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

Manchester City vs Liverpool (Saturday, 12.30pm)

The big talking point: The spectacle. This was one of the games of the season last year and, with the respective teams full of pace and confidence, it shouldn’t disappoint this time around either. In spite of their good form, both remain undermined by defensive vulnerabilities which - conveniently for neutrals - align ominously with two highly diverse, highly potent forward lines.

What will happen: A barometer of what Liverpool truly are. Jurgen Klopp’s players entered the international break on the swell of their victory over Arsenal. The trouble with that, of course, is that we don’t yet know which team that result reflected most. Arsene Wenger’s midfield was badly put together and curiously uninterested at Anfield, creating the impression of an irresistible Liverpool team capable of delivering all manner of heavy punches. Pep Guardiola won’t be nearly as relaxed in his approach, though, so this should prove a far more informative game.

What won’t happen: Again, Guardiola won’t be able to accommodate all of his attacking pieces. Raheem Sterling has now come off the bench to score in his last two games, Bernardo Silva is pressing for a full-time starting role and - most notably - Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus continue their tussle for what looks for a solitary forward position. It's a nice problem to have, but it's still a problem - there are lots of egos to appease at Manchester City.

Arsenal vs Bournemouth (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: Take your pick: the deadline day wreckage? Alexis Sanchez’s relationship with his team-mates? The club’s nebulous financial situation? There’s more than one cloud looming over the Emirates.

What will happen: The cameras will be trained on Sanchez; it’s going to be one of those days. Arsenal will win, but expect the amateur body language experts to have a field day with every shrug and facial expression.

What won’t happen: The difficulty here is that Bournemouth aren’t really a strong enough opponent to offer much catharsis. Arsenal could - should - win this game, but will that repair any of the post-Anfield cracks? Probably not. Given the events surrounding his new contract, it was imperative that Arsene Wenger produced a start. He didn't, so now finds himself scrabbling for validation and doing so with a squad with some very obvious deficiencies. 

Brighton vs West Brom (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: Brighton’s lack of goals. Miguel Britos’s absurd challenge at Vicarage Road helped Chris Hughton’s team to a first Premier League point, but they’re still to find the net at this level.

What will happen: The worrying will start. How can you not be concerned for Brighton? They entered the division seemingly dependent on a 33-year-old Glenn Murray, and the transfer window hasn’t changed that. Jose Izquierdo has joined from Brugge, which will help, and it’s expected that Anthony Knockaert will eventually find his rhythm now he's returned from injury – but it’s hard to know where the goals are going to come from.

What won’t happen: No more chances for goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Hughton loaned Tim Krul from Newcastle on the final day of the window - and everyone knows what that means.

Everton vs Tottenham (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: Mauricio Pochettino’s full-backs. Tottenham have been starved of pace from deep so far this season, having had to rely on a half-fit Kieran Trippier, a tentative Ben Davies, and a wet-behind-the-ears Kyle Walker-Peters to provide their surges forward. Serge Aurier has now been signed but, having only arrived back from interntional duty on Wednesday, is not likely to feature.

What will happen: A first look at Spurs’ new attacking options. For the first time in three years, Tottenham will enter a game without being entirely reliant on a single forward. Fernando Llorente has joined from Swansea, will presumably begin life from the bench, and will provide a fascinating ‘direct’ variation should his new manager need it.

What won’t happen: Jordan Pickford might not be fit, having had to pull out of the recent England squad with a muscle injury. Ronald Koeman will hope that’s not the case - his young £30m signing has been outstanding in his first three league games and saved a penalty during Everton’s recent Europa League qualifier with Hajduk Split. Goalkeeping was a big Everton weakness before Pickford's arrival and this is not the moment for it to reappear.

Leicester vs Chelsea (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: If he could be assured of playing, it would be Danny Drinkwater’s immediate return to his former club. As it is, Antonio Conte’s transfer struggles probably take precedent: is this Chelsea squad really equipped to compete with the Manchester clubs?

What will happen: Potentially, Leicester could debut a new centre-back pairing or even a different defensive shape. Aleksandar Dragovic has joined on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, has presumably been promised game time, and might eventually appear in a back three alongside Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire.

What won’t happen: Gary Cahill will serve the final game of his suspension and take no part. Deadline day signing Davide Zappacosta will likely have to be content with a place on the bench.

Southampton vs Watford (Saturday, 3pm)

The big talking point: Virgil van Dijk returned to training this week. Interesting.

What will happen: But don’t expect him to start straight away. Mauricio Pellegrino is in a tough spot with this: Van Dijk is comfortably his best centre-back, but reinstate him immediately and he could risk putting other players’ noses out of joint. After all, this is still a player who spent the summer giving the impression that he felt above his team-mates.

What won’t happen: Miguel Britos is suspended - presumably forever after that tackle - and so Marco Silva will be forced to name his fourth different defensive line-up in four games. That’s something which will need curing long term, but the lack of chemistry is a concern here - particularly against a forward who moves as well as Manolo Gabbiadini.

Stoke vs Manchester United (Saturday, 5.30pm)

The big talking point: Manchester United’s form. Without wandering into “difficult place to go” cliche territory, this will be a further challenge for Jose Mourinho’s remastered side - although we did admittedly say the same about Leicester and United certainly overcame that test conclusively.

What will happen: Stoke will struggle in midfield. A very obvious concern, but one which could - and should - have been solved over the summer. Mark Hughes will presumably start with Joe Allen and Darren Fletcher in the centre of the pitch and there’s nothing within that partnership which suggests that the Matic/Pogba/Mkhitaryan axis is in for a difficult evening.

What won’t happen: Nobody will talk about Stoke’s new defence, even if they should. Hughes completed the signing of Kevin Wimmer on deadline day and, given the money involved (£15m), he will quickly become a starter. Stoke have deficiencies elsewhere on the field, but Wimmer will join a back three containing Ryan Shawcross and Kurt Zouma, and play in front of Jack Butland. Not bad at all.

Burnley vs Crystal Palace (Sunday, 1.30pm)

The big talking point: Frank de Boer’s job security. What a strange situation: Palace chairman Steve Parish must have known that employing de Boer would come with a steep learning curve for his players, but seems unwilling to tolerate it. Whatever the truth, things need to go better at Turf Moor than they have been so far or else De Boer will have another jarring failure on his CV.

What will happen: A reversion for the away side. Professional pride and job security issues will trump stylistic ideals, so you can expect - on Sunday at least - Palace to look more like their old selves. That will mean Yohan Cabaye starting, the ball being moved forward from defence with little fuss, and a temporary deference to the looming storm clouds.

What won’t happen: Still, that’s not really an answer to the current problem. Some Palace players have genuinely been flummoxed by these new tactical instructions and others just aren’t equipped to play in a possession-based team. The signing of Mamadou Sakho will bolster a wilting defence, but Burnley - particularly with Chris Wood now available - will be a hulking threat on their own ground.

Swansea vs Newcastle (Sunday, 4pm)

The big talking point: Renato Sanches! Swansea's season-long loan from Bayern Munich for the 20-year-old Portugal star was one of the most eye-catching moves of the transfer window.

What will happen: Expect Paul Clement not to include either Sanches or his other new signing Wilfried Bony from the start. The former has played just six minutes of club football all season and, at the top of the pitch, Tammy Abraham has performed extremely well under the circumstances. Initially at least, Swansea will be much as they were.

What won’t happen: Newcastle won’t score and that, you suspect, might be that for Rafa Benitez. He needed goals in the transfer window, he was promised the resources to make signings by Mike Ashley, and yet here he is: shortchanged in the window and facing a long struggle to survive. If he's given the opportunity to step off this Titanic of a football team, he may well be tempted to take it. 

West Ham vs Huddersfield (Monday, 8pm)

The big talking point: The, erm, tone of the comments coming from Portugal. David Sullivan is not a popular man in Lisbon and the escalating row over his deadline day claims about William Carvalho shows no sign of cooling.

What will happen: A hypothetical: if West Ham lose at home to Huddersfield (yet to concede in three Premier League matches), Slaven Bilic’s position could become untenable. Quotes attributed to various West Ham board members - particularly in relation to his alleged lack of desire to add Grzegorz Krychowiak and Renato Sanches to the squad - certainly suggests an appetite for his dismissal.

What won’t happen: Harmony. Because think about it: combine West Ham’s form, their internal issues and the embarrassment felt by their supporters with a return to the London Stadium. If Huddersfield score first on Monday, expect that atmosphere to turn bad in a hurry and this to become an extremely difficult evening.

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