After September proved to be a hugely disappointing month for Liverpool, they will hope for greater consistency during October, starting with a tricky visit to Newcastle on Sunday. St James’ Park has not been a happy hunting ground for the Reds in recent years, with four of their last six visits ending in defeat and only one win on Tyneside, albeit a 6-0 romp in 2013. Rafael Benitez has already faced his former club as Newcastle manager once, a 2-2 draw a couple of seasons ago, while Georginio Wijnaldum could make his first appearance against the Geordies since leaving them for Liverpool the summer before last. It would be quite an irony if this was the weekend that he scores his first away goal in the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp would settle for anyone in red getting on the scoresheet after watching his side waste a glut of chances in Moscow on Tuesday night, while Newcastle will hope to pounce on their opponents’ set-piece weaknesses, especially with Jamaal Lascelles proving adept at scoring off corners. Klopp oversaw a sobering defeat on his previous visit to Tyneside a couple of seasons ago, but that came off the back of strong results in his first few weeks at Anfield. He has no such luxury this time around.
Manchester City have netted 16 goals in their last three Premier League matches, but it would represent quite a shock if that ratio was to be maintained after their visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening. Chelsea have already dropped points in two home games this season, but the champions are buoyant after their last-gasp win away to Atletico Madrid in midweek. Also, Antonio Conte’s side would draw level with the current league leaders with a win, no mean feat considering the garlands of praise understandably being thrown in City’s direction. With Manchester United playing earlier in the day, the pressure could be on both of these teams to keep winning or risk playing catch-up. Pep Guardiola’s men have emphatically proved themselves as a fearsome attacking force, but they won’t have faced a defence as well-drilled as Chelsea’s since the season started.
The last thing Crystal Palace would have wanted after a 5-0 hammering away to Manchester City left them with zero points from six games is another trip to the north-western city, but that’s exactly where they’re headed on Saturday as they take on Manchester United, who would temporarily go top of the table if they avoid defeat. If the Eagles were hoping that United’s midweek trip to Russia would take plenty out of them, the fragility of CSKA and potency of the Red Devils quashed those hopes. Instead, Jose Mourinho’s men will be relatively well rested for the resumption of domestic action, despite the manager’s complaints about the three-day turnaround. The wildly contrasting fortunes of these two teams can be summed up by the following sentence: Romelu Lukaku has six Premier League goals so far this season; the entire Crystal Palace squad has none. Roy Hodgson might have been well advised to have paid a visit to Lourdes or Medjugorje during the week if he’s hoping to get something out of this fixture.
While Liverpool began September in flying form but ended it with numerous question marks to their name, Arsenal’s month was the opposite, having started it in crisis mode before restoring respectability with a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions. Indeed, there is the possibility of Arsenal going level on points with Chelsea should the Blues suffer defeat on Saturday. Like Manchester United, the Gunners enjoyed a straightforward win in Eastern Europe during the week and theirs was achieved with a much-changed outfit, so the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez will be well rested for the visit of the Seagulls, who have won two of their last three and are slowly getting to grips with the Premier League. Brighton aren’t an especially negative outfit, but expect them to play more conservatively than normal at the Emirates on Sunday.
The storm clouds were well and truly hanging over Ronald Koeman shortly after 4pm last Saturday before Oumar Niasse rescued Everton with an unlikely brace. The Toffees are at home again this week, welcoming a Burnley side that are back on Merseyside just two weeks after a creditable draw at Anfield. It will be an interesting afternoon for Michael Keane, who faces the Clarets for the first time since his move from Turf Moor in the summer. Burnley’s away results have been stupendous so far this season, especially after struggling so badly on the road last term, and after leaving Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool with egg on their faces, Sean Dyche will go to Goodison Park on Sunday with a formula that has proven to work very effectively.
Like Burnley, Tottenham also boast a magnificent away record in the early weeks of the season and they are on the road to Huddersfield for the Saturday lunchtime kick-off. Spurs’ away day glee also extends to the Champions League, having eased past APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus thanks to Harry Kane’s hat-trick. The England striker is in imperious form, with 11 goals in all competitions during September, and Huddersfield’s hitherto solid defence could be in for their toughest afternoon yet. Still, David Wagner will have noted how Burnley and Swansea frustrated the Londoners with defensive discipline and it would be a surprise if he didn’t try to keep things tight at the John Smith’s Stadium for the visit of Tottenham.
Leicester’s defeat to Liverpool last week was their fourth from six Premier League games, but the 2016 champions have not been particularly poor in any of those defeats, all of which came against teams expecting to finish in the top four at a minimum. Those caveats have kept pressure off Craig Shakespeare’s shoulders, but with the Foxes just outside the relegation zone, another defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday would be the trigger for concern. The Cherries remain second from bottom after throwing away three points at Everton to end up with nothing. Bournemouth have also played better than their position in the table might suggest, but when you’re that close to the bottom, points are the only currency which can be considered legal tender.
Victory for either of those on Saturday could see Stoke being dragged into trouble, with the Potters sitting uncomfortably close to the bottom three and thoroughly outclassed at home to Chelsea last week. They will hope for much better at the bet365 Stadium this time around against Southampton, who would not have lost against Manchester United last week if they possessed a modicum of cutting edge. Both teams appear stuck in a cul-de-sac at the minute and have just nine goals between them from a combined 12 matches. Going by that statistic, one decisive intervention could well be sufficient to settle what looks like being a tight contest.
Another team in need of an upturn in fortunes are West Ham, currently in the relegation zone and with Slaven Bilic a strong contender to be the next Premier League manager to get his P45. On Saturday they welcome Swansea to London Stadium, which seems an ideal fixture but ignores the fact that all of the Swans’ points have come in their away games so far this season. There could be an intriguing tussle within the Ayew clan, with brothers Andre and Jordan potentially lining up against one another.
Watford have yet to win at home this season but their away record is flawless, a statistic they seek to maintain at West Brom on Saturday. The Baggies might have lost 2-0 at Arsenal last time out, but it could have worked out differently had it not been for two key decisions from Bobby Madley which rightly left Tony Pulis incensed. Less debatable, though, is their goalscoring issue, with only four netted from six matches. That will need to at least be improved in fixtures such as this, but the Hornets appear to have the greater firepower and stand a very good chance of preserving their unlikely place in the top six going into the second international break of the season.
If Liverpool can go into that international break with a second successive away win in the league, they could find themselves third in the table ahead of the visit of Manchester United in a fortnight’s time. That would be a decent position considering how much they struggled last month, but more dropped points at Newcastle would leave Klopp with two weeks of nervous stewing before one of the Reds’ key fixtures of the season.