Normal service resumed last week with a handful of opening day fixtures which offered no real shocks – with the exception of Brighton’s thrashing of Watford and Chelsea 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Solskjaer’s Manchester United. This week, then, sees the battle for an early lead intensify with a host of unexpected challengers joining the “big six” in the fight at the top of the table. What surprises are in store for us in match-week 2?
Arsenal vs. Burnley
Saturday’s early fixture sees Unai Emery’s charges face a fierce challenge in the form of Sean Dyche’s Burnley, who kicked their campaign off with a comprehensive 3-0 thrashing of Southampton at Turf Moor last week. The clarets look a frightening proposition this time out with an attack sharpened by their new forward, Jay Rodriguez, and their characteristically robust defensive line strengthened by the likes of Erik Pieters and Danny Drinkwater, who joins them on-loan from Chelsea.
Arsenal, on the other hand, left it late at St James’ park as they triumphed against Steve Bruce’s new-look Newcastle with a slender 1-goal lead. As newcomers Kieran Tierney and Nicholas Pepe edging ever closer to stamping their mark on the top-flight and with promising signs already grinning through, write the gunners off at your own peril.
Southampton vs. Liverpool
It was a tale of contrasting fortunes between the next two sides last weekend with the Reds making easy work of newly promoted Norwich City, while Southampton slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Turf Moor. This week, however, sees Jurgen Klopp’s Reds in the midst of a genuine injury crisis with goal-keepers Allisson Becker and Adrian both major doubts, leaving only 20-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher and veteran keeper Andy Lonergan as Liverpool’s options in net. Add to this the inevitable fatigue across the board from Liverpool’s hard-fought win over Chelsea in Istanbul mid-week, and this game seems a stern challenge indeed for the Merseysiders – but can they muster enough fight to escape with all 3 points?
The hosts today, Southampton, will be hoping to pull one over on their visitors as they look to bounce back from their embarrassing opening day loss to Burnley with manager Ralph Hasenhüttl eager to bring the good times back to St Mary’s in his first full-season in charge of the Saints. Can new signings Che Adams and Moussa Djenepo inspire a giant killing in the Premier League, or will the ghosts of Southampton’s past come back to haunt them once again?
Brighton vs. West Ham
In Saturday’s next fixture, a Brighton side – triumphant after clinically dispatching Watford last weekend – take on Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham at the Amex. Having been slaughtered 5-0 by reigning champions Manchester City, the Hammers will need to offer a much stronger performance as they prepare themselves for the challenge ahead. Pellegrini, having already insisted his side can compete despite their defeat to City, will be sweating on the fitness of his star-forward Felipe Anderson and marquee signing Sebastien Haller, with both players having picked up knocks last time out.
Brighton, conversely, seem to be enjoying life under new-manager Graham Potter, having impressed in pre-season and their opening game at Vicarage Road. With summer signing Neal Maupay already seeming to be hitting his stride on the south coast, can the Seagulls navigate their way to another 3 points?
Everton vs. Watford
Disappointment will have been rife in both camps in the next 3:00pm kick-off, with Marco Silva’s Toffees having fought tooth-and-nail against Wolves to come away with only 1 point while Watford fell flat at home to Brighton. Despite this, Everton will be anything but discouraged having already navigated one of the tougher fixtures of their season on the first day after an ambitious transfer window which is just about starting to bear fruit. Can the toffees give Goodison Park something to cheer about today?
Their opposition, under manager Javi Garcia, will be riled up and ready to fight as they battle to regain some of the form which led them to a mid-table finish last season. Despite a fairly quiet summer transfer window from the Hornets, Garcia will be relying on club captain Troy Deeney, supported by new signings Danny Welbeck and Ismaila Sarr, to get the team back to winning ways. But will they be able withstand the home support and onslaught of Marco Silva’s men?
Norwich City vs. Newcastle
The next two teams come into the game desperate for a brighter start than last weekend’s openers; Newcastle fell short as Arsenal came to town while Daniel Farke’s championship winners had a day to forget at Anfield. Now on their home patch though, the latter of the two teams, Norwich City, will be hopeful to lay down a marker and kick-start their season against a Newcastle team in transition. While dangermen Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia showed what they can do against the European champions, Farke will be hoping for a far stronger defensive performance going into their match with the Magpies.
Steve Bruce’s men, on the other hand, will have felt slightly unlucky last time out forfeiting all three points to a single lapse in concentration – against what was in truth a very strong opposition – and will be champing at the bit to get their season started properly. However, the Newcastle players and the travelling toon will face a tough challenge in their hosts, the Canaries, and would be wise not to underestimate their newly promoted opposition.
Aston Villa vs. Bournemouth
Fresh off the back of a disappointing visit to the Tottenham Hotspur stadium last week, Villa return to Birmingham as they host Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, who succumbed to a stalemate against fellow-newcomers Sheffield United. Despite making a bright start to premier league life in the opening stages of the first and second halves, taking the lead through John McGinn, the Villans were undone by a handful of late goals courtesy of Harry Kane and Spurs new-boy Tanguy Ndombele. Now back at home, Dean Smith’s charges will be quietly confident in their chances of putting up a fight and will need that fighting spirit going forward.
Taking all 3 points this weekend may well give the Villans the confidence they need, but they’ll face a stern challenge in Eddie Howe’s marauding Bournemouth team who are, admittedly, yet to hit their stride. Despite suffering a late upset at the hands of a late Billy Sharp equaliser on the opening weekend, Bournemouth’s performance in over the summer break and control over their last game sets them in good stead to put up a real fight this afternoon. Having invested in youth over the summer, will Eddie Howe’s youngblood make the difference today?
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
It’s a clash of the titans in our final Saturday game this week, as current Premier League champions Manchester City take on the team that knocked them out on the way to the Champions League final. Mauricio Pochettino’s side made hard-work of Aston Villa in their last run-out but ultimately got what they deserved as they left victorious and will be hoping to take that momentum forward as they aim to dent Pep Guardiola’s hopes of a third consecutive league title. With new signing Tanguy Ndombele shining in the middle of the park and the likes of Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso yet to make their debuts, Spurs are well-poised to lay down a serious challenge.
Looking to defend their second league title in two years, Pep Guardiola’s indomitable Citizens seem to be on course to replicate their Premier League heroics of last season with a barn-storming performance against West Ham United last week. With additions to their midfield and defence in the form of Athletico Madrid’s Rodri and Portuguese left-back Joao Cancelo bolstering a squad already stacked with quality, it’ll be City’s league to lose this season. Will it be just another day at the office for City or can Spurs replicate their Champions League triumph and cause an upset here?
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