The UEFA Nations League has definitely added some spice and life to the usually drab international breaks, but it still does not compare to the thrills of club football. The Premier League is back this weekend and it kicks off with a massive clash between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. Here are five things to look out for in all the matches.
Battle of the managers at the Bridge
José Mourinho built his reputation as a top-class manager partly by always having a near fool-proof plan for every big game. He might not have been as successful in recent years as he originally was, but he still has a knack for nicking a big win, as he demonstrated in beating every top six side at least once last season.
This will be the first head-to-head clash between Mourinho and new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri. Sarri has rightfully received plaudits for transforming Chelsea’s results this season, whilst simultaneously introducing a very attractive style of play for the Blues. Mourinho will certainly have a specific plan to stop “Sarri-ball”. Whether it works or not is another question altogether.
Can Liverpool manage looming injury ‘crisis’?
The cloud of a potential injury ‘crisis’ is looming over Anfield, ahead of a crucial period for their success aspirations this season. Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been sidelined for large periods since last season and the international break looks to have added more woes for Jürgen Klopp. Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Virgil Van Dijk all picked up injuries whilst representing their national teams.
None of them has been definitively ruled out of the Reds’ game at Huddersfield, but it will be a true test of Liverpool’s mettle if a number of their biggest stars are missing.
Critical clashes in relegation battle
With eight matches already gone this season, the relegation battle is beginning to shape up. Two games this weekend are particularly eye catching, as they involve critical player in the battle for survival. Bottom-of-the-pile Cardiff City host Fulham in a match that could see the Bluebirds climb out of the bottom three and be replaced by their opponents. A win for Fulham could mean that Cardiff begin to lose touch with the teams above the relegation zone, which is always the first sign of doom.
Newcastle United have as many points as Cardiff do (two) and will hope to finally get a win when they welcome Brighton and Hove Albion. Brighton are currently ranked 13th, but only five points separate them from Huddersfield Town in 18th.
Bournemouth to carry on momentum
Bournemouth’s great start to the season hit heady heights when they thrashed the previously impressive Watford 4-0 at the Vitality Stadium just before the international break. With five wins out of eight matches, the Cherries sit sixth on the Premier League table and just four points off the top! They have a golden chance to carry on that momentum when they face a struggling Southampton side this weekend. Mark Hughes’ Saints have won just one game all season and only have one point from their last four matches.
Wolves to stun Watford?
Watford’s hopes of lifting themselves out of their current rut will are complicated by the fact that they have to face a resilient Wolverhampton Wanderers side this weekend. After winning their first four games of the season, the Hornets have now lost three and drawn one of the consequent four. Conversely, Wolves have won four of their last five after failing to win any of their first three. That form helped manager Nuno Espirito Santo win his first Manager of the Month award in the Premier League, for the month of September.