1 Baba Rahman Can Take Chelsea In Another Direction
Such has been the sheer misery of his start to the season, Branislav Ivanovic looked a somewhat relieved figure as he sat on the bench throughout Chelsea’s stroll against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the Champions League in midweek, but he might now have to get used to his new position.
At the start of the season the thought of the Serbian not starting a huge clash at home to Arsenal would be unthinkable, but if Jose Mourinho wants to fight fire with fire and introduce some more pace into his team to counteract one of Arsenal’s strengths, he might well keep faith with summer signing Baba Rahman at left-back and leave Cesar Azpilicueta on the right.
That would switch the focus of Chelsea’s build-up play from right to left, and perhaps give Eden Hazard more backup with which to attack Hector Bellerin – a right-back whose main talents lie in getting forward, and who won’t be relishing facing the Belgian.
Given the emotional nature of his interview after his side threw away a two-goal lead with 18 minutes to go to lose at Leicester last Sunday, it is safe to assume that Tim Sherwood would have had plenty to say to his Aston Villa players in training this week.
If the riot act has been read then West Bromwich Albion could be the side on the receiving end of it, but the Baggies have kept clean sheets in three of their five games, only conceding to Manchester City and Chelsea, and Villa are nowhere near as good as those two.
It is one of the longer treks in the Premier League, but Sunderland’s 350 mile slog down to Bournemouth will be made with the knowledge that their level of performance improved at home to Tottenham last time out, although they still lost.
Dick Advocaat’s side are widely regarded as one of the worst in the division, but a win would take them above a Bournemouth outfit who are slowly but surely finding out that top-flight life isn’t quite the fairytale that plenty would have you believe they were undertaking.
Jermain Defoe, the scorer of 19 goals in a loan spell on the south coast 15 years ago, is due to find the net.
4 De Jong & Perez Give McClaren An Easy Decision To Make
After four scoreless league games Newcastle need to do something, anything, to start finding the back of the net again, and Steve McClaren was given a clue as to what in the final half hour of the defeat at West Ham on Monday.
Both Siem de Jong and Ayoze Perez looked lively in a losing cause, and with Aleksandar Mitrovic still suspended and mobility seemingly not on Papiss Cisse’s agenda any more, the Magpies boss should unleash both from the start against a Watford side they really should be beating.
A year ago last weekend, Leicester City somehow survived a Stoke onslaught to win 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium thanks to a Leonardo Ulloa strike in what was one of the most emphatic 1-0 defeats of the season. Twelve months on, any Leicester victory this weekend is likely to come in a somewhat different manner as Claudio Ranieri’s side continue to entertain.
But although Stoke are struggling and have lost both home games this season – 1-0 again, to Liverpool and West Brom – Mark Hughes will be able to play both Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic together for the first time here.
That extra quality might just be enough to edge out Ranieri, the riotous Riyad Mahrez and a Leicester side who can’t afford to go 2-0 down this week.
6 Swansea & Everton Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
If you were given the choice of a ticket for any Premier League game this weekend then – considering that Jose Mourinho is going to do all he can to kill any sense of fun at Stamford Bridge – you might well choose to go to the Liberty Stadium.
Two of the better sides to watch in the division, Swansea and Everton are both on eight points and will know that it is pretty likely that the victor here will end the weekend in the top four, thereby creating a sense of optimism for the weeks and months ahead.
It should be a terrific game, and with Bafetimbi Gomis, Andre Ayew, Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith all in fine scoring form, it shouldn’t be short on goalmouth action either.
With Vincent Kompany ruled out of Saturday night’s clash with West Ham, Manchester City supporters will get a glimpse of a central defensive partnership which cost the small matter of £60m to assemble.
Nicolas Otamendi will join Eliaquim Mangala at the back with City having yet to concede a goal in the Premier League this season, but chastened from the defeat to Juventus in midweek.
The new-look back four will be facing a turbo-charged Hammers side fresh from the memories of wins at Arsenal and Liverpool this season, and in Victor Moses, Dimitri Payet and Diafra Sakho they have pace and quality going forward.
City should win, but that clean sheet record could come to an end.
Manchester City to win and both teams to score 2.70
Tottenham’s season seems to be spluttering to life following a week which has featured wins over Sunderland and the Azerbaijani side Qarabag, but in Crystal Palace they’ll face a team ready to give them a much tougher test.
Alan Pardew’s men won’t be overawed heading to White Hart Lane, and as Harry Kane continues to search for his first goal of the season, he might find that a failure to take chances here results in dropped points for the hosts.
After starring as captain in Liverpool’s midweek Europa League draw in Bordeaux – his first appearance of the season – centre-back Mamadou Sakho declared himself ‘a soldier for Liverpool’ who was always ready to be relied upon.
With talk of a new contract now doing the rounds, plenty of Reds supporters want to see the Frenchman given a chance in the team as Dejan Lovren continues to inspire nothing but terror and Martin Skrtel experiences a quiet decline.
Three at the back could return for Liverpool at home to Norwich on Sunday, but the truth is that if Sakho doesn’t then an increasingly fractious relationship between Brendan Rodgers and his club’s supporters will only get uglier.
10 Shaw Blow Means Van Gaal Has To Make Unwanted Changes
For all the talk of a lack of excitement or cohesion in Manchester United’s attacking play this season, their defence of new boy Matteo Darmian, a growing Chris Smalling, a rehoused Daley Blind and a rejuvenated Luke Shaw have been largely impressive.
The awfully unfortunate double leg break suffered by Shaw in Eindhoven in midweek means that it’s all change now though, with Marcos Rojo coming in and all eyes on his relationship with Blind on the left side of United’s defence.
Seeking to make the most of any uncertainty on that side on Sunday will be Southampton’s former United target Sadio Mane, who might just have a point or two to prove.