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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 23 January, 2019

5 talking points ahead of this weekend's Premier League action

Chelsea face another newly-promoted club while Liverpool take on Man City on Monday night.

Diego Costa has started brightly at Chelsea.
Diego Costa has started brightly at Chelsea.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

1. First chance for top two to send out a message

LAST SEASON’S CHAMPIONS and runners-up, Manchester City and Liverpool, meet on Monday night in what will surely be the biggest game so far of this week-old Premier League campaign.

Both clubs recorded less than convincing wins on the opening day — Liverpool were made to work to claim a 2-1 victory over Southampton, while Man City’s players looked a little rusty as they overcame Newcastle thanks to goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero.

With a raft of their stars featuring at this summer’s World Cup, it won’t come as a surprise if neither move out of third gear for the first couple of weeks. Titles may not be won in August but this is still a huge fixture that both managers will be hell-bent on avoiding defeat in.

It’s a shame that the game will come a little early for former City striker Mario Balotelli, who is in Liverpool this evening for a medical ahead of his €20m move from AC Milan, as he would have no doubt added some extra spice to the clash. Not that it is needed.

2. Chelsea out to prove their title credentials

We may have only had one round of league games, but there are few looking beyond Chelsea as favourites for the title at this early point.

Sure, it was only newly-promoted Burnley who they dispatched with ease after an early scare saw them fall behind, but you get the sense that Jose Mourinho now has a team which he really believes he can mould into champions over the next nine months.

Summer signings Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa have slotted in seamlessly and already appear to add the guile, steel and clinical finishing they were short of last season. Brazilian full-back Filipe Luis, excellent for Atletico Madrid, is still to come in and could make his Premier League debut for the Pensioners tomorrow against another side who won promotion from the second tier — Leicester City.

The Foxes showed resilience to twice get themselves back into the game and earn a 2-2 draw against Everton last Saturday but this is will be a far sterner test.

3. Can Palace put off-field problems aside?

What a week it has been fans for Crystal Palace. First, the man who led the club to 11th in the table last season before being named Manager of the Year departs days with days to go to the season opener before the team loses 2-1 to Arsenal.

Next, your sporting director Iain Moody resigns after he and the man who is set to become first team manager, Malky Mackay, are caught up in an alleged racist text message scandal. And, in a bizarre twist, the odds have now been slashed on Tony Pulis to replace… himself.

With caretaker Keith Millen in charge, the Eagles had gone ahead against Arsenal at the Emirates but conceded an equaliser on the stroke of half-time before Aaron Ramsey’s injury-time winner.

They face another team who lost out on Matchday 1, West Ham, in a London derby at Selhurst Park. The Hammers were also guilty of allowing their opponents to score a late goal when Eric Dier handed Spurs a 1-0 win.

4. Long must hit the ground running

Soccer - UEFA Europa League - 3rd Qualifying Round - 2nd leg - Hull City v FK AS Trencin - KC Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

Finishing on a consistent basis has always been the part of Shane Long’s game which he could do with improving most. Having joined Southampton from Hull City for a sizeable €15m fee, the Ireland striker will be expected to settle in on the South Coast immediately as Ronald Koeman attempts to fill the gaping void left by the likes of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana.

Long had to make do with a place on the bench last Sunday when the Saints travelled to Anfield. He was introduced in the second half but wasted a golden opportunity to score by heading wide from six yards out as Daniel Sturridge sealed all three points for the Reds.

The Tipperary native will be reacquainted with old friends tomorrow as Southampton host West Brom and, although he would be unlikely to celebrate a goal against his former employers, there is little doubt that Long will be desperate to open his tally.

5. Reality rings home for Van Gaal

The unbeaten run in pre-season friendlies is a distant memory for Manchester United supporters after a poor performance coupled with defeat to Swansea brought home the harsh reality of their current problems.

Despite all the talk from chief executive Ed Woodward, United have been unable to bolster their squad sufficiently with the signings they so desperately need. Recent arrivals Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera are both out through injuries while latest addition Marcos Rojo hasn’t yet gained his work permit so misses out away to Sunderland on Sunday.

Louis van Gaal said in his post-match press conference that he had gone from the “king of Manchester” to the “devil” in the past week and although it was only one loss, he will want to start picking up points ASAP.

The return of Robin van Persie and Antonio Valencia means it’s not all bad news against the Black Cats, who drew 1-1 with West Brom last time out. He switched from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3 at half-time against the Swans but is likely to revert back to a three-man backline at the Stadium of Light.

Predictions (all games Saturday 3pm kick-off unless stated otherwise)

Aston Villa 2-1 Newcastle (12.45pm)

Chelsea 3-0 Leicester

Crystal Palace 0-0 West Ham

Southampton 3-2 West Brom

Swansea 2-1 Burnley 

Everton 2-2 Arsenal (5.30pm)


Hull 0-1 Stoke (1.30pm)

Tottenham 2-2 QPR (1.30pm)

Sunderland 1-2 Man United (4pm)


Man City 1-1 Liverpool (8pm)

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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