As I’ve made pretty clear on various occasions, I’m not a huge fan of the international breaks. It’s not that I’m against international football per se, but it’s more the fact that in my experience, such breaks disrupt the exhilarating flow of the Premier League season.
This latest break is a case in point. Can anyone remember what was happening before we had this two-week drought of Premier League football? Probably not.
So it’s fair to say that I’m more than a little excited about the feast of Premier League football we have to look forward to this weekend, and with this in mind, I thought I’d compile a list of the five games I’m looking forward to most:
1. Manchester City v Tottenham
Kicking off this weekend’s footballing extravaganza is Tottenham’s visit to the Etihad, and this promises to be a fantastic spectacle. It wasn’t too long ago that City and Spurs were neck-and-neck in the Premier League, but the Citizens have pulled ahead in the last four years and this will be a tough task for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
What I’m especially intrigued about is how Pochettino will look to set his team up. If you’ve watched Tottenham this season, you’ll know that the Argentine likes to employ a high-pressing strategy; winning the ball high up the pitch and then launching swift counterattacks. The question is, will he be brave enough to take the game to City, or will he look to sit back and try and soak up the City onslaught? If he does try and sit back, the chances are that his team’s going to get picked off anyway, so the system that Pochettino deploys will be a true measure of his bravery. This one’s going to be absorbing.
2. Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Teams like Palace cost Chelsea the title last season, and Mourinho will be very keen to collect three points from his side’s trip to Selhurst Park. The trouble is that even without Tony Pulis, Palace are likely to be pretty solid at home and, perhaps even more crucially, will set themselves up extremely defensively.
Given that Chelsea prefer to be the team sitting back, Mourinho’s players are going to need to show some serious cunning and guile to unlock the well-organised Palace defence – Cesc Fabregas is likely to be key in this regard. Anything other than a win for Chelsea is unacceptable.
3. Newcastle v Leicester
Alan Pardew’s Newcastle side have suffered a torrid start to the Premier League season, collecting only four points from a possible 21, and this home fixture against newly promoted Leicester is, quite simply, a must win.
The trouble for the Magpies is that Leicester have performed admirably so far, and are likely to be licking their lips about the prospect of taking on a Newcastle side this low on confidence. Should Pardew’s side lose again, one would think Mike Ashley has to think seriously about the manager’s future.
4. Everton v Aston Villa
For me, this could be the pick of this weekend’s games. After their great maiden season under Roberto Martinez, Everton have started terribly and currently sit just above the relegation zone. In contrast, Villa have enjoyed a good start to the season and sit in 10th – a far cry from their relegation battle of last season.
In short, the two clubs’ roles appear to have been reversed, and should Villa spring a surprise on the Toffees on Saturday afternoon, there may be a little bit more pressure applied to Martinez. The trouble for the Spaniard is that after his side’s poor start, the fans will be looking for a win, and will expect Everton to take the game to the Villains. The ex-Wigan boss will need to balance risk and reward and he’ll be hoping he can get that calculation spot on.
5. West Bromwich v Manchester United
It was West Brom’s visit to Old Trafford last season that things began to go really wrong for David Moyes’ United side, and when United head to the Hawthorns on Monday, Louis van Gaal will be desperate to avoid a similar result.
West Brom aren’t a bad side though, and if van Gaal’s players endure a wobble as they have done a number of times this season, the result is anything but guaranteed.