Last Sunday’s trip to Wembley could hardly have gone any worse for Liverpool, when the level of defensive ineptitude they showed was startling even by their recent standards and Tottenham were only too happy to take advantage. That disastrous result has ramped up the pressure on the Reds to make amends this Saturday when they return to Anfield to face Huddersfield, for whom last weekend could not have gone any better. The Terriers are beaming after their sensational yet deserved win over Manchester United and, with all the pressure on their opponents, they will relish the chance to heap further misery on Jurgen Klopp. Huddersfield manager David Wagner is a long-time friend and accomplice of his fellow German, but that amicability will be put to one side for a couple of hours on Saturday. The visiting Terriers would like a win at Anfield; Liverpool desperately need one. Indeed, the Reds have not won in front of the Kop since the 4-0 thumping of Arsenal two months ago, although they have only played at home three times since then.
Those teams’ respective opponents from last weekend meet at Old Trafford on Saturday, with Manchester United playing host to Tottenham. The clubs’ fortunes from those Premier League encounters contrasted with their midweek Carabao Cup results, as United eased past Swansea while Spurs were stunned by West Ham at Wembley. Jose Mourinho was scathing of his team following the loss at Huddersfield last week, but with several pundits speculating that Spurs could follow suit, that could play right into his hands, for no manager loves a siege mentality more than Mourinho. Tottenham might have lorded it over Liverpool on Sunday but the subsequent Carabao Cup exit will have infuriated Mauricio Pochettino, while their impressive league form is slightly asterisked by the fact that they have yet to play Arsenal or the two Manchester clubs. Much of the focus will be on the teams’ respective spearheads, with Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane amongst the standout performers of the season so far.
Should that clash end in a draw, Manchester City would have the chance to go seven points clear when they travel to West Brom later that day. The Premier League leaders have hardly set a foot wrong recently, although they would not have welcomed extra time and penalties against Wolves in the Carabao Cup, especially with most of their marquee names making an appearance. Still, that close escape could serve to sharpen the focus if they had been getting carried away with the garlands being thrust upon them, and their opponents on Saturday are struggling for form. West Brom were dreadful at Southampton last week and could be without Jonny Evans and Craig Dawson, their two best centre-backs, for the visit of the free-scoring table toppers. Tony Pulis will no doubt set his side up to be difficult to beat, but will that be enough to stand in the way of a rampant Manchester City?
Bournemouth and Chelsea were drawn to face each other in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals yesterday and on Saturday evening they square up at the Vitality Stadium. For all the crisis talk that has surrounded Antonio Conte and the reigning champions, they are still in fourth place and will see at least one team in the positions ahead of them dropping points at the weekend. They showed they can tough it out last week when they were rightly under the cosh against Watford but prevailed 4-2 winners. They will expect to add three more points against a Bournemouth side who sit second from bottom even after last weekend’s win at Stoke. This is not a bad game for Eddie Howe to have, as it’s not one where the Cherries are under great pressure to get a result. Even a draw on Saturday would be considered a decent showing on the back of the win against Stoke.
Leicester and Everton have both undergone managerial changes of late, with Ronald Koeman quickly following Craig Shakespeare to the unemployment office. The Dutchman paid the price for the Toffees’ abysmal start to the season, with last Sunday’s hammering by Arsenal the final straw. David Unsworth is in temporary charge and he has an unenviable job on his hands in trying to restore confidence in a team that has been expensively assembled but played like an amateur outfit of late. Sunday’s clash at the King Power Stadium is Claude Puel’s first in charge of Leicester, the ex-Southampton boss taking the reins in midweek. The Foxes have a reputation as an adventurous, enterprising team, but will that continue to be the case with the conservative Puel in the dugout? With Everton in the doldrums, this seems like an ideal chance for the home side to build on last week’s win at Swansea.
Speaking of the Swans, they go to Arsenal on Saturday hoping to take inspiration from Norwich, who were desperately unlucky to exit the Carabao Cup at the hands of the Gunners in midweek. Admittedly that was an Arsenal side which bore very little resemblance to that which thrashed Everton, so the standout names should be restored to the team for this weekend’s assignment. Even allowing for Everton’s fragilities, Arsene Wenger’s side gave what was probably their best performance of the season at Goodison Park and a win would, for the time being at least, push them into the top four. Swansea, on the other hand, were rather poor in losing at home to Leicester and never looked like causing an upset against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup. It will be a bonus for Paul Clement’s charges if they take anything from their trip to the Emirates Stadium.
West Ham supporters will no doubt have cherished the comeback win over Tottenham on Wednesday, but if they follow that up with defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday, any goodwill offered to Slaven Bilic won’t be long evaporating. Both teams will see this as a must-win game given their respective struggles, although the Hammers are in a better position both in the league table and on the back of their midweek Carabao Cup fortunes. While they were upsetting Spurs, Palace were being walloped at Bristol City, a defeat which infuriated some fans to such an extent that they threw Pape Souare’s shirt back at him when he tossed it into the crowd after the final whistle – harsh treatment of a player who has done so well to come back from that horrific car crash a few months ago. With both teams going so poorly, Selhurst Park on Saturday will not be a place for the faint-hearted.
Brighton showed in their 3-0 thrashing of West Ham last week that they are adjusting nicely to life in the Premier League and this Sunday they host Southampton, who edged a dreary clash against West Brom in their most recent outing. Chris Hughton’s side have a very good defensive record, especially for a team in their inaugural Premier League campaign, and the performances of Shane Duffy, in particular, drew widespread praise. They won’t be shaking in their boots at the prospect of facing a horrendously blunt Saints attack, with midfielder Sofiane Boufal required to come off the bench and show the strikers how it’s done with that sensational winner at St Mary’s a week ago. If Southampton could crack their goalscoring conundrum, they would comfortably finish in the top half of the table.
Watford were perhaps the unluckiest team in the Premier League last week, their impressive display at Chelsea yielding a 4-2 defeat, albeit one for which they must take a large share of the blame given the chances they missed when leading 2-1. They still sit in a very healthy sixth place as they prepare to welcome Stoke to Vicarage Road on Saturday and, going by the form book, this has home win written all over it. Stoke have completely hit the wall lately and losing at home to Bournemouth last week ramped up the pressure on Mark Hughes. The Potters could be in for a relegation battle if they don’t turn things around quickly.
The weekend’s action concludes on Monday night when Burnley take on Newcastle at Turf Moor. The Clarets have been one of the surprise hits of the season so far and even though they went down 3-0 at Manchester City last week, they made the leaders dig deep for the margin of victory and were unlucky with a couple of decisions that went against them. Newcastle also have plenty of cause for satisfaction with the start they have made and they will be aware of Burnley’s inconsistent home form. It might not seem like the most glamorous of ties, but this clash could be a decent spectacle to round off the weekend.
Liverpool supporters are well used to seeing aesthetically brilliant performances during Klopp’s two years at Anfield, but after the defensive horror show at Wembley, a scare-free 1-0 win against Huddersfield would do very nicely going into Halloween. Anything less than three points will be regarded as Terriers-inflicted terror for the Reds, whose fans will have had nightmares all week since the thrashing by Tottenham.