The third round of Premier League action features some MASSIVE clashes, both between teams and individuals.
There’s plenty of history on the line – including Manchester United hoping to overtake Arsenal’s famous ‘Invincibles’ for an all-time Premier League record – while some teams are craving their first points of the season.
Here’s all the team news and the burning questions for every fixture in our weekly Premier League Set Piece!
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Is Ronaldo a good fit for Man City? | 02:42
Man City vs Arsenal, Saturday 9.30pm (all times AEST)
BURNING QUESTION: Who scores – and who stakes their place if Ronaldo arrives?
What a cracking match we have first up this weekend. Man City copped an early setback to their title defence when an inspired Spurs – sans Kane – stunned them on the opening weekend. Reinforcements arrived and they rebounded with a five-star shellacking of Norwich, which included a confidence-boosting goal for star signing Jack Grealish. They’ve missed out on their other key target this window (you know, that Kane fellow), so now there’s one big question mark over the squad. Where do the goals come from?
Sure, it wasn’t a problem against Norwich, but not be unkind – that’s Norwich. That’s one opponent out of 19. City couldn’t find the net against Spurs, nor Leicester in the Community Shield final. Chelsea bought what already looks like a guaranteed 20-goal-striker in Romelu Lukaku. City don’t have an out-and-out No. 9 anymore, especially since Gabriel Jesus – once thought to be Sergio Aguero’s long-term heir in the role – reportedly prefers to play in a wide attacking position.
But a salve for City’s lack of a genuine striker might just appear to arriving in Manchester, in the form of none other than otherworldly goal machine Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s unlikely they get a deal done in time for him to play this weekend. So now it’s up to the remainder of a star-studded attacking group (Sterling, Mahrez, Jesus, Grealish) or youngsters Ferran Torres and Liam Delap to find the net – and prove to Pep Guardiola they deserve to remain in the starting XI if the Portugal great does arrive.
Raheem Sterling had 10 last season, Riyad Mahrez nine, Gabriel Jesus nine, and Jack Grealish six for Villa. City’s top scorer in the league, remarkably, was Ilkay Gundogan with 13. If Ronaldo DOES arrive, can that group continue to score enough goals to retain the title?
Arsenal’s defence has been dismal, almost Norwich-esque. Goals should flow, as they did last year as Pep Guardiola unleashed a free-flowing attacking corps where everyone pitched in. If not, the headache only grows.
Auba curls home hat-trick against Albion | 00:58
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Kevin De Bruyne is expected to return to the starting side for City, while Riyad Mahrez could start over Raheem Sterling after a sensational show against Norwich. Left back Benjamin Mendy is suspended over sexual assault allegations, which means Joao Cancelo will likely start at left back as he did at Norwich.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed Arsenal’s opening game of the season through Covid-19, and was restricted to 30 minutes off the bench in their defeat to Chelsea. But the Gabonese goalpoach bagged a hat-trick and man of the match honours in a comfortable 6-0 cup win over West Brom (their second-string team, to be fair) and looks set to start this weekend.
“The goals will be great for his confidence,” said Mikel Arteta, who praised the striker’s all-round influence. “I said the leadership has to come from the senior players, along with the solutions, and the rest have to complement that with the energy and passion they bring – tonight was a good example.”
Alexandre Lacazette, who missed both league defeats, came off the bench in the cup and bagged a goal. He looked sharp but might not be ready to feature from the start, leaving it likely for Pepe and Saka to line up either side of Aubameyang. Martin Ødegaard also impressed on his first appearance since making his move from Real Madrid permanent and should start. Aaron Ramsdale also made his full debut for the Gunners and did well but wasn’t often troubled. He should start this weekend.
But Ben White is expected to be missing, seeing Rob Holding likely retain his spot in the starting XI.
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Newcastle vs Southampton, Sunday 12am
BURNING QUESTION: Can Saints break TWO curses in one go?
The Saints have shown plenty of fight this season, but it hasn’t quite come together so far. A tough 3-1 loss to Everton was followed by a 1-1 draw against Manchester United.
On both occasions, Southampton scored midway through the first half only to drop points. In their last nine Premier League games when scoring first, they’ve won just two – drawing three and losing four.
In fact, since the start of last season the Saints have dropped the most points – 28 – from winning positions. That’s the difference between their 15th place finish last campaign and qualifying for Europe. They were lucky to hold on to a draw against United, after Pogba and Greenwood in particular had chances to score in the second half. But they’re in fine scoring form, hitting Newport for eight in the cup – the biggest away win in club history.
If they are to beat the curse of dropped points, Newcastle presents an enticing prospect. They copped four goals in the opening game, two in the second, and have struggled going forward – including a goalless draw in the cup to Burnley midweek.
But Saints have a woeful record against Newcastle, losing four of their last five in the league – and beating the Magpies just once in their last 16 Premier League games at St James’ Park.
Saints have the opportunity to break two curses in one go.
Southampton’s Adam Armstrong should have scored against United and he’ll be hoping to strike against his former employers. They are without Smallbone and McQueen but have no fresh injuries.
Shelvey is out through injury, joining Dubravka, Darlow and Anderson on the sidelines. Hayden and Dummett could make the squad but are almost certain not to start.
Celtic advance to Europa group stage | 01:19
Brighton vs Everton, Sunday 12am
BURNING QUESTION: Will Brighton be this year’s overachievers?
Brighton is in the lofty position of fourth place, one of just five teams to win both of their opening games – though they were against Burnley and Watford. They’ve scored four and conceded just once, and their second-string side added another 2-0 win over Cardiff City in the cup to boot. Sure, it’s early days, but in their last 94 seasons in the Football League, they’ve won their first three games in a season just three times. It’s a very tough ask, but they could just make it four in 95 attempts this weekend.
Last year, Brighton created plenty of chances but converted shots at a dismal 8.2 per cent – their lowest in Premier League history. So far this year, their scoring record has been much-improved. Shane Duffy has been a rock in defence and Yves Bissouma has done a fine Ngolo Kante impression with his interceptions and recovery tackles.
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports this week: “We have said so often how much we enjoy watching them play but can they finish?
“Certainly, in the opening stages of this season, they have been a lot more clinical than they have been in the past.
“You just hope with confidence, maturity, just that experience of playing in the Premier League, they will be able to finish off more of their chances.”
Everton haven’t beaten Brighton away in all competitions in their last four games – two draws, two losses – since a 2-1 victory in April 1983.
This could be Brighton’s chance to pull an upset and put themselves on the radar as ones to watch.
For Everton, James Rodriguez remains out with Gylfi Sigurdsson also not looking close to a return. England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin could be rested as he continues to manage a toe problem. The remainder of the first team are in.
Brighton’s big concern is striker Neil Maupay (shoulder) who is in serious doubt to play.
Tariq Lamptey, Joel Veltman, and Dan Burn are all likely outs. Danny Welbeck is confirmed out, as is third string keeper Kjell Scherpenn.
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West Ham vs Crystal Palace, Sunday 12am
BURNING QUESTION: Can Antonio dance his way to the top four?
West Ham is another side chasing a third-straight win to open their campaign, for the first time since the Hammers’ ‘83-84 season. They’ve scored a whopping eight goals so far, battering Newcastle and Leicester. Leicester,
Are they genuine top four contenders this year? Just ask the fans – the 57 thousand of them that returned to London Stadium. In my opinion, it was the greatest atmosphere seen at the stadium in the five or six years they’ve called it home.
In both games, Saïd Benrahma scored and assisted, as did Michail Antonio – the first duo to ever do so in their team’s opening two Premier League matches.
Antonio broke the club’s Premier League goalscoring record with his 48th against Leicester, and celebrated with a cardboard cut-out of himself a-la Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray from Dirty Dancing (and I’ll admit, I do love that classic 1987 film). Then he banged in a 49th. Don’t bet against him making it 50 this weekend – but how will he celebrate?
The 31-year-old is still as hungry as ever. Benrahma now appears to have found the sort of consistency claret and blue fans have been desperately waiting for, on the back of a strong pre-season. And with Declan Rice powering the midfield, they appear poised for a genuine tilt at the top four.
For West Ham, Winston Reid (knee) and Arthur Masuaku (knee) are in doubt, with Reid highly likely to miss out.
For Palace, Eberechi Eze (achilles), Nathan Ferguson (achilles), Luka Milivojevic (undisclosed) and Michael Olise (back) are all set to miss out.
INSANE Aussie’s Puskas submission | 00:28
Norwich vs Leicester City, Sunday 12am
BURNING QUESTION: Will Norwich’s horror start ruin their survival chances?
Liverpool, City, Leicester, Arsenal, Watford, Everton. That’s Norwich’s first six games this season, a truly, TRULY horrible draw. The Canaries look to have a more balanced all-round squad this Premier League season compared to their last stint in the top flight. But honestly, will their hopes of avoiding relegation be ruined before the season has truly begun?
They’ve copped eight goals in their opening two games despite playing quite well against Liverpool, particularly in the opening half. A second-string squad bounced back with a huge cup win over Bournemouth midweek and provided cause for hope. But their backs are against the wall already, sitting down in last place. It could all turn around this weekend. Beat Leicester, and victory over a struggling Arsenal side suddenly looks achievable. Fellow promoted side Watford next up, and suddenly the Canaries will be singing sweetly.
A loss, or two or three, from their next four games, and Norwich’s hopes of avoiding the drop could quickly fade away. Let’s hope not.
For Norwich, Placheta and Byram will miss this week (and plenty more) through injury.
For Leicester, Evans, Bertrand, Justin, Fofana and Mendy are all sidelined through injury. Jannik Vestergaard had a knee niggle but the big-name signing appears close to a return and could be included. But Ayoze Perez’s straight red card against West Ham has him suspended.
Could Mbappe really end up in Madrid? | 01:03
Aston Villa vs Brentford, Sunday 12am
BURNING QUESTION: Can Brentford hold out Ings and co?
Brentford’s start to the campaign has been more than solid – comfortably beating Arsenal, then a goalless draw away to Palace. Only twice in the Premier League has a newly-promoted side kept three clean sheets to start the season: Charlton Athletic in ‘98-99 and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18. If Brentford can match that, they’ll fancy their chances at picking up a goal and the points at Villa.
But the Villains have rebounded from copping a 3-2 loss to Watford by beating Newcastle 2-0 then Barrow 6-0 in the cup. Danny Ings has brought the firepower up front, scoring in each of his opening two league games for his new club.
Villa is missing the potency and creativity of Jack Grealish, but have looked focused and disciplined following that first-up loss. They’ll be thirsting to keep it rolling – especially with Chelsea, Everton, United and Spurs to follow.
The Villains have Bertrand Traore, Morgan Sanson, Trezeguet, and Douglas Luiz in major doubt, as is Leon Bailey. Keinan Davis is also under a slight cloud but is likely to be included.
Ollie Watkins (thigh) should be fit to start but Danny Ings’ red-hot form should see him retain his place after being rested in midweek.
Joshua Dasilva is the only doubt for Brentford with a hip niggle, but should make the squad.
PL clubs refuse to release players | 00:52
Liverpool vs Chelsea, Sunday 2.30am
BURNING QUESTION: Will Liverpool’s transfer gamble pay off?
Does it get any better than this? Two wins, two clean sheets, and five goals scored apiece. Both sides have hit the ground running this year. Liverpool toppled Norwich then Burnley, while the Blues bested Palace then Arsenal. While their results have been identical, the clubs’ transfer activity was not. Chelsea made a statement of intent with the massive signing of Romelu Lukaku. Liverpool lost one of their finest stars in Georginio Wijnaldum for free to PSG, then reinforced the defence with the signing of Ibrahima Konate for £36m from RB Leipzig. More signings were expected to follow. So far, zip – and they’ve even made a profit this transfer window by offloading minor names! It’s a massive transfer gamble, especially compared to Chelsea, City, and United’s own big-name arrivals.
But Klopp has repeatedly emphasised the return of stars from injury is as valuable as new signings.
Last season, the Reds lost centre-backs Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, and most importantly Virgil van Dijk for significant parts of the season to injury. Their makeshift defence cost them any chance at a title, while Chelsea went on to become Champions League conquerors. All three are back.
Van Dijk has been imperious so far, Matip – who so often has gone underappreciated around the league – has been equally solid. Now with Gomez and Konate on the bench, Liverpool’s biggest weakness is suddenly a strength.
Now it’s time to find out if Klopp was right – if his returning stars can match up to the might and the money of their rivals’ spending sprees.
It’s Lukaku vs Van Dijk. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.
Burnley vs Leeds, Sunday 11pm
BURNING QUESTION: Will Leeds finally shake off that dismal start?
Bielsa-ball creates plenty of chances (and is supremely enjoyable viewing for fans) but it can be pulled apart by a very good attacking team. That’s exactly what happened when Manchester United put five past Leeds on the opening day in a brutal reality check. In front of a full home crowd in the Premier League for the first time in 17 years, they rebounded with a 2-2 draw with Everton. They showed plenty of fire in a thrilling game that threatened to boil over, and rallied twice after falling behind. A cruisy midweek cup win has them in form, and now they need to convert that into Premier League points. If they don’t, the lingering mental impacts of the bruising defeat to United could really make a dint to their season start.
Burnley were decent in their opening two defeats, but abysmal in a 0-0 cup draw they won on penalties. They’ve struggled going forward so far this campaign – one goal in three games in all competitions is nothing short of poor – but the likely return of Matej Vydra to the XI should help their chance creation.
Key duo Ashley Westwood and Matej Vydra are likely to return for Burnley this weekend. Kevin Long and Dale Stephens are out after surgery in the off-season. Despite Hennessey’s midweek heroics, he’s unlikely to start in goals. Aaron Lennon could start after joining on Wednesday.
For Leeds, Diego Llorente and Adam Forshaw returned midweek, but lasted sixty minutes and are unlikely to start. Robin Koch is doubtful.
Danish refs all-time reaction to howler | 00:28
Tottenham vs Watford, Sunday 11pm
BURNING QUESTION: How will Kane’s failed move impact Spurs?
He’s staying, and he says he’s “100 per cent focused on helping the team achieve success”. But in his absence, Spurs have won both of their opening league games – and rather impressively, to boot. Now Nuno Espirito Santo must reintegrate the England captain into the squad. He is still one of the finest strikers in the Premier League, and his connection with Son Heung-min has been vital to Tottenham’s success in the past. But if he wants to force through a move mid-season – as he hinted by saying in his post that he’s staying ‘this summer’ (transfer window) – there’s still a lingering doubt over how well he really can focus. Having conceded five goals in their first two games, Watford’s defensive frailties offer the England skipper a great opportunity to hit the ground running. The pressure is on his shoulders. How heavy will it weigh?
Spurs’ biggest fear is over Son, who is nursing a thigh injury. Carter-Vickers (injured) and Rodon (fitness) are out.
For Watford, key midfielder Juraj Kucka is in some doubt (injury) after missing last match, and Nathaniel Chalobah is trying to get over an illness that also ruled him out of the defeat to Brighton.
Wolves vs Man United, Monday 1.30am
BURNING QUESTION: Can United smash the undefeated away record?
United blasted Leeds to smithereens in a 5-1 first-round battering. Then they were profligate in front of goal in a hugely frustrating draw with Southampton. But that draw still stretched an away unbeaten record in the league to 27 matches, a record that extends back to defeat in January 2020 to Liverpool. Now they’ll look to overtake the Arsenal Invicibles of ‘03-04 when they face Wolves. If they play like they did against Leeds, rather than Southampton, that appears likely. And with Newcastle United, West Ham United and Aston Villa coming up, they will be bullish about their chances of extending an unbeaten run to start their season.
But a winless and goalless Wolves are desperate to get points on the board after tough 1-0 defeats to Leicester and Spurs. This should be a thrilling clash.
Scott McTominay has undergone groin surgery, a big blow to United. He started the first game and came off the bench in their second. Marcus Rashford & Alex Telles are out with injury issues, while Dean Henderson is still not fit enough to play. Edinson Cavani should be ready to feature, likely from the bench.
For Wolves, Pedro Neto, Daniel Podence, and Jonny Otto are all unavailable.