A preview of this weekend’s Premier League Action
August 17, 2018
The Premier League season is now underway, with Liverpool having surged to the top of the table following a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham last Sunday.
There’s another full round of fixtures scheduled for this weekend, including a stellar clash between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
We’ll preview all the action below, while appraising the league’s most likely winners and losers.
Can the Gunners kick-start their season?
We start in West London, where Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea will entertain Arsenal on Saturday evening. This will continue the Gunners’ challenging start to the season, following a disappointing performance and a 2-0 defeat against champions Manchester City on opening day.
In addition, Arsenal manager Unai Emery is facing a potential injury crisis at left-back, after Ainsley Maitland-Niles suffered a fractured fibula against City. He joins the experienced Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac on the sidelines, with former Juventus full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and the versatile Danny Welbeck being touted as potential replacements.
Conversely, Chelsea cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win at Huddersfield last weekend, while they’ve no new injuries to report following their success at the John Smith Stadium. Veteran keeper Petr Cech is expected to retain his place in the side ahead of new £22 million man Bernd Leno, despite a comical error that almost gifted City an own goal on opening day.
The brilliant Belgian Eden Hazard is also expected to return to the starting line-up after his World Cup exploits, affording the Blues a significant competitive edge over their London rivals.
It’s certainly hard to see beyond a Chelsea win here, particularly with Arsenal struggling to establish a clear philosophy and playing style under Emery.
Tough trips for Manchester United and Liverpool
Elsewhere, last season’s runners-up Manchester United face a difficult trip to Brighton, following their narrow opening day win against Leicester City. Don’t forget, the Seagulls secured their survival in the top-flight with a 1-0 win over the Reds at the Amex Stadium last May, while they’ve added to their squad successfully during the summer.
However, this was one of only two wins in 19 games that Brighton have recorded against United in all competitions, while Chris Hughton also has injury concerns over Florin Andone, Bruno Saltor and £13.5 million forward José Izquierdo.
Despite this, Jose Mourinho’s men are unlikely to arrive on the south coast in buoyant mood, particularly given the ongoing transfer uncertainty surrounding midfield Paul Pogba and forward Anthony Martial.
The good news is that Jesse Lingard and hitman Romelu Lukaku will return to the reckoning after a full week of training – this may help the Reds to sneak a narrow win.
Early front-runners Liverpool also face a tough trip to Selhurst Park on Monday night, where they’ll take on a Crystal Palace side that impressed during their opening day win against Fulham.
The Eagles are likely to be unchanged from this victory, with talisman Wilfried Zaha lining up alongside former Red Christian Benteke in attack.
Liverpool are also expected to name the same side that thrashed West Ham on the opening day, with new signing Fabinho and captain Jordan Henderson likely to remain on the substitutes bench. The question that remains is: how Palace cope with the pace and energy of Liverpool’s front six, with new addition Naby Keita providing considerable thrust from midfield?
What else is happening this weekend?
The weekend actually starts with Newcastle United’s clash against Cardiff City at St. James Park on Saturday afternoon. Both of these sides suffered disappointing defeats on the opening day of the season, but Rafa Benitez must surely be confident that his men can earn three much-needed points against the Premier League newcomers.
Fulham will also be looking to recover from a challenging opening day, where they were outplayed and comfortably beaten by Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage.
However, it will undoubtedly take time for their new signings to gel following a summer transfer spend of £98.1 million, and they’re unlikely to find an established Spurs side in charitable mood on Saturday.
Elsewhere, champions Manchester City will entertain a struggling Huddersfield Town side at the Etihad on Sunday, still reeling from the news that midfield star Kevin de Bruyne has been ruled out for up to three months with a knee injury. Still, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva are more than capable of filling the void, while forwards Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero have also hit the ground running in August.
At the London Stadium, Eddie Howe’s enterprising Bournemouth side will fancy their chances of securing a positive result against West Ham, with the Hammers having looked disjointed against Liverpool following a huge summer spend. Leicester City will also go in search of their first points of the season against a newly-promoted and highly ambitious Wolves side, with Everton and Southampton also in action at Goodison Park.
Sunday’s action also includes a match between Burnley and Watford at Turf Moor, where the Hornets will look to build on their opening day win over Brighton while capitalising on the fact that Burnley were in Europa League action on Thursday.