A thrilling opening weekend saw the Premier League return with a bang. Liverpool and Manchester United were stunned, Spurs claimed a statement victory, while Erling Haaland made his mark for Manchester City.
Now attention turns to Matchday 2. Erik ten Hag faces a huge call over Cristiano Ronaldo as the Red Devils seek to get their season off and running, while Spurs visit Stamford Bridge in the first big-six blockbuster.
Here are the big storylines to watch out for this weekend.
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MANCHESTER UNITED SET FOR MORE PAIN?
Manchester United finished last season by losing their final six away games – a nightmare streak that ruined any hope of Champions League football. It was their worst run of road losses since March 1981 – but defeat at Brentford this weekend would make it their worst run since all the way back in 1936, when they lost ten on the trot away from Old Trafford.
But is it a serious prospect against a relative minnow in the Bees? Well, history hasn’t helped United much to start this season – their defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion last week was their first-ever loss at home to the Seagulls.
Christian Eriksen starred for the Bees last season, winning 7 of his 11 games on the park, but struggled in a false nine position for United against Brighton.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in the second half shifted Eriksen into the midfield, a move which benefited the team immensely.
Whether Erik ten Hag rushes Ronaldo into the starting line-up in search of a maiden Premier League win will be a crucial selection conundrum, especially since the Portuguese legend is still short of fitness.
But after conceding two goals in the first half in the opening week – and it could well have been three if VAR didn’t overrule a penalty early in the second half – ten Hag clearly has just as many problems in defence (especially on set pieces).
With Brentford adding to their well-earned reputation for fighting out of tricky situations when they fought back for a 2-2 draw against Leicester, this one will likely be battled out until the final whistle sounds. It just might signal more woe for the Red Devils.
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SPURS OUT TO BREAK HORROR RUN
It’s the first big-six clash of the season, and it should be an absolute beauty as Chelsea host Tottenham.
But there’s a heavy weight of history standing in their way: Spurs have won just once in their last 37 matches at Stamford Bridge. No wonder the Blues are favourites for this one, despite their ‘rusty’ 1-0 win over Everton last week – as coach Thomas Tuchel described it.
Spurs, on the other hand, fought back from an early deficit to win 4-1 over Southampton – a result that means they have scored the most Premier League in the 2022 calendar year to date.
Antonio Conte has enjoyed a full pre-season and a big transfer window in Tottenham, and this match will be a true litmus test for just how far they’ve come – and whether they can actually challenge at the pointy end this season.
“I think it’ll be a good test to mark whether they are really in the contest for the title,” former Spurs back Pascal Chimbonda told Sky Sports News.’’
Perhaps the biggest key to their improvement is their depth: none of their six signings started against Saints. Some, like Richarlison, could start this time out, while Ivan Perisic might also hope to replace Ryan Sessegnon.
PREDICTED XI: Hugo Lloris; Eric Dier, Ben Davies, Cristian Romero; Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Rodrigo Bentancur, Ivan Perisic, Emerson; Heung-Min Son, Dejan Kulusevski; Harry Kane.
For Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel hasn’t been fully happy with his transfer window so far despite some big-name arrivals in Kalidou Koulibaly, Raheem Sterling, and Marc Cucurella.
Koulibaly and Sterling both started and should start again this time out, while Cucurella came off the bench and could depose Ben Chilwell from the starting role. Christian Pulisic’s impressive bench cameo could also see him introduced to the XI.
If they fail to score from open play again, it could just nudge the new owners to push even harder to complete the signings of targets Frenkie de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona, or Wesley Fofana from Leicester City – having already missed out on Manchester City’s Nathan Ake and Sevilla’s Jules Kounde.
The first heavyweight bout of the season is here, and it could have huge ramifications on the trajectories of two big-six members.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Edouard Mendy; Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, Kalidou Koulibaly; Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kante, Jorgino, Reece James, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz; Raheem Sterling.
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STAGGERING LAMPARD STAT IN BATTLE OF ENGLAND GREATS
Frank Lampard might be a Premier League and England great, but this weekend he meets another man of similar pedigree – his old England teammate Steven Gerrard.
The duo met 34 times during their playing careers, and Lampard had the upper hand with 16 wins compared to Gerrard’s 11. Both will be desperate for victory this weekend in their first-ever managerial meeting.
For Lampard, the biggest worry – among many – is his staggeringly poor defensive record away from home.
In 38 games in charge of Everton and previously Chelsea, his sides conceded 73 goals at an average of 1.92 per 90 minutes. That includes a Blues side that would win the Champions League six months after his departure.
There were concerns over Everton’s squad entering this season (having sold star striker Richarlison to balance the books), and those only worsened on opening day when defenders Ben Godfrey and Yerry Mina both copped serious injuries.
Everton have since pulled a late signing swoop for Conor Coady and midfielder Amadou Onana (from Wolverhampton on Monday and Lille on Tuesday, in that order), while they added another solid defender in James Tarkowski from Burnley in pre-season.
After Everton lost to Chelsea 1-0 and Gerrard’s Aston Villa lost to promoted Bournemouth 2-0, the pressure is on.
But where will the Toffee goals come from?
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Andros Townsend are months away from returning, but Lampard welcomes back-up forward Salomon Rondon to the team after suspension.
And the club is reportedly chasing Southampton’s Che Adams to boost their stingy offence, having missed out on Burnley winger Maxwel Cornet who instead joined West Ham.
“We know there is a void in forward areas, we are short in numbers there,” Lampard said amid a difficult pre-season.
Arresting his poor defensive record on the road will be a key priority – but their lack of firepower up front could be just as worrying down the track.