We’re just two weeks into the 2014/15 Premier League campaign, and it feels like it never left us.
Matchdays 1 and 2 have served up the dose of drama that only the English top flight can deliver, with the usual suspects making the early move up the table, as we see below:
|8||West Ham United||2||1||0||1||3||2||1||3|
|12||West Bromwich Albion||2||0||2||0||2||2||0||2|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||2||0||0||2||0||5||-5||0|
Matchday 3 sees 10 more mouth-watering fixtures get underway, and here, we assess who could be emerging victorious and dive into the pick of the matches.
|Saturday, August 30||Burnley vs. Manchester United||1-3|
|Saturday, August 30||Manchester City vs. Stoke City||3-0|
|Saturday, August 30||Newcastle United vs. Crystal Palace||0-0|
|Saturday, August 30||Queens Park Rangers vs. Sunderland||1-2|
|Saturday, August 30||Swansea City vs. West Bromwich Albion||3-1|
|Saturday, August 30||West Ham United vs. Southampton||2-0|
|Saturday, August 30||Everton vs. Chelsea||1-2|
|Sunday, August 31||Aston Villa vs. Hull City||1-1|
|Sunday, August 31||Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool||2-2|
|Sunday, August 31||Leicester City vs. Arsenal||1-1|
Everton vs. Chelsea
In the late game on Saturday, two teams collide that dominated their fixtures in Matchday 2—but with very different outcomes.
While Chelsea put Leicester City to the sword at Stamford Bridge 2-0, Everton let the same lead slip despite dominating proceedings for much of their clash against Arsenal.
Confidence flying high in both camps means that it’s all set up to be a thriller at Goodison Park, with a certain Romelu Lukaku facing his former club for the first time.
The Belgian striker made a permanent switch to Everton earlier this summer from Stamford Bridge, but he’s yet to open his account for the season—the script certainly looks written for this matchday.
Lukaku will undoubtedly be raring to go on Saturday, and former West Brom manager Steve Clarke said on Goals on Sunday that he was surprised that the Blues let the striker leave for Goodison in the first place, per Sky Sports:
“I was a little surprised Chelsea chose to let Lukaku go, but knowing Romelu like I do, I know he is a boy who is very confident, very sure of himself and his ability, and insistent on wanting to play all the time.”
He certainly showed his confidence against the Gunners, too, setting up a goal for Steven Naismith with a moment of textbook Lukaku brilliance.
After picking the ball up in his own half, the 21-year-old powered past the Gunners’ back line before laying it on a plate for Naismith to do that rest.
While Chelsea’s defence will be in for a tough afternoon handling their former teammate, Everton’s back line have a certain Diego Costa to worry about.
The Spaniard has carried the form that made him such a star at Atletico Madrid into the Premier League, scoring in each of the Blues’ games so far.
Costa was under pressure to perform after his £32 million switch in the summer, but he’s certainly done that, leaving Jose Mourinho to sing his praises, via Bleacher Report’s Garry Hayes:
JM: "I got the feeling in pre-season that Diego Costa's adaptation wouldn't be a big deal. He's had a big integration into the team." @br_uk— Garry Hayes (@garryhayes) August 23, 2014
Keeping Costa quiet is a task in itself, but Everton have to cope with the threat that the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Oscar will pose—making for a very tough day in the office for Roberto Martinez’s men.
When Goodison gets rocking, the players respond in kind, but the class of the Blues means that they may just extend their 100 per cent start beyond Matchday 3.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
Another striker will be the centre of attention for Sunday’s clash of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane, as football’s bad boy, Mario Balotelli, dons the famous red shirt for the first time.
Balotelli made the switch to Merseyside from AC Milan on Monday, per Liverpool's official website, and while he sat out of the Reds’ 3-1 loss to his former side Manchester City that day, he could come straight into the starting line-up against Spurs.
It’s not often that a team loses 3-1 and can still arguably be called the better side, but the way that Liverpool dictated the tempo of the game at the Etihad for large spells means that was the case.
It was just the end product that Brendan Rodgers’ side were lacking, and that’s exactly the missing piece of the puzzle that Balotelli can bring to Liverpool.
According to former Reds striker Michael Owen, though, that much depends on whether or not Rodgers can find a way to bring the best out of his new striker without the usual headline-grabbing madness that goes with it:
It's official. Balotelli signs for Liverpool. General feeling is it's a risky buy but could be great value for money if Rodgers controls him— michael owen (@themichaelowen) August 25, 2014
Many managers have tried, and none have succeeded, but Rodgers is somewhat of a master in that department, and the results may well be on show in Balotelli’s first match for the club at White Hart Lane.
The Reds demolished Spurs 5-0 in this fixture last season, bringing Andre Villas Boas’ reign as manager to an end. But Tottenham now look a different animal under Mauricio Pochettino.
Two wins out of two without conceding a single goal have seen the Londoners get off to a dream start in 2014/15, with last year’s summer acquisitions finally starting to come good.
Erik Lamela in particular is showing well. He simply ran the show during Spurs’ 4-0 victory over QPR after having a season to forget last time around—something that The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Hayward commented upon:
Erik Lamela was a £30m ghost last season but he's very much alive today. Keener, sharper, playing through centre for a fellow Argentine.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) August 24, 2014
In what’s set to be a clash of two of the most potent attacks in the league, it could be whichever defence comes out on top goes home with the points; but with the likes of Balotelli and Lamela on show, you just don’t know either way.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Liverpool
Elsewhere, Manchester United will be looking to escape from their current rut as they travel to Burnley to kick off Matchday 3.
Manager Louis van Gaal is set to have one of his busiest weeks in management with the transfer window closing, and with so many names linked with a move to Old Trafford, who exactly he’ll be fielding on Saturday remains unclear.
Burnley have proven over the last fortnight that they’re prepared for life in the Premier League, and they’ll fancy their chances against United, who simply have to avoid a banana skin at Turf Moor to give their season any chance of liftoff.
Manchester City face Stoke City at the Etihad as they look to continue their impressive run, while Arsenal travel to Leicester City to round off Matchday 3 in what’s set to be another blockbuster week of Premier League action.