Chelsea and Liverpool will be looking to lay down a marker for the top four, while Leicester and Arsenal could come unstuck after their Champions League exploits.
Bridge battle to reveal more clues
This fixture used to be a Champions League classic. And yet, neither team will be playing any sort of European football this season after disappointing Premier League campaigns last time. But, make no mistake, both are genuine top four contenders this time after bright starts.
Chelsea, under new boss Antonio Conte, have taken 10 points from 12 and will argue they should have the maximum haul but for a poor refereeing decision. Liverpool have only banked seven points but all of them came against the sides who finished first (Leicester), second (Arsenal) and third (Spurs) last term.
This is the first time the two managers have ever locked horns. So will Conte’s nous and wonderful recent record on home soil (P30, W28, D2, L0) win the day or will Jurgen Klopp’s vibrant heavy metal football (they’re the top goalscorers in the calendar year) prove too potent? The winner of Friday night’s clash will feel even more confident that they’ll be playing Champions League football again next season.
Foxes to fall flat?
Talking of the Champions League, Leicester fans were treated to more golden memories on Wednesday night. Just being in the same competition at Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich is a thrill in itself but Claudio Ranieri’s men aren’t just there to make up the numbers. They mean business.
So what a way to start this new adventure, winning 3-0 away at Club Brugges to immediately give notice that they’re a dark horse who could gallop far. But here’s one of the main talking points amongst Leicester supporters. After the high of Europe, how will their team adapt to the bread and butter of Premier League football, especially when the first team to test the theory, Burnley, are just the sort of low-key team side that could catch them out? Sean Dyche will set up his team to sit deep and nullify space in behind and if the Foxes are flat, it could be a frustrating afternoon.
No panic for Potters?
They can argue that things haven’t gone their way but the bottom line, an apt choice of phrase, is that Stoke are propping up the Premier League table after taking just one point from four matches. Is this the start of a crisis?
Stoke fans will point to last season when their team took just three points from the opening six fixtures and yet still ended 9th – their joint highest finish in the Premier League. Last season they got the ball rolling with a hat-trick of wins over Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Swansea and the current fixture list appears to offer them a similar opportunity as they travel to Crystal Palace on Sunday before home games against Hull and West Brom.
Stoke have made some useful additions in the summer so is it just a matter of time before they start to climb up the table and take their now accustomed top-half finish (9th last three seasons)? Or is there genuine cause for concern for Mark Hughes and co?
Gunners getting away with it?
A win over Southampton last weekend and a 1-1 draw away to PSG. That equates to a pretty good week for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. And, in terms of the Premier League, they have the same number of points as Liverpool, who everyone is raving about. But is anyone really convinced?
Only a hugely controversial refereeing decision gave them a last-minute penalty (converted by Santi Cazorla) and a dramatic 2-1 win over Southampton while had Edinson Cavani not fluffed his lines on a couple of occasions, they’d have come home from France with nil points from their opening Champions League fixture.
A trip to Hull should be the sort of game that trips up the fancy Dans of Arsenal and yet their record there is superb, to the point where no team has come away with more victories (5) than the Gunners have since Hull moved to the KCOM Stadium. But, with Arsenal failing to convince of late, are they ripe for an upset this time?
The Antonio show
After playing in the ninth tier of English football with Tooting and Mitcham, the rise of West Ham’s Michail Antonio has been incredible. Plucked from obscurity by then Reading boss Alan Pardew in 2008, he’s now the Premier League’s joint top scorer on four goals alongside two rather well-known strikers called Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa.
His form has earned him a call-up to the England squad. Of course, it’s not an unprecedented rags-to-riches tale as Jamie Vardy took a similar career path and he’s now strutting his stuff in the Champions League. Antonio has the chance to take the lead on his own in the Golden Boot race when West Ham travel to West Brom on Saturday. Playing as one of three in behind a striker clearly suits him so will his goalscoring heroics continue despite West Ham’s poor start to the season?
Chelsea v Liverpool looks a fascinating match-up and perhaps one to enjoy rather than have a confident bet on. There should be goals but how many and to whom?
Watching how Leicester fare after Champions League games will be interesting and I think there’s scope to take them on. Burnley will set up for a draw and I think they can secure one.
Arsenal were also away in Europe in midweek so Hull might be able to continue their bright start by holding the Gunners to a stalemate.
Finally, it’s always worth backing players to stay hot when they get hot so have an anytime scorer punt on Michail Antonio to continue his eye-catching start to the season at West Brom.
Back Leicester and Burnley to draw at 10/3 (bet365, Betfred)
Back Hull and Arsenal to draw at 16/5 (bet365)
Back Michail Antonio to score anytime v West Brom at 7/2 (betwin)