By Thomas O’Callaghan
The English Premier League returns this weekend after the first International break of the 2019/20 campaign. The break allows clubs to reflect on previous games, look at players impressing, not impressing, and looking to impress, and to also sack managers after 4 games like what Watford did. Let’s see how Matchday 5 might shape out.
Saturday 14 September
Liverpool V Newcastle
The early kick-off on Saturday afternoon, this fixture is rich in Premier League pedigree. It seems a lifetime ago these two would be battling it out near the top of the table – 23 years since Stan Collymore broke Newcastle hearts in that classic 4-3 win for Liverpool.
It doesn’t bode well for Newcastle again this weekend. Liverpool have a 100% record so far this season and are unbeaten in the last 23 Premier League games against The Magpies – winning 19 and drawing 4.
Liverpool look destined to power through most opposition with Manchester City the only credible challenger to Jürgen Klopp’s side this season.
Expect Steve Bruce to set-up 5 at the back and sit deep just like against Spurs on Matchday 3 – Joelinton the lone striker deployed up top to try and grab something on the counter-attack.
Expect another Liverpool win, with Mane, Firminho, and Salah the catalysts.
Brighton & Hove Albion v Burnley
Both these sides opened the campaign with a win. Unfortunately, both these sides haven’t won a game since. Both sit on 4 points in the table after 4 games.
Brighton are winless in their last 7 Premier League ties again Burnley – drawing 5 and losing 2.
Burnley won both ties against Brighton last season but have yet to win back-to-back away league games at Brighton. Ashley Barnes has started the season brilliantly, notching 4 goals. It will be an intriguing contest but home advantage could prove the difference.
Manchester United v Leicester City
This is one to keep an eye on! It’s 3rd against 8th in the table – and it’s not Man United that’s 3rd either.
Leicester’s impressive start sees them join Liverpool and Man City as the only teams left unbeaten this season. Interestingly, if they avoid defeat this Saturday at Old Trafford, this will be the 2nd time they have gone 5 games unbeaten at the start of a season – the previous being in their famous 2015/16 title-winning season.
Not suggesting if Leicester achieve this feat then they will challenge for the title. But they have looked impressive to date and could be in with a shout of a European place if their rich form continues. James Maddison and Jamie Vardy have developed a good understanding in attack, with the former hoping to break into England’s starting 11.
But United can take encouragement that they have only lost 1 of their last 20 league games against Leicester – a 5-3 defeat away in 2014. There’s been plenty of controversy surrounding United’s penalty takers – Will Ole Gunnar continue to have Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford debate it out or has he chosen a primary taker over the break?
There has been some optimism at Old Trafford as well this season. Summer signing Daniel James has kick-started his United career in splendid fashion. A goal for the Welsh man Saturday will see him become only the 2nd United player to score in his first 3 league appearances at Old Trafford – Ironically, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the first back in 1996.
It should be a good one, worth a bet on Daniel James getting a goal along with a United victory.
Verdict: Manchester United.
Sheffield United v Southampton
This will be the first meeting of these two in the Premier League since March 1994. A 0-0 draw that day Bramall Lane will hopefully not be a sign of things to come this weekend.
Newly-promoted Sheffield have done well since returning to life in the Premier League. One win and two draws out of 5 is a positive return – their loss coming on Matchday 3 against Leicester City.
Southampton will be under pressure to avoid the drop this season unless they can start getting some positive results. Claude Puel’s men haven’t won consecutive away Premier League matches since March 2017. A 2-0 win away to Brighton on Matchday 3 their sole win.
This one could be a repeat of 1994 I’m afraid.
Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace
It’s a little hard to believe that this is a Spurs side that has only won 1 of their opening 4 league games this season. However, 2 draws against Champions Manchester City and North London rivals Arsenal illustrated it wasn’t going to be an easy start for Spurs.
Their real hiccup came against a dogged Newcastle at home on Matchday 3 – a 1-0 defeat reminding all that Spurs are prone to walking on a banana skin now and again.
It should be straightforward for Spurs this weekend. Crystal Palace have lost the last 8 league ties against Spurs, scoring just one goal in that run.
There’s hope for Crystal Palace in this London derby. Their last 5 away Premier League games against ‘Big 6’ opposition have seen them beat Man City, Arsenal, and United. They were also the last side to pick up 3 points away at Anfield. Since the start of 2016/17, they are the only team to have beaten 5 of the big 6 away from home – Ironically, Spurs being the only exception – will this change Saturday?
Verdict: Tottenham Hotspur.
Wolves v Chelsea
Wolves will take encouragement that they remained unbeaten against Chelsea last season – won 1 and drew the other. They’ll also see that Frank Lampard’s team is 2nd in the concession of goals – 9 in total behind Norwich’s 10.
Frank Lampard’s young guns are under pressure to perform and get results. So far Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount have stepped up to the plate in attack.
Defensively they have not and will need to sure up the backline very quick if they are going to do anything this season. Wolves are the only side in the league not to lead a game so far this season but could well put that to bed at home Saturday.
However, Lampard has had time to work out certain faults in his team over the break. Expect a more efficient Chelsea this weekend.
Norwich v Manchester City
It’s the team that has conceded the most vs. the team that has scored the most. Norwich’s return to top-flight action has seen them leak 10 goals in their opening 4 games. One can only assume Man City will add to their tally of 14 goals this season, an impressive return that puts them top of the goal scoring charts.
Of course, the shaky Norwich defence will have to come up against top scorer Sergio Aguero who will be chasing a rare feat. If Aguero scores this Saturday he will only become the 3rd player to score in his opening 5 league games – only the late Jose Antonio Reyes (04/05) and Wayne Rooney (11/12) the two others to claim this rare achievement for Arsenal and Man Utd, respectively.
Although Norwich’s defence is prone to conceding, it’s the other side of the pitch where they have looked impressive and might cause a problem or two for City’s defence. Teemu Pukki has been one of the talking points this season, finding the net 5 times. He’s joint 2nd with City’s Raheem Sterling on the goal-scoring charts. Winger Todd Cantwell also looks a threat going forward, his flair and ability to pick a pass another asset to Norwich.
Expect goals this Saturday at Carrow Road! Between Aguero, Sterling, and Pukki they have scored 16 goals in 4 games. It looks like a comfortable City win is in store.
Verdict: Manchester City.
Sunday 15 September
Bournemouth v Everton
Everton travel to Bournemouth knowing they haven’t won in their previous 4 attempts at the Vitality stadium. Eddie Howe’s men have had the upper hand at home against the Toffees – winning 2 and drawing 2.
Everton striker Richarlison looks to have found some form – he’s scored 3 in his last 2 appearances in all competitions. Jordan Pickford also has 2 clean sheets to his name so far in the league, joining City’s Ederson on top of the clean sheet table.
Bournemouth are capable of troubling Pickford and his clean sheet ambitions with Joshua King and Callum Wilson having a good understanding in attack, they’ve goals in them too.
There won’t be much between these sides – anticipating Bournemouth to keep their unbeaten record against Everton at home intact.
Watford v Arsenal
It’s been a dismal start for Watford after their exploits last season which saw them finish 11th and reach the FA Cup final. There has been a change at the helm during the international break. Javi Gracia was given the boot and replaced by former boss Quique Sánchez Flores, who was let go himself in controversial fashion by Watford at the end of the 2015/16 campaign.
A change in manager might just be the boost Watford need to get up and running for the Season. They meet an Arsenal side with 2 wins, 1 draw, and a loss to Liverpool to their name.
Unai Emery’s side have a good record in this fixture. They’ve won their last 3 ties against Watford without conceding a goal – Watford being the only team not to score against Arsenal last season. Expect Aubameyang and Lacazette to cause problems for the Watford backline, they’ve got 5 between them so far.
Watford will be hoping to trouble an Arsenal defence that has looked suspect. Another Summer signing, David Luiz, has been inconsistent and it depends on what David Luiz will show up at Vicarage road Saturday.
Arsenal should have too much for a struggling Watford side, even with a new manager.
Monday 16 September
Aston Villa v West Ham
Monday Night Football returns with the clash of the claret and blue at Villa Park.
Villa’s 2-0 win over Everton on Matchday 3 the only positive from their return to Premier League life.
Captain Jack Grealish and Summer signing Jota are capable of causing problems to any team going forward – Jota’s performance against that win over Everton a joy to watch.
West Ham will be seeking their third league win on the bounce. Striker Sébastien Haller looks to be settling in well in the Premier League, he’s already notched 3 goals.
Villa’s best chance of picking up points this season looks likely to be at Villa Park, but West Ham will arrive Monday looking to get 3 points themselves.