Can ‘wasteful’ Everton cause an upset at Liverpool, will leaders Tottenham stake a claim as title contenders – and how will the Sandro Tonali saga affect Newcastle? TEN REASONS to be excited as the Premier League returns
- The Premier League is back this weekend after a two-week international break
- There are several mouthwatering fixtures as the table begins to take shape
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
After a two-week international break that saw several countries secure their places at Euro 2024, the Premier League is finally back.
With eight games of the season already gone, Tottenham have been the surprise early season pacesetters at the top, while the newly-promoted teams and Bournemouth look set to struggle at the bottom.
The next few months will see the table start to take shape and it feels as if the upcoming four weeks of action until the November international break will provide a good basis as to who is likely to be fighting for glory and which teams are in for a long and grim relegation battle.
The action kicks off on Saturday lunchtime with the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, while there are several other mouthwatering games on the agenda.
In light of the top flight returning, Mail Sport takes a look at 10 reasons why you should be excited.
The Premier League finally returns this weekend after a two-week international break
The action kicks off on Saturday with the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton
An Anfield upset on the cards?
Given Everton have won at Anfield just once in the last 24 years and have only beaten their Merseyside rivals once in total since 2010, it would seem unlikely Sean Dyche’s side can cause an upset on Saturday lunchtime.
However, the Toffees picked up two impressive victories over Bournemouth and Brentford just before the international break and data from Opta suggests they are doing a lot better than their position in 16th place shows.
In fact, when calculating a table based on xG, Everton are supposedly the biggest underperformers in the top flight, with their current position 11 places worse than what the statistics say.
If they were living up to the data, Dyche’s side – who have scored just nine non-penalty goals from a non-penalty xG of 14.92 – should be fifth and one place clear of Liverpool in sixth, who are actually fourth.
The Reds look rejuvenated after a summer overhaul and are still overwhelming favourites, but if Everton can start living up to their underlying statistics, they could cause Jurgen Klopp’s side a few problems.
Everton are the biggest underperformers in the Premier League this season, according to Opta
Your browser does not support iframes.
Pochettino could be building something at Chelsea
Over the past few weeks the noise around Chelsea – so often the crisis club since Todd Boehly completed his takeover last year – has quietened following two solid victories over Fulham and Burnley.
The performances were much-improved as the Blues finally found their finishing touch, while Mauricio Pochettino would have been relieved after they came following successive home defeats to Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest, along with a stalemate at struggling Bournemouth.
They host Arsenal on Saturday evening in what is their first game against a top team since the opening day 1-1 draw with Liverpool that filled supporters with optimism. Chelsea then face Tottenham, Man City and Newcastle over the next month.
After two solid victories, Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea face a tough test against Arsenal
Cole Palmer has settled in impressively since his summer move, while the return of Armando Broja has provided another option up front and Raheem Sterling has continued his impressive campaign.
There is hope that Pochettino’s injury list – which saw 14 players on the treatment table during the international break – will continue to reduce as they aim to show signs of progress against some of the sides they want to be competing with at the top of the league.
And it all starts on Saturday night when Mikel Arteta’s side, who have faced a rebuild themselves in recent years, come to town.
Rodri (and Stones) should get City back on track
It is rare occurrence when Man City lose a single game and therefore seeing them lose three matches in a row is almost unprecedented.
But that is exactly what has happened domestically over the past month, with a Carabao Cup defeat to Newcastle followed by league losses to Wolves and Arsenal.
However, it is perhaps less surprising this coincided with Rodri’s three-game suspension after the midfielder was sent off for grappling with Morgan Gibbs-White during the 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest last month.
The Spaniard’s absence only highlighted how important he is and a return for this weekend’s clash against Brighton will be a major boost for Guardiola as his team look to get back on track.
Rodri will be likely be joined in the starting line-up by John Stones, who made his comeback off the bench against Arsenal before the international break after being absent since the Community Shield due to a hip injury.
Stones then played 63 minutes of England’s 3-1 win over Italy on Tuesday and looked straight back to his imperious best.
For City, to have two players who were so crucial in helping them to win the Treble back, you would expect them to click straight back into gear.
The return of key midfielder Rodri (pictured) and John Stones is a major boost for Man City
Tottenham have a chance to show their title credentials
While it should be noted Tottenham did win seven of their first 10 games last season before dramatically falling away as their campaign descended into chaos, life under Ange Postecoglou feels different.
The Australian has completely changed the outlook at the club and was awarded Manager of the Month for both August and September, while James Maddison and Son Heung-Min picked up the respective Player of the Month awards.
Spurs have averaged more than two goals a game and are building an exciting team, while also playing an entertaining brand of football.
However, they now face the challenge of teams changing the way they play against them in an attempt to stifle their strengths, and Postecoglou and Co will have to find ways to overcome that.
But, with a home fixture against Fulham on Monday before a trip to Crystal Palace on Friday, they have the chance to put in a couple of statement performances and show that they should be taken seriously at the top of the league.
Tottenham continue to go from strength-to-strength under Ange Postecoglou this season
How will the Tonali saga impact Newcastle?
The major club news from the international break was the investigation by Italian prosecutors into allegations of illegal gambling with three players – Sandro Tonali, Nicolo Zaniolo and Nicolo Fagioli – all named in the probe.
Juventus midfielder Fagioli has since been banned for seven months after he admitted guilt and a gambling addiction, Zanioli has denied the allegations, while Newcastle’s £52m summer signing Tonali could face a year-long ban after reportedly admitting to betting on matches involving his former club AC Milan.
The FA have said he is free to play in Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace at St James’ Park which provides Eddie Howe with a major dilemma when deciding what to do.
It will be intriguing to see how the allegations of illegal gambling surrounding Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali will impact the club for this weekend’s game against Crystal Palace
It is an unwelcome distraction for the club – who are considering all legal options – and the Magpies will have to shut out the noise and ensure it doesn’t distract from what has been a promising month.
Along with a memorable 4-1 win over PSG in the Champions League, Newcastle are unbeaten in four in the top flight after a slightly slow start and have scored 13 goals and conceded just two during that run.
While Tonali’s absence will be a big blow, the impending return of Joe Willock from injury, along with the form of Sean Longstaff and Bruno Guimaraes should hopefully ensure Howe’s side are not derailed as they aim to break into the top four.
Will United kick on or crumble after Brentford heroics?
Scott McTominay was the unlikely hero before the break as his two injury-time goals ensured Manchester United beat Brentford and that the the club weren’t plunged into even greater crisis.
However, it has still been a dismal start to the season, with the Red Devils having won four and lost four of their top flight matches, while they are also bottom of their Champions League group following defeats to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray.
Ten Hag has also faced off-field troubles in regards to Mason Greenwood, Antony and Jadon Sancho and while he retains the faith of the club’s hierarchy, the Dutchman has to get their season properly off-and-running over the coming weeks.
They return to action with a trip to struggling Sheffield United on Saturday and United have to ensure the Brentford win wasn’t a case of late luck and instead put on a much-improved performance.
Marcus Rashford demonstrated signs of being back to form with a high class goal against Italy on Tuesday and three points with a convincing display would give Ten Hag more breathing space ahead of a must-win Champions League tie against Copenhagen next week.
Man United have to build on Scott McTominay’s last-gasp scoring heroics against Brentford
Could Iraola be the first boss to get the boot?
When US billionaire Bill Foley made the bold decision to replace Gary O’Neil with highly-rated Spanish coach Andoni Iraola over the summer, it felt as if a new era was upon Bournemouth.
Foley – who completed his takeover of the club in December 2022 – invested heavily in January as O’Neil helped the Cherries stave off relegation.
Former Rayo Vallecano boss Iraola was similarly backed in the market but the Spaniard is still searching for his first win and things are looking bleak on the south coast.
They host Wolves this weekend in a clash which sees O’Neil return to his former stomping ground having implemented some big improvements at Molineux after being parachuted into the role on the eve of the season.
It has all the ingredients for a disastrous afternoon for Iraola if his predecessor, no doubt pumped up for the game, gets one over his former employers.
Foley has spoken about a desire to see Bournemouth qualify for Europe in the future but a defeat on Saturday could see the Cherries already get cut adrift at the bottom and provide a severe test of the American’s patience with Iraola.
Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola could be at risk of the sack if they lose to Wolves on Saturday
Will the newly-promoted teams show signs of life?
Twenty-four games, two victories, 19 defeats and a whopping 57 goals conceded.
It is fair to say the combined record of Luton, Burnley and Sheffield United doesn’t make for pretty reading as the trio of clubs struggle to adapt to the top flight after promotion.
Mitigating circumstances have to be taken into account such as Sheffield United’s injury problems, Burnley’s tough fixture list and the fact the Hatters have lost four games by a single goal.
But with almost a quarter of the season gone, they have to start showing signs of improvement if they are to have any chance of survival.
It’s not going to be easy, although Luton and Burnley will fancy their chances on trips to Nottingham Forest and Brentford respectively this weekend, while a couple of wins from nowhere could shoot any of the teams right up the table.
Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton continue to struggle since promotion and they need to start picking up points as soon as possible (pictured – Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom)
Another intriguing De Zerbi-Guardiola match-up
Pep Guardiola loves to heap praise on opposition teams and managers, but the Spaniard has been particularly complimentary about Roberto De Zerbi ever since the Italian came to the Premier League last year.
The pair shared a victory apiece in the games between Man City and Brighton in 2022-23 and it remains to be seen what each coach will cook up this time around.
The Seagulls have been one of the most bizarre teams so far this season, with De Zerbi never afraid to mix things up for opponents.
While they battle European commitments for the first time ever, Brighton sit sixth and have the best attack in the league but also have the worst defence outside those teams in the bottom three.
In fact, their results this season are remarkably as follows: 4-1, 4-1, 1-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1 1-6, 2-2, meaning there has been at least four goals in each game.
With Guardiola so keen for control, it promises to be an intriguing match-up at the Etihad on Saturday afternoon.
It promises to be intriguing when Guardiola (left) takes on De Zerbi (right) this weekend
Frank faces Brentford challenge
Monday saw Thomas Frank mark five years as Brentford manager and it is hard to argue his time at the club has been anything other than a resounding success.
However, the Dane is facing a rare challenge at the Gtech Community Stadium with the Bees having not won since August in all competitions, which covers eight matches.
Their sole Premier League victory this season came against Fulham, but it was only really secured after Cottagers defender Tim Ream was sent off.
The early season goals of Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa have dried up in recent weeks, although they were just a few minutes away from a famous win at Old Trafford.
Absentees are hitting Frank hard, with Rico Henry, Ivan Toney, Kevin Schade, Ben Mee and Mark Flekken among key men to have missed games in recent weeks.
However, Frank has been here before during the Bees’ inaugural top flight campaign when Christian Eriksen helped to inspire them to seven wins in their final 11 games as they staved off the threat of relegation.
With a home clash against fellow strugglers Burnley on Saturday, he will be desperate to get back to winning ways by any means possible.
Thomas Frank’s Brentford side haven’t won in the Premier League since August and sit in 15th
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.
It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.
Your browser does not support iframes.
Source: Read Full Article