Skip to main content

Premier League preview: What will and won't happen this weekend

Huddersfield vs Tottenham (Saturday, 12.30pm)

The big talking point: Spurs’ away record: flawless so far, including that awkward Champions League trip to Cyprus in midweek.

What will happen: Rotation. But Pochettino has problems. The line-up used against APOEL was the product of circumstance and a long injury list which now includes Moussa Dembele, Victor Wanyama, Danny Rose and Erik Lamela. Serge Aurier will serve a one-match suspension this week, while Christian Eriksen is still recovering from illness. Whichever Spurs team Huddersfield face, it will be far from a first-choice XI.

What won’t happen: It would be a surprise if Harry Kane started. He’s been ever-present so far, save for the League Cup game with Barnsley, and Fernando Llorente will need minutes if he's to become an asset over longer periods within games (and if Kane’s legs are to be spared before an international break during which he’s likely to start another two games). Huddersfield are extremely well coached, their defence is truly excellent, but the Spaniard’s aerial ability makes him a threat against any team in the division and a natural focal point for a visiting side who can get a bit "long-bally" when they encounter discipline.

Bournemouth vs Leicester (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: Bournemouth’s upcoming fixtures. After the international break they face Spurs away, Stoke away and Chelsea at home. They really need some points here if they want to avoid a winter slog at the foot of the table. 

What will happen: And they should get them. Leicester have had a couple of close-run games against good teams this season, but this is the worst start they've ever made to a Premier League season. One win since the opening day (against Brighton), and only West Ham and Crystal Palace have conceded more goals – though granted, they've had to face Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool already. The Foxes weren't good in their 1-1 draw at Huddersfield, however, so Josh King and Jermain Defoe will be looking to have some more fun. 

What won’t happen: Clean sheets. Because it’s Bournemouth, because it’s Leicester and because neither has managed to get through a Premier League game without conceding yet. Count the mistakes, count the goals.

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: Palace’s unending search for a first league goal of the season. This stretch of fixtures was always going to be difficult, no matter who was in charge, but Roy Hodgson had better hope that his squad’s morale survives the trip to Old Trafford this week - and then the visit of Chelsea after the international break - if he's going to lead a revival.

What will happen: Another bleak day. There’s no shame in getting thumped by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, but the measure of Palace’s confidence was the manner in which they fell apart after Leroy Sane’s goal. They were actually very stubborn for the first 40 minutes, even having good chances of their own, but it’s hard to see anything other than that fragility returning on Saturday and being brutally exposed again.

What won’t happen: No Christian Benteke, who has been ruled out for up to six weeks. When it rains at Selhurst Park, it pours.

Stoke vs Southampton (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: That rotten Stoke performance against Chelsea. That really was bad - not just the product of being overmatched against a strong opponent, but a truly abject performance pockmarked by self-inflicted wounds.

What will happen: If Stoke lose, some of the pre-season doom forecasts made about them will be revisited. The line on Mark Hughes’s team at the moment is that they’re far better than they were expected to be. But are they? This is a team that hasn't actually won a game since August 23 - and that was against Rochdale. They beat Arsenal, which although a good result isn’t quite the big deal it once was, and took a point from West Brom and Manchester United. Fine, but a defeat here will leave them looking very insecure.

What won’t happen: Any defensive strengthening. Ryan Shawcross and Kevin Wimmer will both likely miss out through injury, meaning another outing for the Bruno Martins Indi/Eric Pieters/Glen Johnson centre-back trio. Good news for Southampton and their chances of improving their two-goals-from-open-play-all-season statistic.

West Brom vs Watford (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: West Brom’s grievances from Monday night. Yes, Tony Pulis was right to rage against Bobby Madley; his players were denied a clear first-half penalty against Arsenal and also found themselves on the wrong side of several marginal decisions. A shame, because they were greatly improved in north London.

What will happen: Home win. Whether it was a spirited show for the cameras or something more organic, West Brom looked more dangerous on Monday than they had in weeks. Beyond the Jay Rodriguez penalty incident (and the excellent Petr Cech save which followed it), the visitors might have had two or three goals. It was vastly better than the performances against West Ham and Brighton. That trend should continue here.

What won’t happen: Nathaniel Chalobah won’t play here and likely won't do again until 2018 because of a fractured knee cap. Cruel luck for him personally, but also for Marco Silva, who has come to rely on his back-and-forward attributes on the left of his three-man midfield. 

West Ham vs Swansea (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: Paul Clement’s ambition. Last weekend’s back five (at home to Watford) was not popular. The travelling supporters will want some reassurance here that their manager is willing to actually throw a punch or two.

What will happen: The trouble is, what choice does Clement have? Gylfi Sigurdsson is gone, Fernando Llorente has joined Tottenham; his two biggest differencemakers have been sold and, for offensive thrust at least, he’s now reliant on developing players (Tammy Abraham), unfit ones (Wilfried Bony) or those who fall into both categories (Renato Sanches). The temptation to keep collapsing into that hard shell behind the ball must be overwhelming. There is the potential to pivot towards a two-forward system, as happened for part of the game with Watford, but what would the cost be to the team's security? 

What won’t happen: Andy Carroll. West Ham are a different side with Carroll playing, but that’s no longer the compliment it once was. He offers something unique, certainly, but his inclusion often comes at the cost of Javier Hernandez, who is pushed into an awkward, wide position whenever he and Carroll are on the pitch at the same time. Worse, Carroll encourages all of his side’s worst, direct football instincts and Swansea – whatever else they may be – are well-equipped to deal with an aerial challenge. See their performance at Wembley against Tottenham for evidence of that; they struggle with movement, not targetmen.

Chelsea vs Manchester City (Saturday, 5.30pm)

The big talking point: The occasion itself, because this should be fascinating. Guardiola’s forward line are carving through teams at will at the moment and this game, at the home of the defending champions of course, will be their stiffest test to date.

What will happen: City’s run will continue. The goalless draw against Arsenal revealed that, to some extent, Chelsea are living off last season’s defensive reputation. There are holes in the backline and Antonio Conte’s determination to keep shuffling his back-three seems to be perpetuating some instability. The elaborate swirls of movement at the top of City's formation should prove too much to cope with. 

What won’t happen: The recent trend is for these games to deliver on the promised entertainment, which is in stark contrast to the stale, top-four default a decade ago. The good news here is that neither team would be well served by being too passive - Chelsea are prone to lapses (last seen in the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday night), Manchester City's backline remains a work progress - so this should be tactically aggressive (as both games between the two were last season).

Arsenal vs Brighton (Sunday, 12pm)

The big talking point: Anthony Knockaert’s form: there’s the player we’d heard so much about. Knockaert’s delivery was a little off against Newcastle, but that was his best performance yet in the Premier League - all direct running, balance, and elegance. 

What will happen: Yes, Arsenal likely win here, but it will be interesting to see Brighton’s reaction to last weekend. This is one of their free hits - likely the kind of game that Chris Hughton, smart enough to recognise the probabilities, will just tell his players to enjoy. Typically, that either leads to a battering or to something full of expression. Interesting, especially because Brighton, despite being a little light in attack, are a better team than assumed.

What won’t happen: But don’t expect a visiting clean sheet: Arsenal have won their last 10 home games in a row, outscoring their opponents 24-5 in the process. Don’t expect to see Tomer Hemed, either, as he’s been (correctly) banned for three games following his thuggish stamp on DeAndre Yedlin.

Everton vs Burnley (Sunday, 2.15pm)

The big talking point: Oumar Niasse. Out of the wilderness and back into the first team to reduce some of the pressure on Ronald Koeman. Ironic, given how eager Koeman was to kick him through the exit door last season.

What will happen: Presumably Niasse will start again. Everton have paid for their failure to replace Romelu Lukaku and have looked terribly limited without him. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has generally played well when given opportunities (of which he deserves more), but Niasse looks to have been energised by his initial rejection and, ultimately, a targetman with a chip on his shoulder is a useful commodity.

What won’t happen: If Everton win, it won't be a significant enough result to alter any perceptions of Koeman's job performance. However, it's worth considering the teams he's faced in this opening stretch: Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, and Chelsea. With the exception of the dreadful performance against Atalanta, all of Everton's losses this season have come against sides who are more balanced, have experienced less player turnover and who are, ultimately, better. Everton probably aren't playing to par at the moment, but some of the stronger opinions being directed towards them need to be tempered by realism. 

Newcastle vs Liverpool (Sunday, 4.30pm)

The big talking point: The mood around Jurgen Klopp. It would be an exaggeration to say that Klopp is now under pressure - he’s not - but the frustrations are beginning to calcify. Every week, Liverpool make the same mistakes and concede goals in the same way, so forgive those who believe that reflects poorly on their manager's coaching. 

What will happen: This will be low scoring. This fixture (and its reverse) has a permanent place on television because of what happened 20 years ago at Anfield, but this won’t be anything look those games. Rafael Benitez’s team fell at Brighton last week, losing to a sloppy set-piece goal, but they’re ordinarily an extremely organised side. Limited by their personnel, but still the kind disciplined, conservative team that Liverpool typically labour against. 

What won’t happen: ... and you have to believe, notoriously meticulous as Benitez is, that his players will be fully aware of the circumstances under which Liverpool struggle. Newcastle will not be aggressive, will not risk turning the ball over in the middle of the pitch, and will do whatever they can to minimise counter-attacking opportunities and space around their defence.

Now read...

QUIZ Can you name the top 35 Champions League goalscorers by the age of 23?

LIST 7 brilliant teams pulled apart before they could fulfil their potential

GAMING The 23 best football games ever made: Sensi, FIFA, Virtua, PES and more

New features you'd love on