The Premier League kicks off once more this weekend following the mid-week international fixtures. Ireland’s heroics, Sterling’s tiredness and Holland’s defeat are now in the past. Focus now returns to England’s top flight.
Will Alan Pardew’s fortunes improve against Leicester? Can Chelsea maintain their unbeaten streak in a London derby against Palace? Who will come out on top between City and Spurs?
Here we look at five major talking points ahead of this week’s Premier League clashes.
1) Will Pardew survive?
Football is a fickle business and results mean everything. Having spent £35m last summer, many fans tipped Newcastle to challenge for a European spot. Instead, Geordies have been subjected to one of the worst Newcastle starts in recent years. Only Burnley and Newcastle haven’t won a game yet this year across England’s four Leagues.
New signings have failed to settle and Newcastle have been particularly unlucky with injuries. Nevertheless fans at St. James’ Park are growing restless. Another poor display against Leicester at home this Saturday could see Mike Ashley give Pardew his P45. On paper it’s a winnable game for the Magpies but recent performances leave little hope.
2) Can Chelsea put last year’s demons behind them?
When Chelsea travelled to Selhurst Park last season few tipped Palace to unsettle Mourinho’s men. Over the course of ninety minutes the Blues were unable to break the Eagles down and went on to lose the game 1-0. The defeat proved to be a turning point in the Pensioners’ fortunes and along with defeats to Villa and Sunderland, helped hand last year’s title to City.
This year Chelsea go into the game unbeaten with an incredible 21 goals league goals after seven matches. Can Chelsea put Palace to the sword this weekend?
3) Will Spurs suffer yet another City routing?
Last season City beat Spurs 5-1 away and 6-0 at home. In their last eight games against City, Spurs have lost six and drawn one. For Mauricio Pochettino’s team, it makes for grim reading. However on the back of a hard fought draw against rivals Arsenal and victory over Southampton, Spurs travel into the game on the back of good form.
City will be hoping to keep the pressure on Chelsea and a win against Spurs this weekend will send a strong signal to Mourinho’s men that the Sky Blues mean business. Spurs fans may just hope for a respectable scoreline this time round.
4) Will Everton turn good?
Last season, the Toffees looked set to break into the top four before falling away in the dying weeks. Nevertheless, Roberto Martinez was praised for his attacking style of football and after heavy investment last summer, it seemed that Everton would finally break into the top spots. So far however, the team has failed to click.
£28m signing Romelu Lukaku has scored just two goals in ten games and Everton now have the worst defence in the League after seven matches. Granted the Toffees faced Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United early on in the season but for a team with Champions League ambitions, more was needed. This weekend sees Aston Villa travel to Goodison Park. If Martinez wants to kick-start Everton’s season. Now is the time.
5) Will Manchester United remain in the top four?
Prior to the international break van Gaal’s side had won two games in a row and three out our their last four. The break couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Dutchman. Momentum is everything in football.
This coming Monday sees Manchester United travel to West Brom without captain Wayne Rooney, hoping to maintain their fine form. Whilst United should have enough to beat the Baggies, an air of vulnerability still hangs around the Red Devils, least anyone forget the Leicester game.
Last year United notched three goals away from home at West Brom. Van Gaal will be hoping history repeats itself.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena.