The Premier League is back and Michael Owen has made his predictions for a round of fixtures which sees Manchester United face West Brom, Chelsea travel to Newcastle, Arsenal take on Leeds and defending champions Liverpool host Leicester City.
After the second international break of the season, domestic top-flight football returns this weekend, with just five points separating the top nine teams.
Leicester will hope to stay top of the league but are faced with the unenviable task of facing Liverpool at Anfield.
Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton, Chelsea and Aston Villa could all knock Leicester off top-spot if results go their way, while Man United, Man City and Arsenal will hope to make substantial leaps up the table with victories.
At the bottom of the table, meanwhile, West Brom, Burnley and Sheffield United are all still looking for their first wins of the season.
Newcastle 1-2 Chelsea
‘Newcastle appear very inconsistent just now. I was covering their game against Southampton and it was clear that they couldn’t get into any rhythm. It will be interesting to see if Callum Wilson can shake-off the hamstring injury that he picked up in that game. He’s been excellent in front of goal for the Magpies, so far.
‘I think in terms of the whole season, Newcastle should be fine, but their inconsistency could cost them dearly over the course of a season and as I can only see them finishing around mid-table. I originally said I fancied Chelsea to finish third, however, I think that the points total will be lower this year, and that could bring the Blues right into the title mix.
‘If they are to achieve that, then they will have to take maximum points from matches such as this. With Timo Werner in such good form, I think he could be amongst the goals in a Chelsea victory.’
Aston Villa 1-1 Brighton
‘I’m sure that Villa will be safe this season and with the likes of Watkins, McGinn and Grealish, they have the basis of a team that can score plenty of goals. They’ve had some great results already, but I don’t think we’ve consistently seen them at their best yet.
‘Brighton have also had some excellent performances this season, however, they have been a bit unlucky when either drawing or losing by the odd goal. As I’ve mentioned several times before, they have changed their philosophy slightly having gone from quite a direct and pragmatic team to a side that like to play. It’s a dangerous change in the short term and they may have to go through a bit of pain until they get it right.
‘That said, and I think their never say die attitude could get them a point here.’
Burnley 0-0 Crystal Palace
‘I covered Burnley’s match at Brighton and although they are industrious and hard-working, they didn’t create much. Unfortunately for the Clarets, they’ve been decimated with injuries. They are starting to get a few back and that’s so important when you consider that they have such a small squad. I must say, their goalkeeper has been excellent, and his shot-stopping is right up there with the best in the league.
‘Palace have been great on the road and have made an impressive start to the season. The impetus is usually on the home team to take the game to the visitors which suits the Eagles nicely, but I don’t see Burnley playing such a high line here.
‘If that materialises, I think there could be a bit of a stand-off in a game where both may be happy with a point.’
‘I’ve seen quite a bit of Fulham recently. They look good going forward with Mitrovic very much the focal point of their attack.
‘I’ve been impressed with their captain, Cairney. He’s very good in possession and is more than capable of unlocking a defence. However, it’s at the back where I am concerned for the Cottagers. They leave themselves open to too many chances and I’m not at all convinced by their back four.
‘Everton had a great start to the season, albeit they’ve tailed off slightly. I wasn’t sure about their starting XI in their last match. Sigurdsson doesn’t look a natural in central midfield, and Bernard blows too hot and cold for me.
‘A lot of people were getting excited about the Toffees early on, and whilst I think they’ll have a solid season, I still think that there is work to be done there. That said, I think going forward they’ll have too much for Fulham and I fancy them to take advantage of the home sides shaky backline.’
Liverpool 3-1 Leicester City
‘As we all know, Liverpool come into this with a few key players missing. One huge positive that has come from this is the emergence of Diogo Jota.
‘He’s been in incredible form and will have the platform to play a huge role here again. The Reds are a bit light in midfield but Jurgen Klopp still has options, so the team should be strong enough.
‘As for Leicester, they have a good side with their main threat being on the counter-attack. That will be where Liverpool will be concerned the most, but Leicester have injuries of their own. I’m expecting an open match, and I think Liverpool will win with both teams scoring.’
Manchester United 2-0 West Brom
‘West Brom come into this after a string of poor results. Aside from putting three past Chelsea, they haven’t looked great at the back and have been equally poor going forward.
‘United have still to find their rhythm and they must find a way to get their best players all on the pitch at the same time, which is obviously easier said than done. You can’t keep Pogba on the bench, and if he can’t secure a regular place in the side soon, he may have to consider his options.
‘For all United are inconsistent, they are up against a side that are really struggling, and I expect them to win this comfortably.’
Wolves 1-1 Southampton
‘Wolves have been a breath of fresh air since they returned to the Premier League. They don’t concede many goals and look good going forward as well. I think they’ll have another good season and once again be challenging for the final European places.
‘I covered the Southampton game when they defeated Newcastle and I was very impressed. They squeezed Newcastle, pressing from the front. I think Hasenhüttl is doing a great job and could soon be on the radar of some of the really big teams.
‘Interestingly, if you were to look at the Premier League since the start of the year, they’d be sitting in third. Also, they’ve got one of the best set-piece takers in the league with James Ward-Prowse, so they’re always a threat from those situations.
‘I don’t think there is much between these two, so I’m going for a 1-1 draw.’
Tottenham 1-2 Manchester City
‘I’m really looking forward to this one. A lot of people fancy Tottenham to go well this season. They have cover in every position with players of international quality and in a season where squads of both depth and quality are most definitely needed, it could well work in Spurs’ favour.
‘I’m still trying to work out Manchester City. I’ve watched Pep Guardiola in a few post-match interviews recently, and I can’t help but feel if there is something missing there.
‘I’m not quite sure if that translates to the players but either way, I think this will be a tight game and a difficult one to call. However, if City can find their best form, I think they’ll be taking all three points back to Manchester.’
Sheffield United 1-1 West Ham
‘Sheffield United come into this having had a very difficult start to their second season back in the Premier League. Manager Chris Wilder is someone that I hold in high regard and I even though they’ve suffered a bit, I think they’ve played well at times.
‘The big money signing of Rhian Brewster could be a gamble as he has limited Premier League experience, so they really need that to pay off. The Blades should have enough in them to grind out results, so I think that they’ll be okay in the long run.
‘They’ve been dealt a huge blow by the lack of fans. They have such an influence in their home games, so for all Blades fans, the sooner they’re back the better.
‘I fancied West Ham to do well this season. They’ve got some extremely talented players, especially in midfield. Souček looks capable of scoring every week, and often does. With Rice in there as well, it gives them a big presence in the middle of the park.
‘That said, Sheffield United really need to start firing now, and I could see the points shared here in an entertaining match.’
Leeds United 1-2 Arsenal
‘I find Leeds are exceptionally good against teams that fancy themselves to play a bit. When you come at Leeds, it plays into their hands as they have loads of energy to smother you and win key battles all over the pitch.
‘They create lots of chances, but equally concede a lot as well. I think this could play into Mikel Arteta’s hands.
‘If he is prepared to concede a bit of ground and soak up some Leeds pressure, I fancy the Gunners to take full advantage on the break.’