Sunday 17 December 2017

Six reasons to be excited for the Premier League return featuring Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal

Jack Austin

The Premier League returns to action this weekend as the international break is banished from the football calendar for another month.

It was left on a big cliff hanger before international football rudely interrupted as the previously unbeatable Manchester City suffered a first defeat, Arsenal trounced Chelsea before sneaking past Burnley and Manchester United failed to beat early season relegation candidates Stoke City.

After two uninspiring England performances, fans should be desperate to see the return of the Premier League, but if not here are six things which should get you yearning for the weekend to begin.

1. A massive game at Anfield

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, pictured left, with Jose Mourinho

Away from the simple battle for three points, there are so many subplots to this mammoth clash that it is the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs on an international break. Not only is it the most watched club football fixture in the world, but it pits two of the sport’s best managers against each other. Liverpool have emerged as genuine title contenders while United have seemingly fallen back into some old habits under past regimes.

United have won all four of their last league meetings between the sides but Jurgen Klopp has had the better of Mourinho, winning in three of their last five confrontations. Klopp is desperate to turn Anfield into a fortress and there are few better ways to do that than by beating your arch rivals Manchester United.

2. Will Manchester City cope without De Bruyne?

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring their first goal

Pep Guardiola’s air of invincibility came crashing down against Tottenham last weekend as their midfield suffered without the injured Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian’s injury last season brought about a poor patch for City, while his return coincided with a return to form, but can an improved side manage without him if he misses out as expected?

That is the task for Guardiola against an Everton side who have started the season tremendously and sit only four points behind them. The Spaniard will also have Wednesday’s trip to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona in the back of his mind and the Toffees could well take advantage of that.

3. Can Tottenham keep building?

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris celebrates victory over Manchester City on Sunday

Speaking about Tottenham, their performance against City last time out was near perfect. They will expect to build on the result with a tough, but winnable, game away to West Brom. A victory could see Spurs go top, depending on other results, but much will rely on in-form Heung-Min Son.

With two of the league’s more celebrated managers going head-to-head at Anfield on Monday, Mauricio Pochettino is quietly surpassing them both with his work at White Hart Lane.

4. Will West Ham snap out of it?

Dimitri Payet, left, wants to leave West Ham

Dimitri Payet showed a glimpse of last season’s form with his super strike in the draw to Middlesbrough last week but West Ham will need him to reproduce it again in their London derby against Crystal Palace. Languishing in the relegation zone isn’t really a position fit for a club with a 60,000-seater stadium.

West Ham will be secretly happy to be away from their new home when they travel to Selhurst Park and out from under the microscope. Unsavoury chants about moving back to Upton Park and the arrests of fans have surely disrupted the team. 

5. Can Moyes finally get a win?

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Sunderland manager David Moyes . Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith

It feels like David Moyes is getting closer to his first win as Sunderland manager after falling to two late Crystal Palace goals and nicking a draw at home to West Brom, although it won’t feel like it to the Black Cats.

They have a perfect opportunity to finally do that this weekend when they travel to fellow strugglers Stoke in an early season basement battle. If they miss out on this opportunity and Stoke get the three points then it could be a long season for Sunderland but potentially a short one for Moyes.

6. Another strong October for Arsenal?

Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge

October is traditionally one of the Gunners’ strongest months, before they inevitably drop points in November and December. They will need build on their brilliant start to the month, with the impressive victory over Chelsea and the fortunate one over Burnley, if they are to continue to battle in what could be one of the closest title races in Premier League history.

With only two points between themselves and table-toppers Man City, if results go the Gunners’ way, they could find themselves top of the league with a run of very winnable games ahead of them.

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