The English Premier League resumes today after the international break with some tantalising fixtures with the standout game being the early kickoff between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. The Reds will not only be staking their unbeaten run but would also want to wipe out the memories of last year’s 4-1 loss at Wembley Stadium, while Spurs would be hoping to bounce from their Week Three 2-1 loss to Watford in spite of scoring first. It is, however, a good game for the neutrals to enjoy
Liverpool will not have happy memories of their last visit to Wembley Stadium and will head south with a point to prove against Tottenham Hotspur.
Eleven months ago Juergen Klopp’s side were swept aside 4-1 by a rampant Tottenham leading to a bout of navel-gazing that, as it transpired, helped transform Liverpool’s season.
The defensive lapses that undermined them that day were soon eradicated, the goals began to flow and with the addition of central defender Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January, Liverpool became a force to be reckoned with.
The damage had already been done though and, just like every other contender, they never got anywhere near a Manchester City side that strolled to the Premier League title.
They did reach the Champions League final and have continued the momentum into the new campaign, topping the table with four wins from four, scoring nine goals and conceding one.
Tottenham began with three wins but slipped up in their last game before the international break, losing 2-1 at Watford who are surprisejoint-leaders.
Early in the season it may be, but the lunchtime clash will offer a pointer as to which club can push on and make a credible challenge to a City side who host Fulham.
Tottenham’s starting line-up will be similar to the one that started last year’s fixture after the London club bucked the trend by spending nothing in the transfer window.
Liverpool, on the other hand, splashed out in the region of 160 million pounds on the likes of Naby Keita, versatile Brazilian Fabinho, Brazil keeper Alisson and Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri from relegated Stoke City.
The Merseysiders have lost only one of their last 11 Premier League meetings against Tottenham.
There is an edge between the clubs and Klopp knows three points today would send out a message of intent.
Defeat for Tottenham in a fixture that was supposed to be the christening of their new stadium will lead to further scrutiny of the decision to trust the same players that have achieved three successive top-three finishes but no silverware.
While Liverpool’s outlay on new players has, so far, proved beneficial, the same cannot be said of West Ham United. The London club bolstered their squad with nearly £100 million worth of new signings for incoming manager Manuel Pellegrini, but are pointless after four games.
Things do not get any easier either with West Ham away to Everton on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho takes his Manchester United side to high-flying Watford today knowing they cannot afford another slip-up if they are to stay on the coattails of the Premier League pacesetters.
A 2-0 victory against struggling Burnley followed by an international break has taken the heat off the Portuguese manager as he tries to inject momentum into a stuttering start to the season.
Defeat at Watford – who have won all four of their games would leave United nine points off the lead and their title ambitions in tatters midway through September.
Former United and England defender Gary Neville hopes his old club can still mount a challenge to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool despite two defeats in four matches.
“If they can stay in it until January and maybe get one or two defenders in, they may have a chance, but I doubt it,” he told The Timesnewspaper. “I think United will be third or fourth.”
Neville insisted it is far too early to write Mourinho off despite his early-season struggles, which have given rise to the suspicion he is yesterday’s man.
“I think Jose is a brilliant manager, and, in a 25-year career, young managers will emerge, people will ask questions if you aren’t successful,” he added.
“He’s having a more difficult time, but finished? I genuinely think that’s a nonsense.”
Mourinho’s tasks in solving a rift with World Cup-winning midfielder Paul Pogba and his side’s defensive frailties have not gone away in the international break, even if some of his stars showed the richness of the resources at his disposal with their countries.
Romelu Lukaku continued a fine start to his season by netting three times for Belgium and Marcus Rashford scored twice for England, against Spain and Switzerland.
Rashford has struggled for time on the pitch at United this season with Mourinho able to pick from a clutch of attacking options including Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata.
But the United boss will be spared the difficult decision of whether to play Rashford over the next few weeks, with the 20-year-old starting a three-game ban against Watford following a red card in the Burnley match.
Mourinho could also be without defender Luke Shaw, who suffered a nasty head injury in England’s match against Spain on his return to the national side.
Watford brushed aside Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace as they made a perfect start to the season.
But their real statement of intent came in their come-from-behind win against Tottenham that enabled them to keep pace with Liverpool and Chelsea.
Watford boss Javi Gracia, though, warned his side of underestimating United.
“Nowadays we talk about the coaches a lot more, but they have a great squad, many internationals, recently crowned champions of the world,” said the Spaniard.
“We’ve seen them in all the big international games and we know it is going to be a very difficult game. But we will try to compete in the same way we have done things in the last couple of games.
“I think that as soon as we begin to think the next game is going to be easier for some reason, we are dead… we will pay heavily for any sense of over-confidence against a team like United.”
Chelsea, who have quietly gone about their business under new manager Maurizio Sarri, are also 100 per cent after four games and will relish a home clash against Cardiff City.
Team P GD Pts
Liverpool 4 8 12
Chelsea 4 7 12
Watford 4 6 12
Man City 4 8 10
Tottenham 4 5 9
Bournemouth 4 1 7
Everton 4 1 6
Leicester 4 1 6
Arsenal 4 0 6
Man Utd 4 -1 6
Wolves 4 -1 5
Southampton 4 0 4
Fulham 4 -2 4
Brighton 4 -2 4
Crystal Palace 4 -3 3
Cardiff 4 -3 2
Huddersfield 4 -8 2
Newcastle 4 -3 1
Burnley 4 -6 1
West Ham 4 -8 0