The top of the Premier League table combines some of the familiar with a touch of the unexpected. The former is satisfied by Chelsea's place near the top, while the latter sees Swansea City surprisingly joining the Blues.
But the real credit belongs to Tottenham Hotspur, owners of the summit position after two weeks. New manager Mauricio Pochettino has made his team defensively solid, while also crafting more guile and pace in forward areas.
For Chelsea, the start to the season has been ominous viewing for the rest. Jose Mourinho's squad has comfortably dispatched of both Burnley and Leicester City.
The Blues have been strong, compact and technically assured going forward. The latter quality has been produced thanks to impressive starts from new boys striker Diego Costa and midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
At the other end of the table, Queens Park Rangers are finding a return to the Premier League fray a major chore. Manager Harry Redknapp's insistence on stockpiling ageing retreads has done nothing to refresh a squad that needed the playoffs to escape the Championship last season.
Here's what the table looks like after two weeks:
|2014-15 Premier League Table (as of Sunday, August 24)|
|8||West Ham United||2||1||0||1||+1||3|
|12||West Bromwich Albion||2||0||2||0||0||2|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||2||0||0||2||-5||0|
A shakeup at the top is guaranteed following the result of the marquee clash between Liverpool and Manchester City. The two title contenders play some of the best attacking football in the division, and will each want to lay down an early marker.
The early standings make ominous reading for fans of Burnley and QPR. Both teams already look ill-equipped for England's top flight. They will each hope home fixtures can help arrest the slide in the season's third week.
Here are the full fixtures for Week 3:
|2014-15 Premier League Week 3 Fixtures|
|Saturday, August 30||12.45 p.m. BST / 7.45 a.m. ET||Burnley||vs.||Manchester United|
|Saturday, August 30||3 p.m. BST / 10 a.m. ET||Manchester City||vs.||Stoke City|
|Saturday, August 30||3 p.m. BST / 10 a.m. ET||Newcastle United||vs.||Crystal Palace|
|Saturday, August 30||3 p.m. BST / 10 a.m. ET||QPR||vs.||Sunderland|
|Saturday, August 30||3 p.m. BST / 10 a.m. ET||Swansea City||vs.||West Bromwich Albion|
|Saturday, August 30||3 p.m. BST / 10 a.m. ET||West Ham United||vs.||Southampton|
|Saturday, August 30||5.30 p.m. BST / 12.30 p.m. ET||Everton||vs.||Chelsea|
|Sunday, August 31||1.30 p.m. BST / 8.30 a.m. ET||Aston Villa||vs.||Hull City|
|Sunday, August 31||1.30 p.m. BST / 8.30 a.m. ET||Tottenham Hotspur||vs.||Liverpool|
|Sunday, August 31||4 p.m. BST / 11 a.m. ET||Leicester City||vs.||Arsenal|
Must-See Week 3 Matches
Everton vs. Chelsea
Chelsea's first real test sees Mourinho's team return to the scene of a defeat last season. Everton bested the West Londoners 1-0 at Goodison Park thanks to a Steven Naismith goal back in September of 2013.
But this is a stronger Chelsea team with a more obvious focal point in attack, courtesy of Costa. He found the net for the first time in his Chelsea career during the 2-0 win over Leicester.
But as good as Costa has been, it's been the creative influence of winger Eden Hazard that has really sparked Chelsea so far. He was dominant against the Foxes, as Squawka Football noted:
As for Everton, manager Roberto Martinez will still be smarting after watching his team let a 2-0 lead slip at home to Arsenal. The stalemate with the Gunners has to raise doubts about the Toffees' ability to break into the top four.
Liverpool Echo writer Joe Rimmer believes Everton dropped too far off Arsenal in the second half:
Everton simply allowed the visitors too much time and space in the second period as the Gunners applied the pressure, desperate to get something out of the game.
Gone was the hustle and bustle in Everton's performance, gone was the pacey counter-attacks and gone were the full-blooded tackles.
Instead the Blues dropped deeper and deeper and, with a mere seven minutes remaining the Gunners fired their shots.
It was all too easy for Arsenal and Martinez won't want his side to allow a good team to play like that again on their own turf.
Giving Arsenal space to probe and create chances was certainly a major gaffe from Martinez's men. With Fabregas dictating the passing for Chelsea, Everton can't make that mistake again.
As good as Chelsea have been, there's also little doubt they have exploited soft competition. Despite a sputtering start, Everton will be a tougher opponent to break down.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
Pochettino has made a great start to life in North London. But much like Chelsea, his Tottenham team faces a more formidable test than in its first two games.
With the mercurial Uruguayan now with FC Barcelona, Spurs should feel confident they can put an early dent in Liverpool's title hopes.
The presence of Pochettino should be an extra confidence boost. He masterminded a 1-0 Southampton win at Anfield last season. The scorer that day was centre-back Dejan Lovren, now plying his trade for the Merseyside club.
Lovren and his defence must be mindful of two attackers who have been revitalised during the early days of Pochettino's tenure. The first is Argentine winger Erik Lamela.
A major flop in his first season in England, the former AS Roma man has started his second campaign in fine form. He was particularly effective during the demolition of QPR:
But as good as Lamela has been, few Spurs players can match the efficiency and skills displayed by Nacer Chadli. The clever Belgian international was one of the club's better signings last season.
Chadli's movement is quick and varied. He's become a dangerous outlet in Pochettino's more fluid brand of passing football. QPR found that out the hard way:
A draw seems a likely outcome here. Liverpool won't pose the same threat this season without Suarez. Meanwhile, Spurs certainly won't be as generous defensively as they were the last time they hosted the Anfield club.
Updated Title Odds
Temporarily at least, Chelsea have assumed the role of favourites ahead of City and Liverpool. Mourinho's men are listed at 6-5, per Oddschecker.com.
City remain 12-5, and victory over Liverpool will certainly strengthen the case for the defending champions repeating last season's magic.
It seems that Arsenal's battling point away against tough opposition has given bookies more belief in the title credentials of Arsene Wenger's squad. The Gunners find themselves rated at 11-2 after their solid start.
Of course, this picture will change every week. However, an Arsenal win over newly promoted Leicester will add more credence to the renewed faith in their chances.
It would be a timely victory in a week where fellow prime contenders Chelsea and Liverpool are facing daunting challenges away from home. That means the onus will be on Arsenal and City to capitalise on any potential stumbles in Matchweek 3.
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