Liverpool headed into the international break on the high of a 4-0 thumping of Arsenal and successful qualification for the Champions League proper, but last week’s tame surrender at Manchester City and a failure to put away Sevilla despite dominating the Spanish side have put a much bleaker complexion on their early season form. A home fixture against Burnley may seem ideal for getting back on track, but Sean Dyche’s unheralded Clarets go into the weekend on the same seven-point tally as Liverpool and have already claimed two superb away results this season, winning at Chelsea and drawing away to Tottenham. Also, the Reds’ attack will be without Sadio Mane, whose appeal against a three-match suspension was rejected. This is the type of fixture in which Jurgen Klopp’s side have struggled in his two-year reign at Anfield and it seems set up for Burnley to keep it tight at the back and prey upon Liverpool’s glaring defensive weaknesses.
If the Reds can plunder a win, though, it would put them level on points with current league leaders Manchester United for 25 hours at least. The table toppers host Everton on Sunday afternoon in a fixture where Wayne Rooney will inevitably come in for plenty of attention as he returns to Old Trafford in opposition colours for the first time since 2004. Another man who is guaranteed a close watch in more ways than one is United’s in-form striker Romelu Lukaku, who lines up against his former club playing like someone who is well on his way to justifying a £90 million fee after only a month of competitive action. Everton were awful on their own patch against Tottenham last week and the likelihood is that it will be another difficult day for them here, although they’ve already been to Manchester once this season and come away with a draw against City. Also, manager Ronald Koeman twice won at this venue during his time in charge of Southampton, so there are some positive omens for the Toffees.
Sunday’s action begins with the latest instalment of one of the blockbuster fixtures of many a Premier League season – Chelsea v Arsenal. The champions have crept back into the top three after their opening day defeat to Burnley, winning three league games on the bounce, and hammered Qarabag 6-0 in their Champions League opener. This has all been done without the services of Eden Hazard, who has yet to make an appearance for the Blues this season, so Antonio Conte’s men certainly look primed for another healthy campaign. The jury is still out on how Arsenal will fare, although last week’s emphatic win over Bournemouth was the perfect way to steer the ship back on course after hitting a rocky patch in late August. History does not fall in the Gunners’ favour at all, though; they have lost their last four league visits to Stamford Bridge and haven’t won at Chelsea since that memorable 5-3 game in October 2011.
Before that tasty double header on Sunday, Manchester City would begin the day as leaders if they win at Watford, who look a far different proposition to the holiday mode assortment that lost 5-0 to Pep Guardiola’s men on the final day of last season. Indeed, the Hornets are currently in the heady heights of fourth, with two wins and two draws in their four games under Marco Silva. The two wins have been on their travels, though, so the ex-Hull boss will want to record a victory in front of the home faithful at Vicarage Road. It will take a splendid performance for that to happen this Saturday as they come up against a Man City side that has scored nine goals without reply in their last two games, suggesting that they continue to be a fearsome attacking threat while also shoring up at the back – a mix that bodes very well for Guardiola and co.
Tottenham haven’t won either of their Premier League fixtures at Wembley but they delivered an outstanding performance at their temporary home to defeat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Harry Kane’s August hoodoo is well behind him, the England marksman scoring four in his last two games, while Christian Eriksen continues to deliver exceptional performances from his attacking midfield position. Spurs will be highly fancied to add three more points to their tally at home to Swansea on Saturday evening, with Paul Clement’s team coming into this one on the back of a poor home defeat to Newcastle last week. Renato Sanches was a letdown on his Swans debut; can he rediscover the form that won him so many admirers at Euro 2016?
Roy Hodgson takes charge of his first match as Crystal Palace manager in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off against Southampton in a meeting of two clubs who have made unimpressive starts to the season. Frank de Boer’s four-match tenure at Selhurst Park is the shortest of any permanent manager in Premier League history and while the Eagles remain without a point or a goal in 2017/18, the Dutchman’s sacking still has panic move plastered all over it. The Saints could be a good team to face for Hodgson in his first game, though, as Mauricio Pellegrino’s men were dreadful in their home defeat to Watford last week. Goals are very difficult to come by for Southampton, too, so if Palace can remain organised at the back, the chances of a positive start under the former Liverpool and England manager aren’t at all remote.
The south Londoners aren’t the only team stuck on zero points heading into this weekend – Bournemouth also have the unenviable record of played four and lost four. Last week they were comprehensively beaten by Arsenal, no disgrace in itself but concerning for Eddie Howe in the overall context of a season that’s beginning to prove difficult. On Friday night, they welcome Brighton to the Vitality Stadium with the Seagulls buoyed by their first Premier League win, a richly deserved 3-1 triumph over in-form West Brom. This is a match that could realistically go either way, but the greater need for a victory certainly belongs to the Cherries, especially on their own turf.
The outlook for Newcastle wasn’t too encouraging after they lost their first two games of the season, but a couple of victories since then have brought the Magpies calmly into mid-table. They also have a relatively good defensive record thus far, conceding just three goals and keeping clean sheets in their last two matches. They could be in for a stern test on Saturday against Stoke, though, with the Potters becoming the first team to take points off Man United this season in an entertaining 2-2 draw last week. Mark Hughes’ men have also begun the campaign in solid if not spectacular fashion and they may just have landed a real transfer market coup in Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, scorer of both goals against the current league leaders.
Huddersfield made a blistering start to life in the Premier League, picking up seven points in their first three games, but were brought down to Earth last week in a 2-0 defeat at West Ham. David Wagner was quite critical of his team’s performance at London Stadium, so you’d expect the Terriers to live up to their nickname this week with their manager’s words ringing in their ears. They host Leicester at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday, with the Foxes occupying a somewhat false position of 17th as they have not been played off the park all season but still been beaten three times. Those defeats came against high-profile clubs, though, so there is more pressure on Craig Shakespeare to get a result this weekend. This might prove to be one of the more entertaining fixtures of matchday five.
After three successive away defeats, West Ham took full advantage of their return to London Stadium on Monday by beating Huddersfield, easing the pressure that had slowly been building on Slaven Bilic. It was far from a classic and the opening goal was highly fortuitous, but that’s the type of luck you need when you’re at the wrong end of the Premier League. This Saturday, the Hammers are on the road again, visiting a West Brom side that won their first two games but fell to a sobering defeat at Brighton last week. They were breached three times at the Amex Stadium, which is rather unlike a Tony Pulis team, so expect the Baggies to be more disciplined at the back this weekend.
Defensive discipline is something that Liverpool will certainly need to find quickly if a season of promise is not to turn into an all-too familiar one of bewilderment and frustration. Patience will also be key in breaching a Burnley defence that is likely to be entrenched within 20 yards of their goal and supplemented by most of the midfield.