The international break is finally over and club fans will be returning to their troubles or to their joys depending of course on how their teams have been performing before the break. Arsenal have lost two matches in a row. A third loss would send ripples round the Emirates even though such ripples haven’t been known to yield much change. EPL Defending champions, Chelsea are beginning to rise again after their two victories following that opening day loss to Burnley. Manchester United with three wins in three games and conceding no goal couldn’t have wished for a better start to the season. Manchester City have the most enviable squad in the EPL but it hasn’t amounted to much really. In La Liga, Real Madrid, with minimal change to their squad from last season, had their stability shattered with that draw at home to Valencia. Barcelona would be putting their new boy, Dembele, to the test starting from this weekend. EPL and La Liga previews follow.
Finding Their Feet
With a determined victory away at Tottenham followed by a more convincing one at home over Everton, defending champions Chelsea appear to have found their feet. They will need to be solid again when they visit a Leicester City side that have already suffered two defeats in the hands of two of the traditional EPL Big Boys. Chelsea have won five and lost one of their last six away matches versus Leicester, scoring at least three goals in all of them. Yet Chelsea haven’t won an away game in the month of September in the last four EPL seasons, a jinx they must want to break.
Huth and Iborra are doubts for Leicester while suspended Gary Cahill is the only missing player for Chelsea.
Kickoff: Saturday, 3pm
Venue: King Power Stadium (Swansea)
Referee: Lee Mason
Prediction: I expect Leicester to play a cagey game like they did against United. But Chelsea won’t be as relentless in attack as United. I expect a draw or a slight Chelsea win.
With three wins in three and no goal conceded, Manchester United have shown their absolute intolerance to conceding goals. They face a tricky affair on the road against a Stoke City side that are yet to lose a match and have conceded just the one goal. United have lost twice and drawn as many times in their last four visits to Stoke. Coupled with the fact that Stoke manager, Mark Hughes is unbeaten in his last three league clashes with United manager Jose Mourinho, you’d see why Stoke are in a good position to dent United’s perfect record and eke something out of this one.
Ireland, Afellay and Ngoy are all out injured for Stoke. Ibrahimovic, Young, Rojo and Shaw are all injured for United.
Kickoff: Saturday, 5.30pm
Venue: Bet365 Stadium (Stoke)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Prediction: Both sides are yet to lose a match yet we can’t deny United’s firepower. United to win.
Not only do Arsenal find themselves in terrible form, they also find themselves playing a brand of football that can at best be described as deplorable. They need to step up their game when they host a Bournemouth side that are every bit as deplorable as they are. Arsenal have won all of their three home games versus Bournemouth in all competitions. If the Gunners lose on Saturday, it will be the first time since 1982/83 season that they have lost three of their four opening fixtures to a league season. Eddie Howe’s men would be glad to help see that come to pass.
Iwobi, Wilshere and Chambers are doubts for Arsenal. Stanislas and Wilson are injured for Bournemouth while Francis is a doubt.
Kickoff: Saturday, 3pm
Venue: Emirates Stadium (Arsenal)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Prediction: Arsenal are so low in confidence, it almost hurts. The selling of key player, Chamberlain won’t have done much to build confidence either. I see a draw playing out.
Barcelona’s most significant purchase during the transfer window was the recent signing of Ousmane Dembele from Dortmund, a piece of business many fans believe would give the side a new look. They would hope the Frenchman would hit the ground running when they welcome an Espanyol side that have begun the new season as poorly as they ended the last. Barcelona beat Espanyol with 3 goal margins both home and away last season. But Barcelona players were more involved in action during the international break more than players from any other Spanish side. How the fatigue will affect their performance this weekend is yet to be seen.
Rafinha is injured for Barcelona while Rakitic is a doubt. Espanyol’s Javi Lopez and Duarte are both injured while Diego Lopez and Vazquez are doubts.
Kickoff: Saturday, 7.45pm
Venue: Camp Nou (Barcelona)
Referee: Jesus Gil
Prediction: With a draw and a loss in their opening two matches, Espanyol are yet to find their feet. Barcelona are boosted with the presence of Dembele. Barcelona to win.
Real Madrid appeared to be the most stable club in world football until they were hit on match day 2 with a 2-2 draw against Valencia in front of their home fans. They would want to regain their stability when they host a newly promoted Levante side that currently share the same points with them on the standings. Real Madrid have lost only six home games in the league in the last five seasons and will be looking to keep it so. Problem is, Levante have shown they are capable of scoring goals as well as in keeping clean sheets. How these factors play out against a Madrid side prone to conceding is yet to be seen.
Vallejo is injured for Real Madrid while Ronaldo continues his suspension. Roger is injured for Levante while Luis Morales is suspended.
Kickoff: Saturday, 12pm
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid)
Referee: Alejandro Hernandez
Prediction: Real Madrid need to be really wary of this Levante side that have been known to pull off great upsets especially against big sides. But I don’t see Madrid with back to back draws. A win for them.