The international schedule has briefly halted the Premier League schedule, but the focus is about to return to domestic matters, where we will get our first glimpse at the fallout from Sept. 2's transfer deadline drama.
Arsenal fans will be itching to see Mesut Ozil in red and white, Manchester United supporters will already be buying their Marouane Fellaini wigs, while the Liverpool faithful merely want to continue their cruise toward the title.
The Premier League kicks back into life on Sept. 14, so here we make some early result predictions while focusing on the big three games of the weekend.
Stoke vs. Manchester City
This really could be a case of the wrong place at the wrong time for Manchester City, who are adjusting to a new way of defending under Manuel Pellegrini. Zonal marking has been replaced by a man-to-man model, and Cardiff’s Fraizer Campbell took full advantage in City’s first away outing this season.
Twice Campbell capitalised on City's hesitancy during set pieces, and the bad news for Pellegrini is Stoke have a plethora of great aerial threats compared to Cardiff, who can only boast the former Manchester United man, Campbell.
The good news for City is that they are looking vibrant in attack, already scoring eight goals in three league outings. Alvaro Negredo is off the mark, Jesus Navas looks dangerous, David Silva continues to probe around the edge of opposition penalty areas, and Sergio Aguero appears hungry.
If they can keep the ball in play for 90 minutes they will be fine, but expect Stoke to find some joy through Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross and Co., boosted by the confidence of taking six points from a possible nine.
Sunderland vs. Arsenal
This is the type of game that usually tests the merits of Arsenal's title aspirations. The Gunners have won only two of their last five league visits to Sunderland.
All eyes will be on a Germany international named Ozil, Arsenal’s new record transfer from Real Madrid. Where will he play? Who will make way? How much impact will he have?
The likely answers are: central, Tomas Rosicky, and plenty.
Arsene Wenger’s men have responded well to their opening-day defeat to Aston Villa by beating Fulham and Tottenham. Sunderland, by contrast, are in the bottom three and without a win so far.
The Black Cats' new signings, former Liverpool duo Fabio Borini and Andrea Dossena, are hardly figures associated with digging in for a season-long relegation battle, so Arsenal will likely find the Stadium of Light a more hospitable ground than they’re used to in an easy win.
Swansea vs. Liverpool
The pace-setters and standard bearers of the Premier League—at least when it comes to defending—Liverpool have been perfect through three games so far.
Simon Mignolet is yet to concede a league goal, Daniel Sturridge has found the net in every game, and even some of Liverpool’s previously under-fire players (Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva) are displaying fine form.
Brendan Rodgers must decide between Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori for two central defensive slots, while Victor Moses is an option further forward.
Swansea, meanwhile, have played three times at home so far across all competitions, scoring nine goals in two wins while conceding four in a loss to Manchester United. They looked a settled outfit in the most recent triumph at West Brom, but appear to be hitting Liverpool at the wrong time.