Chelsea’s Brentford banana skin, Vardy vs Bailly aggro, the returns of Ranieri and an Arsenal legend… and a huge party on Tyneside! 10 reasons why we CAN’T WAIT for the Premier League to be back
- The Premier League returns this weekend after October’s international break
- New Watford manager Claudio Ranieri’s first game in charge is against Liverpool
- This weekend’s fixtures sees two London derbies as well as a Midlands one too
- Newcastle fans are buoyant after the club completed a £305million takeover
After a two-week hiatus due to the international break, the Premier League returns this weekend. With just seven games gone of the season, the table is yet to take true shape – although there are some very interesting patterns emerging.
And as we gear up for some mouthwatering top-flight action, Sportsmail picks out 10 key reasons why you should look forward to its comeback…
1. Ciao, Claudio!
Let’s start with Saturday’s early kick-off, as Watford host unbeaten Liverpool. The former shocked everyone in England when they sacked their manager Xisco Munoz on October 3 – a day after losing 1-0 at Leeds United.
The 41-year-old’s departure came as somewhat of a surprise considering the club sit 15th in Premier League with seven points from seven games.
However, in his place comes a man who is no stranger to the Premier League in Claudio Ranieri. The Italian’s arrival at Vicarage Road will be his fourth post in England having previously managed Chelsea, Fulham and most famously Leicester City – who he guided to the fairytale 2015-16 title.
Ranieri’s experience coupled with the expected ‘new manager bounce’ should see a galvanised Watford side pose a possibly-depleted Liverpool a lot of problems on Saturday afternoon.
Claudio Ranieri will take charge of his first fixture as Watford boss on Saturday vs Liverpool
2. A local derby to whet the appetite
After the action at Vicarage Road, we have the small matter of a local derby up the M1 and M6 as Aston Villa entertain bitter rivals Wolves in a West Midlands derby.
Last season’s fixtures were a tight affair with only one goal scored across two games. Villa won at Molineux 1-0 – an encounter that saw both teams finish with 10 men. The clash at Villa Park ended 0-0, but is memorable for Wolves defender Romain Saiss’s unbelievable one-yard miss.
With fans in attendance for this game after the easing of Covid restrictions, this fiery derby should have the sparks that were missing last year.
Villa have won just one of their last seven home league games against Wolves (drawing four and losing two), winning 4-1 in a Championship encounter in March 2018.
Their raucous home support will demand that is changed come 5pm on Saturday.
Romain Saiss (right) somehow missed the target as Wolves drew 0-0 at Aston Villa last season
3. Jamie Vardy vs Eric Bailly
Leicester City versus Manchester United is usually a televised match but on Saturday it’s just a 3pm kick-off. As a result, that means you won’t be able to see Jamie Vardy and Eric Bailly go head-to-head unless you’re at the King Power Stadium.
The pair have a niggly relationship dating back to their first ever encounter: the 2016 Community Shield, which Manchester United won 2-1. Bailly made his debut for United in that fixture and quickly was given an ‘introduction’ to English football by Vardy, who scored in that match and also had many a spat with him during it.
Fast-forward five years and the pair are often engaged in warfare when they meet. Bailly’s pace is often a beneficiary factor for United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and this will be more prevalent with first-choice centre backs Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane both out due to injury.
Aside from this battle we also have the small matter of two teams trying to get back on track domestically, with 13th-placed Leicester floundering having not won any of their last four Premier League games, while title-hopefuls United have picked up one point from a possible six in their last two matches.
Jamie Vardy (left) and Eric Bailly are set for another battle when Leicester face Man United
4. Another five-star performance from City?
If there was a definite ‘banker’ (disclaimer, there isn’t) within football this weekend it would be Manchester City to beat Burnley… and comfortably.
To put it into context, City’s last four home games against the Clarets in all competitions have finished 5-0 to the current champions.
To expand on that further, Burnley have lost each of their last eight meetings against Pep Guardiola’s side in all competitions by an aggregate score of 30-1.
Oh, and if that still isn’t enough, City have taken 28 points from their last 30 available against Burnley in the Premier League (winning nine and drawing one), since losing 1-0 at Turf Moor in March 2015.
So everything is pointing to a comfortable home win. What could possibly go wrong…?
Riyad Mahrez (left) scored a hat-trick as Man City thumped Burnley 5-0 at home last season
5. Can Brentford derail another title hopeful in the west London derby?
Rounding out Saturday’s action is another derby, this time in west London, as Brentford host Chelsea.
This fixture is going to be historic for two reasons. First it’s the first league meeting between the two sides since a 2-0 Chelsea win in March 1947 (just the 74 years, then). Secondly, this is the first derby between the two at Brentford Community Stadium since the Bees’ move from their iconic Griffin Park last year.
Chelsea currently sit top of the table but will be aware of the threat of Thomas Frank’s side. Already this season they have faced Arsenal and Liverpool at home and came out of those matches with four points from a possible six. Against Arsenal they won 2-0, while they were part of a 3-3 thriller with Liverpool – a game they could’ve won with a bit more luck.
In fact, Brentford are only four points behind Champions League holders Chelsea, having tasted defeat just once in an impressive start to their maiden Premier League campaign.
Brentford will be looking upset another title hopeful on Saturday when local rivals Chelsea visit
6. Can David Moyes haunt his old pals?
Just three points separate Everton and West Ham as the two teams kick off Sunday’s Premier League coverage at 2pm.
This fixture will see a lot of coverage on David Moyes with the West Ham manager returning to the club he managed for 11 years from 2002-13 once again.
The Scot will be aware though he faces an in-form Everton side, who achieved a dogged 1-1 draw at Manchester United before the international break. In fact, they have won all three of their Premier League home games so far this season under new boss Rafa Benitez – form that sees them two points off the top of the table in fifth.
History also favours Everton. They have won more Premier League games (27) and scored more Premier League goals (87) against West Ham than they have against any other side in the competition.
Moyes, who contributed to those statistics while in charge of Everton, will be keen to alter that. A win for West Ham will see them leapfrog their opponents too, for added motivation.
David Moyes knows his West Ham team face a tough task on Sunday against old club Everton
7. #CANS on Tyneside
The one Premier League storyline that has dominated the international break is that Newcastle United are under new ownership. To the delight of their fanbase the 14-year Mike Ashley reign is over following the completion of a £305million takeover from a Saudi Arabian-led consortium on October 7.
St James’ Park is going to have a party atmosphere on Sunday when they host Tottenham, even if much-maligned manager Steve Bruce – who will be taking charge of the 1,000th game of his managerial career – is still at the helm.
Newcastle supporters have been yearning for years for Ashley to leave the club and now they finally have their wish.
The 12th-man factor could be stronger than ever on Sunday – which could spell bad news for an up-and-down Tottenham team.
Newcastle fans are set to go wild on Sunday – in what will be their first game under new owners
8. How to solve a problem like Harry?
If Tottenham are to be the party-poopers on Tyneside then they need their talisman Harry Kane to deliver.
Criticism of Kane has grown with the striker yet to get off the mark in the Premier League this season. The 28-year-old has looked sluggish for Spurs and England – with many attributing his failed summer move to Manchester City as a reason why.
‘It’s natural that people think like that, people are entitled to their opinion,’ Kane told ITV in response to criticism of the start to his season after England’s 1-1 World Cup qualifier draw with Hungary on Wednesday night.
Tottenham’s talismna Harry Kane (centre) has been a shadow of himself so far this season
‘At the end of the day I’m my own biggest critic and put pressure on me to perform. Everyone who knows me knows I’m confident whenever I’m play.
‘I’m as clear as anything, a lot of noise around me, when you’re a high level sportsman you could expect that.
‘Performances for club and country maybe haven’t been there last few weeks but I’m confident in my ability – sometimes that’s just the way it goes.’
Kane is without a goal in his last six Premier League appearances, last having a longer drought in the competition between April and October 2014 (eight games).
However, five of his six Premier League goals for Tottenham against Newcastle have come at St James’ Park. He’s only scored more away goals against Leicester (eight) and Everton (seven) in the competition than he has against the Magpies.
Speaking on Wednesday, the England captain admitted his level of play has not been up to par
9. Can Burnley, Newcastle, Norwich and Southampton finally register a win?
In relation to Newcastle, they are one of four Premier League clubs yet to record a victory in the top flight with Burnley, Norwich and Southampton completing that quartet.
Out of this weekend’s fixtures Burnley face the most daunting task (see point No 4), while the other three are all at home.
Having spoken about Newcastle already (see point No 7), 17th-placed Southampton will fancy their chances against 16th-placed Leeds United on Saturday (3pm).
Southampton are one of four teams yet to win in the Premier League so far this season
Southampton’s biggest problem this season has been converting draws into three points (they have drawn four fixtures this term so far). Leeds are two points above the Saints (having won just once this campaign) and their expansive style always gives their opponents plenty of teams opportunities.
Elsewhere, bottom-placed Norwich City, who have only collected one point so far, face a sterner task against an in-form Brighton side who are just two points off the top in sixth place.
Look away, Norwich fans… the Canaries have failed to score more than once in any of their last 25 Premier League matches, netting just seven goals in total in this run. No side has ever had a longer such run in the competition’s history (Sunderland also went 25 games between December 2002 and September 2005).
Norwich City are also yet to win in the Premier League – having drawn once and lost six games
10. The return of a club legend at Arsenal
Patrick Vieira spent nine trophy-laden seasons at Arsenal – winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups during a spell that also saw him captain the club for three of them.
His nine years in north London made him a bonafide club legend, but on Monday night he returns with only the interests of Crystal Palace in mind.
Vieira was appointed Eagles manager in the summer and, although he’s only won once so far in the top flight, the Palace faithful are pleased with what they have seen from their Frenchman.
Patrick Vieira will get a warm reception on Monday night when Crystal Palace travel to Arsenal
Arsenal are a shadow of the side that Vieira was the heartbeat of; and Palace will be confident of getting a result in this London derby having gone unbeaten in their last three trips to the Emirates Stadium (winning one and drawing two). A victory on Monday night will see Palace leapfrog their local rivals too.
Despite their patchy form, Arsenal have won their last seven Premier League home games played on a Monday, scoring 15 goals and conceding just twice in return.
While the result could go either way, there’s no doubt that Vieira will get a rousing reception from the Arsenal fans come kick-off.
Vieira spent nine trophy-laden seasons at Arsenal as a player – winning seven major honours
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