Dave Tindall focuses on the big talking points as the Premier League returns this weekend with the Manchester derby taking centre stage, while Liverpool need to stand and deliver.
Clash Of The Titans; Rash Decision
It’s United v City. It’s Mourinho v Guardiola. It’s the top two in the title betting slugging it out in front of 75,000 at Old Trafford to try and maintain their perfect starts. So, who will blink first as the Manchester rivals look to continue their 100% records after winning three out of three so far?
If it’s the two bosses you’re comparing, Guardiola has the historical edge having lost just three times in 16 matches against teams managed by Mourinho. Of the other 13, the Spaniard won seven while six were drawn. But, ultimately, could this be a tale of not two but three strikers? Guardiola’s hand is weakened by the loss through suspension of star man Sergio Aguero while these sort of games are made for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, could it just be that the game is settled by an English frontman?
Marcus Rashford banged in a hat-trick on his debut for the England Under-21s in midweek and his early goal settled the last clash between these two in March. If Mourinho is willing to gamble on the youngster, there could be a handsome and decisive reward.
Stand And Deliver
It’s a new era for one of the game’s most iconic grounds on Saturday evening as Liverpool unveil Anfield’s newly-developed Main Stand. The increase in capacity to 54,000 will give Anfield its highest attendance since 1977, the year they won the first of their five European Cups. The evening kick-off (5.30pm) should lift the atmosphere to an even higher level and boss Jurgen Klopp plans to use a vibrant Anfield to full advantage.
“This is our first home game and with 8,000 more in the stadium,” he said in Thursday’s press conference. “That’s more power and we should use this.”
The visitors for the big reveal are champions Leicester who suffered defeat at the old Anfield last season (one of just two away losses on their way to glory). Liverpool have a good record against defending champions, winning two (Man City and Man Utd) and drawing one (Chelsea last year) in the last three seasons so, with the atmosphere red-hot, will Claudio Ranieri’s men find the pumped up hosts too much to handle?
Moyes To Make Sun Shine?
Two opening defeats and a draw must have Sunderland fans thinking ‘same old, same old’. It’s not been all bad though. They were three minutes away from holding title favourites Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at The Etihad while an 80th minute penalty looked to have sealed victory at Southampton last time before the Saints found a leveller five minutes from time. But moral victories and nearly-but-not-quites aren’t good enough and David Moyes will be desperate to register his first three points.
Of course, it would be fitting if it came against his former club Everton. Moyes must be looking to Goodison with a certain amount of envy after new boss Ronald Koeman was given license to splash the cash over the summer and, on the blue half of Merseyside, the fourth spot they occupy now is a realistic final target (Everton are 7/1 for a top four finish) for the Toffees. Will Moyes put one over his old team or will Everton continue their fine start?
Promoted Trio To Continue Early Promise?
It’s not unusual for one of the newly-promoted Championship sides to get off to a flyer in the Premier League and Hull and Middlesbrough occupy fifth and sixth place going into the weekend. Hull travel to Burnley, the third of the promoted sides, on Saturday and, having already taken the scalp of Liverpool, the Turf Moor outfit will also be confident they can end the weekend in the top half of the table.
Middlesbrough, meanwhile, have a definite chance to add another three points to the tally as they host a Crystal Palace side who lost momentum last season and haven’t found it again this. It will be a tough ask for Hull and Burnley to beat the drop (they’re both odds-on for relegation while Boro are 4/1) but getting off to a fast start is key so can this trio put enough early points on the board to give themselves hope of battling it out again in the Premier League next season?
Give Me A Break
Everyone hates these international breaks, especially at this time of the season. We had our fix of international football over the summer and the next World Cup is miles away. It’s all just one big inconvenience. You’ll hear plenty of managers trying their best not to express such statements in public but worrying about players’ health and getting them back late is a major source of irritation.
So, is there a case for presuming that the elite clubs, who had most players away on duty, are vulnerable this weekend? There’s an argument for that and it’s well worth taking a note of the results although it could be reasoned that all Premier League squads are packed full of internationals these days so everyone is affected.
Perhaps those who like a bet can cash in on an individual basis. For example, I’d much rather back the fresher Roberto Firmino to shine against Leicester than Phillippe Coutinho. Firmino was left out by Brazil and stayed at home but Coutinho had to endure a 5,000 mile round-trip.
I can’t split the two Manchester giants so will play the draw at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime. It’s a result that means neither boss will lose pride and the 23/10 looks fair.
A 54,000 crowd at Anfield will be making a right old din as they finally get to see their team play at home this season after rebuilding work. The odds on a Liverpool win look short but there are other ways to do this and I’ll take Roberto Firmino to be Man of the Match at 10/1 with Paddy Power. He’s rested and raring to go after being left out by Brazil and has a habit of scoring goals in big matches (he netted against Man City, Man Utd and Arsenal (2) last season).
Back Firmino to strut his stuff and be holding the champagne after a Liverpool victory.
The international break is over, and the Premier League is back. Make sure you check out our regular betting preview for sports bookmaker Betsafe.