Liverpool v Burnley, Saturday 12:30 pm
Early Saturday kick-offs were the bane of Jurgen Klopp’s existence last season, even if one such fixture heralded a 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.
Elsewhere, Liverpool drew three and lost once, the manner of each severely stinging. There were two last-gasp equalizers that cost them dearly while a highly-charged derby at Goodison deprived the champions of Virgil Van Dijk for the whole campaign and newly-signed Thiago for two months. By comparison, a 3-1 loss to Leicester in February that dented their top four aspirations was merely troublesome.
Now, just two games into their fresh start after an underwhelming title defence, the Reds are the early liver birds again and with optimism that last term was merely an anomaly. Perhaps this presents an immediate opportunity to correct a few wrongs.
This logic doesn’t solely apply to the start time either. Last January, the Clarets triumphed at Anfield, ending an incredible 68-game unbeaten home run for Klopp’s side. With their air of invincibility punctured, Liverpool then went on to lose the following five on Merseyside. In that regard, Sean Dyche’s men have a lot to answer for.
It’s hardly a surprise that Liverpool are a short 1/5 to enact their revenge this weekend, though better value can be found in backing goalscorers over the result. Mo Salah is 7/4 to score more than once, a feat he has managed 21 times since joining the club in 2017, and it is pertinent that the Egyptian has enjoyed a rare summer off and is fully rested. A further cause for cheer is the welcomed return of Van Dijk who strolled through Liverpool’s opener against Norwich unhindered.
As for the visitors they will strangely be grateful of a trip to Anfield, and not just because of the possibility of muscle memory kicking in. Last week’s defeat to Brighton equaled a club record of 11 games without a win at Turf Moor and this bluntly reflects a sustained dip in form that goes all the way back to April. On four separate occasions in that time-period, Burnley have taken a lead only to ultimately be bested.
— Football365 (@F365) August 12, 2021
Southampton v Manchester United, Sunday 2:00 pm
St Mary’s has been a happy hunting ground for Manchester United, with the Reds last losing on the south coast way back in 2003. Since then, the 13-time Premier League champions have racked up nine victories and four draws at Southampton’s ground, scoring more than twice on five occasions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will be confident of extending this impressive track record on Sunday afternoon, and not just because memories of the 9-0 thumping administered at Old Trafford in February are still lucid. It was a headline-grabbing scoreline that compounded Southampton’s misery after losing to United in a different kind of cruel fashion two months earlier. Then, two goals up at half-time, the Saints capitulated in the second period, eventually succumbing to a 92nd minute headed winner from Edinson Cavani.
Yet, it is a much more recent glory that will act as impetus for United this weekend, namely their 5-1 dismissal of Leeds on the opening day. In a swashbuckling performance, four assists for Paul Pogba and a hat-trick for Bruno Fernandes countered the long-held suspicion that the pair cannot flourish together. And, with Jadon Sancho set to make his full-debut, United have a wealth of attacking options at their disposal. “I couldn’t have asked for more,” a delighted Solskjaer declared after his side had ruthlessly dismantled Marcelo Bielsa’s team. He’ll certainly be asking for more of the same at St Mary’s.
Like Liverpool’s anticipated three points, the odds on United heading back north all smiles lack appeal for punters, with 4/7 available for the win. As with the Liverpool fixture, the goals market tempts most with 10/3 priced for United to score over 2.5. In their last 10 competitive fixtures the Reds have scored 2.3 goals-per-game, and here they are coming up against a defence shorn of confidence featuring players still adapting to each other’s movement and strengths.
Southampton’s near-wholesale reconfiguration of their back line is surprising, and indeed the warning signs that a season of struggle might await them first began before a ball was even kicked in anger. Their decision to relinquish both Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand to Leicester for a combined cut-price fee of £16m is illustrative of the financial impact Covid has had on even Premier League outfits, while the sale of Danny Ings deprives them of precious and prolific firepower.
𝑨𝒏 𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒔𝒕 𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒌.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 18, 2021
Arsenal v Chelsea, Sunday 4:30 pm
It’s not often that the fortunes, or more accurately the projected fortunes, of these London rivals are so polarized.
Presently, the smart money is on Chelsea to mount a serious title challenge this term, especially now that Thomas Tuchel has added – at enormous expense – the promise of twenty-plus goals from one of world football’s archest of assassins, Romelu Lukaku. Indeed, it is only a slight exaggeration to suggest that the Belgian hit-man completes his former side on his return after eight years. Despite some speculation regarding his availability, he is set to make a debut here.
Last season, a swift and dramatic transformation under the German coach saw the Blues well-drilled and often imperious, but too many chances consistently went begging. The bulk of them were spurned by Timo Werner who was clearly suffering in the spotlight. During his two fertile seasons in Italy, Lukaku bagged 47 goals in 72 Serie A appearances, and he will surely strengthen Chelsea’s weakest link while Werner too will likely benefit from the transfer. Stationed further out wide and with the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders, it’s fair to expect last season’s ‘flop’ to add to his impressive 10 assists from 2020/21.
Elsewhere, the Champions League winners are in possession of a formidably well-assembled squad and travel across the capital in fine fettle after comprehensively beating Crystal Palace last weekend. A generous 16/1 is offered for them to repeat that 3-0 scoreline at the Emirates.
If Chelsea are on an upswing, the opposite is true of Arsenal. There is a sense of doom and gloom surrounding the Gunners following an opening day horror show at Brentford that saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette pull out beforehand, each citing illness. Subsequent rumours linking the pair to Barcelona cast a degree of doubt on the truth of these illnesses, and the potential loss of a partnership that scored 42% of Arsenal’s league goals last season will be deeply concerning for Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal’s record against the top six – of which they are no longer fully signed-up members – was poor in 2020/21, with just four wins from ten. It would hardly be a shock if they continued in the same vein this Sunday.
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) August 12, 2021
West Ham United v Leicester City, Monday 8:00 pm
One of the weekend’s most intriguing clashes has David Moyes’ Hammers hosting a Leicester side that habitually start seasons well under Brendan Rodgers.
The Foxes were true to type last Saturday with a comfortable – if narrow – victory over Wolves further building on momentum from their Community Shield success. However, at the London Stadium they face an entirely different proposition to a half-fit Manchester City side or shot-shy Wanderers.
In resurrecting his managerial credentials at West Ham, Moyes has also thrown his doubters a major curveball by creating an attacking and eminently watchable outfit who look to score goals at every opportunity. In six of their last 11 games, Michail Antonio et al have put three or more past their opponents, and this prolificacy was in evidence again last week with an entertaining 4-2 win at Newcastle.
Buoyed by the return of a capacity crowd, the home side will play on the front foot and cause an injury-stricken Leicester rearguard all manner of problems.
Nevertheless, Leicester have Jamie Vardy, very possibly the greatest practitioner of counter-attacking punishment in the modern age. For all the talk of new signing Patson Daka’s immense promise, it was once again the man he’s been brought in to eventually succeed who made the difference as the Foxes defeated the Wolves. Vardy’s strike puts him just 21 shy of joining the Premier League’s all-time top ten goalscorers. He slotted away his first at the age of 27.
This is a game that lends itself to lots of goals and incidents. The 4/5 available for over 2.5 goals is a promising proposition.
— West Ham United (@WestHam) August 19, 2021