The 3-0 wins over Huddersfield and Maribor in the previous week have seen the patience of Liverpool fans being tested, but the Reds can look back on both games with a sense of satisfaction that they eventually won handsomely and with two clean sheets. There have been numerous occasions where they were simply unable to make the breakthrough in such matches and they were left to reflect on the frustration of a goalless draw. They travel to West Ham on Saturday with renewed confidence from putting themselves in a strong position to qualify from their Champions League group and they meet a Hammers side who could be one bad result away from seeing Slaven Bilic getting the sack. Liverpool have only had one previous visit to London Stadium and that was a 4-0 romp on the penultimate weekend of last season. A tighter margin of victory would suffice this time around, but at least Jurgen Klopp’s men are showing that they can unlock blanket defences. Keeping Andy Carroll and Javier Hernandez quiet at the other end could be a different matter.
Manchester City show no sign of letting up, winning their last 12 Premier League and Champions League games, and they welcome Arsenal to the Etihad on Sunday on the back of a tremendous victory away to a Napoli side currently leading Serie A. The one question mark that could be placed against City is the concession of four goals in their last two matches and, outstanding and all as their attack is, they won’t simply be able to outscore teams every week. Arsenal have recovered from a slow start to put themselves back into the Champions League race and have made a habit of coming from behind to win matches, but banking on that to work against the league leaders is not advisable. A lot of attention will be paid to the performance of Alexis Sanchez this weekend after he nearly made the move from north London to Manchester earlier in the year; can the Chilean show Pep Guardiola what he missed out on?
Tuesday night’s Champions League win over Benfica did little to quell Manchester United’s critics, but Jose Mourinho has his team where he wants them and he certainly will not be quaking at the prospect of facing a Chelsea side that were destroyed by Roma in midweek. On his first return to Stamford Bridge since leaving the Blues, Nemanja Matic could be in for a frosty reception, but the champions are sorely missing the steel he brought to their midfield. Romelu Lukaku is also back on his former turf and, after a lean spell of late, how appropriate would it be for him to get back amongst the goals against his old club? Chelsea strolled to a 4-0 win in this fixture last season; a repeat on Sunday is very unlikely.
It is hard to think of a finer performance in recent memory from Tottenham than the one they delivered at Wembley in midweek to dismantle Real Madrid, winners of the past two Champions Leagues. Accusations of them being ‘the Harry Kane team’ were put to bed as the striker didn’t score any of the three goals put past the Spanish outfit, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen chipping in with the needful. The Wembley hoodoo is well behind them, having humiliated Liverpool and Real Madrid at the venue lately, and they could also cut loose on a Crystal Palace side still bottom of the table despite some improved form of late. The return of Wilfried Zaha has given the Eagles a much-needed cutting edge and, in a way, they can enjoy this fixture as all the pressure will be on Spurs to win comprehensively. Even a narrow defeat would give Roy Hodgson reasons for encouragement as games of a more winnable nature approach.
Ronald Koeman might be gone but Everton’s problems very much remain. The Toffees crashed out of Europe on Thursday after a 3-0 hammering in Lyon and last week’s defeat at Leicester left them in the Premier League relegation zone. They look a team totally bereft of confidence and desire and whoever eventually takes the managerial reins will have one hell of a job on their hands. On Sunday they are at home to a Watford side that started the season excellently but have tailed off a little of late, with last week’s home defeat to Stoke a notable setback. They will also have to plough on without Troy Deeney for three matches after the striker was deservedly banned for his attack on Joe Allen in that game against the Potters. Everton could be getting the Hornets at a good time, but right now the Merseysiders look incapable of beating anyone in the top flight.
Both Stoke and Leicester will have been underwhelmed with the first quarter of their respective seasons but both picked up valuable wins last weekend which indicated that they might be turning a corner. The Potters had a fine victory at Watford, a game in which their maligned defence was outstanding and they could easily have won by more than the odd goal. Meanwhile, Claude Puel enjoyed a winning start in charge of the Foxes, who have won all three of their matches since Craig Shakespeare was sacked. There’s a renewed energy about Leicester, not least from Demarai Gray, who gave arguably the best individual performance in the Premier League last weekend. Another win here and the 2016 champions will suddenly be eyeing the European positions, having been in the bottom three not so long ago.
Newcastle went down to a tepid defeat at Burnley last week but will be quite confident of getting back to winning ways when they host struggling Bournemouth on Saturday. The Geordies have shown very good home form since returning to the top flight, losing only to Tottenham, and another victory here could push them up to sixth in the table. The Cherries can only dream of such a lofty position as they continue to occupy a place in the bottom three and there’s only so long that Eddie Howe can take solace in gutsy performances before the dire need for points takes centre stage. Perhaps leaning towards a higher than usual level of pragmatism could help them to pick up what would be a decent draw at St James’ Park.
Sean Dyche continues to be strongly linked with the manager’s job at Everton, but Burnley fans will hope that his public denial of any interest in the Goodison Park vacancy is genuine. They have been the overachievers of the season thus far, lying seventh a quarter of the way through the campaign and with four wins to their name already (the same as Liverpool). On Saturday they travel to take on a Southampton team that as of now seems to have mid-table written all over it. The Saints have shown better goalscoring form of late, but still have the look of a side against whom one goal could be enough to come away with a win. Charlie Austin is among their strikers whose scoring touch has deserted them; will it return against his former employers this weekend?
Huddersfield kept Liverpool at bay for 50 minutes at Anfield last week but once they fell behind, they never looked like threatening the Reds’ much-criticised backline and, aside from that superb win over Manchester United a couple of weeks ago, have found the going tough recently. However, that famous result in their last home match will give them a firm belief that they can repeat the trick against a West Brom side who aren’t uprooting any trees at the minute. They managed to break Manchester City’s defence a couple of times but were comprehensively outplayed by the league leaders and, with just two wins from 10, Baggies fans are not deriving any enjoyment from Tony Pulis’ pragmatic brand of football. Even a draw here might not do much to appease the restless West Brom faithful.
While Huddersfield have stuttered of late, fellow Premier League debutants Brighton have shown in recent games that they are well cut out for the varying tests involved in this division. They got a creditable draw with Southampton last time around and will feel that Saturday’s opponents Swansea are eminently beatable. The Swans led Arsenal for a while last weekend but ultimately left with nothing and only goal difference is keeping them out of the bottom three. Paul Clement’s side have occasionally produced excellent performances this season but they have also looked lethargic and feeble in several games and, at home to a newly-promoted team, this is a fixture from which their supporters will expect three points.
With all five teams above Liverpool not playing until Sunday, and at least two of those certain to drop points, Saturday’s trip to West Ham represents the perfect opportunity for the Reds to steal a march on their main rivals for a top four finish. It would take a landslide win for them to enter those positions this weekend, but victory of any kind could at least bring them level on points going into the third international break of the season.