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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 23 June, 2018

Man City-Liverpool should provide a treat and the Premier League talking points

The weekend’s matches begin at the Etihad Stadium, while time is already running out for Frank de Boer.

Old foes Klopp and Guardiola.
Old foes Klopp and Guardiola.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

1. Klopp and Guardiola go head-to-head

BOTH UNBEATEN FROM their opening three matches with seven points from a possible nine, Manchester City and Liverpool contest what looks to be the pick of, not only this weekend, but also the season so far.

Liverpool’s counter-attacking at pace has been a joy to watch at times, while City possess a ridiculous amount of talent going forward.

In four meetings during Jurgen Klopp’s time in charge, the Reds have never lost to their latest opponents — winning three and drawing once. Phillippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona hasn’t materialised but the Brazilian won’t make his first appearance of the season as he’s been left out of the squad.

They could also give a debut to latest arrival Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin after his £35 million move from Arsenal. Former Liverpool man Raheem Sterling won’t get to face his old club, however, as the England international is suspended thanks to a sending off in the win over Bournemouth.

Pep Guardiola will also have to plan without captain Vincent Kompany, who picked up an injury to his calf while away with Belgium.

2. Chelsea new boy back at his old stomping ground

Last summer, Chelsea went out and bought N’Golo Kanté from Leicester City. The Frenchman would go on to claim a second consecutive Premier League title while picking up PFA Player of the Season. A week ago, the current champions added Danny Drinkwater to their ranks as he linked up with former midfielder partner Kanté once again. The pair were pivotal to the Foxes’ unlikely league success in 2016.

As fate would have it, the England international’s first game as a Chelsea player sees them travel to the King Power Stadium to take on his former employers. Drinkwater is in the squad and could potentially make his Blues debut — having sat out the first three games of the campaign nursing a groin problem.

Craig Shakespeare’s men have had a tough enough start with defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United either side of a 2-0 win over Brighton. Meanwhile, after going down to Burnley on the opening weekend, Chelsea are back on track and they will fancy their chances here.

3. League leaders away at Stoke

Table-toppers Manchester United have been impressive so far, but sceptics will argue that they have yet to come up against a top six side. That will still be the case after this latest round of fixtures, but Stoke City should provide their most significant test at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday evening.

Since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, United have only failed to beat three of the 12 clubs that have played every year in the top flight since then away from home. The Potters are one of those sides along with Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mark Hughes’s men have already undone Arsenal thanks to a debut winner from on loan PSG foward Jese and they come into the match on the back of a 1-1 draw with West Brom. United return to the Champions League at home to FC Basel this coming Tuesday so Jose Mourinho may opt to rotate his squad.

4. Swans to unleash Portuguese prodigy

One of the most eye-catching and left-field transfers of the most recent window is undoubtedly Renato Sanches’ switch from Bayern Munich to Swansea City.

Regarded as one of the hottest prospects in world football, the 20-year-old already won the European championships with his native Portugal as well as the Bundesliga and a league title at Benfica. However, Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti has opted to ship him out to his former assistant Paul Clement on a season-long loan.

Renato Sanches Swansea's new signing Renato Sanches. Source: DPA/PA Images

Swans boss Clement says Sanches could well feature in Sunday’s home game against Newcastle United and if they can get him to settle in quickly he could prove a valuable asset. Having returned to the Welsh club after a spell at Manchester City, Wilfried Bony is also likely to play some part for the visit of the Magpies, who got their first points on the board with a win over West Ham last time out.

5. First manager set for the axe?

If the widespread reports are to be believed, Frank de Boer has been given one game to save his job at Crystal Palace. The Dutchman only took over at Selhurst Park back in June but the chances of him making it beyond this month appear to be in serious doubt.

One of three clubs still without a point to their name along with West Ham and Bournemouth, the Eagles have shipped six goals and registered zero to date.

Palace brought in Dutch legend De Boer in the hope that he could be successful while changing their style of play to mirror Ajax but football is a fickle game and it looks like they have already lost patience.

If he does get the sack, it will be his second in quick succession after lasting just three months at Inter Milan.

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Ben Blake

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