Goodison Park holds unhappy memories for City, Man Utd could slip into bottom half and Hudson-Odoi must be patient
This weekend is crucial for Mauricio Pochettino (top, centre), who faces old side Southampton, while both Man City and Liverpool have unhappy memories of Saturday’s fixtures. Composite: Getty, Shutterstock, Action, PA
1) Man City return to Goodison Park with a point to prove
Pep Guardiola returns to Goodison Park, the site of the worst league defeat of his managerial career, where in January 2017 his Manchester City side had 70.8% of possession, nine shots to their opponents’ five, six corners to their three, and still lost 4-0. “I want us to get better and better and feel we are able to score goals,” Guardiola said afterwards. “When that happens we are going to suffer less behind. Our strikers will have more confidence. It is tough for the players, but it is not the first time it’s happened this season.” Indeed it wasn’t: it was the second time in three league games that City had failed to score and lost. This will be their 100th league game since that visit to Goodison Park – it is fair to say that those strikers have no issues with confidence now. SB
- Everton v Manchester City, Saturday 5.30pm
2) Liverpool hoping to break Bramall Lane hoodoo
Liverpool may not have won at Bramall Lane since 1990, having failed to yield victory on their past six visits, but they could not arrive in Yorkshire with a bigger spring in their step. Liverpool have forgotten how to lose; a formidable run of form means they have not tasted defeat on these shores since January, at Wolves in the FA Cup, and with Jürgen Klopp able to make wholesale changes in victory over MK Dons in midweek, shackling a purring front line of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah remains a daunting prospect for Chris Wilder’s side. The Sheffield United manager has made it clear his players cannot afford to be “starry eyed” but acknowledges his three-man defence will be kept busy. “It might turn into a back 10 or 11,” joked Wilder. “Their front three is much feted and we’re going to have to have an unbelievably great day to keep the ball out of our net.” BF
- Sheffield United v Liverpool, Saturday 12.30pm
3) A stint in the bottom half looms for Manchester United
Manchester United are eighth in the table after six unconvincing games and, if results go against them, they could be as low as 14th by the time they kick off on Monday night. However, it is eminently possible that United will be 10th on Monday, should they lose to Arsenal at Old Trafford. This is remarkable enough on its own – only once since Alex Ferguson’s first title-winning season in 1992-93, when they were briefly 10th between losing at Aston Villa on 7 November and beating Oldham in their next game, have United been outside the top eight this late in the season: under David Moyes in 2013-14, when they were ninth for a couple of weeks in December. The last time they were in the bottom half at this stage or later was exactly 30 years ago, a mess of a season that United ended in 13th but with a probably managerial career-saving FA Cup win. This is the kind of crisis that most clubs in the country would dream of but for this one would count as a rare old pickle. SB
- Manchester United v Arsenal, Monday 8pm
4) Norwich academy is showing its worth
Where will Norwich be at when Stuart Webber elects to walk away in three years’ time? The club tied down 15 players to new contracts following promotion, as well as the manager, Daniel Farke, but extending the 35-year-old sporting director’s stay last week is perhaps their best move yet. Webber’s work is clear in a Norwich team who travel to Selhurst Park – where Crystal Palace have been defeated only four times this year – on Saturday. Webber, who said he plans to leave Norwich at the end of the 2021-22 season, pieced together a title-winning jigsaw, slashing the wage bill and placing an onus on a burgeoning academy. This summer the club’s net spend was £1.4m, half of which they paid for Sam Byram, one of only two permanent signings. The major investment was into rewarding those that got them this far, as well as adding to their pool of young talent, namely the England Under-19 midfielder Daniel Adshead from Rochdale. BF
- Crystal Palace v Norwich, Saturday 3pm.
5) Aston Villa lack options up top without Wesley
Four points from six games is an insufficient return for an Aston Villa team with grander designs than merely avoiding relegation this season. The next fortnight already feels hugely significant, with a trip to Norwich following Saturday’s home game against Burnley. After the international break they host Brighton, whom they beat in midweek, and then face teams who qualified for Europe last season in six of their next seven matches. Dean Smith gave his £22m record signing Wesley a breather in the Carabao Cup, with Keinan Davis handed a rare start, but the striker squandered two golden opportunities late on. It did not matter, with victory wrapped up, but the concern for Villa is that they remain light on options in the final third. Villa rebuffed plenty of Championship interest to keep hold of Davis as competition for Wesley but, for now, Smith’s shallow pool of strikers remains unconvincing. BF
- Aston Villa v Burnley, Saturday 3pm.
6) Pochettino to face the music against his former side
Mauricio Pochettino alluding to agendas is a worrying train of thought. His Southampton tenure ended cryptically and, just as Tottenham have struggled to convince, Pochettino seems to be having the same problem, presumably fed up with putting on a brave face. Pochettino said it is his job to harmonise a fragmented squad, going on to acknowledge that January and next summer provide the perfect opportunity to iron out the creases; it would be a surprise if any of Christian Eriksen, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld or Jan Vertonghen started next season at Spurs, who have gone stale as a result of uncertainty. Another destabilising sub-plot is Pochettino’s own future, with the Argentinian asked to fight on four fronts – before defeat by Colchester – with essentially the same squad as last season, but for Tanguy Ndombele. The best way for Pochettino to dampen the noise? Get one over on his former club. BF
- Tottenham v Southampton, Saturday 3pm.
7) Ogbonna to keep it tight again for happy Hammers
For a team that began the season by shipping five goals at home to Manchester City, West Ham would not have been tipped by many to move steadily up to fifth on the back of defensive stability. But against City, Angelo Ogbonna did not feature in defence. He has partnered Issa Diop at centre-back in the five league games since, with the Hammers conceding only two league goals as they have won three and drawn two. Ogbonna and Diop have developed a fine understanding at the heart of the Hammers’ defence and it is little surprise that, without Ogbonna, West Ham were a mess at the back against Oxford United. In the league their rock-solid displays have helped Manuel Pellegrini to build a happy camp at West Ham, which is not something one often associates with a squad that has carried a few too many tempestuous characters in the past. A trip to the league’s other surprise package, sixth-placed Bournemouth, will be another test of the Hammers’ defensive solidity. The Cherries have scored six and taken six points from their last two league games. They might not get much joy out of the happy Hammers’ defence, though. GB
- Bournemouth v West Ham, Saturday 3pm.
8) Hudson-Odoi may have to wait his turn at Chelsea
Chelsea are still looking for their first home league win of the season and will fancy their chances of getting it against a Brighton team missing a host of players through injury: José Izquierdo, Leon Balogun, Bernardo, Solly March, Shane Duffy and Leandro Trossard. Back from the treatment room, Callum Hudson-Odoi played for the whole of Chelsea’s 7-1 thumping of Grimsby in the Carabao Cup in midweek after a long spell on the sidelines and may feature off the bench at some point against Graham Potter’s side. In his post-Grimsby press conference Frank Lampard was critical of the winger’s first-half contribution, saying what was expected of him “had to be reinforced pretty strongly” at half-time. While the pep-talk worked, one suspects it may be a little while yet before the 18-year-old is trusted to make his first start of the season in the Premier League. BG
- Chelsea v Brighton, Saturday 3pm
The bottom two meet on Saturday both searching for a first win of the season. Given that Watford suffered public humiliation when they were eviscerated 8-0 at Manchester City in their last Premier League outing, Wolves fans must be feeling confident that their league campaign will finally be given lift-off against wounded opponents. A home win might not be that straightforward, though. Watford’s 2-1 victory in the Carabao Cup against the second best team in the Championship, Swansea, may already have acted as the soothing balm Quique Sánchez Flores’s team needed to recover from their Etihad trauma. Danny Welbeck scored in that game and Sánchez Flores may be tempted to throw him into the mix at Molineux. Wolves have had a tricky start to the Premier League season. None of their six games to date have been easily winnable ones. If they do not take three points from this one, though, their season could be a long, painful slog. GB
- Wolves v Watford, Saturday 3pm.
10) Newcastle unlikely to ‘get away with it’ again
Newcastle picked up a point against Brighton in front of their lowest crowd in the best part of a decade last weekend but it was one they scarcely deserved. Largely outplayed, out-passed and out-thought in a match that will not live long in the memory of anyone unfortunate enough to witness it, only the stunningly acrobatic intervention of Fabian Schär helped them to hang on for a draw. “We got away with one,” said Steve Bruce, after bemoaning his side’s inability to get the ball from Brighton. Away at Leicester, they are likely to see even less of it and against a side that is more prolific in front of goal than last week’s opposition, they could pay a heavy price. BG
- Leicester v Newcastle, Sunday 4.30pm