With another weekend of bombastic fixtures, the Premier League season is well and truly taking shape already.
Just over a month in, there have already been a handful of shocks and surprises. We take a look at five things we should know a little more about by the beginning of next week.
City Spurred back to winning ways?
Manchester City were a mite unfortunate not to take at least a point against West Ham last weekend, but coupled with a disappointing display against Juventus in Europe it placed some pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini – you’re only ever two bad results from a crisis when fickle oil tycoons control your destiny!
An emphatic 4-1 League Cup spanking of whipping boys Sunderland was a timely reminder of how dangerous the Citizens can be when wounded. This weekend they face a Spurs team who crashed out of the same cup competition at home to fierce rivals Arsenal.
Tottenham have looked a shadow of their former selves so far this term, but with home advantage and their own burden to bear after the mid-week shambles, I expect them to respond with a decent home display.
Conclusion: Harry Kane to score early, as Spurs dig deep for a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.
Chelsea defeat = McClaren chop?
Steve McClaren is a man under pressure only 8 matches into his reign as Newcastle manager. Of those only one has resulted in a win (against lowly Northampton Town in the League Cup), two draws and five defeats, the most recent of which was a humbling home reverse against Championship team Sheffield Wednesday.
Chelsea have been hit and miss (as has Diego Costa with his fists), but their 2-0 win against title rivals Arsenal last weekend provided evidence of a return to form. Despite the dough-faced Spanish striker’s rough house tactics, Jose Mourinho’s men were good value for the result.
A Newcastle defeat might be expected, but Mourinho has never won a match at St James’ Park, so it would be another unwelcome feather in McClaren’s already overloaded cap.
Conclusion: Newcastle have stepped up against the better sides they’ve faced, but their toothless team will have no joy today – Chelsea to win 3-1.
Brendan’s last bow?
Another manager under intense scrutiny is Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. The affable Northern Irishman has never really recovered from losing star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona just over a year ago.
On paper Aston Villa provide ideal opposition, having collected only one point from their past five league outings, but the Villains have previous at Anfield, collecting eight points from their last four visits to Merseyside.
Both teams will be desperate to pick up the win, and although on paper The Reds have a far superior group of players, they have yet to gel.
Conclusion: With Benteke seemingly unfit to take on his former club and Daniel Sturridge not match ready, Danny Ings will step up as his side sneak a priceless 2-1 win.
Foxes to finally lose against Arsenal?
Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes have been one of the surprise packages of the season, winning three and drawing three of their opening half a dozen fixtures.
In Jamie Vardy they have a forward brimming with confidence as they continually defy the odds to comeback late in games, their philosophy to outscore the opposition and hit them on the break.
Arsenal haven’t quite reached their apex, with the spotlight firmly placed on a lack of signings. Delectable approach play is too often undermined by profligate finishing… Why didn’t they go for Charlie Austin or Alexandre Lacazette?
Conclusion: Arsenal will click, and as long as their strikers are on song they’ll take three points back to North London: 2-1 away win.
Rooney to end goal drought?
He might be banging the cup goals in, and striking penalties home for England, but Wayne Rooney’s Premier League form has been lacklustre thus far, outshone by the dazzling potential of £40m+ teenage acquisition Anthony Martial.
True, Rooney is playing a number ten role, but he looks bereft of confidence when it comes to burying chances; Alan Shearer’s 260 goal EPL record appears ever more distant with each blank display.
Step up Sunderland, a team conceding goals by the bucket load. Although the Mackems have pigeon-brained Younes Kaboul suspended, the rest of their back-line isn’t much better, so if Rooney is going to break his duck he couldn’t have chosen a more fitting opponent.
Conclusion: United will ram home three goals, two from Rooney, as they complete a routine 3-0 rout.
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