Premier League Talking Points Week 7 / 8
By Sean Campbell
The international break has left us craving the return of the Premier League. For teams that were playing out of their skins, the break wa seen as an unwelcome distraction to their momentum while those already struggling will be hoping that their players return fit and refreshed. Here we take a look at the major talking points ahead of game eight.
Liverpool vs. Manchester United
For the first time since 2009, this fierce rivalry means more than just bragging rights amongst supporters. Both teams are now well equipped to fight at the top end of the league. Hosts Liverpool have been the league’s great entertainers, with the attacking triumvirate of Mane, Coutinho and Firmino tearing defences asunder. They’ve also been well supported by Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Huge question marks still hover around that defence though – Matip looks a big improvement on the departed Martin Skrtel, but they’re still conceding a lot of avoidable goals. They can’t expect to get away with such brainlessness against Ibrahimovic, Martial or Rashford, not to mention Marouane Fellaini on set pieces.
For the visitors, Paul Pogba will be the key. If he can find a way through the midfield battleground he could be the game changer. Liverpool’s Giorgino Wijnaldum is injured, and is likely to be replaced by Emre Can – expect a fierce physical battle to ensue between him and Pogba.
This is a tough one to call. I won’t be shocked if Liverpool win 4 or 5-1. On the other hand, Jose Mourinho is a master at spoiling parties; he could well figure Liverpool out. This could really go either way. The game is on at 2am Tuesday morning (Monday night if you’re still up). It’ll be a hell of a lot more entertaining than sleeping.
Chelsea make major improvements
For a couple of weeks, Chelsea looked like they were struggling to adapt to life under Antonio Conte. Key players like Nemanja Matic, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard were looking pretty average. Last time out against Hull however, they looked way better. A simple change in shape to a 3-4-3 tightened up the defence, allowed Kante to step up the field to where he likes to win the ball and most importantly, it allowed Hazard and Willian to play not as wingers, but as inside forwards in support of Costa. With John Terry likely to return this weekend at home to Leicester City, they can expect to be better at the back than against Hull. It may have just been a false dawn, but I doubt it – I fancy Chelsea to win this one.
Payet the saviour?
What. A. Goal.
If Slaven Bilic is to keep his job he’ll need more of this kind of thing from his talisman. It’s been a hit and miss season thus far for Payet, but if that was him announcing a return to form, it bodes well for the struggling Hammers. They’re away to Crystal Palace on Saturday night. Palace looked dangerous in their last game against Everton, and striker Christian Benteke will be licking his lips at the thought of bullying an unconfident defence. Payet’s brain against Benteke’s brawn – it’s going to be a real battle. Not the most glamorous tie, but definitely a fascinating one.