously be looking at possible replacements to ensure their continued survival in the top flight.
Fulham v Chelsea (Tues, 3am)
Chelsea is fast becoming the prime subject for memes this season. Having splurged ridiculous amounts in the summer transfer window, they lie in 14th place. Chelsea fans were gloating over their double coup signings of Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, depriving rivals Liverpool of key reinforcements, but both players have yet to see their Stamford Bridge careers take off as yet.
Lavia has yet to even play a game as he is sidelined with an injury. If Fulham can sort out their problems in front of goal, they could further compound the Blues’ misery. – Sept 30, 2023